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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Trike Enables Many to Ditch Wheelchair, Walker

The Alinker walking bike enables older adults and people with a range of disabilities to get around faster and easier — and look cool doing it.

“I used the Alinker today to take my dog to a nature preserve park I haven’t been able to get to for over two years,” writes a user in Oregon. A 67-year-old with leg braces writes, “Now my wife has trouble keeping up with me.” A Canadian woman, 70, says, “We went to a park at Lake Ontario yesterday and I rode the trails for four miles.” And a son says that his father, formerly in a wheelchair, “has become very eager” to walk and has taken up traveling again at the age of 96.

Alinker Walking Bike

What has changed the lives of all these people and many more around the world? The Alinker walking bike is designed for how people want to live. The yellow bike allows users, including amputees, to use their legs to move. With a “footprint” smaller than a wheelchair, the Alinker is welcome in grocery stores, museums and malls, as well as outdoors. The user sits upright at a level nearly as tall as standing height, allowing for easy social interaction. 

“Over my dead body will I use one of those!” Barbara Alink’s mother was expressing her distaste for that all-too-common device used by older adults to get around: the walker. She didn’t like the stigma associated with the device; she wanted to stay more active. Luckily, her daughter is an engineer and took heed of the need for a walking assist that would allow movement and be perceived as cool. 

Who Is It For?

Now, it’s not just older adults who are using the bike. Landmine victims, amputees, people with multiple sclerosis and other degenerative diseases, those with back pain, and many for whom walking is painful use the Alinker. More than 60% of people who use a wheelchair can still move their legs and potentially ride the Alinker. Users like that it doesn’t look like a medical device.

“You’re perceived completely differently. You’re standing up. You’re at eye level,” says Ceilidh Corcoran, 40. Diagnosed with a hip condition four years ago, after two surgeries she started limping. Soon after, the pain of walking drove her to a wheelchair. She negotiated life with a scooter, wheelchair and crutches, then saw an Instagram post from actor Selma Blair, who has MS. It featured a photo of Blair on her Alinker, and text that read, “I got places to go! Sometimes I can’t do it on my own two feet.” Blair enthused about her bike, and Corcoran longed for one for herself.

After a crowdfunding campaign and some financial help from Blair, Corcoran is loving her new bike. “I used to get sympathy smiles. Now I get genuine smiles,” she says. “I’m really hurting this week because I did so much last week. You totally overdo it (at first), but it’s such a great feeling.”


The Alinker has five distinct advantages:
  • Users sit upright, at about the same eye level as those standing.
  • Lower body stress is minimal because the seat takes the user’s weight.
  • Feet are on the ground, not pedals, for stability and safety.
  • Handlebars provide support and stability.
  • It is perceived as a bike, not a disability device.

Users also give it kudos for its portability. The 26-pound bike folds up easily for transport in the smallest car. “I always have a smile on my face when I’m on it, and it’s such a great feeling!” enthuses one Vancouver user. “Instead of sitting in the wheelchair and feeling a lot more disabled, this makes me feel like I’m on my way to becoming healthy again. I can just take it anywhere.”

When walking becomes difficult, the natural tendency is to sit more often, leaving muscles weaker and further reducing the ability to walk. The Alinker encourages leg movement by taking the weight off of the lower limbs. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun. (There is a warning about racing downhill on the website, which I would guess has been ignored by many able-bodied individuals taking a test ride.) In fact, they can be ridden in bike lanes as well as on the sidewalk. 


The company encourages potential purchasers to speak to their insurance company about the benefits of the bike, including preventing loss of muscle mass and mobility. Clearly, it has many health benefits for users and is likely to reduce doctor visits and complications. But will your insurance company cover the cost? Some insurance companies cover walking aids — but the Alinker is not yet a standard item that most will pay for.

More Innovations Coming

So, what’s not to like? The bike’s hefty price tag of just under $2,000 is a barrier for many. Crowdfunding campaigns and a rent-to-own program help solve the problem. And while many of the bikes are so loved that they get named by their owner, they are not particularly custom. They come in three sizes, but the color choice is limited to yellow, yellow or yellow. However, that will be changing and company founder Alink welcomes suggestions for a future fleet of multi-hued bikes. Also, the company is working on a bike seat that is specifically made for the unique walking movement of users to improve comfort. 

Finally, although older adults are a large target market, there are many children who could benefit by having the bike. The company is working on smaller sizes that would make it possible for kids to ride, as well as adults. 

People with disabilities and older adults with reduced mobility have an alternative to walkers and wheelchairs. One that allows them to remain active and encourages socializing by being portable and keeping users at eye-contact height. As lifespans increase, so should the span of active lifestyles. Alinker bikes will prove to be the bridge for many.

Click below for the other articles in the May 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors