Para-cycling: Classifications Explained

There are a huge variety of disabilities represented at the Paralympics, so nearly every sport in the Games must be divided into categories or classifications in order to make it a fair competition. In Para-cycling, there are events on both the road and the track. The 1988 Atlanta Summer Paralympics is the first time cycling featured in the Games. In the London 2012 Paralympics, there were 18 medal events in road cycling and 32 medal events in track cycling. A maximum of 14 men and 7 women were allowed to compete in these. And this year, in Rio, we see the introduction of the Zero classification rule whereby athletes must have been classified prior to the Games to avoid any changes in training or unfair advantages through last minute re-classifications. Read our guide on para-cycling classifications explained to help understand the different cycling races in the Paralympic Games this summer.

The Rio 2016 Para-cycling road events kick off this week, taking place between the 14th – 17th September.

Here are the Para-cycling Classifications Explained:

The severity of the athlete’s impairment is explained through the classification number; the higher the severity, the lower the number.

  1. H 1- 5: Handcycling Classification

    The H classification includes Paralympic athletes who have impairments that affect their legs, and sometimes have trunks. Athletes in the H classification ride a handbike so that they can use their arms to pedal, and are spread across categories from H1 to H5 depending on the severity of their condition.

    Handbikes are like tricycles, with two coasting rear wheels and a steerable front wheel. The bike is powered by the athlete’s arms rather than their legs.

    Handcycling classifications were included at the Paralympics for the first time at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing.

  2. T 1- 2: Tricycle Classification

    The T classification is for para-athletes who have an impaired sense of balance. These athletes race by riding a tricycle.

    A tricycle is built like a two wheeled bicycle, with two coasting rear wheels side by side, rather than one. The combination of the three wheels at a triangular spread means that the bike aids the athlete’s balance.

  3. C 1- 5

    C classified para-cyclists are able to use a bike, but have a physical impairment. For example, they may have lost one or more of their limbs, or have a neurological dysfunction.

    These athletes ride the same bikes as able-bodied athletes, however their category varies from C1 to C5, with the latter being the athletes that meet minimum requirements, and the former being the most severe.

  4. TB 1-2: Tandem Cycling

    The TB classification is for athletes who are visually impaired. These athletes ride a tandem bike, with the second rider being their pilot at the front of the bike.

    This classification has just two categories for the visually impaired, with the most severe conditions competing in TB 1, and the lesser impaired in TB 2.

For an explanation of classifications across other Paralympic sports, see the official Rio 2016 website here.


Featured image description:  Scott McPhee and Kieran Modra riding at the announcement of the 2012 Australian Paralympic cycling team.


Featured image source: Bilby

Elizabeth Demetriou

Elizabeth Demetriou


I'm a runner at heart but since shin splints became a big part of my life, I turned to cycling as a form of cross training. I love riding track and am a regular on the Manchester velodrome; on the road I ride a Trek Lexa and I call it Toby.

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