Varibike lets you pedal with your legs – and your arms


August 23, 2013

The Varibike in action

The Varibike in action

Image Gallery (10 images)

Earlier this year, we heard about a proposed arm- and leg-powered bicycle known as the 4StrikeBike. At the time, we knew that if it were to reach production, it would be facing some competition from the existing Raxibo Hand-Tret-Velo. Now, it turns out that another arm-and-legger has also recently hit the market – it’s time to meet the Varibike.

As with the other two bikes, the Varibike features both a traditional leg-powered drivetrain, and a handlebar stem-mounted set of cranks that the rider turns with their arms. That arm power is transmitted from those cranks down to the main drivetrain via a rubber-sheathed chain drive. This setup allows the rider to cruise along using leg power only, arm power only, or a combination of both.

According to the Varibike company, a study conducted by the University of New Mexico indicated that a rider’s maximum power output could be increased by over 30 percent when using both their arms and legs, as opposed to only their legs. Of course, using all four limbs would also provide a more complete work-out.

Along with the arm cranks, the Varibike also has a set of quite narrow flat handlebars. Riders can switch to them in situations where they want a little more stability, or just feel like changing to a more upright position. Additionally, the shifter and brake levers are located on them.

Steering looks like it could be a little ... unusual, but is reportedly achieved simply by leaning one's body into the turns.

The base FR2 model of the Varibike features a 7005/7020 aluminum frame, and components such as a Shimano XT rear derailleur (there’s no front derailleur), a Ritchey Pro V2 seatpost, and Schwalbe BigApple 28 x 2.00 tires. It’s priced at €3,999 (US$5,350).

The newer €4,499 ($6,019) FR3 model adds separate freewheels to each arm crank. This allows them to be used not only in the traditional opposing configuration, but also in “Synchron Style,” in which they stay side-by-side to produce a sort of rowing motion. Additionally, riders can just leave them both pointing forward, to serve as a set of aero bars.

The company informs us that both models tip the scales at 15 kg (33 lb). They can be seen in use, in the video below.

Source: Varibike

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Umm... No thanks I'll stick to my tradition bike.

Jon Smith

I think it is an attempt to improve the average intelligence of the human race.


More chance to loose balance..

Dvorák Bence

i'd use this bike if it worked upside down.


I want one hooked to my jaw, the most powerful muscle in the human body, for a bit of speed assist. I'd also save on chewing gum.

Alonzo Riley

No handlebars, erratic steering input caused by the rider's hands going up and down, AND negative caster angle?

They might want to licence the design to EXIT as a suicide machine...

Keith Reeder

Do you use your extra octopus arms for signalling?


I'd have thought the hand cranks wouldn't add a great deal. The maximum power a person can output is likely limited by their aerobic threshold. As in there is only so much oxygen a person can intake and burn for energy and the legs can probably use all of it faster than it can be produced. Pedaling flat out for any length of time will result in you running out of breath because your muscles are burning all of what you take in plus a little more (anaerobic energy production). Adding the arms to the mix will relieve some of the work from your legs but I don't think you'd have any more energy to give. It would be like connecting a second engine to the same fuel pump in a car. Only so much petrol can be pushed into the engine regardless how many engines you have. Though I suspect for short bursts you could gain a boost due to anaerobic energy production. This would probably only be of use to people who have not trained their legs for cycling. Or maybe there is an efficiency to be gained by sharing the load over more muscles?


Oh come on, what is the point and what is wrong with a regular bike? Studies may prove there is more power available in the lab - but studies didn't prove this is unsafe. The 'bars' are way too narrow to be stable. What will someones reaction time be when moving from the cranks to the bars in a panic situation? What are the chances someone will miss the bars when letting go of the cranks and will imbed their teeth into the bars/cranks? What will the best way to go down a hill and this should be written into the owners manual? Not being negative but I have "safety" tabs on my front forks because some bozo couldn't work out a simple quick release - how do you think this bike will fare?


mmmm, yet another useless bicycle design. I just got back from a forty k' ride and I didn't need my arms once to pedal, I just changed gears on the front derailleur when it got a bit hard and held on to the handle bars and pulled, this seemed to work just fine for me!


US$5,350 and it doesnt get disc breaks or have shocks. Lastly at 15 kgs that's quite heavy. No thanks, stupid concept let the free market concept decide its fate!

Ryan MacDougall

The muscles of the back are longer and stronger, - i think it would be a more efficient sollution to include body muscles instead of short and weak arm, which is more important to keep balance.

Dvorák Bence

Aye, Scion, there is a small benefit to using more muscles, despite the overall aerobic limit - about 1%. That assumes that all else is equal, but in this case, I expect more than that to be lost just with the use of extra muscles to replace the usual seating stability that handlebars provide. Sprinting on arm power seems particularly difficult, even though it would be by far the best addition to a bike workout. Aerodynamically, it doesn't work either. Overall, it seems far inferior to the rocking handlebars that at least separate the power and steering directions, and failed in the market a century ago.

Bob Stuart

This is not a good bicycle design. It has all the dangers and shortcomings that are well described by previous posters.

I think, however, that the "point" (as someone asked) is not so much to be a good bike but to be a good exercise machine. It's supposedly offering a more complete "full body" workout. That seems to be it's only point and my guess, like everyone else's here, is that it won't succeed in capturing a market. Not as a road bike. Maybe in a gym on rollers?

Then again, there's still the Thys rowing bike out there and it really isn't much different in concept: arms and legs for power, wacky steering, no obvious way to signal turns... I don't know Thys's sales figures, but I've spoken with two happy Thys riders on the road and it's just what they're looking for. So who knows?


they this should have been integrated as awd for the front and rear or full-time have to drive like most rally sport cars systems for street or off road application

Happy Joy


Galal Kaiaty should just try it! I ride the new varibike FR3 the best outdoor work out I have ever had. I can change between parallel arm cranking and reciprocal arm cranking during the ride.

I also still have all my teeth. But yes it is true you have to learn it first. For me it took about half an hour until I could do it, but until I felt really comfortable I needed maybe 10 more trips. Grabbing from arm cranks to the smal steerer is compareable with changing the gribs when riding a triathlon bike and needs just a second.

it just feels good to use also the arms when cycling, comparable to reciprocal movement when walking. Mostly I ride with arms and legs together when I walk, swim or do cross country skiing I would never just use my legs. Part time I ride it like a normal bike just with the legs to relax my upper body.

Actually with the varibike I am faster than normal cycling. Since I varibike my friend with his road race bike always calls me to slow down and wait


According to the Varibike company, a study conducted by the University of New Mexico indicated that a rider’s maximum power output could be increased by over 30 percent when using both their arms and legs, as opposed to only their legs.

==not really, the quads along can completely swamp the heart and lungs with demands

==maybe it is really just a ''workout machine'' and not a bike, or just a very expensive one that has no particular cycling reason-to-be.

==also - what IS with that negative fork angle...?

--another ikea bike type mistake, where it is just turned around accidentally? has to be .. surprised that guy survived the test ride.. did he?


Larry English

to paraphrase an Italian in the early 20th century: "Whenever I hear the word "Designer" I reach for my pistole." Can I say stupider and stupider? what ever happened to cadence;'/ and how does one do this in the Proper position, the standing on pedals position? I think the negative fork is to counterballance the steering inputs which are unavoidable with the flailing of arms this KONTRAPTION creates! a trailing wheel rather than the slightly leading or neutral scrub point (not truly an akerman set up)

Walt Stawicki

Someone looked at a gym crosstrainer and derived it from that. Whilst it might be safe in a gym, I wouldn't like to use it on the road.

Mike Smith

Gotta love the insight of armchair engineers....

C. Walker Walker

I built an arm-drive attachment about 15 years ago. I used stock handle bars with a reciprocating movement perpendicular to the head stock, developing 8 inches of handle-grip travel in opposite direction to pedal travel. The learning curve was just a few minutes because the cadence was very natural. I netted about 20 percent extra power, but the benefit was momentary. The added arm involvement used much more "wind" than the resultant additional power development. No matter, because it could be engaged or disengaged safely and easily at any time.

ps. My bike still a bike.


The fork on this bike has a negative rake which will have unstable handling. Steering by leaning is so misunderstood. Countersteering should be explained to all riders of two wheeled vehicles. If you ride a motorcycle, you must know that pushing on the inside handlebar causes the bike to lean and turn in that direction. Maybe when you are doing 2mph you can turn in the direction you want. But, at any significant speed, you must understand countersteering if want to ride safely.

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