Activities Equipment Reviews

The Duet Tandem Wheelchair Bike | Our Review

Well, I thought it was about time we put together a review of Finlay’s tandem wheelchair bike, the Duet Plus. We were lucky to purchase this bike through a grant from the Halberg Foundation. We gained it second-hand and in excellent condition from the Grace Yeates Trust. It had become unsuitable for Grace’s needs as she required a more reclined seating option. She later went onto using a Hoyt Running Chair that could connect to a bike and be pulled as a trailer (presently up for sale).

The Duet Plus

Our Duet is known as the Duet Plus. It has added accessories like removable armrests, hand shields and spoke guards. These are important for those who require more support and protection while riding.


Length 2.7m and Width 63.5cm, Circulation Radius 5m

What we like about The Duet Plus

We’ve had the Duet Plus Tandem Wheelchair Bike for a number of years now, and in that time Finlay has gone through a teenage growth spurt. There are a number of excellent features that this wheelchair bike has which make it quite unique.

The wheelchair comes in one size and can be adapted to grow with a child into an adult. It comes with a number of fantastic accessories, like spoke guards, hand shields, removable armrests, 4 point “H” Style Harness with Lap Belt and an adjustable headrest. It also has soft side cushions to pad out the seat.

The wheelchair disconnects from the bike component by a simple lift latch system. This is the winning feature for us, as we can easily transport by car, wheel it onto a ferry or bus by simply disconnecting the bike component. Once you arrive somewhere you can disconnect from bike and use it as a wheelchair.

The Duet’s ideal riding conditions is along flat well maintained concrete cycleways. The wider the width the better. The breaking system is wonderful, it comes with an easy hand brake and a back pedal brake for extra safety. When you dismount the hand brake can be put into a complete lock for transfers and general safety.

The thigh harness (velcro pelvic strap) works a treat for Finlay as it keeps his pelvic in place. He has an extensor thrust which can be hard to manage, his body planks making it hard for him to relax into a chair. This harness works similar to our ‘go to’ the Rifton Pelvic Harness. There is an additional lap belt that buckles in front and is connected through the “H” chest strap.

The Duet comes with a handy pull out bike stand that saves the bike from falling to the ground when disconnecting wheelchair. The seat cushioning has Velcro which securely sticks to the shell of the wheelchair allowing it to be easily taken off to wash. Both the armrests and the foot plate can be moved to the side for transfers. Spoke guards and armrest shields prevent any fingers getting trapped inside wheel.

What we find challenging with The Duet Plus

There are several things we’d like to improve around The Duet Plus Tandem Wheelchair Bike. The Shimano Nexus 8 Speed Hub gear system being one of them. The gearing system is mounted between the bike riders legs just in front of riders seat. I’m not sure whether it’s just me, but I find it difficult to adjust the gear system here as it’s not easily visible.

Cycleways aren’t always flat in New Zealand and there needs to be work done to make them safe and inclusive. Living in a hilly environment like Auckland means an e-assist is almost essential. We have some wonderful dedicated cycleways around Auckland that have long gradients. E-assist would make these cycleways a lot more inclusive to those needing a bit more pedal power.

The Duet would be perfect if we could electrify it, however the back brake system makes it difficult. That’s not to say we’ve given up trying. The Duet manufacturers has come up with a solution to this with their own conversion kit available. So far I haven’t been successful in getting a response from them around how we could go about getting one into New Zealand.

Prone to happen to any three-wheeler, the Duet can be tipped up by a cambered surface. This can happen when you experience a turning angle is too tight and restrictive. We learnt this the hard way by tipping up on the area illustrated in the image below. My confidence took a knock after this accident and its taken me a while to find it again. I now dismount and walk the Duet if I’m unsure of the terrain. The area we came a cropper is part of the protected cycleway along Aucklands waterfront. This is where it goes from a fabulous ‘on-road’ two-way protected cycleway onto pavement. The location of the protection dividers and the transitional camber from road to pavement sent us over. I am particularly careful now when coming towards road to pavement transitions or kerb cuts at crossings.

It is also very important to keep your tyres at optimum pressure and for the person in the chair to be well supported in mid-line. These last two bit’s of advice only added to the balance issues of the Duet at this time.


A lot of things weren’t a challenge before Finlay started hitting his teenage growth spurts. Everything becomes a race against time keeping up and managing his range in movement. Muscle’s have to keep up with bone growth. In Finlay’s case his muscle-tone became tight down one side restricting his ability to keep upright in his chair. Gravity starts to take over creating more effort to maintain posture. When transferring that leaning posture to a cycle you become well aware of the imbalance it gives the ride.

Adapting is something we all get pretty good at when we are trying to come up with postural management solutions. As Finlay grew the Duet started to need more adapting, we needed something to help plant his feet on the footplate and more lateral support. On looking back at the Duet retailers website, we see they now have these accessories on offer. However, not the lateral support we needed.

This is where we discovered the Stabilo Seating System – Comfortable Plus Duo (Large) works well in keeping Finlay in mid-line.

All we need to do now is solve the transfers into the Duet. Transferring Finlay is always a challenge, as he extends his pelvis whenever we hoist him into anything. We really need that tilt-in-space seating system to do it safely on our own. I have tried our usual lean the wheelchair back onto something, but thats not always possible, and not particularly safe. It’s become a two-person job unfortunately, another transfer that Finlay has to rely on two people for.

Our Conclusion

I’m determined to make the Duet work, as it’s so transportable and versatile. Finlay loves to be part of the social environment we cycle through and the Duet enables that to happen. Once in, it gives Finlay the postural support he needs combined with the Stabilo Seating System. My wish now is to get it electrified so we can cycle pretty much everywhere. I also need to work on Finlay wearing his helmet. He hates having anything on his head so de-sensitising is the only way forward.

When you settle on your adapted cycle, the next challenge is to create awareness around your access needs. Our designers and engineers are keen to build a nationwide cycle network for everyone.

Our Favourite Cycleways

Westhaven Way Shared Cycleway

We love this one! Once you’ve negotiated the quiet side roads from the Viaduct you’ll enjoy a well-maintained shared cycleway all the way. Make sure you take a picnic and enjoy the views of the city, Harbour Bridge and super yachts along the way.

City to Bays – Downtown Ferry – Quay Street – Tamaki Drive to Mission Bay

A great ride till the protected on-road cycleway stops and moves onto pavement well before Okahu Bay.

More to come!

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