Help me figure out the bicycle options for someone with limited use of their right hand. Long-winded details inside.
I'm shopping for a new bike for my boyfriend, who, for physiological reasons, can't really grip with his right hand. He'd be using it mainly for a short commute and other local errands (all asphalt, nothing off-road). Recently, he's been riding a housemate's vintage beach cruiser, which is single-speed and has a coaster brake, but besides being too small, it's very heavy/clunky, and the single-speed thing is pretty limiting, efficiency-wise.
I think the perfect bike would be multi-speed (not necessarily tons, but more than one, ideally with a shifter on the left), at least a bit more practical than an old steel beach cruiser, and have coaster brakes. I've been to a few DC-area bike shops, plus done some online research, and the options I've identified are:
- Several manufacturers make off-the-shelf bikes built around the Shimano Nexus Inter-3 read hub, which is a three-speed internally-geared hub with a coaster break. Most of them seem to be cruisers, albeit aluminum ones (like this Giant), but there are some still-casual non-cruiser options, too (like this one).
- One shop suggested buying a coaster/internal hub (maybe the 7-speed version of the above-mentioned Shimano), having them build us a wheel in whatever size we wanted, and putting it on an off-the-shelf bike that came standard with regular derailleur gears and rim brakes. This looks like it would be quite expensive, but it looks like there are also places where I could buy pre-built wheels around one of these hubs.
- One of the shops suggested taking an off-the-shelf bike with standard brakes and recabling them with one of these adapters, to allow both brakes to be controlled with the left hand. This would be cheaper than the above option.
None of these are exactly what I'm looking for. Open questions:
- It's not just the brakes that are problematic; he has a hard time with right-hand shifters, too, and none of these solutions address that. Can left-hand shifters be bought that would match any of these hubs? What about something hacky like mounting a right-hand shifter upside down on the other handlebar; is that even possible?
- DC's Capital Bikeshare bikes also use three-speed internally-geared hubs, and I find that the gears are so "easy" that I only ever use the highest one. Is that true of all three-speed hubs? Would it make a difference if the wheel was a 700c instead of a 26"? It would be pointless to put all this effort into figuring out shifting if the gear range was such that it wasn't useful.
So, yeah. In my shoes, which option would you choose? Are there other possibilities I'm not aware of? Advice on the left-side shifter?