Background: The manual wheelchair user population experiences a high prevalence of upper-limb injuries, which are related to a high load on the shoulder joint during activities of daily living, such as handrim wheelchair propulsion. An alternative mode of propulsion is handcycling, where lower external forces are suggested to be applied to reach the same power output as in handrim wheelchair propulsion. This study aimed to quantify glenohumeral contact forces and muscle forces during handcycling and compare them to previous results of handrim wheelchair propulsion. Methods: Ten able-bodied men propelled the handbike on a treadmill at two inclines (1% and 4% with a velocity of 1.66 m/s) and two speed conditions (1.39 and 1.94 m/s with fixed power output). Three-dimensional kinematics and kinetics were obtained and used as input for a musculoskeletal model of the arm and shoulder. Output variables were glenohumeral contact forces and forces of important shoulder muscles. Findings: The highest mean and peak glenohumeral contact forces occurred at 4% incline (420 N, 890 N respectively). The scapular part of the deltoideus, the triceps and the trapezius produced the highest force. Interpretation: Due to the circular movement and the continuous force application during handcycling, the glenohumeral contact forces, as well as the muscle forces were clearly lower compared to the results in the existing literature on wheelchair propulsion. These findings prove the assumption that handcycling is mechanically less straining than handrim wheelchair propulsion, which may help preventing overuse to the shoulder complex. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.