Objective: To compare the shoulder load during handcycling and wheelchair propulsion under similar conditions of external power in persons with spinal cord injury. Design: Cross-sectional. Subjects: Eight men with spinal cord injury. Methods: Kinetics and kinematics were measured during handbike and wheelchair propulsion at 25, 35, 45 and 55 W on a treadmill. Shoulder load (glenohumeral contact forces, relative muscle forces) was calculated with the Delft Shoulder and Elbow Model. Results: At all power output levels, glenohumeral contact forces were significantly lower during handcycling compared with wheelchair propulsion (p < 0.001). At 55 W, the mean glenohumeral contact force was 345 N for handcycling, whereas it was 585 N for wheelchair propulsion. Also, relative muscle forces were lower during handcycling. The largest differences between handbike and wheelchair propulsion were found in the supraspinatus (4.5% vs. 20.7%), infraspinatus (3.7% vs. 16.5%) and biceps (5.0% vs. 17.7%). Conclusion: Due to continuous force application in handcycling, shoulder load was lower compared with wheelchair propulsion. Furthermore, muscles that are prone to overuse injuries were less stressed during handcycling. Therefore, handcycling may be a good alternative for outdoor mobility and may help prevent overuse injuries of the shoulder complex. © 2012 The Authors.