By Loren Cushing
Editor's Note: Loren is a retired physical therapist, a life-long advocate for health and recreation, and a polio survivor. He loves sharing his experiences with others and created his popular YouTube channel to help share wheelchair tips and techniques.
I’ve had the Freedom Chair since the end of March, and I'm still exploring the possibilities and practicing how to make the most of its unique capabilities.
A little about me: my everyday ride is a TiLite ZR rigid frame wheelchair with narrow high pressure rear wheels. I’ve had a FreeWheel attachment since 2010 that I add to that chair when needed. With the FreeWheel, I value the ease of changing from a performance, community worthy, ride to a “bike path burner”, that’s good on gravel, grass, boardwalks etc. However, because it's hand rim driven, once my hands or gloves get wet or muddy, my performance goes way down due to poor traction on the hand rims. Additionally, with my narrow, high pressure tires, beach access is unrealistic. I've pulled together some of my initial observations about the Freedom Chair, so that other riders considering the purchase will know what they can expect.
For off-pavement access, the Freedom Chair has numerous values
Large Front Wheel
Wheelie skills or front end elevation are not necessary since the large front wheel rolls over many barriers
Easy Gear Shifting
Levers offer multiple “speed” gears depending on grip height - move your hands higher on the levers to make propulsion easier, or bring them down to go faster or get a better workout.
Hands Stay Dry
Using the levers also prevents the need for riders to use their hands directly on the wheels, keeping your hands dry and clean, even in wet, muddy, or snowy conditions.
Ride Any Surface
Mountain bike tires and the three wheel design give riders the ability to power through dry, deep sand, grass, gravel, puddles, mud pits, and roll over tree roots or larger rocks.
Dual Brake System
Like a push-rim chair, the GRIT Freedom Chair has solid parking brakes for transfers in and out, but a more unique feature is the lever brakes which offer directional control, prevent the chair from rolling backwards on a hill, and allow the rider to control downhill speed.
Ask Yourself the Right Questions
When making a decision to purchase anything from a new car to an off-pavement wheelchair you have to ask yourself how you’ll use this new mobility device. Questions, such as:
- What off-pavement barriers will I hope to be able to manage; grass, gravel, rocks, tree roots, sand, ruts on the path, puddles, mud, snow?
- Can I set up this new device to meet my sitting balance, stability, and skin protection requirements?
- How will I transport this off-pavement option?
- Can I independently load this device or will I need assistance?
- Does this device breakdown to reasonable weight components and dimensions for me to load?
I’m sure there are other questions, I just haven’t thought of them yet! One thing is for sure, a good off-pavement device decision will make your world “bigger” and allow you to experience the natural world! Go out, see it, and enjoy!
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The GRIT Freedom Chair is the most versatile chair on the market, designed from the ground up to handle any terrain. From trails to grass to snow, the Freedom Chair is built for you to push yourself. Born out of research at MIT, the Freedom Chair's patented easy-push levers reduce shoulder strain and put you in control of your mobility. Learn more about the GRIT Freedom Chair at www.gogrit.us