by: Nerissa Cannon
One of the original Freedom Chair Trailblazers, Nerissa, now works full time with GRIT! Her own journey with chronic illness has made her very passionate about helping other people get the most out of life in spite of a disabling condition. In her new series, IT'S A GRIT LIFE, she shares how the GRIT Freedom Chair helps her engage in her favorite activities and live a life of adventure.
The GRIT Freedom Chair is often called a Mountain Bike for your arms. It's moving components are mountain bike parts which not only enhance your trail endeavors, but also makes it easy to have basic repairs and maintenance done locally, even while you're travelling. I would like to share with you my favorite local bike shop: Cedar Cycle.
I've been going to bike shops for many years now when my standard wheelchair needed tubes or tires or certain accessories. It's much faster and cheaper than going to a medical supply place, and you have MUCH more selection. So, when I got my GRIT Freedom Chair it was just a natural extension to see what the bike shop had to offer me. I had several things on my list when I got to Cedar Cycle, and Brian, the owner, was more than happy to help me with every single one of them.
First I wanted to talk to him about tires and tubes. While I do take precautions against punctures and flats, they do happen, and I wanted to make sure that specifically my small front tire could be repaired quickly and locally if that ever happened. After confirming the size and getting lots of kisses from my dog, Brian showed me a large stack of replacement tubes for my small front tire. I felt much better knowing that I had this resource nearby.
After that was taken care of I wanted to look at some new tires. I have an extra set of wheels, and I wanted to replace the standard tires that came on my Freedom Chair with a smoother tread for when I'm just going around town or on paved trails. Brian was great about listening to me and what I wanted and offering different options. He also got to sneak some more kisses from my dog while I was deciding on which tires I wanted. Brian was even able to set me with a wheel bag to make storing and transporting my extra set of wheels even easier.
Once I decided on what tires I wanted it was time to talk grip tape. I also ended up with an extra set of levers for my Freedom Chair but the wrap tape on them was mismatched. For the new wrap tape I wanted something kind of fun and different from what I'd had in the past, but also sturdy. Brian made a couple of recommendations and even showed me how they felt wrapped on handlebars. Ultimately, I decided on a random and fun Southwestern style woven tape, and I couldn't be happier with the upgrade.
Last, and most importantly, I needed a new chain. No matter how well you maintain them, eventually chains will need replacing, and this is the first time I've had to replace the chains on my Freedom Chair in two years of heavy use. Brian showed me several options in a zinc-plated chain. I could have chosen purple or red or white. I ended up choosing a shiny gold. Brian helped me feel comfortable that I was making the best decision for me and my equipment.
Because of some minor maintenance that I asked Brian to do in addition to changing out my chain and my tires I had to leave my GRIT Freedom Chair with him for a little while. He had everything done in just a couple of hours. Not only was he awesome about helping me decide on what I needed, and quick about doing the work, but he helped me take my Freedom Chair out to my car when I came to pick it up. Brian was extremely helpful and I was really excited to hit the trails after my tune up.
I was eager to stretch out my chains and break in my new tires and lever wrap tape. The next day was gorgeous so we headed to one of my favorite nearby paved trails to test it out. It ALMOST felt like a brand new chair.
The biggest thing I want to emphasize is to not be afraid to go to your local bike shop with your Freedom Chair. When I first went into a bike shop with my wheelchair, I was nervous. I didn't really know anything about the biking world; the Freedom Chair had been my introduction to the biking world. I didn't know the lingoes or the brands or really what to ask for. But a good bike shop will talk with you and help you figure out the best things for you with how you want to use your equipment. Over time, through trial and error, you will find what you prefer, and you'll know what to ask for. And when you roll up in your GRIT Freedom Chair, most bike mechanics are more intrigued by it than anything else.