Outdoor

The event of an journey wheelchair

The way to build a good off-road wheelchair is littered with broken axles, crushed stone and unpleasant ergonomics. just ask Geoff Babb. "The main glitches are also the best things that can happen during development," he says. Babb is a cutting-edge inventor of wheelchair technology and the creator of AdvenChair, a robust, outdoor-friendly roller that uses bi-ski and mountain bike technology to help people with mobility problems and their group of helpers navigate rocky environments. steep paths. (It can only be operated by the user of the chair.)

As a lifelong outdoor enthusiast and BLM fire ecologist, Babb loved hiking, climbing, and mountain biking near his hometown of Bend, Oregon, until his life took an abrupt turn when he suffered an almost fatal stroke at the age of 48 when I was in the When I was in rehab, it became clear that I would not run and would be in a wheelchair, ”he says. Returning outdoors was a top priority for him, his wife Yvonne, and their two boys, but none of the chairs they saw in the market fit.

Without enough arm strength to push himself, he collected a laundry list of solutions that would allow it helper to help him in an ergonomic way. "We also needed easily accessible parts, versatility when maneuvering outdoors and indoors, and a chair that was durable enough to drive on rough or steep paths," says Babb. Nothing ticked all the boxes, so they developed a solution themselves.

The AdvenChair 1.0 was little more than a standard wheelchair with gnarled tires (instead of thinner, plaster-friendly ones) and an additional front wheel for more mobility when driving over curbs and stones. After testing the chair on trails throughout Smith Rock State Park, Crater Lake, and Mount Rainier, Babb and his family decided to test it on a trip to Grand Canyon National Park in 2016.

With a team of three to four people (fondly referred to as "mules") who help push and pull the chair, they set off from the Bright Angel Trailhead on the southern edge of the Grand Canyon and carefully navigate their bikes through hundreds of them Bumps and drainage channels.

An axis snapped just two miles from the starting point. Babb and his team had to retire to the parking lot. "I see this mishap as a gift because it has forced us to rethink our design," he says. "Within a week we were back in my garage and found new ways to do it better."

Babb and his team are driving a descent to Smith Rock (Photo: Geoff Babb)

Enter AdvenChair 2.0, Babb's newest creation. With the help of the helicopter mechanic Dave Neubauer, the CAD designer Jack Arnold and the steering and ergonomics from Yvonne, Babb has completely revised his original concept.

"The framework of the AdvenChair 2.0 is more durable and can overcome obstacles such as tree trunks, river crossings, rocks and roots," says Babb. The team worked to make the 20-inch front wheel more off-road Additional shock absorbers and user-friendly functions such as 180 millimeter disc brake discs, brakes mounted on the handlebars and a durable 6061 T6 aluminum frame with lifting and pulling points for the pushers and pullers of the chair. The new model weighs 60 pounds and fits in the back seat of most sedans once the front wheel is removed. "AdvenChair 2.0 is the whole enchilada," says Babb.

This excursion into the world of off-road wheelchairs is not without competition. From the tank-like, motorized Action Trackchair ($ 12,000) to the sporty, pressure-powered Grit Freedom Chair ($ 3,000) to the popular freewheel ($ 600), people with disabilities have more options than ever before to opt for an adventurous one Rig to decide.

However, what really sets the AdvenChair apart is the combined use of bi-ski and mountain bike technology, which allows a team of one to four pushers and pullers to maneuver the chair over the toughest trails with little or no help from the rider. There are 16 points on the chair for pushing, pulling or lifting. Babb took over the hip belt and fiberglass towbars, which are often used on a bulk sled so a friend can pull the chair from the front, while another helper can use the adjustable, wide handlebar to push the chair and from behind on the To access disc brakes.

Much of the chair is made up of standard bicycle parts such as non-slip 27.5-inch wheels and tires, so users can repair and maintain the chair themselves. Not a handyman? Just take the chair to your local bike shop to improve it. The padded bucket seat is also easy to remove, a blessing for a child user who can grow with the AdvenChair and only ever have to buy a new, larger seat that can be mounted on the chair, which significantly extends its lifespan.

AdvenChair will take orders from the end of this year and ship the first units next year for around $ 10,000 per chair. After that Babb planned a Grand Canyon Redux and with the robust new functions of the 2.0 I would say that the chances are with him.

"We believe that everyone, regardless of their physical ability, should be able to visit wild places," says Babb. "Instead of requiring a landscape adapted to wheelchairs, people can now have a chair that adapts to the landscape."

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Main photo: Geoff Babb

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