Suburban Excursions

This chair was born and bred for the wide-open suburban sidewalks. But before you set out, here is the wisdom of 800 km of excursions. At the end is a section on weight loss.

What am I letting myself in for?

You can use the chair whether or not you have core strength, but you will build it up if you have it. Because of the very long strokes, you can use any part of the stroke that is comfortable. So, if your shoulders are sore from a manual wheelchair (MWC), you can avoid the part of the stroke that hurts. You can either use just one end of the stroke or you can avoid pushing during the part that hurts – just freewheel over that part. But you can still get around fine and, with this gentle exercise, it will get better. Also you’ve got three gears.

But you will find that this chair uses muscles that you never knew you had and you weren’t using in your normal life – so you should take it easy when you start. When you start, you should use the lower gears but my current experience is that it would take a very steep path to make me change down. It would be a path that you wouldn’t look at in a MWC.

The bottom line is that it will take weeks before you have the strength and skill to use the chair the way it should be used. This is hard experience talking. Don’t be too ambitious – you don’t need a bad experience. It is only if you have good experiences that you will exercise day in day out. To start, choose a simple excursion – around the block, say. Avoid kerb cuts initially. Avoid even mild hills. Don’t go out on windy days. You are taking a big step up – do it gently. Listen up!

It took me a month to start posting good times for trips. Even when you get to that level, there is still a lot to learn.


The first thing is trucks and cars. On average, as you go along, you will meet a cross-street, at least every two hundred metres. That means that, for a five-kilometre run – this is standard – you will meet 25 down kerb cuts and 25 up kerb cuts and you will cross 25 roads!

You must have flashy lights in front and back. These are very distinctive and drivers always see them. So, in the totally unlikely event that I screw up, the driver will still avoid me.

When I started, I was rather nervous about the cars but after more than 800 km, and crossing 4,000 cross roads, I have never had any sort of problem with cars. Obviously, intersections with traffic lights are fine.

I have had four spills from the 8,000 kerb cuts. These all happened early on, before I had learned the obvious lesson – be sure your front casters are in the air every single time you do a kerb cut. Otherwise, get out the band aids.

It is quite easy to get careless in the early stages, when it all seems to be going so easily. I am never careless now.

Bear in mind that you are going quite fast and events come at you faster than you might expect. For instance, you don’t want to slow down for a kerb cut, partly because you are used to going at the speed of a jogger and also because the path goes down at the kerb cut and then rises back up to the average level of the sidewalk or else rises as you go over the crown of the road. If you take it fast, your momentum handles the little uphills. Alternatively, you have to grind up, perhaps in a lower gear. You soon get into the habit of taking them fast.

The second thing is not to hit the edge of the kerb cut. Hit it in the middle or you will have a learning experience.


The first thing to learn is how to do a wheelie. It is not at all the same as using a MWC because, whatever you do with the pushrim or the handles on this chair, in Run mode, it is just going to make you go forward – there is no way to use them to stop yourself tipping back. You can stop yourself tipping back by braking sharply with the brake levers, but you shouldn’t bother. We supply fancy anti tips with big wheels, running on ball bearings. They are designed to run, tipped back. BUT If you use the wheelchair without anti tips, you will certainly get a bump on the back of your head. I have done this and will never do it again.

Tipping backwards is a feature, not a bug, and you get used to it quite quickly. There is no harm in going long stretches with the chair tipped back. The anti tips are designed for it and are quite happy. To make this work for you, you need to adjust the centre of gravity of the chair and you need to set the anti tips so that you go far enough back to get the casters up but not so far back that you struggle to tip forward again.

You can start the wheelie with your hands forward or with them back. It is easier, in fact very easy, to lean back and give the handles a hard pull up. (You learn to manage where your hands are.) You should use this technique away from kerb cuts because, with your hands back, you can’t use the brakes. When you are going along a smooth path, you are not going to need them, and you can lift over a root or a crack in your stride.

But when it’s tricky or you are dealing with a kerb cut, you need all your control. Using the brakes becomes entirely automatic and, with your hands forward, you have total control. To do a wheelie from the front, push your hands down in order to throw your torso back, then pull the handles up sharply. This lifts the casters without too much effort.

Observe that you can only use the brakes with the hands forward. We got to this arrangement after a lot of hard development yards. There are good reasons. In practice, there is no problem. After a lot of hours, you always subconsciously calculate where you need your hands to be. Sort of the same way if an able-bodied person wants to jump over something, they arrange their strides to work right.

Watch out for Bumps and Cracks

At the speed you go, cracks and bumps are nasty. You absolutely have to watch out. Lift your casters over every nasty crack and bump. We’ve given this chair very large fully pneumatic caster wheels to help with the problem.

Crossing Roads

I have found that you should always go clockwise around a block. In that way, approaching traffic is in the lane nearest you and you are facing it. This gives you a long time to see what is happening.

On the other hand, the cars that are coming up behind you, have to cross the near lane before they get near you. Although you only have a glance to check, I have found this to be quite enough. You can easily see if there is a turning car in the far lane. Very often cars stop and signal you to go ahead. I am very cautious about accepting their assurance but, then, I’m an old fraidy cat.

Traffic Lights

Here is an annoying problem. The traffic light is always positioned at the edge of the road. This means that to get at the button, you have to go down a sloping section from the height of the sidewalk to the height of the gutter of the road. Big roads have big crowns and if you start from the gutter, it is really hard work getting up to the crown – much steeper than any ramp and the stupid light is shouting at you to hurry up.  What I do is to go down and press the button. Then I brake one wheel and drive the other to do a U turn. I go back up the slope, turn again and then attack the crown at speed when the light changes. Of course, I get my casters up over the edge of the road.


The problem with ramps is a thing of the past. This wheelchair has a mechanical arrangement that will not let it run back when it is in run mode. This is absolutely reliable – it will never happen. You can stop halfway up the ramp and take your hands off the handles. It is possible, if the ramp is very, very steep, that the chair will tip back onto the anti tips. That’s fine. When you are ready, just keep going. Nervous people should change down to low gear before they get to the ramp. My experience now is that I take ramps in top gear, at twice walking speed. There is so much more power coming out of the chair that it is no problem. You can change down a gear when you stop but it is much better to change down before you start the ramp. You will learn quickly from experience.


This chair has Schwalbe Marathon tyres. They are very narrow and light. They offer significantly better performance. They have the problem that they leak. The tube is very thin and the pressure very high, so you need to check them at least every week or better. They should be between 7 and 8 bars (100-120 psi). If they get down to 6 bar (90psi), the rolling resistance goes up. At the right pressure, they are really excellent.

Also keep an eye on the caster pressure. Keep them at 2-2.5 bar (30-35psi).

If the cross slope control seems off, it is often that you have a soft tyre.

The long run

You want to get fit and strong and you also want to see how well you are doing. This is my experience.

I bought a Fitbit watch that gives me a readout on heart rate, energy output and “Zone Minutes”. These are minutes spent with an elevated heart rate. The American Heart Association says that, if you are doing 22 zone minutes a day, you are doing fine and your cardiovascular system is not going to give you any trouble. Fitbit measures and records this. I do sixty zone minutes on most days. It’s not hard. Also, I keep a track of time on my standard routes and try to do better. Many people are like that. It is good.

I am 77 years old and I have observed three interesting changes after the first six months of using this chair. Firstly, my resting heart rate went from 76 down to 65. You just can’t fake it.

Secondly, I lost all the wrinkles on my upper arms. I thought that they were due to old age but was shocked to find that they are due to wasted muscles. My upper arms, biceps and triceps, trapezoids and deltoids are now muscles to be proud of.

Thirdly, I had hurt my shoulders doing weights and had to get regular cortisone injections – three times a year, over four years. Now my shoulders not only bulge, they have no pain whatever, when I do the same weights.

Weight Loss

Most of us wish we were thinner, but there is no free lunch, so to speak.

One slice of bread has 70 Calories and you have to do a lot of work to use it up. Bottom line, unless you are an able-bodied athlete, you won’t get thin just by exercise.

Here’s the theory of the thing. Humans evolved on the East African plains. There was very little carbohydrate available. Fruit was small and rare. You couldn’t rely on finding nuts. You could eat certain roots but the main thing out there was meat on the hoof. Various groups deny it and claim that we were all Vegans but what were we going to eat? Beans? Tofu? I don’t think so.

Grains hadn’t been developed, much less farmed. No wheat. We ate meat and our bodies evolved to deal with it.

Firstly, we grew huge livers – the biggest organ in the body. Livers metabolise fat and protein into blood sugar (very roughly speaking). Meat is salty and we got all the salt we needed.

Nowadays, agribusiness is in the carbohydrate producing game. It’s cheap and plentiful and tasty and we are almost all on the fat side.

It has the totally nasty problem that in order to feel full, you’ve really got to eat a lot. In fact, you only feel full when your stomach gets full. Do that for ten years and you are a chubby chap – or worse.

On the other hand, in the wild, there is a fixed ratio between meat and fat and the liver knows exactly when you have had enough fat – you just don’t want any more. You have certainly experienced satiety from eating too much fat. There is no doubt that that’s enough, thanks. So, if you eat mainly meat and fat, you are going to eat just the right amount and not get fat.

That is difficult and expensive, but what you can do is dial your carb intake right down and your fat intake right up – and ignore the medico-agribusiness lobby that wants you to eat grains. Just look at their food pyramid that produced a generation of sick, fat people.

Lowering carbs is good, but you also need exercise. This chair will do it for you, but it’s like a gym membership – it won’t help if you don’t use it. The answer is to have a schedule of iron, that you never, never break.

Every afternoon at 4 or 5, you absolutely will go on your 5k trip. If you don’t, we can’t guarantee good things. If you do, we can. Sorry