Being a wheelchair user shouldn’t mean sacrificing the finer things in life like getting out in the great outdoors. However, for the disabled this can be difficult, and in turn dispiriting when finding themselves unable to take part in activities like hiking, cycling and other sports and hobbies they love.
Luckily, it is possible to get the kind of mobility you need to get back into nature and bask in all it has to offer. With off-road electric wheelchairs built from stronger frames and wide wheels, users can meet the rough ground of outdoor terrains. In this guide, we go through everything you need to know about how these chairs work, and how they can provide that cherished independence and mobility.
How off-road electric wheelchairs work
Off-road or ‘all-terrain’ electric wheelchairs are specially designed for outdoor use only. There are types that allow for either manual and power-assisted steering, and can be modified and customised to suit the user’s distinct requirements.
The wheelchairs are built from the same base units as standard wheelchairs — front-wheel (FWD), mid-wheel (MWD) and rear-wheel (RWD), all of which are sprung to provide the best comfort for the driver. Front and rear-wheel drive models also have the capacity for added suspension fitting via the castor forks (the parts attached to the wheels that do not move).
At Dietz Mobility, our preferred model is the SANGO advanced offroad chair, which utilises R-net gyro technology for enhanced speed and control. It comes equipped with an adjustable seat height of just 39cm — making it perfect for use inside a car and easy to fit under tables and other surfaces. What’s more, it is easy to maintain — offering a high level of reliability along with manoeuvrability, comfort and stability. Heavy duty drive motors, large wheels and large range batteries make it a powerful and sturdy way for you to hit any ground with ease.
The perks of off-road
Whether you’re in a muddy field, rocky hillside or mountain or on a sandy beach, the benefits of a resilient, powerful off-road wheelchair are numerous. Many users find themselves liberated from the limited mobility of standard electric wheelchairs, finding a feeling of freedom and adventure that they thought they had lost. Here are some of the specific advantages all-terrain electric wheelchairs may give to you:
With a tough and hardy new set of electric wheels, users can get on a hiking trail, walking tour or — with the right modifications — start cycling or hitting the tennis court. This is not just a huge boost for energy and recreation, but for socialising too. Not only is it easier to take part in group activities, users may feel empowered to get out in the open and refrain from staying indoors, which although more comfortable can leave people feeling isolated or anxious.
Perhaps one of the most obvious and desirable benefits is the added opportunity for exercise that off-road wheelchairs offer. We know that being sat down for extended periods of time isn’t good for you, and can cause issues related to bad blood circulation (thrombosis) and muscle weakness. To make matters worse, the effect of periods of inactivity like this can make it harder to do the cardio activity that spikes your heart rate. Though wheelchair users can’t head straight out and start jogging, what the off-road wheelchair can give them is the chance to regularly play sports and get involved with activities that engage their upper body.
As we just mentioned, limited mobility and socialising can not just be harmful for physical but also mental health. For many, a chair that lets you take part in activities you otherwise could not, creating opportunities to meet and spend time with others as well as increasing your exposure— along with greater exposure to sunshine and fresh air—might in fact do wonders not just for your physical but mental wellbeing.
How to choose the right chair
1. Comfort and stability
Safety is vital for any wheelchair or vehicle. Understanding what you will be using your off-road electric wheelchair for should be your first move, so that you can feel comfortable at all times when driving. Depending on what you’re going to get up to, some chairs are built for greater stability, whereas others will be designed for making quick manoeuvres. You may also have physical requirements that warrant a bespoke, modified approach to your wheelchair.
To feel secure in your chair, you’ll want to know how many safety straps there are, especially if you have more or less mobility in different parts of your body. You can, for example, use lap, chest and feet straps, but also bars that prevent you from tipping depending on how your weight is distributed in the chair. The frame and wheelbase should be built to balance well on uneven surfaces, and the right wheels should have deep traction to insure against slippage. Whatever you decide on, be sure to make yourself as visible as possible when out on the road, either with a brightly coloured flag or high-visibility jacket.
2. Power vs. Manual
As mentioned earlier, you can get both power-driven and manual electric wheelchairs. The latter are useful for tetraplegics, as they come equipped with electric levers and joysticks that power and operate the chair. However, these models can be weighty and bulky, making them harder to transport. They may require having a specialised lift or modified van to transport the chair effectively.
Lightweight versions are available, but these will not match the most powerful all-terrain chairs in terms of riding over rough ground. However, manual chairs are much lighter and much easier to be folded up and disassembled. Your lifestyle and physical abilities will be the factors that chiefly influence this decision.
3. Indoor vs. Outdoor
Some off-road electric wheelchairs are designed purely for outdoor use, replete with big and heavy frames and wheels, and unsuitable for navigating household furniture or tight corners at home. However, some simply choose to adapt indoor chairs with all-terrain wheels that can be changed with indoor models whenever convenient. This option also works out cheaper, so it’s worth discussing with your supplier what other modifications like these may be available to you.
When choosing an off-road wheelchair, prospective buyers may feel overwhelmed with the amount of choices. However, hopefully after reading this guide you should be equipped with the right information to make a decision. To find the right match, it’s important to consider your ambitions, lifestyle and what your physical abilities are. As you may have intuited already, if budgets are tight, another option is to simply explore modification options for your existing chair if you don’t have the means to purchase a brand new one.
It’s also worth checking out insurance information when working out whether you can afford the chair that’s right for you. One of our supply professionals is always happy to advise and help guide you through the process, along with addressing any questions you may have — get in touch today to find out how we can support you.