For some of us old-school wheelers, it’s hard to believe that the ultralight wheelchair is turning 40. After all, many of us remember our 1970s Quadra aluminum, adjustable ultralights like it was yesterday. However, what’s impressive is that after four decades, never-ending innovation remains the hallmark of ultralight wheelchairs, including performance-enhancing accessories.
Glide Suspension Fork
Suspension forks have long been a popular accessory on ultralight wheelchairs, absorbing caster impacts and making rolling smoother. However, based on geometry, their direction of absorption was specific and limited. Out-Front, a company known for taking wheelchair innovations from academia to the marketplace, recently launched the Glide Suspension Fork, the only fork to date that absorbs impacts from both horizontal and vertical directions. Horizontal caster impacts, such as hitting a curb-cut lip, can generate up to 100 pounds of force, putting stress on the frame and jarring the user. Additionally, vertical impacts, such as coming off of a wheelie, can be very jarring. Then, when aspects like rough surfaces are added in, causing vibration, pushing an ultralight wheelchair can be very fatiguing.
The Glide Suspension Fork addresses all of these factors by placing an elastomer absorber at a very specific angle, allowing absorption of both horizontal and vertical impacts and vibrations as the fork flexes on its arc. And, as confirmed by the University of Pittsburgh and Veterans Affairs, it truly works, dramatically reducing the fullest range of caster jarring and vibration transmitted to the user. Available only on TiLite ultralights at this time, the Glide suspension fork comes in three elastomer densities to fit varying user weights, and it’s also available in a cool, swept aesthetic of a double- or single-sided fork.
Evoflex Pelvic Positioning Belt
Athletes ranging from rugby to basketball players have long known the importance of using positioning straps to optimize ultralight wheelchair performance. After all, “anchoring” oneself to an ultralight maintains positioning and enhances the user-ultralight interface for better propulsion efficiency.
Bodypoint Designs took sport belt technology and integrated it into the new Evoflex everyday pelvic positioning belt. Rather than simply serving as a nylon lap belt, the Evoflex starts with a composite mounting strip with multiple holes, then runs that strip up through the belt’s padded pelvic side straps and finishes off with an adjustable pull strap and a push-button or aircraft style buckle. The result is an ultra-tough, super-supportive belt that, when released, springs to parallel with the sides of the seat, never flopping into the spokes like nylon lap belts sometimes do. What’s more, because of the Evoflex’s inner structure and wide pads, it can be mounted anywhere, from a 45-degree angle across your pelvic region to 90 degrees across your upper thighs with a range of frame- mounting hardware options. The Evoflex comes in three sizes and offers additional Velcro-on pelvic pads if increased padding or positioning support is needed. Some hardcore wheelers may not think of a “lap belt” as cool, but the Evoflex is an awesome way to maximize manual propulsion.
Schwalbe Airborne Tire
You know you’re among the world’s best-known wheelchair athletes when a tire company makes a new tire design inspired by you. In sponsoring aerial back-flip artist, Aaron Fotheringham, Schwalbe sought to design a tire that he could use in landing his renowned wheelchair jumps. In the end, the Schwalbe Airborne was, well, born — a wheelchair tire that not only withstands Fotheringham’s landings, but offers enhanced stability and ride comfort for everyday ultralight use.
The Airborne is 1.20 inches wide, with a 55 to 95 PSI rating, giving it a more absorbent ride than the current industry-standard 1-inch, 145 PSI tire. What’s more, Schwalbe also made the Airborne super-light at 400 grams, featuring its unique HD Speed Guard technology — a puncture resistant strip down the center allows a light, low-resistance tire that’s tough. To top it off, the Airborne features a smooth tread that’s both easy on the hands and great on most surfaces, all in a non-marring black tire, in both 24-inch and 25-inch sizes. For urban users especially, the Airborne is a great tire that’s light, low-resistance, absorbent and puncture-resistant.
Come to think of it, why not go with all three of these innovations on your ultralight, increasing comfort, performance and durability? However, you might want to leave the high-flying aerial back-flips to Fotheringham.