In recent years, advances in wheelchair technology have come from innovations from other forms of transportation. A recent innovation was borrowed from the blueprints of bicycles equipped for rough terrain. Introducing Loopwheels, a wheelchair wheel designed to make off-road cycling much more comfortable thanks to innovations in shock-absorption.
Sam Pearce, the creator of the wheels, describes his inspiration behind the product in what others might consider a typical observation of daily life. When he saw a woman pushing a stroller onto a curb, he noticed that the baby inside was shoved forward when the wheels hit the curb at a harsh angle. It was a struggle for the mother and quite obviously uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for the baby. This made him wonder what things might be like if the stroller’s suspension was located in the wheel.
The design of Pearce’s Loopwheels contains springs within the center of the wheel that take all of the shock and bumps from the terrain. This leaves the actual frame of the wheel remaining rigid, allowing for a much smoother ride. The wheels cover 360 degrees of shock absorption, ensuring that those in wheelchairs won’t feel every little bump and uneven portion they ride along.
For bicyclists, such a convenience means an easier ride and the added ability to ride on places that might otherwise have been too rough. It’s been a huge advance for cyclist that enjoy off-road trails and country outings. But for wheelchair users, it opens up new possibilities in areas of accessibility and comfort.
Currently, Loopwheels are a little pricey, averaging around $2,000 each. But Pearce says that a new manufacturing technique is being worked on that should bring the price of this innovative wheel down significantly. When these wheels are widely available, thousands of wheelchair users could be impacted.