Some time ago I said I’d write a post showing how to fit cycle panniers to a powerchair, for carrying stuff like shopping in a way that maintains the chair’s balance and doesn’t put potentially damaging strain on the seat back’s tilt mechanism (a simple ratchet device), the customary, but completely wrong, position for efficient and safe load carrying. This, finally, is it.
First, you need the panniers. I recommend these, because they’re what I use and I know this method will work with them.
You also need 4 straps. I use Arno straps, widely available anywhere that sells camping/backpacking kit.
First, remove the D-rings from the back of the panniers – by cutting the webbing, not the rings! You need them.
Using the straps, attach 2 D-rings to each armrest, spaced to match the hooks on the back of the panniers, like this, as close to the back as you can.
Hold the D-ring in place while wrapping the strap around the arm, passing through the D-ring each time. You need to wind up with the buckle under the armrest, where it won’t snag you or your clothing – it might need a couple of tries to get it right. Once done, they can be left in place. Then it’s a simple matter to hook on the panniers and trundle off to the shops.
The panniers have a Velcro loop at the back of the lid, for attaching to a cycle rack to ensure they don’t bounce off. This shouldn’t be a problem at powerchair speeds but, if you want a little extra security, it’s easy to extend the loop with extra Velcro. Just be sure the loop side ends up under your arm, or you’ll regret it.
I’ve used these panniers on my Sunrise Medical Sterling Diamond scooter, and on my Shoprider Lugano chair, which has identical armrests, and they work well. Obviously, filling each pannier with potatoes or beer might be overkill in terms of weight, but for normal shopping, the system works well.
Be aware that this will obviously add considerably to the width of your chair, causing problems with doorways, so like me, you might have to fit them once you’re outside, and remove them on return. I’m sure you’ll figure out a workable system for getting your shopping indoors; I did, and I live in a building with more doors than seems sensible! (I use the bag carrying system, below, to transport one at a time.)
When supermarket shopping, you can put stuff in the panniers on your way round, or use this system to hang a shopping bag in front of you, which is what I do.
I also have a rucksack on the seat back, for carrying waterproofs, a CO2 inflator, lights** – stuff like that – and when shopping there is no reason why bulky but light stuff, like toilet rolls or kitchen towels, can’t go in there too.
**I generally use the road, as pavements where I live are in an appalling state or disrepair, usually too narrow to use safely (and often lacking dropped kerbs), so I always have flashing red LED lights mounted high on the seat back (right in a car driver’s eye-line), but the biggest risk is being T-boned by some half-asleep tosser reversing out of a driveway (I tend to do my shopping early morning – or did before I started getting it delivered). It’s also the reason why I always fit my powerchairs and scooters with a cyclists’ air-horn. I suggest you do, too. Mounting is easy on a scooter, less so on my Lugano – when I figure that out I’ll post pics.