Pretty much a basket case after fitting the FreeWheel gizmo yesterday. Not that it’s hard – it’s actually quite simple – but my leg took against it in a big way and, despite pushing my luck with Oramorph, and taking very great care not to bang it, it was agonisingly painful. Oddly, this morning, it’s less painful than normal and I’m trying very hard to keep it that way.
One major gripe. The US is one of only three countries still clinging to the outdated Imperial system of measurements. Considering that the FreeWheel needs several Imperial (in this case fractions of an inch), Allen keys, I wasn’t best pleased to see, in the installation instructions, the words “not included”. Why the bloody hell not? The thing cost me £350 – they can’t afford to include 3 Allen keys which, at trade prices, cost coppers each? Sod that!
In actual fact there were 3 keys included, but whether the manufacturer had a change of heart or whether Spokz, from whom I bought it, put them in I have no idea. It wouldn’t have actually mattered – I’m not short of Allen keys in either metric or Imperial sizes, but it was the parsimony of not including them that pissed me off.
Anyhow, this is my Quickie Ti, bought second-hand a couple of years ago (it looks as if the back is bent – it’s not, it’s just that the back is fabric, and just slips over two vertical tubes; it can move a little, and has here):-
The Quickie Ti is no longer made, which is a shame, but if you come across a used one in good condition and the right size you could do a lot worse.
The cushion is a Jay Soft Combi P Pressure Relieving Cushion, comfortable enough for all-day use. It comes with an incontinence cover, not needed!, but which, as a bonus, keeps the rain out too. I had to modify the stock size by slicing a couple of centimetres off the back edge to ensure a perfect fit. Fortuitously, my newish Quickie Life has a seat sling exactly the same size, so it’s just a matter of swapping it over rather than buying another. Have you looked at the price of wheelchair cushions? OK, this one is cheap at £63 (yes, folks, that is cheap – you can pay a lot less but you won’t get anything more sophisticated than a plain slab of foam if you do), but some are hideously expensive – I’ve had cars that cost less!
And this is the Quickie with the FreeWheel attached to the back of the seat for transport:-
As you can see I’ve put a few turns of duct tape on the anti-tip wheel support, so that the paint on neither it nor the FreeWheel gets scratched. When seated in the chair, attaching the FreeWheel to its (supplied), mount isn’t as easy as the instructions would have you believe, not least because you can’t see what you’re doing. Likewise, neither is attaching the FreeWheel itself while seated, though both might improve with familiarity.
The FreeWheel is attached “opened out” like this:-
This is described as the “tail-dragger” position, rather mysteriously as it’s at the front and pointing, er, forward. Oh well…
Once attached the wheel is flipped into its normal position (to speed up accurate location I’m going to paint a white line to mark the centre of the footplate):-
The knob on the front controls the steering detent, which is self-centring – screw it in (clockwise), to stiffen it up, out to loosen it. I prefer it loose.
And it’s ready to go (not obvious in the photo but rotating the wheel into this position raises the castors well clear of the ground). I was contemplating leaving the FreeWheel permanently attached and removing the castors, converting it into a trike, but the increased length is a problem, both for storage and putting it in a taxi:-
I had planned to take it outside but it’s cold and wet. The cold I don’t mind, but I can’t wear anything on my right foot, the ulcer is now so big, so the wet ruled it out and I wound up in the lounge.
Even indoors, on carpet, the ride is noticeably smoother and, while it’s hard to quantify, I’m sure it’s a little easier too. At one point in the corridor, there’s a ramp between levels. I tackle ramps by grasping the handrails and hauling myself up and that was definitely easier.
While I was on the Spokz website I treated myself to a pair of gloves as Winter is upon us, the season of mud and sticky awfulness and if I’m to take this thing to the lake I’ll need to keep my hands clean, as well as protect them, or I’ll trash my camera, so I bought these. Not quite as snug as I expected – I’m a perfect Medium – but they’re OK. I was a bit surprised to find they had no padding at all on the palms, though.
There are a couple of accessories available for the FreeWheel, but you’ll have to go to Gerald Simonds for those. They are a luggage rack and an accessory to fit the FreeWheel to a folding wheelchair. Annoyingly, they sell the latter only as a kit with the FreeWheel – so what about those of us who already have one, guys? The folder adapter is sold by the manufacturer as a separate item, so why aren’t you?
At £105 excluding VAT the luggage rack is rather ambitiously priced, and I suspect it’s more useful for shopping than travelling. Worth a look, though, I think, if you routinely struggle to carry stuff safely.
A final tip: Because of the size of the wheel, you’ll need a right-angle valve adapter to inflate it. I’ve got this one.** They also have a range of coloured alloy dust caps (for Schrader valves), if you want to both match your colour scheme and keep the air in.
**Avoid the smart-looking versions in coloured alloy – they’re for tubeless tyres.
And now I’m all set up for my surgery (amputation of my ulcerous right leg if you missed it), so bring it on!
See also this post.