Success stories are always inspiring to witness. That’s especially true when they include the overcoming of a physical disability, an uncanny amount of ingenuity and innovation, and even end up resulting in a start-up business. That’s pretty much the American Dream in a nutshell. This story hits all those beats and more.
About a year ago, Zack Nelson decided to design a DIY off-road vehicle for his then-girlfriend Cambry. She has been paralyzed from the waist down for most of her life and has always had to restrict herself to the pavement.
As anyone with a similar disability knows, this makes it harder to get out of your home and move around the city. It also means no hikes in the mountain, no wandering in the snow, no trips to the beach, or basically – little to no outdoor fun whatsoever.
Zack’s design aimed to change that. What he did was essentially splice two electric bikes together. He placed a seat in the center, balanced the dimensions and weight distribution, added a few safety features, and the “Not-A-Wheelchair” rig was born.
A year later, Zack and Cambry are now a married couple, the design is even more perfected, and – now called “The Rig” – it’s beginning mass production.
The couple has made a lovely presentation for their innovative product on YouTube that we’d definitely recommend but here’s a quick summary:
- The Not-A-Wheelchair rig is powered by one or two standard electric bike batteries.
- The rig looks too big but its dimensions are surprisingly compact – 5 feet long and 32 inches wide. This means that it easily fits through most doors and can be easily carried around in shortbed pickups, jeeps, and Subaru Outbacks.
- The rig is designed to reach a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour for the driver’s safety. It could have been made even faster by Zack’s admission but even at 12mph, the Not-A-Wheelchair rig is significantly faster than its competition.
- The aluminum frame is as sturdy and durable as that of two quality and durable bikes – for obvious reasons. This means that the rig can comfortably carry an average person plus luggage or even a passenger on the back. The recommended weight for long drives and/or off-terrain is 225 lbs.
- The off-road bike tires are 4 inches thick, durable, and offer excellent road cohesion.
- The bike batteries offer 10-20 miles per charge with a single battery and 25-35 miles per charge with two batteries. The variation is mostly based on the driver’s and baggage’s weight, as well as the terrain.
- The Not-A-Wheelchair rig is made almost entirely of bicycle parts which means that finding replacement parts is very easy.
- The rear rack of the rig can be used to hold an actual wheelchair, coolers, baskets and backpacks, camping gear, or even another person.
- The double-bike handles itself admirably on most terrains including sand and snow, as long as they’re not too loose. Then, as a normal bike would, the Not-A-Wheelchair rig can struggle a bit and require assistance. For any other terrain, however, it seems excellent.
- Because the rig uses electric bike motors, it creates virtually no noise – perfect for long hikes in the park or mountain where a roaring engine can ruin half the fun.
- The price of $4,750 is two to four times lower than that of other off-road wheelchairs on the market which tend to range between $10,000 and $20,000. Plus, you can also get a base black model with only one battery and no suspension for $3,750.
Is this a wheelchair revolution? We don’t really know, it remains to be seen how much demand there is for such a device. Zack and Cambry are ready to start shipping out the Not-A-Wheelchair rigs this September and, hopefully, everything else that’s been happening so far in 2020 won’t dampen the potential customers’ desire for such a product.
With a staggering price difference between the $4,750 of this product and the industry standard of $10,000-20,000, we hope the product is here to stay. There are over 2.7 million wheelchair users in the U.S., amputees and paralyzed people alike. With many of them having financial struggles due to insurmountable medical bills, the overpriced, slow, and noisy off-road wheelchairs currently on the market are not exactly good options.
What’s more, Zack and Cambry are also promising more innovations for future models as they readily admit there’s even more that can be done. One example is that the vehicle is not water-proof as of now and it’s not recommended for use near water or in the rain. If that and a couple of other features get added, and if the price remains so competitive, this fun, family DIY project can end up turning the whole off-road wheelchair market on its head. Or maybe that can happen as soon as this September?
You can visit Notawheelchair.com for more info.