The GRIT Freedom Chair is easier to propel than a regular manual wheelchair, so many riders with limited overall strength are still able to push themselves. However, GRIT offers accessories specifically for folks with limited strength (or who plan on riding with one arm), and specific locations that will be better suited for riders with limited strength.
And, most importantly: If you are a rider with limited strength in one or both of your arms, you’ll likely have the best possible experience with a friend or family member pushing from behind. Working together, you’ll be able to get in a great workout without overtaxing your upper body.
Below, we’ll talk in more detail about the ideal accessories and locations. We’ll also hear from actual GRIT Freedom Chair owners talking about using their chairs with limited strength.
What GRIT accessories can help riders with limited strength?
Using the optional Trail Handles, a friend or family member can provide a boost to help you overcome an obstacle, or they can offer sustained pushing support up an entire trail.
One of the amazing things about the GRIT Freedom Chair is that the levers (held by the rider) are independent of the spinning rear wheels — this makes it easy for the rider and assister to work together. If the rider needs a break, he or she can hold the lever vertically while the assister does the pushing. When they’re ready to engage the lever(s) again, they can start pushing whenever they want and put in only the amount of work they’re comfortable putting in.
Utility Clamp with Rope Mount
For even more challenging terrains and inclines, the optional Utility Clamp with Rope Mount allows you to rig up your own pulling system from the front. With the rider pumping the levers, someone pushing from behind, and/or someone pulling from the front, there isn’t much you can’t conquer.
The front axle of the GRIT Freedom Chair accepts optional Steering Pegs that can be a huge help when propelling the chair with limited strength. Riders who can point one or both of their feet (think: pushing the accelerator in a car) use Steering Pegs to make using the chair easier on their arms. In fact, with the Steering Pegs, you can even remove one of the levers, push on the other lever, and keep the chair going straight by pushing on the peg with your foot.
Explore all GRIT Freedom Chair Accessories here.
Using the GRIT Freedom Chair with One Arm
The GRIT Freedom Chair can be a great all-terrain wheelchair for stroke survivors, amputees, and others with strength on one side of their body. However, because propelling the weight of the rider, chair, and accessories is a lot to ask of one arm, these riders will require some push assistance from a trail buddy. Read more below!
What are the challenges of using a GRIT Freedom Chair with one arm?
Over inclines or tough terrains, even strong riders may find it difficult to propel the chair with one arm. You only need one lever to experience the mechanical advantage of the GRIT lever-drive system, but there’s no way around the fact that propulsion is a big job for one arm!
Steering on crowned or off-camber surfaces can be a challenge. This is especially true for riders who do not use the Steering Pegs accessory. With the Steering Pegs, steering is much easier. In the absence of Steering Pegs, though, a pusher from behind can easily keep the chair rolling straight.
Inclines are a similar challenge to steering—one arm will be doing all of the work. Flat surfaces—like running tracks or paved areas—are much easier and more popular for riders relying on one arm.
Below, Partha adds an important note about traveling with and transporting the GRIT chair with one arm:
“I cannot lift the chair into or out of the car, that would be impossible for me. If one of my arms becomes weak, I feel I would need at least 50% strength in the weak arm or I would not be able to drive the GRIT chair and lift it up into the car or out of the car.”
While it may look a bit different than riders using both arms, many GRIT riders do use the GRIT Freedom Chair with one arm. Continue reading to hear from actual riders and learn about the accessories that can help.
What accessories help when using one arm?
Similar to riders with limited strength in both arms, riders who are using one arm can take advantage of the following accessories:
Trail Handles: These rear-facing push bars make it much easier on the assister. Work together and get farther than you would go solo. Added bonus: It is extremely easy to steer the chair with the Trail Handles, so the assister often does the steering while the rider can focus on pushing.
Steering Pegs: Riders with foot mobility use this accessory to guide the chair in the desired location. You need only one foot to use the Steering Pegs, so stroke survivors with a “strong side” almost always use this accessory.
Utility Clamp with Rope Mount: Use this accessory if you plan on having someone pull you from the front; this is most common on bigger, difficult outings. Assister #1 should use the Trail Handles. Assister #2 should use the Utility Clamp with Rope Mount.
What are actual riders saying?
“I am over-the-moon excited with my GRIT chair. Since surviving several strokes, I have lived life in a wheelchair. I have stayed very active in my lightweight racing chair, but the one thing I missed was the ability to hike.
I live at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and grew up hiking. Now, thanks to my GRIT Freedom Chair, I am hiking once again. My friend and her son went with me to a park near my home and I did a 3-mile hike!! I did spend a lot of time in tears of joy because I had not been able to get out on the trails since 2011. The chair held up great going over gravel, and rocks.”
Norm has one-sided paralysis as the result of a stroke. With assistance, Norm is able to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors with his family. Above is a video Norm and his family made, thanking the crowdfunding supporters who helped him buy his GRIT Freedom Chair.
“Before my second birthday, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP). There are many different types and severities of CP; my type affects my legs and left arm, leaving me with poor balance and limited use of my arm.”
—James, of Handi Capable Fitness, pictured above after finishing a Spartan Race in his GRIT Freedom Chair
“I live in FL and have been using my ‘wheels’ for several months practicing for our big adventure—we just got home Sunday from WA, OR, and CA. I used my chair to put my tires in the Pacific Ocean (sea level), Oregon, Mt. Rainier (at 10,500 feet above sea level), Washington, and through the redwoods in California. On occasion, I had help from my son and wife (occasionally our grandkids, too) who would push me uphill, but my wheels made the adventure so much better. I am now back in FL going at it, 5 days a week.”
Tim (aka “Gator”)
“One arming can be done! I have right shoulder issues going back to a bicycle wreck in 1974 that limits my use. Mostly I will use it about 50%, sometimes down to zero. Even when I consider full use of my arm, the stroke length of the right is about max 70% of my left arm. And, if you can curl your arm around the lever then braking is handled. Just lean back. So yes, the GRIT chair can be done with one arm (I do use feet to steer). No, you will not be a speed demon, but you will do just fine. Work on the technique of the stroke and catching that sweet spot. Have fun and enjoy!”
—Tim (aka “Gator”)
Whether you plan on using your GRIT chair with one arm or with limited strength in both arms, there are others out there riding in this same way. You may need to put extra consideration into transporting the chair, propelling the chair over inclines, and steering on off-camber surfaces, but all of these can be addressed with the right accessories and support from a friend or family member.
If you’d like to connect with a member of the GRIT team to talk about any of the above in more detail, please fill out the below form and we’ll reach back out to you to discuss!