Posted on: July 7, 2020 at 10:20 am

Those of us who have full function of our legs take our ability to go anywhere – hiking in the mountains, walking along the beach, and trekking through the snow – completely for granted. When we’re out enjoying the great outdoors, we don’t think about the thousands of people who can’t experience these places due to a physical disability that affects their mobility. Thanks to this man who built a special off-road wheelchair for his then-girlfriend, now wife, getting out into nature is more feasible than ever before.

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The Off-Road Wheelchair That’s Changing the Game

Cambry Nelson is paralyzed from the waist down. For most of her adult life, her outdoor adventures have been restricted to paved surfaces, because wheelchairs just aren’t built for nature. She and her husband, Zach, however, love getting outside and going on adventures. This is what inspired Zach to build her an off-road wheelchair, or ‘not-a-wheelchair’ so that the couple could expand their exploration beyond accessibility-friendly spaces.

We know what you are probably thinking: Don’t off-road wheelchairs already exist?

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Yes, they do, however there are only two options:

  1. One that costs anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, or,
  2. One that is really, really slow.

The first is cost-prohibitive for most people, the other not great for the true outdoor-adventurer. Zach built The Rig to solve both of those problems.

Read: Teen Scientist Creates SMART Armor Shield To Help in Radiation Treatment

What Makes The Rig – Not a Wheelchair – So Great

To be clear, The Rig is not a certified medical device. It is important that people still take precautions when operating it and don’t try any crazy stunts or tricks.

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What it is, is a cost-effective, quiet, easily transported bike that provides the freedom to those who have been otherwise denied. Here are a few specs:

  1. Low-cost
    The base model, which has only one battery and no suspension, is just $4,750. For another $1000, you get two batteries and suspension, as well as fun color options. Compare this to the regular cost of traditional off-road wheelchairs and you’ll understand how incredible this is.
  2. It’s Electric
    The physical strength and endurance of the operator is not an issue with The Rig, because it is motorized. It is electric, which means it’s whisper quiet. You can take a peaceful hike through without worrying you will scare off the birds or chat with your friends while strolling through the forest, either way, the sound of the motor won’t get in the way.
  3. It can go far
    The basic option can take you 10 to 20 miles before the battery needs to be recharged, depending on how much weight it is carrying. With two batteries, it can travel 25 to 35 miles in one go. The length of the trip it is capable of also depends on the terrain of the land. It will go further on flat, smooth surfaces than it will on hilly or bumpy ones.
  4. It can carry more than just the driver
    Better than a bike basket, The Rig allows you to cart plenty of items around on the back – your regular wheelchair, a cooler for a picnic lunch, your friend when they get tired half-way through the hike… as long as the total weight doesn’t exceed 225 pounds, you can carry it.
  5. Cheap and Easy Repairs
    The Rig is made out of bike parts, which means that it requires the same maintenance and repairs that a normal bike would. This also means that sourcing parts and having repairs done is easy and inexpensive to do.
  6. Easy to transport
    The RIg is five feet long and 32 inches wide without the bumper on, so it can fit easily in a standard short-bed pickup and SUVs.

The Rig can fit through most regular doorways, has a function that allows the user to easily transfer themselves from their wheelchair to their not-a-wheelchair and back, and can handle most terrain pretty well. It also can go up to 12 miles per hour, so you won’t ever fall behind the rest of the group.

Just like a regular bike, it does struggle with loose snow or sand. It is also not water certified, however, all of these things are updates that Zach and Cambry hope to include when they develop The Rig 2.0.

To purchase your own Rig, or to donate to the cause, visit the Not-A-Wheelchair Website.

Keep Reading: Bike Chair for Special Needs – allows you to take someone with limited mobility for a ride.

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Julie Hambleton
Nutrition and Fitness Enthusiast
Julie Hambleton is a fitness and nutrition expert and co-founder of The Taste Archives along with her twin sister Brittany Hambleton.

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