The classic everyday folding metal wheelchair was designed and built a long time ago — when the world was a very different place, back in the 1930s. Not only were lifestyles different, but so were production tools, materials and manufacturing methods.
This occurred to Formula One parts designer Mike Spindle as he watched a man struggle through an airport departure lounge in a metallic purple wheelchair. Mike thought that somebody ought to be able to do an awful lot better.
‘Much to my wife’s disappointment, I started sketching this out on the back of an airline boarding pass,’ he said.
Five difficult design and development years later, his company, ‘Trekinetic’ chose ‘The Mobility Roadshow’ in Gloucestershire to unveil his radical new design — the K2 all-terrain wheelchair.
- The K2 is not a ‘pimped wheelchair’; it is a wheelchair designed from scratch.
The chair uses a carbon fibre monocoque instead of a traditional tubular chassis.
‘With a car you now have a very strong basic shell and you bolt all the components to that.
‘With this, we’ve made the seat a sculptured shape to suit the user’s body and we’ve made it out of carbon fibre which is extremely strong.’
Designing around the sculptured seat-shell takes care of the ‘chair’ part of ‘wheelchair’, so the next important feature has to be the wheels: Mr. Spindle says that with four wheels on an uneven surface, one wheel ends up losing contact.
So the ‘K2’ has three fully adjustable and quick-release wheels — two large ones at the front that can take mountain bike tyres for off-road scenarios. The wheel tilt is controlled by a rotating cross-shaft under the seat, and the camber is easily adjusted so that the chair thins shown to a width of just 710 mm for going through doorways and a more stable, wider camber setting of 24 degree camber and a width of 870 mm.
Push bars are an optional extra for ordinary wheelchair users, but ‘Trekinetic’ are targetting the chair at users with good upper body strength and a desire to go off-road.
With the wheels removed it weighs about 9 kg, so it’s not lightweight, but it can be folded up in about eight seconds. Weather-proofing is by means of a golfing umbrella which attaches to the base of the seat.
‘Trekinetic’ plans to produce about 10 chairs/week from its plant at Uxbridge, Middlesex.