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Freedom Chair - MTB for Your Arms

Nov 13, 2014
by Benjamin Judge  


GRIT is launching the Freedom Chair, an off-road mobility device that helps people with disabilities move beyond the pavement. Like an arm-powered mountain bike, the Freedom Chair enables people to travel off-road on trails and in parks, places where regular wheelchairs get trapped.

goGRIT.us

The Freedom Chair is now available for pre-order on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, which is being utilized by the team to raise $50,000 towards their first production run. With a planned retail price of $3,000, the Freedom Chair is half the cost of similar products for sale in the United States. The GRIT team is also offering a number of other “backer rewards,” enabling people to support the team by purchasing related items or by donating chairs to people who cannot afford them themselves. Since meeting their goal in 5 days by selling almost 20 Freedom Chairs, GRIT is introducing a number of stretch goals. At $75,000 they will offer custom powder coating and at $100,000 develop a beach kit utilizing fat bike tires.

The Freedom Chair is an improved version of the LFC, which the team designed while students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The LFC and Freedom Chair both feature a unique lever drivetrain, helping people with disabilities roll over obstacles and travel efficiently over long distances. The LFC has been in production since 2012 and over 1,000 have been distributed around the developing world.“As engineers, there’s no better feeling than seeing something we’ve designed change someone’s life,” said CTO and co-founder Mario Bollini. He’s worked with other members of the GRIT team since 2007 to design mobility solutions that can handle the rough terrain faced by people with disabilities in developing countries. Over the past two years, GRIT has worked closely with wheelchair riders around the United States to adapt the LFC to their unique needs. “The Freedom Chair appeals to a wide audience of riders, from returning veterans who want to get back on the trail, to parents who want to roll off the pavement to watch their kid’s soccer games,” said Tish Scolnik, CEO and co-founder.

goGRIT.us

GRIT has also worked closely with local bicycle shops to make sure that the Freedom Chair is easily repairable, allowing riders to sidestep the costly medical device supply chain. “By using bike parts on the Freedom Chair we can create a high performance product that is also easy to repair,” said Ben Judge, product development engineer and co-founder. An avid cyclist, Judge is excited to be part of the Freedom Chair project. “Getting people off-road is a huge quality of life improvement. I’m excited to share my passion for the trail with a new audience” he added.

goGRIT.us

GRIT is working with manufacturers around New England for its first production run. “Working with local manufacturers helps us to get a high quality product to market quickly,” Bollini said. The Freedom Chair’s Kickstarter campaign will run until December 30, 2014. GRIT plans to start shipping Freedom Chairs in May of 2015.

goGRIT.us

For more information, please contact Ben Judge at ben@gogrit.org.

About GRIT
GRIT is a social enterprise startup based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The founders met while studying mechanical engineering at MIT, and have been working together since 2007 when they started working indeveloping countries. They founded GRIT to make the Freedom Chair a reality. GRIT has been recognized by MassChallenge, Fast Company, TEDxBoston, R&D 100, and more.


51 Comments

  • + 29
 Now that so many people are going to 650b, we should all donate our new unused 26" tires for this cause.
  • + 12
 26 fo life

(you were asking for it with that comment)
  • + 12
 Know what would make these chairs better...27.5.
  • + 4
 six hunnit fiddy b is what we need, bruh
  • + 7
 With a name like that it must be made out of America.
  • + 1
 @ithomas, its the manifest destiny chair
  • - 1
 @KonaOp-09 ..... never say that again. ever. #PickAWheelSize #BeADickAboutIt #26OrDie
  • + 14
 Seriously awesome - The engineer in me and the general interest in mechanics makes this an awesome project to watch and speculate.

Future alterations could include:
- Kinematic linkages that more naturally follow the arm/shoulder joint's motions
- Double sprag (or something else) drivetrain to capture 100% of motion
- gears - as mentioned already
- individual (lever mounted) disc brakes for skid-steer style control
- Suspension
- Shims

Cool project and a great cause.
  • + 5
 I'm right with you. It also seemed like maybe moving the rear wheels back a little behind the seat could greatly improve stability.
  • + 2
 Better wheel in the front and changed angle on the wheels like on racing chairs.
  • + 5
 My big concern would be a wheelie bar on the back, that front wheel gets kicked up or something and you're in a world of hurt.
  • + 7
 They should make it a 29er, better rollover. Maybe an enduro specific 27.5.
  • + 1
 Yup 29 in the back and 20 in the front
  • + 4
 Based upon people commenting ideas about where the project could go from here I can say with a fair amount of certainty that this is just the beginning. I can't wait to see how this project evolves! I'm sure the next version will be just that much better. I wonder if there would be a way to add some form of suspension? Full suspension high performance wheelchair sounds pretty awesome. These guys seem to know what they're doing and I can't wait to see the next version!
  • + 4
 3 wheels is just such a bad idea, however... triangles tip. Anyone who's ever ridden an old school 3wheeler knows why they don't make them anymore. I'd switch it up to four and larger diameter... But I love the ability to get OUT THERE!
  • + 5
 Or two in front and one in back.
  • + 1
 yeaaaa I like that two in the front idea, rider position is stomach down face forward. I would probably add a motor though. I would experiment with camber for the two front wheels. also theres no real steering mechanism for this. that chair could easily get very dangerous once the brakes failed
  • + 1
 I can already see where this could be improved. More carbon fiber to lower weight, better pivot points for more mobility, and definitely a more functional front end... to include two wheels. Also, to keep from tipping backwards when going up hill, it seems the back wheels should be offset more behind the rider.
  • + 1
 Pretty sure the "fully developed" version of this idea was posted here on pb a free weeks ago. To lazy to search for the link but don't we all recall the guy zipping dh on a 4 wheel wheelchair with suspension? So if you wanna just fast forward into the future of this project, just go find that video. Then find the comment of the guy talking about what a wise use of ebike tech it would be. Maybe the only wise use... Until these well meaning folks start destroying our trails...

OK scrap this idea!
  • + 1
 Great idea, get people rolling off the beaten bath!

I rode a 3 wheeler throughout the 80's, not so stable. They have a good start, but a true off-road chair needs a wider stance and 4 wheels, imo. The challenges of getting back into the chair after a spill must be great, must minimize the potential.

For the casual off roader (grass, packed trails, etc.) it'll probably be fine.

Great idea, definitely worth supporting!
  • + 2
 cool idea with the levers and bike components. That front wheel is sketchy though, looks like it will wander on its own and you'll have to spend more energy just keeping the thing rolling in a straight line
  • + 1
 yes, it definitely seems like a slightly fatter & larger front knobby could do wonders...
  • + 2
 This has a great potential,even beyond the dirt - especially for areas down here in the south, where there are few streets that are built with proper ramps for standard wheelchairs. Could this rig hop up a six inch curb??
  • + 1
 good luck getting this to end users. insurance companies wont pay for em(how 99% of people who need wheelchairs get chairs payed for). the low retail price in unrealistic also. offroad chairs are the unicorns of the wheelchair world.
  • + 3
 Aren't normal wheelchair wheels 650B?...anyways... This is an excellent initiative, congrats to the creators. I am sure Martyn Ashton would enjoy these.
  • + 2
 Very cool project. For pure off-roading I'd try two large wheels in front with a single smaller wheel in the back to prevent rollover. You could also introduce yaw type steering with that configuration.
  • + 3
 Looks like there potential to add gearing and shifting to this. Good for anyone working to improve others quality of life.
  • + 3
 why did this video make me sad Frown take my legs, I want you people to enjoy what I enjoy. I feel guilty now
  • + 2
 I think fat bike tires on a wheelchair is a great idea! That thing could go anywhere!
  • + 1
 29er wheels make more sense on this kind of thing. I can't wait to see how it develops. My wife's dad is paralyzed and woul use it just to get around the garden.
  • + 2
 So sick to see my local trails in this! Guess I gotta ride even more so I can hope to see these guys out there!
  • + 1
 www.trekinetic.com
Worth a look. The trailing wheel seems a little better to me. Maybe a combination of both would be best.
  • + 1
 As a guy who pushes strollers I can say two wheels on the front sucks. High end joggers have three for a reason.
  • + 1
 Put a wheelie bar on it. I was cringing every time they went up an incline.
  • + 2
 Does Martyn Ashton know about this?
  • + 2
 What happens when you go to hard and crash?
  • + 2
 You get up.
  • + 1
 This chair is awesome but could be so much better....
  • + 1
 these need some suspension though
  • + 0
 as long as it's chromoly and 26 inch. if it was 29 650b then i would not be sharing the trail.
  • + 1
 Needs full carbon and 9 inches of travel and 29er wheels
  • + 1
 Quick Releases everywhere...Imagine the Flex! 15QR and up!
  • + 1
 Id buy one just to work on my pecs
  • + 1
 this is so awesome!
  • - 2
 Throw on some minions and go to wistler then I'll be interested
  • + 2
 @Jake-Anderson that was a pretty ignorant comment, sitting here with a broken hip and having had a few months worth of experience as a disabled person trying to get around I want nothing more to be able to move about easily. Furthermore minions and whistler? Come one bro these chairs are to help increase someones mobility not the next Xgames event.
  • + 2
 I'm sorry bro I have complete respect for you and your broken hip I was trying to be funny which now I realize is stupid of me it was a mistake I'm sorry.
  • + 1
 lol broken hip "i know whats its like to be handicapped" ha ha ha ha ha ha ha you will recover, my customers wont..... i work at a wheelchair shop and my customers would laugh their ass off at dudes comment.
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