BMW have got into the business of making racing wheelchairs? That’s cool right? Maybe in 10 years everyone will be pushing around in racing chairs made by Mercedes?
The BMW racing wheelchairs will be piloted by American para athletes in Rio. As opposed to many racing wheelchairs, the BMW version is made completely from Carbon Fibre. Why is this special? Well most racing wheelchairs are constructed using folded aluminium. There are a couple of very good reasons for this:
- Cost. The cost of carbon fibre moulds to make race chairs (which always custom built) are very expensive.
- British athletes did test experimental carbon fibre frames and for various reasons – did not get on with them.
- Damage. While it is quite difficult to damage carbon fibre – it is not impossible and once you do damage it, that is it.
The Next Generation of Racing Wheelchair?
However, the boffins at BMW’s DesignWorks Team think they have it sussed. According to them, although aluminum is light – it cannot be molded in the same way as carbon fibre.
“Chairs really take a pounding,” said Brad Cracchiola, part of the Designworks team that built the chair. “They’re punching the wheels and a lot of force is going through the chair, translating from athlete into turning wheels. With an aluminum chassis, there’s some flex, and that can take away some of the energy.
“What we really want is to have energy translated as efficiently as possible.”
Now I have to be honest and say that I once saw the neck of chair flex and snap. It does happen and the consequences are often serious. Whatever new developments can be made to mitigate these risks is welcome.
T53 athlete Josh George said this. “If I’m pushing the BMW and other racers are pushing aluminum frames, I’m going to be able to go the same speed as them with less energy exerted,” George said. “That means at the end of a race, the last 5K, the last 10K, I’m going to have more in the tank than they are.”
Will It Work?
I found it interesting the select American athletes who will pilot these racing wheelchairs have not received them from BMW yet. Rio is fast approaching and the critical Switzerland track meets are this month. Racing wheelchairs are difficult beasts to master – regardless of whether BMW built them or not. I think the US Paralympic team and BMW will have serious issues in properly preparing their athletes in time. I was going to back a team of racers – I’d still back the Brits.
Airports are a minefield for anybody. The increased security, while entirely necessary, makes getting through on to a plane no mean feat. Airports and wheelchairs? Just adds to the complication.
I’ve been through a few airports, got on a few planes and even done a solo trip or two. So I’ve picked a few helpful hints and tricks over the years. Being the nice guy that I am – I like to share the knowledge that I have.
The first thing in the wheelchair flight survival guide is always to make sure the airline know you are coming. Whatever the airline, whatever type of flight, always make sure that they know you are coming and have a seat booked for you.
Then you need to think about to prepare your chair. If it is going to go in the hold, you need to think about removing anything that could get lost or damaged. I’ve lost cushions and all sorts over the years. Its important to think about what you might need to keep hold of. This might be meds or pieces of assistive tech. Depending on how long your flight is, these things could be really important to you.
On the meds side of things, this is where I think products like Sabi – are so good. They allow you the flexibility to say – “This is what I need right now and this is what I’ll need later.” I really like them because the whole range is useful but stylish to.
Before you travel with your expensive wheelchair, scooter and power chair – give yourself peace of mind – get insurance.
So before you fly with your wheelchair – sit and consider all this stuff. The answers will tell you what know of bag(s) that you need.
I recently did a review of the Cabin Max Mertz and I have to say that I really like it. It means that I can still push my wheelchair myself through the airport. When I reflected on it though – my thought was that I could really do with something else to stash a few essentials into. Then I had a lightbulb moment!
Trabasack is the thing that I need to stash my money, and my essentials and keep them in easy reach.
Top Tips For Check In
There isn’t much to say here really. Mostly staff are really well trained these days. I do have a couple of tips though:
- Lots of airlines now have apps where you can store securely your boarding passes. This means less paper and less stuff to handle because lets face it, us wheelchair users never have a free hand.
- They will need to tag your chair to put it in the hold – do not let them put it on anywhere but the back bar of your chair. Anywhere else and it just gets in the way.
My circulation isn’t generally a problem. But having said that even I feel it a little after a flight of 4 hours plus. Flight socks aren’t sexy. But hey, nobody needs to know your wearing them. Same goes for getting to the toilet. When the queue is a mile deep and the isle is tiny, you may think better of it and wear a discreet catheter.
Here are some useful links
Uber gets a bad reputation for its various missteps and PR gaffes. But I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Because for disabled passengers (particularly those in wheelchairs), Uber is a great way to stop being overcharged.
On a trip to London last year to watch the Rugby World Cup – I don’t know how we would have got to Twickenham without it.
Well turns out that Uber have turned there attention to helping disabled drivers as well. In a recent update, Uber rolled out a host of new features for those drivers who may be deaf or hard of hearing.
They have worked in partnership with National Association of the Deaf to develop meaningful changes for hearing impaired drivers. The feeling being that there is more to follow.
Here are the official updates
- The Uber Partner app signals a new trip request with a flashing light in addition to the existing audio notification.
- The option to call a deaf or hard-of-hearing driver is turned off; riders are instead given only the ability to text if they need to provide special instructions for pickup.
- The app will add an extra prompt for riders to enter their destination and lets them know their driver is deaf or hard-of-hearing
As we know disabled workers have significant labour market disadvantage compared to there non-impaired counterparts. Technology has long been seen as the balancer. The game changer. So it is really nice to see companies like Uber take the challenge seriously.
Read our Uber review here.