(You can read more about the FreeWheel by visiting the product website. GoFreeWheel.com
The product was actually developed by Patrick Dougherty, an engineer and wheelchair user. The product has a really neat backstory and I encourage you to read about it on the GoFreeWheel site.)
I have wanted a FreeWheel for Caleb since I first heard about the product but the steep price tag (about $600) kept me from making the purchase. I was also unsure that the product could deliver on all the promises that it made. So, I reached out to the company to see if they would be willing to give me the FreeWheel in exchange for my honest review of the product. I was put in touch with their North American distributor, Dean Miller (Epical Solutions, Steadfast Foundation), who graciously agreed to send a FreeWheel to Caleb. Yay!
The FreeWheel is designed to attach to the footplate but the footplate bar has to be in the FRONT in order for the wheel to attach. Caleb's footplate had the bar in the back (see photo) so we did have to order a new footplate.
You can see that the bar supporting the footplate is in the back.
The new footplate has the bar in the front. We ordered the new footplate through our DME. We paid about $150 out of pocket.
Once we had the new footplate, we were ready to assemble the FreeWheel. This is what the FreeWheel looks like right out of the bag. It looks like a lot of pieces but you won't need all of them. The FreeWheel is designed to work with a variety of footplate styles and the instruction booklet walks you through installation process based on the footplate you have.
There are special considerations if you have a TiLite clamp footplate. If you have an older TiLite chair then there is a chance that the footplate clamp won't work with the FreeWheel unless you make some modifications to the clamp. Because we bought Caleb a new footplate, he had the right TiLite clamp so we didn't have to make any changes. TiLite actually made changes to their clamp to accommodate the FreeWheel.
If you have a clamp footplate (like Caleb) then you have to add 2 additional screws to "pin" the footplate. This makes certain the footplate is secure so the FreeWheel can attach safely to the footplate. You only have to do this if you have a clamp footplate. Again, the instruction book tells you what to do based on the footplate you have. It sounds more complicated than it is.
The FreeWheel easily attaches to the footplate.
It clamps right onto the footplate.
Caleb was dying to take this thing out for a test drive. We took it to the nature park so we could see how the wheel performed on a number of surfaces. You start with the wheel out in front like shown in the picture. In this position the wheel is not engaged and the caster wheels are still on the ground.
Caleb quickly learned how to engage the wheel by spinning the wheel back toward the chair. This lifts the caster wheels off the ground.
This is how the wheel looks when it is engaged and ready to roll
We have done a number of nature walks at this park. It is paved with crushed granite and normally I would have to push Caleb through the trails. It is brutal on my back and not terribly fun for him. Not anymore ya'll. Caleb was able to navigate the trails on his own. I only had to help a couple of times when we were headed up a steep hill. But even helping him was so much easier with the FreeWheel. I could push him up the bumpy hill with far less effort than before.
He loved going off-roading.
In this video you can see Caleb go from the rough gravel to the concrete. Normally he would have to wheelie to get over the transition from gravel to concrete, but not with the FreeWheel.
In this video Caleb flies down a hill with ease. He goes over grass, to concrete, to gravel and rocks, to grass and back to concrete! If Caleb were to attempt this without the FreeWheel, his front casters would catch on the grass or hit a bump and Caleb would tip forward in his chair. I can't tell you how many times I've see Caleb tip forward in his chair because he hit a bump in the concrete or tried to go from concrete to grass. With the FreeWheel he doesn't have to worry about tipping forward. And I don't have to worry about him breaking his face.
This video shows how easy the FreeWheel can go from sidewalk to grass. Normally Caleb would have to wheelie in order to move to the grass.
Another video of Caleb zooming down a hill.
This product is legit. I had my doubts that it could live up to the $600 price tag but it absolutely does. Having tried it and seen it in action, I can say that it is worth the cost. Now having said that, I know not everyone has several hundred dollars to spend on this. Many of us are already stretched financially because of all the medical expenses we already have. That is where the wonderful folks at The Steadfast Foundation come in. They are offering $100 off the cost of a FreeWheel! Simply use the code ADAPT on their website when placing your order!
For those of you who really want the FreeWheel but can't afford it (even with the $100 off) don't worry, The Steadfast Foundation wants to help you raise the funds you need! They have set up a way to create a crowd funding site through their foundation. They will help you set up your site AND help you raise the money you need!
They are so passionate about getting the FreeWheel into the hands of as many people as possible. They are willing and axious to help you raise the money needed. How cool is that!?
Here are some links if you want to learn more about the FreeWheel:
GoFreeWheel.com: The product website. You can learn more about the product, see videos, and read the backstory on this site.
The Steadfast Foundation: Go here to learn more about this amazing non-profit, their mission, and their story.
TSF Crowd Funding: This page will get you started on setting up a crowd funding site through The Steadfast Foundation. They are anxious to help you raise the funds you need!
Buy the FreeWheel: If you want to take advantage of the $100 off "ADAPT" offer, go here to purchase the FreeWheel directly.
I will continue to post videos and share our experience with the FreeWheel.