Photo by Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How to Choose an Accessible Four-wheeler

When Russ and I were dating, one of our favorite things to do was go four-wheeling. It was something we could enjoy together outdoors, and I wasn't limited at all by my paralysis, whether I was driving or riding. We were able to see places I wouldn't have been able to get to in my manual wheelchair, and we always had a great time exploring the mountains together.

I was fortunate that Russ already had a four-wheeler when we met, and for the most part, it works well for me when I ride or drive. But if I was in the market for a new one, these are the things I would keep in mind...

  • Hand Controls
Look for an automatic transmission with all of the controls and buttons on the handlebars. Seems like a simple thing, but sometimes you think everything is on the handlebars, and you realize there is a foot brake that has to be engaged in order to shift into high gear or reverse. Sneaky little foot brakes. And then you have to lift your leg with your hand and push your shoe down on the brake and then shift. Not cool.
  • Covers
Look at any parts on the four-wheeler that produce heat or actually get hot themselves. When you are on a four-wheeler, the last thing you need to worry about is constantly checking your legs to make sure they aren't getting burned in any way. If the four-wheeler has exposed parts that aren't covered by heat resistant material, consider wearing shin pads turned to the inside of your leg, or have a strap that holds your legs away from any direct heat.

If you burn your legs on a hot spot of the four-wheeler, it kind of looks like a paper plate thrown in a camp fire. And the hair on your legs will no longer grow in the burnt area. Don't ask me how I know this. And please don't ask my Mom.
  • Back
Depending on your level of injury, you may want to invest in some kind of adjustable backrest. Whether you are driving or riding, these come in handy to not only store things (food, medical supplies, blankets, etc.), but also they provide support so you can relax and enjoy the ride without the fear of falling or getting unnecessarily sore. Make sure your four-wheeler has the space and ability to attach a back rest, and always carry extra bungees and extra padding if needed.
  • Adaptibility
Depending on your needs, there may not be a four-wheeler that comes from the factory that won't need major modifications in order to make it work for you. Plan your modifications and make sure the four-wheeler you purchase can be modified to meet your needs.

Case in point- I introduced you all to my buddy Jake Winlow in a past post. Jake lives with a C6/7 SCI, and he has one of the coolest four-wheeler set ups I've ever seen. I will post pictures below to show you what Jake and his parents have come up with to allow Jake to drive independently, which is always the goal if possible. Check it out!

Loop for the gear shift

Key keeper

Ignition/key extension

Movable/adjustable seat back

Harness on seat

Back of seat

In forward position for driving
In back position for riding

Throttle extension

As you can see- Jake and his parents did an amazing job modifying this four-wheeler. If you have any questions about specifics, please let me know and I can forward them on to Jake.

No matter the setback, get outdoors! Happy four-wheeler shopping!