Review: FreeWheelOct 02, 2017
A couple of years ago, I got a FreeWheel to make it easier for me to move around the less wheelchair‐friendly areas of the Pacific North West.
The freewheel works by lifting your front casters off the ground and replacing it with a giant pivoting wheel at the front of your chair. This lets you more easily clear rough terrain and keeps your wheels from getting stuck.
Let me tell you: it works really, really well. When I’ve used this in off‐trail hikes and over grass, it’s like I’m moving over asphalt. I can keep up with the people I’m with and I don’t have to worry about suddenly getting stuck on grass or twigs.
Let me also tell you: It’s not as easy to install and operate as the video would make it look.
It’s Finicky to Install
To use a FreeWheel for a fixed‐frame chair, odds are you’re going to to get a professional to modify your footplate in order to accommodate the FreeWheel’s clamp. I had to have a small segment of my footplate’s support bar ground down so the clamp would fit securely. This is why they recommend you get your FreeWheel through a dealer who can help you install it.
The video shows the freewheel hanging off the back of his chair like it’s no big deal. In reality, it’s quite large and not the easiest thing to roll around with. Notice how tall the back of his chair is and how far the wheel hangs down. If you have a shorter‐backed chair like I do, you’re going to run into issues.
It’s Really Designed For Fixed‐frame Chairs.
When I first got the freewheel, they hadn’t finished making the adapter for folding chairs. Because the wheel is designed to fit over a footrest, that footrest needs to be a single piece and most folding chairs have a footrest that splits. I can’t speak to the quality of the adapter for folding chairs, but I can tell you that this thing wasn’t designed with folding chairs in mind.
You’ll Need to Reinforce and Permanently Fix the Position of Your Footplate
Because of how the FreeWheel attaches to your chair’s footplate, it creates a lot of torque that will cause your footplate’s angle to shift and make the freewheel unusable. What you need to do is insert screws into the bar that the footplate attaches to (this particular tip is actually in the reading material that comes with the FreeWheel). This will prevent the footplate from shifting but will also prevent you from adjusting the footplate’s position should the need arise.
Your Turn Radius is going to Suck
Because of how long the freewheel is when turning, it makes it gives your chair the maneuverability of freight truck. I recommend you use this thing on relatively straight terrain.
Despite how much effort it takes to install, this thing is worth it. If you do a lot of outdoor stuff with friends and family and don’t want to be able to focus on enjoying the outdoor and not whether or not you’re about to get stuck on something, get a FreeWheel.