Reinventing the wheel, as the Loopwheels website says. It’s a bold claim for a project that started with a Kickstarter campaign in 2013, which aims to give a wheelchair user a bit more comfort. So did the claims stack up? I got a chance to review the Loopwheels on my own wheelchair, the Sunrise Quickie Xenon.
The Loopwheels will fit pretty much any manual self-propelling wheelchair – which you would expect for the price (starting at £750, moving to over £1,000). A change of axle will enable the wheels to switch between models (top tip though – make sure, if switching wheels, to change your brakes, too). They don’t mind about the degree of camber you have, either.
Fitted with Marathon Plus tyres, the set of Loopwheels I tried were comfortable. I’m a fan of high pressure tyres, so the fact that the Loopwheels can handle tyres with 140psi inside is a good bonus. They’re not the only tyres that will fit but as they are one of the most common, it is a brand I usually look for.
Over bumps the Loopwheels are comfortable, with the give enough to make a difference, whilst the movement taking some effort. This means that whilst going down a curb the bump will be softened, in event of a bump aboard a moving bus, the brake should not be dislodged. Using the wheelchair over tactile paving, the wheels took all the shock out of the bumps – gliding over whilst letting you know the paving is there.
Moving down and up small ramps, the suspension allows a little ‘give’, adding feedback to the ride. Knowing what surface you are riding on is important and the wheels give that information.
Using the show demonstration wheels and in combination with my FrogLegg front stems, the chair felt incredibly soft and comfortable – like moving from a go-cart to a car. I would even go as far as to say it was sublime, with a journey over brick paving like gliding on a calm lake.
Moving over drainage covers, bumps and differing terrain, the wheels give a different experience of mobility without changing my wheelchair. Spine pain was reduced as I went over significant bumps in the pavement.
Moving around, the anticipated weight from the suspension isn’t there – they don’t feel any heavier than my standard wheels and it is surprising how quick you get used to them. The central hub helps to position the wheel weight within your centre of gravity and makes propulsion easy.
The wheels quick release like any other wheels, meaning that they can be removed for transit easily. It’s no harder or easier than any other wheel to remove and there are good grab points within the central hub.
There are a wide range of hand-rim options too, with the standard rims or Carbolife hand rims. Carbolife are new to the UK in an exclusive deal for Loopwheels. One of the new products, the Gekko handrim, feature a rubber grip on top, with a smooth side profile to allow for easy grip and propulsion. There are four hand rim options aside from the Gekko from Carbolife – all designed around a hand, with different grip sizes.
You have key options:
- Wheel size – 24 or 25 inch rims
- Hand grip – as above and take your time to pick one to suit your push style and needs
- Colour – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 colours – Black is popular, as is Red, Blue and White.
- Tyre choice includes the popular Marathon Plus, which can handle up to 145psi, as well as wider tyres for more demanding terrain.
Need power drive? As far as we are aware, it’s not possible at the moment, although I’d put money on that coming soon now that I have mentioned it.
Simply put, the wheels will change your thinking – regardless of if you combine them with FroggLegg caster suspension or not. Spending all day moving around in a wheelchair, you should be as comfortable as you can – the wheels reduce the jolts in your back whilst ensuring you know about the surface you are on.
If you have grip issues, there are a wide range of choices and the team were careful to ensure that I used the right hand rim for me. Spacing between the wheel and push rim isn’t an issue, with each wheel fitting your needs.
If you are in any doubt, ask for a test drive – be prepared to want to hand over the pennies though, because you won’t want to give them back.