Quite a few people have heard of wheelchair basketball and sledge hockey, but perhaps not so many are familiar with Hardcore Sitting. That’s what wheelchair athlete Aaron Fotheringham calls his sport, which involves doing BMX/skateboarding-style stunts on a wheelchair at a skatepark. Los Angeles-based industrial designer Joven De La Vega was so inspired by Fotheringham, he decided to design a wheelchair tailored specifically to the sport.
De La Vega now has a working prototype of his HXC Wheelchair, which he compares to a freestyle BMX street bike, as opposed to a standard bicycle built for the general public. “They look the same,” he explained, “but there are many subtle differences that make it a tool rather than just transportation.”
Like a BMX bike, the HXC’s frame is made from round tubing, and maintains rigidity through angular, straight lines. More like a mountain bike, it also has a multi-link suspension, with dual coil-over shocks.
Although it may not look radically different from a traditional wheelchair, it has some other special features that set it apart. For one thing, its front casters are integrated directly into the frame, instead of sitting on potentially-bendable outriggers. They are also located farther forward than is normal, providing a longer wheelbase and a faster ride.
Like other sports wheelchairs, its seating area is open and unrestricted. BMX-inspired handlebars beside the legs keep the rider from falling out when doing mid-air flips, welded wheel guards keep tire burns to a minimum, and a rear crash bar prevents damage to the backrest in the event of a rear tip-over. The foot rest has a protruding front lip, allowing the rider to push the front of the wheelchair down for doing stunts such as nose stalls.
De La Vega has sent his HXC design to Aaron Fotheringham, and to Colours Wheelchairs, the company that currently makes the athlete’s chairs. Both Colours and Fotheringham helped De La Vega in the creation of the HXC, advising him on what factors to keep in mind for his skatepark-purposed wheelchair. So far, reactions to his creation have been good.
“I’ve gotten the best reactions from those who are not familiar with Aaron Fotheringham and the amazing work he does,” De La Vega told us. “They usually cannot believe someone in a wheelchair can do such amazing tricks in a skatepark. Those who do know about him appreciate the subtle details of the frame design... as I said in my presentation, ‘Not built for comfort. Built to do work.’”