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Rio Firefly handcycle turns any wheelchair into a power scooter

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July 4, 2014

The Firefly, from Rio Mobility

The Firefly, from Rio Mobility

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Walking the dog, popping out to the shops, going sightseeing … it's not that wheelchair users can't do these things, it's just that they're a pain in the butt. Or, more often, a pain in the shoulder or a case of carpal tunnel or RSI. Everything takes more planning when you're in a chair – and if you're not feeling super energetic, any trip further than a few hundred yards starts looking like a car ride.

That's why this gadget looks pretty nifty to me. The Firefly, from Rio Mobility, is a freestanding electric handcycle that clips on to a wide range of wheelchairs in less than a minute, and turns them into mini power trikes. Have a look:

Once it's attached and your two small front wheels are lifted off the ground, you're ready to hit a top speed of 18 km/h (11 mph). That might not sound super quick, but then 16 km/h is about as fast as most gym treadmills will let you run. And it's a good deal faster than you're going to get your chair going manually, short of pointing it down a big hill.

The Firefly uses an automatic motorcycle-style set of controls, with a twist grip throttle and two brake levers. There's a speedo and odometer, a reverse gear and a park brake, and enough adjustment to make ergonomic sense in most cases.

The range is quoted at about 24 km (around 15 mi) per charge. That's significant, as it brings most of the things an able-bodied person would choose to walk for into range. Taking a scooter arrangement like this lets you enjoy the outdoors a bit rather than being cooped up in a car.

The Firefly weighs in a little under 15 kg (33 lb), so depending on your level of disability you may well be able to pick it up and throw it in the car. But I see it more as a short to medium-range alternative that lets you leave the car at home and have a slightly less isolated trip.

Mobility gear can be very expensive, and in that regard, the Firefly is a pleasant surprise, clocking in under US$2,000. The company also offers a couple of other manual and electric assist handcycle options, as well as a very nifty dual lever drive system that drives your wheelchair using a pair of handles not unlike the top bit of an elliptical trainer.

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade. All articles by Loz Blain
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10 Comments

Now don't get all PC on my here, just think about this, imagine a tandem one, side by side or behind, like a couple doin it together? That would look cool... Sharky

Sharky

What a good example of clear-thinking design to provide a cost-effective solution to a genuine problem.

As the article mentions, mobility aids, especially powered ones, seem hugely expensive for what they offer so it is great to see designers addressing this rather unglamorous area of the market and building (relatively) affordable solutions.

Booleanboy

Great idea. But, please no drinking while "driving".

Domingo Mojica

What a nifty idea.

Slowburn

I would be concerned about center-of-gravity and rolling dynamics. A manual wheelchair is not a bicycle and the users are not athletic so the speeds mentioned would be a bit of a concern. A small bump at a slow walk or a slightly unlevel sidewalk or bit of pavement could rapidly become enough to roll a trike with an obviously less-than-athletic rider at speeds of more than 3 to 4 mph. 3 to 4 mph is a fast walk for an able adult. Faster is moving into bicycle range. This kind of conveyance will not have a suspension able to adapt to rough surfaces well.

StWils

check out a simpler design fro Batec Mobility on other sites, both a great ideas.

biker68

@ StWils So the ride won't be any softer than an unsprung bicycle. The greatest danger is the wheelchair suffering catastrophic damage and dumping the rider.

Slowburn

I didn't read anything about lights. Did I miss it?

Gayle Lin

@ Gayle Gardner Lin It is the equivalent of somebody walking.

Slowburn

I can see it opening up avenues for "rolls" in the park, etc.

Luther Wood
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