After surviving two near-fatal strokes in the last 15 years, Geoff Babb is more determined than ever to enjoy the outdoors.
Babb and his team have developed the AdvenChair—a modified wheelchair with bigger tires, high-grade aluminum components, and a design that enables a small team to guide a rider through steep terrain. Today, Babb is continuing to refine the design and hopes to attract investors so more people with disabilities can access and enjoy the outdoors beyond paved surfaces.
What inspired you to develop the AdvenChair?
After my first stroke in 2005, I realized that wheelchairs were not made for the outdoors and I wanted to be active. My family tried to take me outside in a standard wheelchair with little success. I wanted to help others have access to the outdoors like they otherwise would; that meant having a chair that could be easily pulled and pushed by others.
What modifications have you made to the AdvenChair during development?
Initially we envisioned a lightweight chair with a front wheel that could easily be stowed when indoors. However, we quickly realized, coming out of the parking lot actually, that the wheel was super light and bent almost immediately. We changed the wheel size and used a stronger frame.
After that modification, we also angled the wheels to provide more stability. Once we changed the wheel angle, we modified the seat so it could be wider as well.
What’s next for AdvenChair?
We hope to make a lightweight and “lighter duty” chair to be used in more urban settings or in the front country. We also hope it can be less expensive. We may also explore building a chair that incorporates fat tires for traveling on snow and sand. However, one important design criteria is that the chair needs to be less than 32 inches to fit through a door. Fat tires would make it too wide. Part of the whole design process is give and take: make it lighter, it won’t be durable; make it wider, it won’t easily go through doors.
What are other improvements in the industry that you hope to see in the future to make public lands and outdoor recreation more accessible for all?
I would like to see more durable chairs with wider tires that allow a team to be able to help you. Currently there are several off-road hand cycles that rely on people being able to propel themselves. Whereas the AdvenChair can be pushed and pulled by a team or family. Equipment like the AdvenChair enables families to continue to have shared experiences outdoors.
What might surprise readers about your own outdoor experiences?
I ride a horse about once a week at the Healing Reins Therapeutic Riding Center. I’ve also been a downhill skier for ten years with Oregon Adaptive Sports where I like to ski at Mt. Bachelor on the Deschutes National Forest. I continue to participate on the boards of local organizations that enable users of all abilities to experience the outdoors.
What are some of your favorite National Forests to visit and explore?
I am surrounded by the Deschutes National Forest and near the Newberry National Volcanic Monument which we frequently explore. We have plans to hopefully visit the Willamette and Mt. Hood National Forests.
Not a National Forest, but the Grand Canyon provided an experience that inspired the current chair. The chair broke less than two miles onto the trail. That was the best thing that could have happened; it made us rethink our design and pushed us to use mountain bike parts for today’s successful model.
Geoff Babb is the creator of the AdvenChair and lives with his family in Bend, Oregon. Visit advenchair.com to learn more.