About this project
Thanks for all your support! If you missed the chance to preorder on Kickstarter you can still get in on the action at www.gogrit.us
Trails, parks, fields, beaches, gardens... there's a lot of adventure and life beyond the pavement. And sometimes the pavement itself is a challenge, with potholes, uneven cuts, and unplowed snow. Getting out and about, on and off road, and participating in the community is important for everyone.
The Freedom Chair is like a mountain bike for your arms
The Freedom Chair features:
- lever drive: lets you maneuver over obstacles with 50% more torque than pushrims
- standard bike parts: for easy repairs and infinite customization
- three big wheels: roll over obstacles that would trap standard casters
- portability: fits in the trunk of a small sedan, making it easier than ever to get to the trailhead!
We designed the award-winning Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC) while we were students at MIT. After graduating, we founded GRIT and distributed the LFC around the developing world in some of the toughest environments faced by people in wheelchairs. Over the past two years, we've engaged with hundreds of US wheelchair riders to design the next version, the Freedom Chair, an all-around improved version of the LFC that is higher performance, foldable, and made right here in the USA.
The Freedom Chair and GRIT team have been recognized by: Boston Magazine, Fast Company, TEDx, WSJ, CNN, Core77, Ability Magazine, Boston Business Journal, Pink Bike and more!
Here are some exciting stretch goals to keep up the momentum:
Over the past five years we've changed lives around the developing world with our Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC) and now we need your help to start making an impact here at home.
As engineers, there's no better feeling than seeing something we've designed change someone's life. While students at MIT, we designed the LFC, an off-road wheelchair that helps people in developing countries reach work and school. We've shipped over a thousand LFCs to almost a dozen countries and are blown away by what LFC riders are able to accomplish.
We've been in constant contact with US wheelchair riders, to see if the LFC was right for them. While the LFC is great in developing countries, we found that it needed a few important changes in order to be appropriate for use in the US: it needs to fold to fit into a car, it needs to be shippable, and it needs to have parts that can be found in the US. We've worked really hard over the last two two years and are proud to launch the new Freedom Chair!
Check out this video, put together by one of our sponsors (Solidworks), about our developing country work. It also shows our design process in making changes to the LFC to create the new Freedom Chair:
To design the new Freedom Chair, we took our existing LFC and started meeting with riders to see what changes we'd need to make in order to create a product that was suited to their unique needs.
We talked to hundreds of wheelchair users throughout our design process, from wounded veterans and elite adaptive athletes to folks around the country who simply want to get off the pavement. Over the past year we have been testing prototypes with riders of a range of abilities, getting important feedback on the device and refining it accordingly. We have worked with physical and occupational therapists, wheelchair technicians, bike mechanics, and others to refine all aspects of the Freedom Chair.
Riders asked us to help them have easier access to places they missed: from rocky trails, to sandy beaches, to cobblestoned sidewalks. We listened.
Simple machines work best! Shift your hands on the levers to change the torque on the wheels, putting you in control of your mobility and keeping your hands clean no matter where your path leads.
The top of the levers provide the high torque (50% more than pushrims) you need to travel over the roughest trails and softest lawns. The bottom of the levers let you easily cruise 75% faster than standard wheelchairs. The Freedom Chair is faster than walking.
Pulling backwards on the levers applies the brakes to slow and steer the Freedom Chair. The Freedom Chair also comes with parking brakes.
When the lever drive is not in use it can be removed and stored right on the Freedom Chair, enabling greater mobility in tight spaces indoors.
Standard bike parts
We're avid cyclists and love how durable, inexpensive, and widely available bike parts are. Every moving part of the Freedom Chair is an off-the-shelf bicycle component, making repairs easy and inexpensive. You'll be able to take the Freedom Chair into any bike shop and the mechanic will know just what to do. We believe in honest design and don't use any proprietary fasteners or interfaces.
Want to swap wheels? Change the gearing? Go ahead! The Freedom Chair is easily customized with standard bike parts. Make it your own!
Three big wheels
We designed the Freedom chair from the ground-up to handle the roughest terrain that you can throw at it. Its three-wheeled frame is stable like a tripod, keeping your drive wheels firmly planted on the ground.
The nearly indestructible solid-rubber front wheel floats over gravel and loose dirt and easily rolls over obstacles that would crush standard wheelchair casters.
We developed a nearly-indestructible solid rubber front wheel because pneumatic front wheels this size are hard to find and replacement parts for them can be very expensive. Our solid rubber front wheel is much more durable, will never puncture, has a wider footprint than pneumatic wheels (making it easier to roll over soft stuff like sand and loose gravel), and is built around a bicycle hub so that the bearings can be easily serviced.
Getting to the trailhead has never been easier. We designed the Freedom Chair to be collapsible: it comes apart easily to fit into the trunk of a sedan with room to spare! The seat back, rear wheels, and footrest are all removable without any tools.
About the GRIT team
GRIT is a social enterprise startup based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We believe in a stakeholder-driven design process, where the people who use a technology help to design it. We started working together while we were students studying mechanical engineering at MIT, and we founded GRIT to make the Freedom Chair a reality. We have put our blood, sweat and tears into this product and we can't wait to see what you will do with it.
We couldn't have done it alone. Thanks to the partners below for their incredible support along our journey:
The Freedom Chair is not a wheelchair and does not have FDA clearance as a medical device. The Freedom Chair is a recreational device that is for people with a wide range of abilities.
And for those of you who are bike nerds like we are, here are the detailed component specs:
Take it for a Test Ride
Many people have asked about opportunities to take the Freedom Chair for a spin, and we'd love for you to try it! If you're able to, we welcome you to visit us in Cambridge, MA.
Additionally, we'll be at several upcoming events with demo units on hand:
- November 21st-23rd: Abilities Expo in San Jose, CA
- December 2nd-4th: Ski Spectacular in Breckendridge, CO
Made in the USA
Our production run of Freedom Chairs will be manufactured right here in the US. We've been working with manufacturers and suppliers around New England to build our prototypes, and they are ready to enter full production with us. We'll be doing the final assembly ourselves in Cambridge, MA, and personally inspecting each chair before we ship it to you.
We're a small company and our team is committed to getting the Freedom Chair to riders and helping them move beyond the pavement. We've learned a lot about product design, manufacturing, and distribution over the last five years. We've got the experience to make it happen but need your help, through Kickstarter, to help us bootstrap our first production run. Manufacturing is expensive, with a lot of up-front costs. This Kickstarter campaign is a great way for us to engage with people, like you, that are as amped about mobility as we are to help us overcome this final obstacle on our path to market.
Project Plan and Delivery Schedule
Check us out at www.gogrit.us.
Risks and challenges
The main elements of the design are finalized, and we're doing some final testing and tweaking before production. We have identified local manufacturers and suppliers, and know where we'll be building our first production run.
With any new product, there's always a risk that the final assembly won't fit together exactly as expected. That's why we've been working closely with our manufacturers to build and test prototypes and revise dimensions accordingly. There is also a risk that there may be unforeseen delays from suppliers, which can trickle through the production process and delay delivery.
We promise to do our best, and to clearly communicate with our backers throughout the process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The Freedom Chair is designed to safely accommodate riders up to 220 lbs. (110 kg).
We chose to make the Freedom Chair's frame out of steel for few important reasons.
First, steel is much stronger than aluminum. The main frame of the chair is made out of high quality 4130 chromoly steel, which has a yield strength that's twice as high as standard 6061 aluminum.
In addition to being stronger, steel also enables a smoother ride. It's more flexible than an equivalent aluminum frame, so less bumps get transmitted to the rider. It also performs much better when faced with repeated loading.
One of the key considerations in our material selection was cost. Aluminum is more expensive than steel, and is considerably more expensive to weld. We found that welding aluminum would more than double the fabrication cost of the seat and frame.
This website does a great breakdown of the considerations between steel and aluminum: https://www.missionbicycle.com/blog/oversimplified-steel-vs-aluminum
All that being said, where appropriate, we do make some parts of the Freedom Chair out of aluminum. The machined lever couplings and the foot plate are both aluminum. We understand that the chair's weight is an important riding consideration and are working on tweaking the geometries of the chair to further reduce the overall weight.
We're reaching out to organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Veterans Administration, and other local rehab groups. We don't have the details of the donation program finalized, but will keep you updated on our progress. We can, however, promise that all Freedom Chairs from the Hero backer level will be given to veterans who need them, even if it involves us handling the identification and distribution ourselves.
If you know of anyone in decision-making positions at veterans organizations, please put us in contact with them! Thanks for your help!
If we reach $100,000 on this Kickstarter campaign, we will launch a contest to collect proposals from wheelchair riders who want to do an amazing adventure in the Freedom Chair. From climbing Mount Washington, to doing a Tough Mudder, to anything else they have in mind. We'll provide them a free Freedom Chair, and they will provide the ambition. We'll provide more details on the proposal and selection process after the campaign (we're still working out the details!).
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