Spinergy ZX-1 vs. Alber Twion Wheels | Wheelchair Power Assist Devices
Today, we’re back in Alameda to log some miles around the island’s walkways with a couple of wheelchair power assist devices. This is Power On. The island town of Alameda features 23 square miles of flat coastal land, and it’s secluded from many aspects of city life, including a lot of public transportation. Alameda’s residents often walk or bike to work, to lunch, or just to get some exercise. For wheelchair users however, a simple lunch trip can turn into a complete workout. So, that brings us first to the ZX-1 from Spinergy, a company out of Carlsbad, California. The ZX-1 is a stand-alone device, which attaches to the axle of your wheelchair, essentially turning a manual wheelchair into a traditional power chair, with a joystick on the armrest. You can adjust the speed. We’ll turn it the whole way up, of course. And we’re off! Well… almost. Eventually we made it outside, but the first problem was already clear. With the ZX-1, you’re at the mercy of the caster wheels on the front of your chair. Most power chairs come equipped with large rubber wheels to account for this problem. In our case, the casters were tiny, so those would need to be upgraded. The ZX-1 seemed to have consistent performance across a wide range of surfaces, making the ZX-1 a solid choice for a variety of different activities. The only problem could be in transporting your ZX-1 from place to place. Weighing in at a bulky 82 pounds, the ZX-1 isn’t something that a Lyft driver could easily throw in the trunk of their car. Because of the ZX-1’s design, you lose the ability to lift your casters off the ground. So, even with upgraded caster wheels, an obstacle big enough could send you back to leave the ZX-1 at home. These are the Twion Power Assist Wheels, and they’re designed by Alber, a company whose American headquarters are just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Twion Wheels have a unique motor built into the hub of each wheel. They attach to your chair like any other wheels, which gives them a sleek, discreet look. One of the main functions of the Twion Wheels is the “Cruise Control” option. With “Cruise Control”, you only have to push your chair once, then the wheels maintain your speed, still allowing you to steer using the rims of your wheels. With the Twion Wheels, you also keep the ability to lift your front wheels off the ground. So, unlike the ZX-1, the Twion Wheels can easily hop over most uneven surfaces. The Twion Wheels actually have their own app, where you can connect and change around the settings. One of the coolest features within the app is the ability to control your chair using your smart phone. The Twion wheels are controlled by sensors along the rim of the wheel, which means they react to the slightest variations in pushing power. Pushing too hard or too casually on one side or the other could potentially send you off-course. So, the Twion Wheels are really designed with active users in mind. You’d most likely see somebody using these to get out and about, shopping or running errands. They’re easy to move around, and easily stowed in just about any car. On the other hand, the ZX-1 can certainly handle long, steady commutes over flat surfaces, so it may be good for city commuters, or even users who are already familiar with switching back and forth between manual and power wheelchairs. Just be sure to check your frequently-travelled routes for unevenness, And double-check your casters to make sure they’re big enough to handle any bumps. But, unless you have an adapted vehicle, hauling the ZX-1 could end up being more work than it is worth. But either way, if you’re looking for an occasional break from pushing your manual chair, either of these products can help you beat the heat and avoid a sweaty afternoon. For the CIL, I’m Rafael Siegel. We’ll see you next time on Power On.