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Spinergy ZX-1 vs. Alber Twion Wheels | Wheelchair Power Assist Devices

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.

9 comments on “Spinergy ZX-1 vs. Alber Twion Wheels | Wheelchair Power Assist Devices

  1. Frog Legs suspension casters would solve the ZX-1 problem. And I thought of controlling your chair by app years ago – damn! But the elephant in the room is the excessive cost of these products. They are out of reach for the majority of Disabled people.

  2. This looks great but at 9 or 10 thousand dollars is way overpriced. Especially when you consider the German made E Fix is about the same price.

  3. I am a C5-C6 quadriplegic and I have owned a set of the Twion wheels for about a year and a half now. I can say that while they are working I really like them for every day use. They make maneuvering the wheelchair effortless and make going long distances much more possible. The reason I chose these over the smart drive, for example, was their ability to help break on down hills as well as their ability to work in tight spaces. However, I had to send them back for repairs 5+ times and each time they have the wheels for at least three weeks. This last time they had my wheels for a month and when they returned the wheels they had swapped them for a different set of used wheels, so the handrails I had paid $100 to have wrapped were gone and they had shoddily glued rubber to the new hand rims. Not only that but the center axles were missing so there would've been no way to mount the wheels to the chair. And if that weren't enough, one of the wheels would shut itself off a few seconds after being turned on every time we tried turning it on. Needless to say the wheels have to be sent back again which will mean at least another two weeks without the wheels. Their customer service is awful and it is nearly impossible to reach anyone at the company to find out what's going on. they don't offer any temporary wheels while they have yours for repair so if you rely on your wheels to work consistently or if you can't deal with long periods without them these are definitely not the wheels for you. Though, for set of wheels costing over $6,000 US, this doesn't seem like a reasonable concession to have to make for anyone.

    PS the only thing I really used the app for was to increase the top speed, check battery life, and to keep the wheels from automatically turning themselves off after 15 minutes of inactivity. As a quadriplegic I found cruise mode to be dangerous. It was difficult to initiate and set the speed and to get the wheels stopped you have to apply quite a bit of force (due to the lack of hand function), to be fair I don't think this mode is designed for quadriplegics.

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