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Have you ever noticed that when width becomes an issue when using a manual wheelchair, it often seems to come down to a fraction of an inch, where the only difference between getting in the bathroom – or not! – is based on the handrims hitting the door frame? Truly, it's an odd phenomena how one's wheelchair is often stopped by a fraction of an inch, where if only the handrims could compress inward, narrowing the wheelchair by an inch or two, the world would be a lot more accessible.

Well, Spinergy has the answer. Available for about a year now, and well-proven, Spinergy's FlexRim is catching on, moving from a novel idea, to mainstream mobility. The secret to the FlexRim's success is that its handrim “compresses” in toward the rim on impact, allowing the wheel to literally squeeze through doorways and other tight places, narrowing the wheelchair by approximately two inches overall.

But, the FlexRim doesn't stop there. As a joint venture between an engineering firm and Spinergy, the FlexRim features an ergonomically-shaped rubber surface between the aluminum handrim and the Spox wheel, bonded with industrial adhesive. The rubber mount not only allows the FlexRim to compress, but also serves as an ergonomic grip surface. In fact, while other ergonomic handrims namely address hand and wrist fatigue, the FlexRim is the only one to address push stroke “impact,” as well, where there's some shock absorption for one's joints during propulsion – that is, there's some downward flex to the handrim when dictated. (You may be wondering if any propulsion efficiency is lost due to the FlexRim's initial “flexing” at the point of acceleration, and the literal answer is, yes; however, once the wheelchair is rolling, the handrim feels totally rigid, and the logical argument is that the ergonomic advantages are far greater than the minimal loss of entire rigidity in everyday use, especially when adding in the “narrowing” feature.)The FlexRim is only sold as an integrated unit with 24” and 25” Spinergy Light Extreme wheels (namely because the FlexRim is bonded to the rim with adhesive, so it's not retrofittable to existing Spinergy Spox or other wheels). And, when the 5oz. FlexRim is combined with the 12-spoke Spinergy Light Extreme wheel, the result is a light-as-feather, tough-as-nails combination that's about as ergonomic and practical as ultralight wheelchair wheels get.

In this way, that's where the true success of the Spinergy FlexRim package resides: It's arguably the best “everyday” wheel one can buy. Look at the equation: The Spinergy FlexRim combo offers ultralight weight for optimal acceleration and minimal overall wheelchair weight; it offers bullet-proof toughness to withstand even the most aggressive use; it offers pain-saving ergonomics for low-impact propulsion; and, it offers “compressible” handrims for utmost accessibility. Throw on a pair of Marathon Plus Evolution tires, and it's a great high-performance wheel assembly. Or, add a pair of Primo 1”-3/8” knobby tires, and create among the toughest wheel around for all-terrain use, where the FlexRim and PBO spoke technologies can take a true beating (a great alternative to way-too-heavy traditional off-road wheel sets). And, from squeezing past chair legs in a restaurants, to slipping through narrow bathroom doorways, no other wheel competes with the Spinergy FlexRim's ability to narrow.

The MSRP on the FlexRim package is $1,279 per pair (or $995 when purchased on a new wheelchair from select manufacturers), That sounds like a lot of money, but in comparison to buying a pair of Spox Light Extremes at $895, then adding traditional ergonomic handrims for $275, the cost is all but equivalent. And, at this writing, online retailers like SportAid.com are selling the Spinergy FlexRim combo, including tires, for $876 per pair – a meaningful price for such high-end, integrated wheel technology.

The Spinergy FlexRim wheel package is ultralight, tough, and ergonomic – and the fact that a pair allows a wheelchair to narrow by around 2” in a pinch is a benefit that you don't find on any other wheel set. Sure, FlexRims are expensive – but they're a lot cheaper than renovating every narrow doorway that you encounter!

Published 4/09, Copyright 2009, WheelchairJunkie.com