Do you love the great outdoors?  Does your current wheelchair allow you to enjoy it to the extent that you’d like? 

If you’re like many people, the answer to that second question is probably a resounding no. 

 The simple truth is that while most of the wheelchairs on the market today are pretty good at allowing their owners to navigate urban or in-home environments, most of them aren’t so good when it comes to navigating outdoor terrains.

Forcemech Navigator XL All Terrain Folding Wheelchair

If you’re an avid outdoorsman or woman, you probably purchased a specialized wheelchair with all-terrain capabilities.  If you didn’t, but now you realize you wish you had, there’s a fix for that.  In the overwhelming majority of cases, you can buy off-road wheels for wheelchairs.

In this article, we’ll tell you about the various options available so you can make the best decision for you, based on your budget and your needs. 

Wheelchair Off Road Tires (Manual Wheelchairs)

Strongback Mobility Lightweight Wheelchair with blue frame

Broadly speaking, you’ve got two options where off-road wheelchair wheels are concerned.  You can invest in an entire off road wheel assembly, or you can invest in off-road tires that are designed to go over your current rims.

Prices vary depending on the chair you’ve got but generally speaking, an off-road wheel assembly will set you back at least $300 or $400, and the prices could rise considerably from there.

Off-road wheels for wheelchairs are much less expensive, and you can probably get something that will work for you starting in the $40 to $50 range.

The biggest pros to going this route are that it is:

  • Fast
  • Convenient
  • Cost-effective

Those are all good things, but there are limitations you’ll also want to bear in mind, with the biggest one being performance.  The simple truth is that these “quick fix” kits don’t give you nearly as much in terms of improved handling on challenging terrains as a complete assembly does.

Black off road wheelchair tire

This, then, is a classic case of getting what you pay for.

If all you’re looking for is a set of off-road wheels for your wheelchair that will allow you to putter around in your back yard or maybe roll down a paved hiking trail rated as “easy,” then the quick fix is probably good enough. Also, most of the replacement tires you can buy are grey in color, so they won’t leave unsightly black streaks on the floor of your house if you decide to make the switch.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in really venturing into the wilds and exploring places that are far off the beaten path, you’re going to want to invest a little more and get a more robust solution.

At this point, it’s important to reiterate that what we’re talking about here are manual wheelchairs, and the wheels we’re talking about replacing are the wheelchair off-road rear wheels, which are huge.

Drive Medical BLS18FBD ELR wheelchair with blue frame

That matters because where those wheels are concerned, the reason that a whole new wheel assembly offers better performance than a new set of off-road wheelchair tires lies in the fact that replacement tires were designed to fit the most common sizes of wheelchair rims.

In practice, this means that the cheaper option sees you riding around on wheels that are typically 1 3/8” wide versus 2” wide, which is what you normally get when you purchase a complete wheel assembly.  Of interest, this width was based on the standard width of the wheels you find on off-road bicycles.

If you opt for the more expensive solution and decide to invest in an entire off-road wheel assembly, the big thing you’ll want to remember is to make sure that the hub width, measured from outer-bearings-to-outer-bearings, is the same as that of your existing wheels.

That’s a crucial detail if you want to be able to utilize your chair’s “quick release” feature that makes swapping out one tire for the other a simple matter, and that’s super important because it gives you the best of both worlds.

Black wheelchair off road tire

One final thing to mention before we leave this section is the notion of off-road wheelchair casters.

Although casters aren’t nearly as important as the primary wheels, they do make off-road casters. If you plan on spending a lot of time on rougher terrain, you’ll definitely want to invest in a set.

Casters are almost always easy to swap out.  It’s just a matter of popping out the old casters and snapping the new ones in place.

Caster sets typically start at around sixty bucks but can go up quite considerably from there, so they represent a bit of an added investment, but it’s not something that will bust the budget for most folks.

All-Terrain Wheels For Power Wheelchairs

Rubicon Wildcats Lightweight Power wheelchair with aluminum-alloy frame

Power wheelchairs are a bit of a different animal. While it’s certainly possible to find off-road tires for your power wheelchair or scooter via the aftermarket, far and away, your best bet is to check with the vendor you got the chair from (for example, Drive Medical makes some off-road wheels for their products).

The good news here is that if your vendor sells off-road kits, then compatibility is assured.

That’s not the case if you venture into the aftermarket, though if you’re careful and do your research, you can find a solution that works for you.

If at all possible, you’ll want to buy your off-road wheels locally, so you can bring your power wheelchair or scooter with you and test the wheels you’re thinking of investing in.

If that’s not possible, then you’ll definitely want to take careful measurements.  While it’s possible to return a set that proves not to be a perfect fit, you generally have to jump through at least a few hoops.

Final Considerations

Black Weatherproof electric wheelchair

There are two final considerations to talk about where off-road tires are concerned.  First, bigger is almost always better, so it’s almost always better to err on the side of bigger.  Second, off-road tires are all well and good, but there’s one type of terrain that requires special consideration:  Sand.

If you live on the coast and plan to spend significant amounts of time at the beach, you’re going to want beach tires in particular.  They have no treads and are almost comically large, so you’ll almost certainly want regular off-road tires as well.  It’s an additional expense, but specialty tires like this are worth every penny if you spend significant amounts of time on the beach.

Final Thoughts on Off Road Wheels For Wheelchairs

Off-road tires aren’t for everyone.  Unless you spend significant amounts of time in the great outdoors, you probably don’t need them.

If your outdoor adventures are limited to trails rated as “easy,” your own backyard, or campgrounds, then you can probably get by with replacement tires you can swap out for your chair’s current ones.

If your outdoor needs go beyond that, you’ll probably want to spend the extra money and buy an entire off-road wheel assembly.  Beach tires are an absolute niche case, but you’ll want to at least consider investing in a set if you live on the coast.

The bottom line is: You don’t have to just “live with” the default tires your wheelchair came with.  There are customization options available, and in most cases, off-road tires are fairly easy to swap out with the tires you currently have. So what are you waiting for?

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