(Photo | Courtesy of AdvenChair)
A state that is known for extraordinary sightings in the wilderness, is about to have quite a few more. But rather than catching a fleeting glimpse of a large apelike creature, local hikers can expect to get a good look at an agile, bright orange, all-terrain wheelchair — known in these parts as AdvenChair.
AdvenChair is the missing link that allows people with mobility challenges to go off the beaten path with family and friends. It combines mountain bike parts with a three-wheeled ergonomic design, an adjustable seat, disc brakes and multiple straps and contact points for navigating rugged trails and unstable terrain.
“At the beginning of last month, there was only one AdvenChair roaming the Cascade trails,” said AdvenChairman CEO Geoff Babb, who devised the souped-up wheelchair as a way to keep exploring the wilderness after surviving two brain-stem strokes. “Now we’ve got a whole fleet of them out there.”
AdvenChair has just completed its first production run of ten chairs. Six of them are on their way to families and groups for team-oriented outdoor adventures in various parts of the world. Two will be used for free demonstration rides and rentals this summer, giving Central Oregonians and visitors unique opportunities to experience the wild in an incredibly rugged and nimble all-terrain wheelchair. And that leaves just two AdvenChairs remaining for sale.
For starters, AdvenChair is collaborating with Cog Wild and LOGE Camp Bend to host a series of free Demo Days. Located on Century Drive on the far west side of Bend, LOGE Camp has its own Mountain Bike Skills Course meandering around the perimeter of the property.
“The variety of rock gardens, tight turns and ramps makes it the ideal proving ground for AdvenChair riders and family members,” said Jack Arnold, AdvenChair’s chief designer. “Better yet, from the LOGE Camp’s setting, we can take a short hike on the adjacent Rimrock trail system, which offers a rewarding real-world experience.”
AdvenChair’s Demo Days are scheduled on three different Saturdays — August 7, September 11 and October 9. Groups can sign up for one of four 90-minute sessions scheduled throughout each day, all of which meet at Cog Wild’s outdoor headquarters in the southeast corner of the LOGE Camp property.
For those wanting a longer excursion after the demo, AdvenChair will be available for rent on each of the following Sundays — August 8, September 12 and October 10 — at just $75 for a half day (four hours). Reservations for rentals can be made at advenchair.com/rental-days.
Also this summer, AdvenChair is available for free hikes through Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS) Community Hiking Days. On alternating Tuesdays, members of the OAS team are guiding outings on some of Central Oregon’s favorite trails, including the Deschutes River Trail and Shevlin Park. Hikes are scheduled for July 27, August 10 and August 24, departing at 8am and returning at around 2pm. For more information and registration, visit oregonadaptivesports.org.
On top of all that, AdvenChair can also be seen at SOAR 2021, Destination Rehab’s special all-day event at the Bend Pavilion, Saturday, July 31 starting at 9am. It’s designed to benefit individuals who have conditions such as stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s disease.
Another reason for AdvenChair’s increased visibility this year is an upcoming feature on one of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s signature programs: Oregon Field Guide. A crew from OPB visited Bend for interviews with Geoff Babb and other AdvenChair team members in mid-June, while the fleet of chairs was being assembled. They will be returning on August 2 for an extended hike at Smith Rock State Park that will become the focus of a seven-minute segment that can be seen during Oregon Field Guide’s 2021 fall season.
“We couldn’t be more excited by the progress we’re making and the exposure we’re receiving,” said Babb. “We definitely had to make some adjustments to our business plan during the pandemic, as most businesses did. But people are craving health and rejuvenation in wild places more than ever. And we are ready to help them get there.”
Just two AdvenChairs are still available for immediate purchase. To grab one or to place an order for the run due in early 2022, visit advenchair.com.
AdvenChair is an all-terrain wheelchair designed for people with mobility challenges who want to venture off the beaten path and experience the grandeur of the wilderness. It is the brainchild of Geoff Babb, a fire ecologist and avid outdoorsman from Bend, Oregon, who loved to ski, mountain bike and backpack with his wife and twin boys until a near-fatal brain stem stroke on November 10, 2005 forced him to use a wheelchair.
While the stroke forever changed his ability to move, Babb soon discovered that the biggest obstacle to experiencing a simple outing on local trails with his family again was not so much his body, but the frailties of common wheelchairs. Rather than lobbying for wheelchair-accessible wilderness trails, Babb chose to develop a wheelchair capable of adapting to the trails, and the AdvenChair was born.
On November 10, 2017, exactly 12 years to the day after his stroke, Babb survived a second brain stem stroke, which was a major setback. Yet it made him more determined than ever to share his all-terrain chair with other people with limited mobility.
While developing the first AdvenChair, Babb also launched The Onward Project, LLC, to inspire, encourage and enable outdoor adventures for people of all abilities, and invites them to share their experiences and stories online.