(Photos | Courtesy of AdvenChair)
A year that started off with great hope and promise for AdvenChair, the all-terrain wheelchair, has done nothing but roll onward and upward to new heights. Or downward, as the trails may dictate.
After ordering its first fleet of 10 chairs in January of 2021 and delivering them on schedule in June, the company has seen each one of them head out on exciting adventures that would’ve otherwise been impossible, including a visit to Machu Picchu, one of the eight wonders of the world.
“We wanted to make an all-terrain chair that would enable people with disabilities and physical challenges to roll boldly into wild places and achieve important milestones with the help of family and friends,” said Geoff Babb, AdvenChairman and founder of AdvenChair. “What Team Kapen accomplished is exactly what we’ve been hoping for.”
“Team Kapen” is 33-year-old Robert Kapen, who survived a brain stem stroke at the early age of 23, and his wife Nelly, a native of Peru. Their venture to the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu in August was a dream come true for both of them. Nelly finally got to see her country’s most famous landmark. And Robert finally found a vehicle that could quench his burning desire to explore off the beaten path with minimal limitations.
The ancient Incans obviously didn’t design the trails to the remote Andes city with AdvenChair in mind. Nor did the modern trains and taxis in Cuzco for that matter. But with a little ingenuity and perseverance, Nelly and her family were able to maneuver Robert through airports, on to shuttle buses and trains in its wheelchair mode and up a lesser-used path in all-terrain mode to reach Machu Picchu.
“Having just this one chair was so convenient in terms of space, durability, and safety,” said Nelly. “The AdvenChair held up to everything we threw at it, from taking it apart and putting it together, transferring in and out of vehicles. But most importantly, climbing the trail at extreme altitude couldn’t have been easier.”
As a brain stem stroke survivor and fellow outdoor lover, Robert Kapen found a kindred spirit in Geoff Babb, and was immediately drawn to AdvenChair’s mountain bike components and safety features, like hydraulic brakes and multiple gripping points.
“We couldn’t have done this trip without AdvenChair,” said Robert. “When my other chair needed to be lifted over an obstacle, people would jump in and start accidentally ripping off parts, saying, ‘Oops, hope you don’t need that.’ But if we needed help during our excursions with AdvenChair, they immediately knew where to grab. I felt much safer in this chair with all the belts, shocks and handlebars.”
AdvenChair’s innovative design and attention to detail also impressed the producers of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s long-running Oregon Field Guide program. A crew from OPB joined Geoff Babb and Bend college student Isaac Shannon for a spirited trek through Smith Rock State Park in August and the video segment will be spotlighted on Thursday, November 11 at 8:30pm.
“Getting attention on Oregon Field Guide, as well as locally on Central Oregon Daily and KTVZ News recently is very rewarding for us,” said Babb. “And with AdvenChairs soon to be rolling boldly in several U.S. national parks, Canada, New Zealand and Camino de Santiago in Spain, we know the trail ahead for AdvenChair is pretty exciting.”
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 with the help of family and friends. 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.