Paraplegic Gear/Tools of the Month: Baby Calves

Reading time: 2 minutes

I’ve talked before on how important it is to stretch, not explicitly, but sprinkled throughout other posts, such as How to Reduce Muscle Spasms for Paraplegics

If you took my advice, you came to the same heuristic conclusion – it matters. Stretching matters.

After not stretching for a while, or doing it wrong for a while (it’s possible), my legs will be much more tense, harder to move especially in the morning, though it does build up my muscles and tone.

Every morning as part of my routine, I stretch. I read while I do it because I like to be efficient. If I want to stretch throughout the day, it’s not as convenient because I’d either have to get on my bed or down to a yoga mat and I typically have full days.

Here’s what I’ve got for you. I discovered this while I was in post-rehab. Once I got back to college after staying in Shirley Ryan Ability Center, I went to see a physical therapist for the next few months.

BraceAbility Sleeping Stretch Boot (you don’t have to sleep to use it)

This is good for stretching calves, in fact that’s all it’s good for.
But maybe you can get creative.

I use it in two ways – stretching in the morning and stretching throughout the day.

The great thing about this is that you can be in a wheelchair, put this on, and stretch your calves (one at a time unless you buy two).

or

In the morning when I stretch my hamstrings, I have one leg out and my other leg’s ankle is resting just above the knee. It keeps my leg straight when I lean forward to stretch, but then my toes will point like in ballet or gymnastics.

I can either grab my foot and pull it back – a calf stretch that gets a bit tiring, keeps me from flipping pages, and then my hand smells like foot – or I place my foot in this (without strapping it down) and that keeps my foot upright.

This could also be good for nighttime use, though it could bruise or create pressure sores, so be cautious on how you wear it into the night. Wear it for a few hours and see what your foot looks like after and then make an executive decision.


Immediate actionable items: The only one I have is to buy this if you want to effectively stretch your calves. In fact, just stretch. Right now.

Summary: A calf stretcher boot.

Overdeliver:  If you want to stretch even more or stand up, you can get Knee-Ankle-Foot-Orthopedics (KAFOs), which are leg braces (what I’m wearing in the picture). I use them to stretch and stand – usually while studying, writing, or reading. Just don’t fall.

Paraplegic Gear/Tools of the Month: Going for Speed

The Best Bearings for Your Wheelchair

Reading time: 4 minutes

Alright. Another month has passed and here we are with more life improving gear. for my favorite month – July – we’ll be looking at my favorite mindset. Going faster.

The problem we solve here is going slow. I really don’t like going slow. Another way to frame it is reducing the friction, so you use less energy and go faster and further.

I really don’t like working against friction. Right now, as I’m writing this in Australia, my bearings are completely shot. Rusted and broken. I’ll be heading home in 18 days, so I’m just camping out in the slow grounds until I get back home and address this monumental issue.

When my bearing are either broken or just the standard ones that I got with the chair, I feel like I’m pushing against some force. I actually am. Even when going downhill, I’ve noticed that I hardly pick up any speed if at all.

Having the least amount of friction allows you to exert less energy to go faster. It means that one push takes you further and you’re more agile. You’ll be surprised at the difference from the gear below.

Solutions:

  • Front wheel bearings
  • Back wheel bearings

The bearings that came with my chair, when I had them in the air and gave them a spin,they spun for only a few seconds. Once I upgraded, they spun for minutes.

Front Wheel Bearings

Front wheels in a wheelchair, I believe they’re called caster wheels, typically will be compatible with your everyday skateboard bearings. A very good thing because there’s a big market for skate bearings. The technical bearing size is 608.

You can either go all out if you’re serious about having the best or go decent if you want the minimum best.

One thing to note is that most skateboard bearing packs come with 8 total bearings, 2 for each wheel. Wheelchairs only have 2 front wheels, so this is like buying double.

Starting at the minimum end. Probably the best bearings you could get at the lowest price. Anything less than these shouldn’t be considered.

The recognized standard bearing. Reds. These will give you what you need and might be good enough if you want to go fast.

Pros

Cons

  • Will rust over time
  • Not the absolute best you can get
  • Other Bones Bearings have cooler stickers, but that’s an opinion.

Before we get to the top two bearings. Here’s a good in between option that I found.

Pros

Cons

  • Not widely known, not by me at least
  • Will also rust over time
  • Might not come with a sticker

For those that live in the fast lane, these two bearings are for you. On the expensive side, but commonly known as the fastest bearings around.

First up:  Bones Swiss Ceramic

Pros

  • Literally the very best
  • Super fast
  • Bragging rights
  • Super cool sticker to brag about
  • Ceramic doesn’t rust
  • The best

Cons

  • Only the balls are ceramic and the casing could rust
  • Expensive
  • Made out of toilet

Second up: VXB Full Ceramic

Pros

  • Individually sold bearings (can buy 4 instead of the pre-packaged 8)
  • Full ceramic to go even faster (less friction)
  • Not so expensive
  • Uses black ceramic balls

Cons

  • A ceramic case can crack, which will ruin the whole thing
  • Not skate rated like Bones
  • I couldn’t even find an ABEC rating
  • No sticker

Back wheel bearings

The bigger wheels on wheelchairs are much like (if not exactly like) bike tires. Luckily, bike (bicycle) bearings are also an existing market that we can dip into, and the water is warm. I’m back after eating dinner and doing more research, the water is luke-warm but erring on cool.

Bike bearings are few and far and they vary. I recommend taking off your wheel and checking what bearing you have. This is what mine looks like:

Cosmo’s wheel bearing

As you will struggle to see, it says “R8 2RS.” I also struggled. After some searching, I found that this bearing is 1/2 x 1 1/8 x 5/16 (inches), which is also, 12.7 x 28 x 8 (millimetres). Also called an R8ZZ or a 6001 bearing.
The measurements are Inner diameter x Outer diameter x Width

There aren’t any big players that make Swiss bearings of this size, or anything of distinct caliber like Bones.
I’ve found generic or ceramic.
Generic will get you medium results – probably better than the bearings that came with your chair but nothing mind blowing.
Ceramic (with a metal casing) will get you the results that come with ceramic, faster and better.

Here’s what we got. Keep in mind these are both individual bearings, so you’ll have to buy four.

If you want to look for another size bearing and you figure out the metric size or the name (6001, etc.) filter through this page to find a good bearing.

To make this process much more efficient, here are some amazing tools

Bearings are as hard to take out as

Bones Bearings Press Puller

To take off your caster wheels, you’ll need some hex keys (also used for bike maintenance)

Texas Best Folding Metric and SAE Hex Keys


Overdeliver? Absolutely.

There is a next level of speed, not the drug, and it involves some sauce. Don’t get lost in the sauce, you can actually use too much.

Bones Speed Cream Skate Bearing Lubricant

Paraplegic Gear/Tools of the Month: The Belt

Read time: 3 minutes

I’m part of the lululemon collective and will receive a commission if you make a purchase through the links below

Hey!

Every week, I look around and see what type of gear I’m using or anything I’ve come across that’s cool and useful. Something that has made my life easier and solves a problem I’ve had for too long.

I’ll be keeping these fairly short with one tool/gear item that I’ve used and I’ll talk about how it’s useful (solving some problems).

There are many ways to use everyday items in a unique way. As an engineer and minimalist, I like to use what I have and see if I can make it work. It’s a fun little challenge that keeps my brain sharp.


Today’s tools are belts, created by Arcade and lululemon. We have two styles, two problems and infinitely great ways to use them.

The problems we solve:

  1. So, I have a strap behind my legs that keeps my feet from sliding off the back of my footrest, but I spend my entire day pulling my feet back on the footplate after they’ve slid forward as a result of bumpy pavement or sidewalk cracks.
  2. Pockets. Pant pockets are near impossible to use while you’re in your chair. I often go out for a walk and need to carry my keys, wallet, catheter and phone, but they’ll either fall out of my pocket or wont fit. Keeping them on my lap becomes a bit much and they easily bounce off.

    Luckily, we have a solution for these problems, it’s more than a solution. It’ll tell the world that you mean something, that you’re on your way to success! (and you’ll feel as amazing as you look)

Contrary to popular belief, I’m a man who cares about style and presentation. Even if I do wear the same few clothes over and over again, I want them to be high quality clothes.

The solutions:

  1. The Arcade belt.


    It’s made for adventure, it’s durable, and it’s personal. There are many different styles for every mood and season.

This belt solves all of our problems.
It’s easy to take on and off, it can even be useful when we’re not using it (like using it as a belt).
It comes in many sexy designs, which means we look cool and get to show off a little.
The size is adjustable so you can keep your legs where you want them.
It’s a lot more versatile and when you watch the video below, you’ll see how it doesn’t actually wrap around where my other strap is.
Best of all, the clip is super easy to put together and unbuckle. So, even if you struggle using your hands a little, it’s not hard at all!

Using an Arcade belt to solve problem 1

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, imagine what you could do if the belt could also hold your keys!

Now we solve the second problem: Pockets.

You may have noticed that there’s a trend to wear a belt bag (fanny pack) across your chest. The timing has never been as perfect as now. Look trendy, be efficient, feel great!

lululemon has many options that are both fashionable and useful. Almost all of them have secret compartments and tiny details that are worth showing off to your friends.

  1. This Fast and Free Run Belt is perfect for keeping your keys and a few essentials ready to grab and toss on before you head out (keys are small and valuable, they easily fall off my lap)
  2. The On The Beat Belt Bag is big enough to hold more essentials (even a catheter or two) and even though the model is a woman, I would proudly wear this as a man.

Try this gear out and let me know how much it helps!

(Just some over delivery) This is my “efficiency outfit” I can wash less with the anti-stink tech, they dry fast (I avoid the cost of using a dryer), makes the perfect first impression and I feel like I can do anything (I can go to work and then workout without changing)

Shorts – Men, Women

Pants – Men, Women

Shirt – Men, Women

Socks – Men, Women

Underwear – Men, Women



PS, remember to share this info, it’s too good to keep to yourself!


If you find any cool gear/tools, leave them in the comments and there’s always a good chance you could write a post for this site!