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Off road with BBC Topgear

Off Road Wheelchair

Mybility All Terrain Wheelchairs has just spent a few days with BBC Top Gear filming in sunny South Wales! Ok, you got me, it wasn’t sunny, it was cold, windy and damp, but fantastic never the less – beautiful views, a rugged and serene landscape.

The whole filming process is so interesting to watch. It’s intense, with many people involved and seems an exercise in chaotic harmony. I have to thank the Producer Nick Dalton for the invite to come and play.

So why were we invited? The Top Gear team’s idea was to build their own off-road wheelchairs or scooters and pit them against 3 models available on the market, for some off-road antics.

Off Road Wheelchair

On the first day – planning the routes for the challenge – we were driven up some of the slopes in Range Rovers, and being a novice to 4x4s I thought “this thing won’t get up here” but that was soon proved wrong as it tackled the slopes fairly easily. I made a mental note to pay more attention while watching Top Gear! Next up, the Land Rovers, with road tyres and the lack of grip did defeat them. As we slid helplessly sideways I was sort of pleased, but wondered how the Mybility chair would get on with the same slopes the next day – this would be a difficult test for the Mybility chair and a novice user.

A wheelchair needs a great deal of proficiency, imagine giving someone a bicycle for the first time and after an hour telling them to ride down a mountain side, but I was really impressed with the three army Vets who would be using the chairs. The had a tryout of the chairs, then everyone was pointed towards the top of the hill and off they went. The lads adapted and excelled, in super fast time, in very difficult terrain.

I saw a little of the presenters during the filming. Jeremy Clarkson was kicking his chair, James May wasn’t doing much at all in his and Richard Hammond was just plain cheating in his ‘wheelchair’.

While filming was happening, I was just hanging around half way up on the slopes and found myself getting a bit bored. I have a tediously low boredom threshold, so it seemed a great idea to start my own ascent and started along the heavily sodden ground – unusually for Wales it had rained all night…

During my meandering I came across a ‘rescue’ 4×4 buried up to its axles in a clay bog area, heavily rutted after some very heavy vehicle traffic – I looked but I could see no sign of the tanks responsible… With 25cm deep ruts, this area was very difficult and I finally had to tac my way down and along a very steep double cambered slope. This was no easy proposition, but luckily Andrew the rescue vehicle driver stood at my side and leaned into the chair.

Suddenly l realised I’d been using the wrong chair program. DOH! Mine is usually set for a quick burst of power rather than long drags of constant hill climbing. I wanted to kick myself, but couldn’t so got Andrew to kick my chair. Going back down to get my computer was too much of a pain so I meandered my way along with plenty of rest periods.

Andrew got back to the task of winching himself out and I started to fantasise about attaching a winch to my chair with a grappler that could be launched by crossbow to extricate myself from future events. It’s on my long list of doohickeys to build.

While I was gathering my thought, (yes just the one) I saw the most wonderful thing. I think it was an ATV It powered over, up and down the tank ruts, while gliding and slipping across the surface of the doubled cambered slope. I was in awe, I definitely want one of those although I would have to bolt myself down to it, as I’ve no lower strength or balance and would just be plopped out – exactly what happened when I flagged the driver down and asked him to take me for a spin. Tremendous fun though.

I spent the rest of the day dreaming and designing in my head a new style off road wheelchair/vehicle for some serious off road action. It’s already working in my mind, just got to make it happen!

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