I have solid tyres on my wheelchairs. It’s one of the key things I insist on in a wheelchair. I’ve not had a chair with air tyres since my first year at uni and I’ve never had a powerchair with air tyres. I know a lot of people aren’t keen on solids and find them uncomfortable but I’ve never noticed any difference between comfort of air or solid tyres.
Mentally however it’s huge. I feel safe with solid tyres and it’s not something I have to worry about.
I remember the last time I got a puncture in a wheelchair really clearly. I was at uni (in my first year) and we were leaving the students union late one night when I must have caught some glass or something and it punctured. Disaster.
My carer found where it was and my housemate (who was a full time powerchair user) let me borrow her manual. The disability coordinator popped round the next morning and patched it for me with a repair kit. And off I went along with my day. Then it went again a little while later. He came back and changed the inner tube. And off I went along with my day. But it blew again.
And I think it went for a fourth time before I called my GP at uni in despair and begged the receptionist to find out for me who the NHS wheelchair repair contractor was for the area. I’d not needed them since I’d moved. She called me back, gave me the number and told me she’d already spoken to them and an NHS wheelchair tech was on his way for an emergency call out. He replaced the whole tyre (in fact I think he replaced both tyres) and then I really was off along with my day with no problems. Apart from the fact it’d taken the whole day and a lot of being rescued.
I had a reassessment for a new wheelchair not long after that. And the one thing I didn’t have to think about was the suggestion that I have solid tyres – I never wanted to have a puncture ever again.
The loan chair I have at the moment has air tyres however. And they make me really anxious. I spent the first several days I had it keep wondering if I’d got a puncture and stopping to check (I’m not sure what the point of it was). I’ve got over that now.
But all I keep noticing is just how much broken glass there is all over the roads and the paths. I’m completely horrified by it and seem to have developed the ability to hone in on the smallest spec from several metres away. And yet, the rational part of me is sure when I stop and think about it,that there isn’t any more broken glass around than there was when I had my own chair with it’s solid tyres.
Being back on a pair of solid tyres isn’t the thing I’m looking forward to the most about getting my new powerchair. It’s definitely top 5 though. And I’m looking forward to not worrying about wheeling on broken glass.