After winning the Dutch title in women’s Handbiking, Paralympic handcyclist Laura de Vaan finally set her professional sports career to an end a year and a half ago. O4 Wheelchairs has always sponsored Laura and worked closely with her throughout her career. And now she's back! Not as an athlete, but as our brand new blogger! With her experience she guides you around through wheelchair land. In her first blog she talks about the benefits she experiences from our adjustable backrest.

‘I can hear you thinking: what can there be innovative about a wheelchair? You may be able to imagine something about an electric wheelchair, maybe. But with a manual wheelchair? What could it be?

I would like to share my experiences with you.

More than ten years ago I was introduced to O4 Wheelchairs. Not because I needed a new wheelchair, but because I needed a leg tray for my hand bike. Without a custom leg box, I couldn't sit on my knees in my racing handbike. That hurts! And it hurts too much. O4 Wheelchairs made that leg tray for me. Of course, I also tried out their wheelchairs in the showroom. I was hooked immediately.

Adjustable backrest
The wheelchairs of O4 Wheelchairs have an adjustable backrest. For me that means less pain. Or actually it means that I get pain less quickly. And that makes life a lot more enjoyable. Many manufacturers state that their chairsnalso have an adjustable backrest, and somehow they do. Just that you need tools to adjust the backrest. In practice, you adjust such a backrest once and that's it. It is very different with the adjustable backrest of O4 Wheelchairs. You can adjust the backrest from within the wheelchair at any time – and completely without the need of tools.

More charming
You can operate the bracket or lever while sitting in the wheelchair. It doesn't require much strenght. I operate the lever with my right hand and hook my left arm around the backrest. This is how I adjust the position of my backrest. When the backrest is in the correct position, I let go of the lever. My first O4 wheelchairs had a bracket under the seat. These days the lever is located below the right seat tube. This lever is not only much easier to reach, but also more charming to operate. Previously, I had to reach more or less between my legs to operate the leaver. Do you understand? Of course that never was any real problem, but charming is different.

Easier to operate
The new position of the lever has another advantage: My chair has a so-called “Y-frame”. That means, my legs are pushed together by the frame. I like this way of sitting and I also think it looks nice. After all, looks matter! However, the “Y-frame” makes it more difficult to operate a lever under the seat. Now that the lever has been placed under the right seat tube, this problem has also been solved. Well, “problem” might be a strong word, but at least the lever is now easier to operate.

Upgraded hinges
Moving the lever isn't the only innovation. The hinges of the backrest have also been upgraded. The hinges now are lighter and they can be adjusted more precisely. This way I can always choose the position that is most comfortable for me at that moment.

Changing position
I often get the question whether I often adjust my backrest. Yes! I adjust my backrest many times a day. Working at my desk requires a different position than a walk, a relaxed sitting requires a different position than a trip with my add-on bike. Do you also have an add-on bike? Then you probably recognize the following situation: When connecting a handbike to a wheelchair, the wheelchair has to tilt backwards. This frees the front wheels of the wheelchair from the ground. However, this position is very passive for handcycling. I solve that by moving my backrest forward. This way I can put more power into the cranks and there also is more pressure on the front wheel. The extra power I can develop is also transferred to the front wheel more efficiently. And here the power gets transferred to the ground. I would never want anything other than a continuously adjustable backrest!”





Laura de Vaan