Why are wheelchair wheels slanted? I recently attended a local sports event and wondered about the wheelchair design the athletes were using.
Upon reaching home, I sought to research the purpose of the slanted wheelchair wheels and learned that wheelchair setup is complicated. (1)
Read on if you are also wondering why some wheelchairs have angled wheels.
- Slanting wheelchair wheels add overall stability.
- Wheelchair camber is the measure of inclination degrees a pair of wheels has.
- Racing wheelchairs have a negative camber.
Why Are Wheelchair Wheels Slanted?
According to Physiopedia, there are 3.3 million Americans using wheelchairs, with about 1.825 million wheelchair users over 65 years old. (2)
These active people have a wide range of wheelchair types, one of which includes chairs with slanted wheels.
So, why ARE wheelchair wheels slanted?
Wheelchairs with slanted wheels offer lateral stability to a user since the rear wheels’ base is further from the chair.
This wheelchair design is common among athletes with disabilities because the chairs allow the individual to engage in a demanding exercise without risk of injury.
Identifying this assistive device is easy since it has a broken-like wheel axle plane. Moreover, it has angled wheels, unlike conventional wheelchairs.
Here is a YouTube video from the Science Channel on how designers make a racing wheelchair.
CHECK: The 10 Best Lightweight Wheelchair Reviews
What is Wheelchair Camber?
Camber is the angle of a set of wheels to the ground level or surface. This varying degree is common to mobile devices with wheels joined by an axle plane.
A wheelchair camber is usually found on the rear wheels and comes in three forms.
The camber also varies, with the common angle range being positive or negative 15 degrees.
Types of Camber
As previously mentioned, a wheelchair camber comes in three forms, and they are as follows:
1. Positive Camber
A positive camber applies to wheels that have their upper part stretching outwards.
This positive camber measurement is not common in wheelchairs because it causes the chair to have a narrow base.
A narrow base reduces stability, making it risky for active users to use such a wheelchair.
2. Zero Camber
In zero camber, the configuration of the wheels is vertical to the ground level. This is standard for most assistive devices like rollators, scooters, and manual wheelchairs.
3. Negative Camber
With negative camber, the wheelchair wheels point inward, making a broad base.
This camber type is standard in wheelchair sports because its wider base design offers reliable stability. (3)
The joint degrees of camber for everyday wheelchair users range from zero to three. Sports wheelchairs have a camber angle of 15 degrees and above.
Pros and Cons of Increasing Wheelchair Camber
Increasing the degree of wheelchair camber has several advantages and disadvantages that you should be aware of to understand the workings of the chair.
Increasing a wheelchair’s camber elongates its base, enhancing its stability and allowing the chair to make tight maneuvers and turns that are good for athletes.
This makes it harder for the chair to overturn, reducing any chances of injury.
The wider base also redirects shock forces away from the user for a smooth ride as they do their daily activities.
2. Ease of Usage
The cambered wheels design makes it easy to use a wheelchair. This is because the user positions their shoulder joint above the wheels for propulsion.
This setting prevents unnecessary strain on the shoulders when operating the mobility device.
The closeness of the push rims to the user also makes these elongated-shaped chairs ideal for pediatric uses.
3. User Protection
The last thing you want is to injure your hands and elbows when propelling a chair.
Cambered wheelchair frames have a degree of inclination on the wheels. Your hands do not extend beyond the perpendicular axis of the wheels’ base.
Therefore, you can have smooth rides in tight spaces without worrying about chafing your hands against the walls or doorways.
4. Sportier Look
Disabled people looking to maintain an active daily life will enjoy having a wheelchair with slanted wheels.
This equipment design is most common in athletes engaging in sporting events.
A racing wheelchair can also come in handy for an individual looking for exercises for elderly in wheelchair.
Moreover, you may find cambered wheelchairs convenient for outdoor usage.
1. More Wheelchair Width
The elongated shape of the wheelchair wheels adds more width to the standard wheelchair measurements.
Therefore, if you have used a narrow chair before, you may find it challenging to use the chair indoors and in tight spaces.
2. Adds Wheelchair Cost
Wheelchair manufacturers use special camber tubes and axle plates to add the desired tilt angle.
Also, these wheelchairs must be lightweight, warranting durable materials.
This costly manufacturing process affects the selling price of the finished product. These wheelchairs can cost a few thousand dollars.
3. Excessive Camber
While increasing the camber enhances stability, it can also cause the wheels to rub against the armrest side panels.
This action may cause discomfort to the user and leave dirt stains on the wheelchair’s upholstery.
4. Uneven Wear-Out of Tires
Due to the angle of inclination of the wheels to the ground surface, you will find that conventional tires wear out quickly.
Their treads are centered in the middle of the tire instead of being on the inside.
Many wheel manufacturers do not include offset treads to cover the degree of cambering.
So, it would be best if you bought specially made cambered wheels for the chair.
1. What is the Camber on a wheelchair?
The camber on a wheelchair is the degree of inclination of its wheels to the ground.
2. How do wheelchairs used for basketball differ from everyday wheelchairs?
Basketball wheelchairs have an elongated shape to offer stability and easy maneuverability.
3. What is the difference between a normal wheelchair and a sports wheelchair?
A normal wheelchair usually has zero camber, and its wheels are perpendicular to the ground. Sports wheelchairs have wider bases and slanted wheels.
Sports wheelchairs may leave you puzzled because of their unique design.
If you have wondered about the design and asked yourself, “Why are wheelchair wheels slanted,” then look no further than the information I have shared here;
Sports wheelchair design helps athletes with disabilities engage in sports like basketball and tennis. Slanted wheels provide stability and maneuverability.
There you have it – an answer to why wheelchair wheels are slanted. It is now up to you to share this knowledge with someone interested in wheelchair sports!
So, did you find the guide helpful? Let me know in the comments section!
- 1. Speight A. Camber – Degrees of Performance – Motion Composites Blog Post [Internet]. Motion Composites. 2020. Available from: https://www.motioncomposites.com/en_us/community/blog/tips-and-tricks/camber-degrees-of-performance
- 2. Wheelchair Users [Internet]. Physiopedia. Available from: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Wheelchair_Users
- 3. Trudel G, Kirby RL, Bell AC. Mechanical Effects of Rear-Wheel Camber on Wheelchairs. Assistive Technology. 1995;7:79–86.