Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What to do when you have a flat

The iBOT manual says to not drive the iBOT
if it has a flat. In my opinion, that's a
ridiculously unrealistic statement. These
tires are not easy to get on and off. The
guy at the bike store yesterday who had
experience and proper tools took at least
15 minutes and a whole lot of swearing to
change just one tire. (He didn't swear
out loud, but I know that it's a lot of
work and I'm pretty sure some bad words
were said in his head!) I know I wouldn't
be able to change a tire myself, and I'm
not about to a) carry the proper tools with
me wherever I go and b) ask an average person
to change it for me. In addition to not
being able to change it myself or ask a
Bob Smith to do it for me, there is no emergency
wheelchair flat tire fixing service such as
AAA. I can't even call a friend to come
pick me up because I can't get the iBOT
into their cars. I could call a cab, but
finding one with a wheelchair lift to come
out right away probably wouldn't be easy.
A reader of this blog suggested public
transportation, which is a great idea...
however, I haven't looked into that yet.
I don't know if they'd be able to take
me to my house, or just the nearest bus
stop which is 2 blocks away. Besides, I
might be in a different town/city where
they do not have accessible public transport
and/or taxi cabs.

Whenever I get a flat, people always say,
"Why not just switch the clusters so that
the flat wheel in the back is in the front?"
That is what I did do when I got my last
flat, but I was really uncomfortable doing
it because you just never know if the iBOT
is going to perform normally with a flat
tire. I've since talked with IT (Independence
Technology) and here is what they recommend:

While in Standard Function, transition to
4-Wheel Drive. Drive the iBOT in 4-Wheel
Drive to a place that can fix it. Rolling
with a flat in 4-Wheel Drive function is much
better than Standard Function because the
other 3 wheels will help keep the weight off
of the flat one.

While rolling in 4-Wheel Drive with a flat
tire could result in wheel damage, the guy at
IT said it's highly unlikely to get damaged
as long as I'm not going over rocks or going
a very far distance. If it did damage the
wheel, I'd have to pay for the cost of a
new wheel, plus a service call because
a tech would have to put the new wheel
on. Putting on the new wheel is NOT something
a bike shop could do. I asked IT how much a
new wheel costs, and he didn't know off the
top of his head, but he's going to find out
and let me know. However much it is though,
I'd rather risk damaging the wheel than
switching the clusters and possibly having
the chair flip over backward or throw me out

**Some iBOT users do switch the clusters when
they get a flat (and I did it once by using the
stair climbing function), but IT does not
recommend doing this.**

Some random recommendations:
1. Always carry a spare tube with you.
Your local bike shop will not have the right
size tube.
2. If you've got the room, always carry
a spare tire with you.
3. Carry the number of public transport
and taxi services.
4. IT has a 24-hour support line.
5. If traveling with an iBOT, bring along
a spare manual wheelchair. If you don't have
a spare manual chair, you can purchase a
cheap lightweight foldable travel chair for
about $150.
6. Possible places to fix a flat: bike
shops, Les Schwab, probably gas stations.


Anonymous said...

As someone who is thinking seriously of getting an iBOT, the issue of flats is alarming. How can you depend on the bot to go anywhere? Say you want to take in a fair or a festival, you can't seriously think about going alone. You have to worry anytime you get far from home. It is supposed to eliminate your dependence on others but it sounds like it makes you less independent. Keep us apprised of your dealings with Independence Technologies.

Me said...

IT is sending a field tech to my house this afternoon. He is going to
check the wheel to see is there is a piece of metal or something that keeps causing these flats. Clearly something is wrong with the one wheel or tire because it's the same one that keeps going flat.

I wouldn't let the flats stop you from getting an iBOT though. I'll admit that it is an issue, and I know that it's something they've been trying to resolve, but the other features of the BOT are so amazing. The flats are a pain in the ass, and I know I'm not the only iBOT user who is a bit frustrated with them, but I can live with it. It's kind of like driving a car. We sometimes get flats in our cars, but we don't stop driving them out of fear of getting a flat.

I wouldn't trade my iBOT for any other wheelchair currently on the market. I don't know your circumstances so I can't say if you would benefit from the BOT as much as I do, but I hope you don't let the flats stop you from getting one. You might want to call IT to see how often the average person gets a flat.

Also, don't forget that you can transition to 4-Wheel Function and then the weight will be on 3 wheels instead of two, which would hopefully prevent any damage to the wheel. And always carry a new tube with you. Also, IT has great 24-hour tech support. Best wishes to you. I hope you find yourself botting soon!

Anonymous said...

Flats happen. I have MS and no longer drive. My iBot allows me to get to the corner store, nearby restaurants, neighbors houses, etc. I visually inspect the tires before I leave the house. Luckily, I have not had a flat while far from my home. My plan if I did have a flat while out on my own is to call my neighbor and ask her to drive my wheelchair accessible van over to where I am and picked me up. If she is not available call the paratransit van and asked them to come pick me up and take me home. If all else fails call 911. I talked to my neighbor, a police dispatcher, and he assured me that if I was out in my iBot and had a flat I could call 911. I would assume 911 would have the paratransit van take me back to my house. Whenever we travel, we make sure we have a spare tire and two with us.

If you live in a town where there is public transport, the ADA requires that services are provided for disabled passengers also. That means that your town should have wheelchair accessible vans that provide service to disabled peoples' houses.

My husband is an avid cyclist and has changed many flats on my iBot. When he was out of town, I was able to talk one of my friends through how to change a flat on the iBot.


Me said...

Thanks for your input Nancy. : )

Anonymous said...

Be sure to post what the IT tech says about the repeated flats. Nancy says flats happen but if they happen a lot you will not want to put your trust in the iBOT. I don't have public transport here. Admittedly, my present power chair might break down far from home and I will have to deal with it. But if I knew it had a record of breaking down I would drastically change my behavior. Maybe buy a Hover Round for the big trips. That's not an appealing option: "Buy the iBOT, almost as good as a Hover Round."
Anyway, today I mailed off the deposit on a new iBOT, trusting that your problem is not common.

Anonymous said...

this old lady is scaring me with all the problems she is having, either she is not smart on how to use it or too old.

Me said...

Anonymous, congratulations! I think you'll really love your iBOT. Please let me know when you get it and what you think of it.

I think the new rim strips that they now put in the new wheels are really going to help with the flats. I've had no problems since I had the rim strips put in (knock on wood). You might want to call IT and ask them if flats have been a big problem for other people.

Me said...

Anonymous Troll, I won't deny that I'm getting old, but I am smart "on how to use it".

As for "all the problems" I'm having, it's just one wheel that went flat 4 times. That's not a huge deal. Obviously something was up with that wheel. Now that I've got a new wheel and new rim strips, I really doubt I'll be having anymore flats anytime in the near future.

Anonymous said...

I was looking at your tips for traveling with the iBOT and thought of another one: * Have IT put a bracket on the back of the bot where you can carry a spare wheelchair. :-)

Anonymous said...

I was Googling ibot and tires and came across some old entries about the Michelin invention called a tweel, a tire that doesn't need a tube or air. No flats. Here is one site:
I wonder what happened to that concept?

Anonymous said...

Here's a video of the bot on tweels.

wheelchair vans toronto said...



I use an iBot in the mountains of Colorado at 10,000 ft where there's no pavement or sidewalks. On the plus side, the 4wd function is outstanding for accessing places off road, off path and when there's snow, mud, sand, obstacles, etc. The standing function is great for taking walks with friends, reaching high and for viewing over objects (I've used it to get an unobstructed camera angle at times), but don't use it in a public place if you want to be left alone - it's a real attention getter. Most stairs are climbable if there are handrails and your PT has certified you to use them, or if you have a trained assistant along. Very fast in standard mode - 7.8 mph.

My gripes: No suspension - traveling over rough ground can be jarring. Pneumatic tires - no option, I'm just waiting to catch that nail or large thorn when I'm far from home. Joy stick too sensitive - very hard to move slowly and smoothly, especially on rough ground. Tight spaces are a no-no in balance or 4wd - the computers and gyros will try to compensate for external forces - not good. Stairs are scary - never had a problem, but I avoid them when I can. You need to practice often to keep confident. It is not invincible, I have been stuck in 6 inches of snow. It has got to have grip - in all functions. Last, I wish the footrests could be adjusted closer to 90 degrees. They can't because of the large front casters.

In my opinion, the gripes are minor inconveniences compared to the benefits. The iBot will go places and do things that absolutely no other chair can. That being said, I'll still use my power assisted manual chair most often. It's more comfortable, smaller and keeps me more active. Hope this helps.