An off-roading wheelchair made of bike parts tackles hiking trails

An engineer with an eye for cost-effective design is winning fans in the third world with an affordable wheelchair made out of bike parts.

The original chair grew out of a project for disabled people in rural areas. Amos Winter, then a graduate student at MIT, designed a three-wheeled chair made from ordinary bike parts, with levers that riders pump to power it along unpaved rural roads, as well as around the house.

“There was not a product to meet that section of that market,” said Winter, who is now a professor at the Global Engineering and Research (GEAR) lab at MIT, which creates cost-effective systems for the developing world.

Winter and a team set up a company — called Global Research Innovation and Technology, Cambridge — that would manufacture and sell the chairs, for about $200.

Parts that are likely to wear down can be replaced at a bike shop, Winter said. It also has a compact body with wheels that can be removed with one hand, so the chair can fit in the trunk of a sedan.

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