Tuesday 11 October 2022.
Updated 01 November 2022.

ART CHAI is a GRIT Freedom Chair Spartan, lever‐propelled wheelchair.

See also: GRIT trials.

1. The blend

Being a somewhat unfinished implemetation of an excellent concept, the GRIT Freedom Chair can be much improved. ART CHAI began as a shipment of a 16-inch Spartan, a rope mount utility clamp, and one (extra) set of torque couplings. Some changes of note follow.

1.1. Decals

The Spartan especially comes donning an excess of vinyl stickers. I removed them. In stages. (Hence “ART CHAI”). (It was, for a period, more of a “(F)REED CHAI ART SPAN”).

The logos on the push handles were prominent at their great height, and the Spartan branding on the wheelchair itself was intensive. The lettering on the boom could soon become ratty from sliding the utility clamp to different positions. The lot was unwelcome plastic and marketing.

A square of orange plastic printed with the GRIT logo, sitting on a generic seatbelt.

The edges of the GRIT badge are misshapen and beginning to disintegrate from several weeks spent jammed inside the seatbelt mechanism. A tenacious coat of adhesive remains congealed across the button itself.

Figure 1: Even gumming up of the seat buckle turned out to be the result of yet another sticker, masquerading as a custom‐made button. Boonwurrung Country, April 2022.

1.2. Utility clamp

May bear towing hitch, carry‐basket, and fitted footrests.

GRIT’s rope mount option included a marvellous carabiner to rattle against the frame all day. This is much better occupied with clipping stuff to my quiet daypack than to the chairfront, usually. As well as all still being at the ready in case an emergency strikes, the main hitch fixture serves as a helpful handhold for tugging the hulk through doorways at the close of a journey.

Meanwhile, there is still space to secure a storage compartment to the stubby upright tube at the top of the utility clamp, and one’s choice of comfortable, durable bicycle pedal (to serve as footrests) either side. I got started with an oxygen‐bottle–holder, and poached a pair of unusually supportive quick‐release pedals from my dormant folding bicycle. These were pretty fantastic, although a larger capacity basket may be more versatile.

Later, I changed to a pair of screwed‐in pedals that extend further sideways, which has allowed me to support my daypack (just loose on the boom) between my knees without too much strain. However, without a quick‐release mechanism, wide pedals make tucking the chair away under tables more fraught.

Two differently shaped, large metal platform pedals, mounted to the utility clamp.

The clamp is pushed up against the castor wheel headset, at the front of the chair’s boom arm.

From there, a beartrap‐style pedal balloons out to the left. Its outer cage forms a wide oval.

On the right is an unusally long pedal shaped somewhat like a butterfly — with the butterfly’s “head” being a quick release connection to the clamp. Instead of pins or serrations to grip the sole of one’s shoe, the wings are dotted with small rings, resembling the suckers on an octopus’s tentacle.

The GRIT towing fixture is bolted into the top of the clamp, between the two pedals. A backpack rests a little further back on the boom, and a tube of Ecogrease lies on the grass below.

Figure 2: Swapping from the M.K.S. LAMBDA EzySuperior (right) to the M.K.S. XC-III (left). Boonwurrung Country, October 2022.

1.3. Lights

For the first six months I had solar‐powered bicycle lights mounted where I could least impracticably cram them: a white light protruding from the aforementioned bottle‐holder at the front, and a red light astride one push handle. Due to a charging failure, I removed the red; and to reduce teetering clutter at the front of the chair, also the white.

1.4. Footplate

Mucks up ground clearance but most often needn’t come along.

1.5. Toolkit

For fixes on the go, a pump, spanners, spoke key, and others best do1.

I carry these in a bicycle saddlebag, usually hung off the backrest, where it won’t slew about or get in the way.

The saddle bag, snug in a nook at the back of the chair.

A flap has been unzipped to reveal tools and a transit ticket stored within.

Figure 3: Toolkit stowed unobtrusively between the push handle arms. Boonwurrung Country, October 2022.

On some fiddlier expeditions, I clip the saddlebag to the boom or a bottle cage near my feet, to keep its contents in reach.

The contents of the toolkit, plus one enormous screwdriver, leaning on a rolled up tarpaulin in the seat pan.

The tools include a little electric air compressor and its fittings, a few different small screw‐turning implements, a spoke key, and a 13 mm spanner — all of them dwarfed by that massive, automotive‐industry–scale screwdriver.

Figure 4: Typical contents of the ART CHAI toolkit. Boonwurrung Country, October 2022.

The size of screwdriver for adjusting the GRIT’s chain tensions is giant2. It takes separate accommodation in a larger bag. This screwdriver could perhaps be tied beneath the seat, instead, but I’d worry about losing such an obscure tool.

The huge screwdriver wedged neatly between the chair’s large, central tube and the underside of the seatpan.

Figure 5: One prospective home for a chain‐tensioning screwdriver. Boonwurrung Country, October 2022.

1.6. Provisions

Underseat balast in gigantic bottle cages, sometimes trimmed with a cargo net.

1.7. Safety straps

Lapbelt reanchored for lap itself; aftermarket, a thick strap for torso.

Changing anchor points.

One side of the belt about to be moved from its original location near the back of the seat pan; the other side of the belt newly repositioned next to the chain ring.

Figure 6: Moving the provided seatbelt to the furthest forward of GRIT’s various predrilled anchor points. Boonwurrung Country, April 2022.

1.8. Seating

Tarp as improvised wedge.

Considering textiles bag as seat cushion. Would hardly be more uncomfortable than the off‐gassing lump of square “meh” is when combined with the… well:

The seatback still needs to be a whole lot less horrid, too.

Stiff skirtguards are necessary. Woodworking would work.

1.9. Drive wheels

Requiring pushrings and other improvements. How! Rims for rims.

1.10. Steering

Pegs would be good, but I certainly can’t afford GRIT’s version.



…come along


Well, Phillips size 3 — which folks don’t seem to make in stubby or slim handles.