Folding wheelchair with an electric blue open frame design. Integrated footrest, rather than two separate swings aways. Folds in half using a cross brace mechanism, folding push handles, carbon fibre mudguards and self propel wheels with quick-release pins. Both the seat and back are tension-adjustable, with a Jay SoftCombi seat cushion on top.
Source of Wheelchair:
HMS Mobility Solutions
Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS) & Hypotonia
Frame Benefits: The frame is very lightweight, and I loved how it had a minimalist open frame design as many folding wheelchairs do not have that. The folding design of the frame means the chair can be easily stored away and fits through narrow doorways (when folded up).
Frame Drawbacks: The frame is longer from front to back than other chairs I have tried. The footplate part of the frame is set at an 80-degree angle (I think) which sticks out more than chairs with footplates at a nice compact 90-degree angle. This does make it harder to use in small spaces, and because the frame includes the footplate (it can’t be folded away or removed) this makes the chair hard to fit in the back of small cars.
Wheels Benefits: The quick-release wheels are very useful, they pop off super easily which helps with fitting the chair in a car boot. I have mid-range Ottobock wheels that came with the chair. They are lighter than standard wheels, but not as light as Spinergy wheels. I also have Schwalbe downtown tires which seem to be pretty durable and good on a variety of types of ground. I opted to have the back wheel position set quite far forward to make the centre of gravity better for easy wheelies. But if you wanted a more stable chair and are not interested in doing wheelies, then the wheels can be moved further back into a much less tippy position. I do not have anti-tippers on the chair, but I think they could be fitted if you wanted them. There are no drawbacks to this part!
Push Handle Benefits: I love that the push handles fold down so I can have them out of the way when I am self-propelling – this stops random strangers pushing me suddenly because they think they’re “helping”!
Push Handle Drawbacks: I am quite a small person so my chair is not very high up. The push handles are not height adjustable so if someone is pushing me for prolonged periods of time, they mentioned that bending down made their back hurt. I would recommend height-adjustable push handles if you think you will be pushed by someone else quite frequently.
Seat Cushion Benefits: The Jay SoftCombi seat cushion is very comfortable, it is memory foam and has a contoured shape to position the pelvis properly. It is quite firm so it gives good postural support.
Seat Cushion Drawbacks: The firmness of the SoftCombi cushion may not suit everyone – I personally find it a little too firm for my liking. It is also very hot and sweaty to sit on in the summer as the cover is polyester.
Carbon Fibre Mudguard Benefits: The mudguards are great, they have saved my clothes from getting wet and dirty in bad weather and also stop my clothes from getting caught in the wheels. They are not removable but the carbon fibre makes them super lightweight. There are no drawbacks to this part!
Overall Impression: The Ottobock Avantgarde is a great mid-range wheelchair, and would be good for someone new to using a wheelchair who needs to work out what works best for them. It is not as well suited for a more active user, due to the folding frame. A folding frame is less energy efficient to propel, due to the moving parts, and the folding mechanism also adds weight to the chair. This chair is very adjustable over time, with the following parts all being adjustable: front castor position, rear-wheel position, backrest angle, footplate height from the seat. This makes it a good chair for a new user who hasn’t yet worked out how they want their chair configured, as it may change as you become a more experienced user.
If you are a more experienced wheelchair user or somebody who will want to be pretty active in your chair, then I would recommend getting a rigid frame active-user chair instead of this one. I loved this chair when I first started using it as I was a new wheelchair user, but over time it became less and less suitable for my lifestyle, so I switched to a rigid frame active-user chair. My car is also small, and I had real trouble fitting this chair in it. Many people think that folding chairs are easier to transport but that is not necessarily the case – rigid chairs can have the wheels popped off and then they can sit on any spare seat in the car. Folding chairs cannot do this due to the cross brace mechanism underneath, they have to go in the boot. As I mentioned above, the Ottobock Avantgarde has quite a long frame from front to back with no swing-away leg rests, which made fitting it in the boot of my small car very challenging!