My wheelchair came with flat rubber tires. They were great on smooth surfaces. Very fast. Nice natural rubber, I’ve never seen anything like that on American wheelchairs. They were great for two months. They handled water and ice. But then snow came and I got stuck. One of my fellow wheelers begged me to get new set of tires. So I did. I visited a bicycle store and a year ago I got nice Kenda tires, with tubes and knobby thread. The first impression wasn’t very good. It was so much harder to push my chair. They never felt hard enough even with 60 PSI, 5 PSI above the max recommendation. It took a while to get used to them. In the mall, they are not the best ones. They are too slow. But when I go to a park that has packed sand and some stones, they are perfect.
Like bicycle tires, there are no perfect wheelchair tires. You have to think what you use your chair for. What is the surface you encounter the most? If you are always on a paved surface, you want to go for smooth tires. Their PSI is around 120. They are fast. They are easy to push. If you wheel on snow, smooth tires won’t do. Just think about mountain bike tires. You want to go for tires that are knobby. As their PSI is about half of the smooth tires, they will feel different. They are not that easy to push but you get good traction for your hard work.
If you have the means, the best thing is to have two sets of wheels with tires. One set of smooth and one set of knobby tires. If your brakes are not easily adjustable, there is an easy solution for them to work on both sets. Let’s say you have 24 inch wheels and you put on them knobby tires that are 1-3/8 inch size. They become the same size as 25 inch wheels with smooth tires and thus you won’t have to adjust your brakes – they will fit for both of your sets.
If you don’t have two sets of wheels, you need to compromise. I use mu knobby tires all the time because no matter what the weather or surface, I won’t get stuck. And I am getting better workout.
I had my tires for a year and though they didn’t show much wear, they were starting to slip. You know, when you go down the hill toward your car really fast and then you stop quickly the same way you stop your skis. You need something sharp. So the other day, I got a new set of tires and tubes for my chair. The same kind of tires as before. They have cute little spikes on them, the tire looks like a hairy caterpillar. Those things will be gone soon but it brings smile to me when I see my kids “patting” the new wheels.
Sometimes people ask me if I am afraid of getting a puncture. Sure, it can happen. I have some white stuff added to the tubes that should seal small punctures. In a year I never had a problem. But it can happen. Well, if it happened to me, I can always get up and push my “disabled” chair. But if you are really concerned, there are two main ways to handle it: you get foam inserts instead of tubes. Then you can have as many punctures and your chair will still go. Or you can buy a little can that contains both a sealant and air that should fix most punctures and carry it always with you.
But wouldn’t world be boring if we never took our chances?