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Wheelchairs

Would facing backwards be better?
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Seeing the elegant designs of Paralympic racing wheelchairs set some wheels spinning in 'my' head.

Wheel-chairists all sit forward like a paddler. So ... if wheel-chairists, even without legs, faced backwards, what would happen?

I mean, would they get more power by pulling on their wheels instead of pushing on them?

Swimmers can keep straight by looking at the bottom, so I reckon that if there were more speed available, wheelchair racers would learn the trick of travelling backwards.

I'm told that a paddler facing forward can beat a rower in rough water, but a rower sitting backwards, wins on smooth water.

And rowers win on ocean-going dinghies, built wide to ride out the swells.

Is arm-pulling therefore more powerful than arm-pushing?

rayfo, Oct 17 2000

Skiing things http://www.bscd.org.uk/whatis.htm
British Ski Clob for the Disabled [oneoffdave, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

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       Thanks for the comment but I had wheelchair racing in mind only.   

       It's become as freakily high-tech as archery, [anything to win], and remember the high-jump?   

       No new technology, but the invention of approaching the bar virtually backwards suddenly became a universal method.
rayfo, Oct 17 2000
  

       Easy enough to go in a straight line when going backward. The rower type races use something like a pointer on the back of the boat that they line up with something in the distance behind them. Could easily do the same with wheelchairs, or just paint lines on the ground. Those would be harder to keep track of, though...
StarChaser, Oct 18 2000
  

       Not being a rower, I may be wrong, but doesn't a lot of the power in rowing come from pushing with the legs? I'm thinking of how a rowing machine works, with the sliding seat, and it's more of a full-body thing. If that's the case, then simple arm-pulling may not have much of an advantage over arm-pushing, since if you're in a wheelchair, you probably can't make use of your legs for pushing and/or leverage.
PotatoStew, Oct 18 2000
  

       I have been a sculler, and PotatoStew is right, one faces backwards because the legs' push is the strongest in the body and backwards is the easiest way to use that with simple oars and oarlocks. There are demo boats and land vehicles that use the full-body rowing motion with more levers in the oarlocks, so that the rower faces forwards.   

       Kayaks are much more analagous to wheelchairs - nimble, upper-body-powered - and kayakers mostly use upper-body pulling. I would guess wheelchairs are already facing the right way for power as well as mobility.
hello_c, Oct 18 2000
  

       Wheelchairs: Easier on the body to go forward
Sculling: Easier backwards
Each has a different use of muscle/range of motion, pressure/release
Any muscle needs to be at rest to ready itself for the next action, otherwise it would exhaust the user.
The state of the art wheelchairs have taken these things into account as they are designed by paraplegics/amputees. It's the thought that counts, though
thumbwax, Oct 18 2000
  

       Kind of off topic, but there was a professor at my university who had an amazing modification to his wheelchair. He used some sort of hand-cranked wheel drive attachment that he could mount to the front of his wheelchair- sort of like pedaling a bike, but with his hands. Apparently someone in the Mechanical Engineering department designed it for him.   

       The amazing thing was the speed that this guy could reach with this device. We once clocked him at over 20 miles an hour, just by cranking away on this thing.
BigThor, Oct 20 2000
  

       There are CURVES on a track for wheelchair athletes, therefore, it is very difficult to steer when facing backwards. you try it in your car...
iain, Mar 12 2001
  

       Various skiing devices are available for athletes with differing disabilites. [link]
oneoffdave, Jan 30 2003
  
      
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