On Nov. 10, 2005, Geoff Babb, a retired Bureau of Land Management fire ecologist and avid outdoor recreationalist who loved to ski and mountain bike, was rushed to the hospital after having a brain stem stroke. The near-fatal stroke left Babb with limited mobility. His recovery, aided by his wife, Yvonne, and then twin 12-year-old sons, Cory and Emory, would lead them and others on a journey down an unfamiliar trail.
- Courtesy AdvenChair
- An excrusion to Mathieu Lake with a crew of friends and supporters.
Babb's desire to enjoy outdoor activities eventually connected him to sit-skiing with Oregon Adaptive Sports and adaptive horseback riding with Healing Reins Therapeutic Riding Center. Babb discovered that it wasn't his body restricting him from getting outdoors, but more the limitations of his wheelchair. Unable to propel himself due to his stroke, Babb needed assistance getting his wheelchair down a trail.
Thus, the AdvenChair 1.0 was born.
"My friend Dale Neubauer, who was a helicopter mechanic, helped us modify my regular wheelchair with beefier tires, a detachable front wheel, handbrakes on the handlebar and a harness which would allow a small team of helpers to guide me up and down the trail," said Babb. With this new chair, Babb and his family and support team explored trails in and around Smith Rock, Mt. Bachelor, Crater Lake and Mt. Rainier. "We had some great adventures in my original AdvenChair," said Babb. "These adventures prepared us for a trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in 2016."
To support this undertaking, Babb created the Onward Project, LLC, in 2016 to inspire, encourage and enable people to have active outdoor adventures. "The AdvenChair fits nicely into this, where the chair is the enabling part, and by telling stories of adventures that will encourage and inspire people," said Babb.
The trip into the Grand Canyon proved to be more than the chair could handle, breaking an axle 2 miles down. What could have been a major setback instead led to the inspiration for a newly designed chair—more like a mountain bike, less like a wheelchair.
- Courtesy AdvenChair
- The AdvenChair and company take on Smith Rock State Park.
"Dale [Neubauer] brought in his design engineer, Jack Arnold, into my project," said Babb. Utilizing technologies associated with bi-skis and mountain bikes, the group developed AdvenChair version 2.0 with an adjustable sit-ski seat, adjustable handlebars, larger 27.5-inch mountain bike wheels and high-grade aluminum mountain bike components. Neubauer, who owns Blue Moon Designs and developed the HeliLadder, a maintenance platform designed specifically for helicopter mechanics, also brought in local vendors to manufacture parts for the AdvenChair here in Central Oregon.
"Adaptive sports equipment is one of the most critical components to remove barriers to the outdoors for individuals with disabilities," said Pat Addabbo, Oregon Adaptive Sports executive director. "Geoff's AdvenChair fits the niche of providing an all-terrain adventure wheelchair for someone who needs more assistance."
Isaac Shannon, a student at Central Oregon Community College, has test run the AdvenChair several times. "I have a mitochondrial disease, which is a genetic disorder that makes me tire easily," said Shannon. "Before the AdvenChair I hadn't hiked in over 15 years, but now I feel free and independent in it. This chair really brightens up that opportunity for those of us who have physical limitations."
Helping individuals who have had a stroke get back outdoors is a critical aspect. "For someone who has had a stroke, there's so much overwhelming change at first that they often hunker down and isolate," said Carol-Ann Nelson, physical therapist and executive director and founder of Destination Rehab. "The AdvenChair opens up the possibilities for getting farther down the trail, and even getting out of the chair and doing therapy in nature."
Along the path to redesigning the AdvenChair, Babb had another stroke. "Twelve years to the day of my first stroke, I had another one," said Babb. "It was pretty obvious after having my second stroke I wasn't going back to work." Babb took his retirement from the BLM and now focuses his energy on the AdvenChair and the Onward Project.
- Courtesy AdvenChair
- Crater Lake National Park was the setting for the original prototype chair in 2015.
Though the group was ready to roll with production of the AdvenChair about a year ago, along came another bump in the trail: the pandemic. "We decided to pull the chair until things settled down," explained Babb.
But now, as of Dec. 1, the AdvenChair is on the market and Babb is taking orders through Feb. 15, or until they have 10 orders. The introductory price is $9,950 plus shipping. More than a dozen years in the making, Babb hopes his AdvenChair will fulfill a niche with its off-road capabilities and inspire people worldwide with limited mobility to access the healing power of nature and to "boldly go where no chair has gone before." Find out more at advenchair.com.