When I turned up for a charity walk in September, the last thing on my mind was taking an all-terrain wheelchair out for a spin.
The event in question was “Walk The MS Mile” in aid of Chilterns MS Centre, a charity very close to my heart. I can walk, but not very far and certainly not for a mile, and so I came fully prepared with my manual wheelchair and the trusty Team TeeJay who promised to give me a push around the course in Aylesbury.
Molten Rock had kindly sponsored the event and brought along their highly innovative vehicle, the Boma 7, to test drive.
Being a shy and retiring type, Linda Oatley, Chair and fellow patient of the MS Centre, staked her claim to the Boma 7 at first sight. And why wouldn’t she?
Before we had even left the car park, the Boma 7 was eliciting envious glances from passers-by. This is one funky looking piece of kit and to call it a wheelchair is a misnomer. In no way does this resemble a mobility aid; it’s more like a very groovy go-cart which anyone with a sense of fun and adventure, regardless of whether they are disabled or not, would love to take for a ride.
This point was proven when we reached Vale Park. Up to this point, we had been taking a fairly leisurely wheel along the public footpath and, although she was comfortable and clearly enjoying the experience, it was very evident that Linda was champing at the bit and dying to test the Boma 7 on some more challenging terrain.
No sooner had we entered the park gates than she was off like a greyhound out of the trap! She shot across the grass like a torpedo and headed straight for the skate park. I can only describe the kids’ faces as awe struck. They all abandoned their skate boards and stared open-mouthed as she bounced the Boma 7 up and down the concrete steps with consummate ease. “Lady, that is well sick!” declared one of the youngsters, to Linda’s obvious delight. I have to admit I sat in my wheelchair with just a hint of the green-eyed monster about me myself, feeling very much like the poor relation and knowing that I was missing out on a whole load of fun.
To my great surprise, given the obvious pleasure she was having, Linda offered to let me have a go. Well I didn’t need asking twice I can tell you, and once I had negotiated a rather ungainly embarkation process and caused much hilarity amongst the assembled crowd as all four of my limbs went in diametrically opposed directions, there was no holding me!
The Boma 7 is a surprisingly intuitive machine to drive. Steering is via handlebars with an inbuilt twist accelerator akin to a motorbike, when you release it the brake automatically activates so there is no fear of doing an impromptu somersault which has been known to occur when yours truly takes to two wheels, but that is a story for another day!
There is a tortoise or hare setting with a maximum speed of 8mph and as we were now confined to the footpath again I chose the former. I trundled along merrily back to the car park at a suitably sedate pace, bumped up the kerbs and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It is a very comfortable ride which is extremely easy to use, and I can see there is enormous potential to restore one’s independence and open up areas which would otherwise be totally inaccessible to those with any kind of mobility impairment.
My very brief experience in no way tested the Boma 7, it merely gave me a taster. Back in my dim and distant youth I used to enjoy orienteering, a pass time which is off limits for me now but with the Boma 7’s off road capabilities it would be a real possibility.
Further enhancing the fun factor is the point that it levels the playing field between disabled and non-disabled. If you are a fan of outdoor pursuits, want to “run” through the muddy woods with your dog or go for a spin on a pebble beach with your buddies, you can now do so without relying upon them to push you.
Of course there are some practicalities to consider, such as how to transport and store it (although there is a bespoke trailer available and it can apparently fit in most MPVs), and the inevitable cost factor. The standard version with handlebars starts at £8,775(+VAT)* and there is a joystick version at £11,105(+VAT)*, plus there are numerous extras and customisation options available at extra cost, so this is most certainly not a cheap vehicle by anyone’s standards.
There are however grant-giving organisations who may give funding, depending upon individual circumstances, and this is definitely an avenue worth exploring.
So, in summary, in my opinion the Boma 7 is a beast of a machine with the capacity to tackle pretty much any obstacle in its’ path. The very definite beauty of it in my eyes, is the rugged design which is just not what you expect from a mobility aid. It literally opens up all areas, is fabulous fun to use and restores one’s independence.
And on the scale of coolness, which runs from zero to ten, Boma 7 scores around a gazillion.
Do I want one? Hell yes! It is, quite simply, a beautiful beast.
For more information, see www.moltenrock.co.uk
* May be exempt from VAT if you are qualifying disabled.
P.S. Sadly, since this article was written, Molten Rock have ceased trading. However, I’m pleased to report that the Boma 7 has been rescued by Equal Adventure who plan to relaunch it in March 2017. Watch www.equaladventure.org for future developments.
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