You Do Need to Reinvent the Wheel

A wheel that folds. Why would you want a wheel that folds? If you sit where I sit, why wouldn’t you? From process to product, I love everything about MORPH folding wheels, especially after handling them today.

This invention hinges upon advocacy. Duncan Fitzsimons aimed to create a folding bicycle wheel while a graduate student at the Royal College of Art in London, so the story goes. When he took his wheel on the road and a barrage of emails from the wheelchair community argued for adaptation, he gave it the old college try. I’m not exactly sure when parent company Maddak got involved. But kind, approachable Director of Operations Kathleen O. Hanek tells me they conducted focus groups after focus group after focus group before bringing MORPH to market. One group rejected the original detachable axle. Who wants to fumble for a rolling axle while trying to reassemble a chair? Hence the automatic stop. This goes beyond designing with the end-user in mind. It’s a product predicated on partnership. Design with the user. Such a simple idea. So rarely realized.

It’s easy to understand why this wheel is getting attention. MORPH challenges the one immutable fact of wheels: circularity itself. I don’t know how many times I unfolded and then folded that wheel once it was in my hands, perhaps enough to try the patience of people around me. Oh, the elegant simplicity of it. The rugged beauty. The ovoid inspiration. It represents the kind of cognitive dissonance that marks break through ideas. How can it be both? It is, people. It is. Light yet sturdy.  Futuristic and classic. Practical but radical. I wheeled around the halls of the Hyatt. Assembly was effortless. The rim just a touch wider than my own. My ride as smooth as my trusty Quickie.

I like to think that MORPH is short for Morpheus, not the Matrix character, but the god of dreams. If you use a wheelchair or love a wheelchair user or have watched anyone in a wheelchair, you know that storing the wheels can be the most awkward part of any airplane journey or road trip or car ride. Imagine half the space. Picture a true carry-on chair. Now, thanks to MORPH wheels, I can.

When I reluctantly returned from my test drive, I gushed gratitude.

“We’re happy to send a set of wheels to opinion leaders like you,” Kathleen offered. Yes, please.

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4 Thoughts on “You Do Need to Reinvent the Wheel

  1. Andrea Baker on June 24, 2013 at 12:34 am said:

    You are truly an opinion leader!

  2. Skip on June 24, 2013 at 3:59 am said:

    I love knowing opinion leaders, especially those who write with such clarity and beauty! The key to this project is/was “design with the user”. Follow up with users, over time, will be essential to confirm sturdiness. Can you send me a video of how the MORPH wheel works?

  3. william on June 24, 2013 at 9:49 am said:

    Once again people with a disability are forced to conform to a society designed by the able bodied who refuse to negotiate our difference. If access were universal, a folding wheel would not be needed.

  4. !!!!

    That wheel is insanely original! One of man’s oldest tools just got a serious upgrade. Thanks for reporting in – and can’t wait to see one on your chair!

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