ISS 2017 Program


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PS8.4: Simulating Terrain for Measuring Wheelchair Rolling Resistance

While ease-of-function in various terrains is important for wheelchair users in modern nations, for those in less resourced environments it can be a life threatening concern. In locations with rough pavement, dirt paths, and few smooth sidewalks, the difficulty of rolling causes physical exertion that can either compromise the user's health or cause them to avoid traveling outside their home.

One aspect of wheelchair function is the rolling resistance of the wheels. Different types and sizes of wheels roll more easily over different surfaces. There are commercial methods of measuring rolling resistance of common bicycle and automobile wheels assuming a smooth surface. However measuring wheel characteristics over such surfaces as brick pavers and grass paths is problematic.

The authors developed an instrumented three-wheeled cart and measured the force required to pull the cart over different surfaces at a constant velocity.  By using the same wheels at with the same loading, they were able to identify simple surfaces that would simulate the complex terrains of local environment. This will allow manufacturer's to compare wheel/tire combinations based on rolling performance, not just on smooth floors, but on natural terrain.


Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this session, attendees will be able to;



Patrick Joeseph Barba, BSMeng
Letourneau University
Longview, Texas
United States

Norman Reese



    1. Sauret, C., Vaslin, P. Bascou, J., Pillet, H., & Lavaste, F. (2011). Rolling resistance index of manual wheelchairs. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, 14(S1), 65-66.
    2. Van der Woude, L.H.V., Geurts, C., H. Winkelman, & Veeger, H.E.J., (2003). Measurement of wheelchair rolling resistance with a handle bar push technique. Journal of Medical Engineering & Technology, 27(6), 249-258.
    3. Frank, T.G. & Abel, E.W, (1989). Measurement of the turning, rolling, and obstacle resistance of wheelchair castor wheels. Journal of Biomedical Engineering, 11(11), 462-466.

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