Joelette Wheelchair - All Terrain Chair
Adjustability and Customization
Overall Comfort Level
Ease of Use
Based on ancient, proven technology, Joelette Wheelchairs are amazing and built to last, but they’re not for everyone. Recommended for people with severe mobility issues who need (and have) trusty assistants at the ready to help get them where they want to go.
Table of Contents
- 1 An Overview of the Joelette All Terrain Chair
- 2 Pros & Cons of the Joelette All Terrain Chair
- 3 Joelette Wheelchair Review Conclusion
Do you suffer from a severe mobility issue that makes it difficult, if not impossible for you to use a conventional wheelchair?
Are you looking for a mobility aid that you can use (with the help of family and friends) to get you back into the great outdoors?
If you answered yes to either of those questions, then you’re going to like what you will see in this review, even if you ultimately decide that this isn’t the chair for you.
The Joelette wheelchair comes to us from Europe and won an honorable mention in our review of the best manual wheelchairs for rough terrain. It would have placed higher, but given the particulars of its design, we rated it more as a niche product than something that would be suitable for everyone.
Even so, it's sleek, stylish and attractive -- something that’s sure to get lots of attention and start conversations anywhere you go.
In the next several sections, we’ll tell you about everything it can and can’t do, leaving it to you to decide if this is the chair you’ve been looking for. Either way, we think you’ll be impressed. Let’s take a closer look.
An Overview of the Joelette All Terrain Chair
Visually interesting. That’s usually one of the first things people think when they see the Joelette wheelchair for the first time. You don’t see many wheelchairs like this in the United States, and it’s a guaranteed conversation starter.
Designed like a rickshaw, which is one of the oldest forms of human conveyance, the technology is easy to use, intuitive, and needless to say, has been refined over centuries of continuous use and testing. Manufactured by a well-respected French company, the Joelette is a common sight in parks and wild places all across Europe but is virtually unknown in the United States.
A Few Notes About the Joelette
As interesting and appealing as that may sound, there are a couple of things to be aware of.
First, note that the seat width is a mere 18”, and that the maximum supported weight tops out at three hundred pounds.
There’s no wiggle room here (literally and figuratively)! If you can’t fit into the seat or are heavier than that, don’t buy this model; there’s no reinforced frame option or wider seat available.
Also, note that this is a one-wheeled chair. It’s just not possible to move around in it by yourself, so you’ll need at least one and can have up to three “Sherpas” helping get you where you want to go.
If you don’t have access to people who can and are willing to serve in that role, this isn’t the chair you want. If you do and are looking for something rugged, unique, and boasting distinctive styling, this is a great option to consider.
The idea of a one-wheeled wheelchair might raise a few curious eyebrows, but honestly, it makes a lot of sense for the right kind of user and in the right situations.
The Joelette has a superb suspension system, and its single all-terrain wheel makes it easy to navigate even the most treacherous terrains that a classically designed wheelchair would be utterly useless in. This then, is a true adventuring wheelchair, designed to go off-road, off-trail and anywhere your “Sherpas” can take you.
Adjustability & Comfort
The Joelette is ergonomically designed, and the seat is generously padded, so it offers a surprisingly good seating experience. Both the footrest and the (optional) headrest can be tweaked to maximize your comfort. It’s not great for sleeping, but you won’t be uncomfortable while spending the day in it.
The manufacturer has even taken steps to help ensure the comfort of the people conveying you from one place to another (your “Sherpas”).
It’s designed such that from one to three people can power the chair, with one being in the front (your point man straps into a harness to help spread the weight more evenly across his or her body) and up to two pushing from the back. Very handy!
With up to three people on the job, no one person is exerting themselves unduly, and it makes navigating even the roughest terrain a much easier proposition.
On-Board Storage & Extras
Given that the Joelette was designed to go just about anywhere, the manufacturer has taken steps to make using it as easy as possible and offer some medium-value options to make an outdoor excursion as hassle-free and comfortable as possible. These include things like:
In addition to that, you have the option to add a headrest (not included as standard equipment), a cup or bottle holder, and you can upgrade the standard safety belt to a four-point harness if you prefer that. Side handles and armrest extensions can also be added at your option, giving you a surprising number of ways to tweak and personalize the machine for how you want to use it.
The Joelette comes with a handy storage bag to make moving it from place to place easier and more convenient, and collapses nicely, with a footprint small enough to fit in the trunk space of just about any full-sized sedan, hatchback or SUV.
It weighs in at 59 pounds, which is significantly heavier than simple transport chairs. But then, no transport chair ever made can go to the places the Joelette can take you. With a couple of assistants to help you out, they’ll be able to unload it and get it ready to ride in a matter of minutes.
Easy for Your Family and Friends to Use (You Have A Role to Play Too!)
As we said early on, the Joelette is based on ancient technology. To say that it's a proven design is an understatement. Sit down, strap yourself in (or get help doing that), and relay. Your trusty assistants grab the hand grips and get you where you want to go.
Other than taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the location of the brakes, and your assistants learning the optimal way of handling and steering the device, there’s really nothing to learn from an operational perspective. Anybody who’s ever used a rickshaw or wheelbarrow will master it in a matter of seconds.
Teamwork and Practice
Teamwork, however, is another matter, and this is the key to a successful trip in the Joelette. The front and rear “Sherpas” need to act in concert, led by the person in the front who provides the bulk of the locomotive power, supported by the back 1-2 Sherpas, who also serve as balancers, ensuring a smooth ride.
The person sitting in the chair though also has a role to play on the team. He or she is essentially the director and charged with the task of letting the rest of the team know the moment things start going sideways, or the chair begins to feel unbalanced so that a correction can be made.
That part might take a bit of practice, but once your “team” is comfortable working together, getting you from place to place will be second nature.
Navigating and Traversing
Note that the equation changes in subtle ways when traversing up or down a hill.
When going uphill, your front Sherpa, outfitted in his/her harness, provides the bulk of the pulling power, ensures proper traction at every step, and scouts the path forward. Depending on the slope, the rear guides can provide additional power by pushing in concert with the lead.
Going downhill, the rear guides have a more pivotal role to play, activating the brakes as needed to control the descent so as not to run over the Sherpa on point.
Downhill navigation is probably the trickiest to master (especially if the slope is particularly steep) because it requires excellent communication from the Sherpa on point and must make sure to “go with the flow,” and not try to hold the wheelchair back since the rear Sherpas are attending to the braking function.
In summary then: The machine is incredibly simple to use, but to use well, you’ll need to spend some time practicing as a team on gentle up/down slopes until you get the hang of it. It’s fun though, and the adventure will help bring your family even closer together.
Pros & Cons of the Joelette All Terrain Chair
In many ways, people who opt to buy a Joelette don’t select it as much as the wheelchair chooses them. The various design decisions made in the creation of the product all but guarantee this outcome. Consider these:
Relatively few people will decide to buy or not this model based on its feature set unless they’re comparing one “Sherpa-Style” wheelchair over another. Overwhelmingly, the considerations mentioned above will be the deciding factors in play here.
Joelette Wheelchair Review Conclusion
While we like, admire, and appreciate the chair, we readily admit that this type of wheelchair isn’t for everyone, regarding it as more of a niche product. That said, if you:
Then this is a great option. On that basis, we provisionally recommend the Joelette wheelchair for people who feel that the bullets above describe them and their situation.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Joelette Wheelchair User Manual.
- Joelette and Co., Official Brand Website.
- Trekking by wheelchair at the end of the Earth, San Francisco Chronicle.
- Wheel the world: One MBA student’s quest to make the outdoors accessible to all, Berkeley News.
- Abbie joins the race with Joelette chair, North Lanarkshire Council.
- Hiking and skiing with a wheel barrow - Interview with Ferriol Matrat, REHACARE.