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Preparing the hands. Especially if you are learning, keep your fingernails trimmed short so they are less likely to tear. You may want to wear fingerless gloves, such as weightlifting gloves, to protect your hands from both dirt and injury.
Gripping the wheels. A manual chair meant to be under the control of its occupant will have a metal rim intended for the hands, called a push rim. This rim does not touch the ground. It may be easier for you to grip the whole wheel (both the rim and the tire). Either way is fine.
Going forwards. To go forwards, reach backwards and grip the the wheels as far back as you can. Push the wheels forward by keeping hold of the rims and moving them in a forwards direction.
Going backwards. Reach forwards and grip the wheels, and push them backwards. Be careful, as the little wheels at the front will need to swivel round. Don't forget to look behind you!
Turning right. Hold the right wheel still, and push the left wheel forwards.
Turning left. Hold the left wheel still, and push the right wheel forwards.
Spinning on the spot. If in a tight corner, you may need to spin on the spot. Push one wheel forwards and the other one backwards simultaneously.
Stopping. Grip the rims and use friction to slow them down. Pinch the push rim between your thumb and the side of the first joint of your index finger. If the rims are wet, pinch the tire instead. Use caution, as this friction creates heat that can burn your hands if you are on a slope or stopping suddenly.
Staying still. If you will be staying still for some time - e.g. to sit at a table - or you will be using your hands for something - e.g. to take off your coat - then put the brakes on -- or else you might roll backwards!
Going over bumps. Avoid bumps where possible.
- Go slowly at first. Hitting a bump (even one as small as 1cm) at speed can catapult you out of your chair and across the floor.
- It is useful to practice popping a wheelie to lift front wheels off the ground long enough to go over a small bump.
- Back over the bump. Larger obstacles such as curbs can be traversed by backing up them slowly and safely. Do not back down a large obstacle or you will tip over.
Curb or step hopping. With good balance, some people can go down a curb or step. This takes practice.
- Stop before the curb and concentrate. Think with your wheels and your center of gravity. Be one with the chair.
- Lean slightly forward during takeoff.
- In mid air, you will need to correct by steadying yourself a little bit backwards, so that your back wheels hit very slightly before your front wheels. Be careful not to fall backwards.
- Best practiced with a helmet, and start with a small step.
- Fingerless gloves help prevent blisters, wheel burn, and callouses.
- Practice wheelies on soft carpet. It is easier to stay balanced than on hard surfaces. Consider wearing pads and a helmet until you get the hang of it.
- Spoke guards are inexpensive, decorative, and can protect your fingers from getting caught in spokes.
- Special push rims are available for people with low grip strength.
- Large, pneumatic-tire front wheels make it easier to go over bumps, but will slow you down. Hard, small front wheels mean you can go fast but have to pay lots of attention to bumps.
- Consider wearing a seat belt until you get proficient at navigating slopes and bumps without losing your balance.