Friday, August 8, 2008

Eliot Inventor Shatters Stereotypes
with ‘The Renegade’

By Devin Beliveau
Staff Columnist

Hunting and fishing are not activities usually associated with wheelchairs, but that may soon change thanks to John Rackley and his new invention: The Renegade Wheelchair. “The Renegade is the mountain bike of wheelchairs,” he explained during an interview at his Eliot home. “It can handle just about any terrain: mud, snow, beach sand, in your yard and in the woods.”
Rackley, an Eliot native, lost the use of his legs in a trampoline accident 6 years ago. “After my injury, I couldn’t get out to where I used to hunt.” Thus, the inspiration for the Renegade. The concept for his invention came from the mountain bike he purchased for his daughter Kayla. He noticed its thick tires and wondered whether that same off-road approach could work for wheelchairs. “I began 6 years ago using bikes from the dump. It worked, so then I bought two new bikes and put those together.” And he was off and running.
Rackley completed the Renegade in early 2006, and has since found other ways to put it to work. “It’s opened up all kinds of things. Now I plow my driveway with it. I can push 8-10 inches of fluffy snow with it. I can also attach a yard trailer. I pulled 300 lbs in the yard cart the other day.” The Renegade is powered entirely by the user, and does not use a motor.
In July, the Renegade made a successful appearance at the Paralyzed Veterans of America Wheelchair Games in Omaha, Nebraska. “Hundreds there were interested, and we are now completing a contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Rackley has partnered with AlphaOne Center for Independent Living in South Portland to promote the Renegade, and has also hired a salesman for what he anticipates will be a large demand.
“There are 1.6 million wheelchair users in the US,” according to Rackley, “and this is for any wheelchair user that wants to get out in the woods, work in the yard or go in the snow. We now have demo chairs for people to go into the woods with me for a couple hours.”
The Renegade will soon make an appearance on the hunting show North American Safari, to be aired both on the Sportsman Channel and the Pursuit Channel. “We are going wild hog hunting in South Carolina, and I can’t wait.”
The Renegade is now being manufactured by Don’s Sheet Metal in Biddeford. The current price is $3,995.
For more information and to see video clips of the Renegade in action, go to

Caption: John Rackley does some ocean fishing in The Renegade. ( photo)