So I know the new chair is too narrow, but I thought I should take it out and give it a whirl to see how it rides over the places I normally go in order to get some idea of what I can expect from a rigid-framed chair.
Test 0: Get it in the Damned Car
With the wheels off it is just fractionally too wide to fit in the boot space of my car (Toyota Yaris - original model, so size of the current Aygo, not current Yaris), which admittedly is somewhat of a token. With two thirds of the back seat down I can fit it in facing front to rear, with the wheels on, with all of the back seat down, it will fit crossways, which is probably the best option for not blocking the rear view
Test 1: The Cobbles of Death
I needed to get my hair cut, so I parked in my usual spot behind Rochester cathedral and headed into town, the first c200m is pretty much exclusively brick paved road, frequently cut with cobbles (they had the 'brilliant' idea of using cobbles to mark where they've found evidence of the Roman walls, and I'm using the road because the pavement is worse, 'antique' stone slabs with lots of nooks and crannies to catch castors, where it isn't too narrow, or up a 12" kerb). In the clown chair the vibration from the brickwork isn't quite unbearable, but it's definitely getting there, in the GPV the road is almost a non-issue, just a slight rumble, the cobbles were possibly more awkward than usual, but that was partly down to the over-tippiness of the chair in it's current set-up, which is trying to wheelie any chance it gets. The ideal approach is probably to wheelie over the cobbles, but the current tippiness is just too unstable for me to be confident doing that. I did have to stop after about 50m and yank my jacket up above the waist, it was constantly being rubbed by the wheels otherwise.
The 200m along the highstreet was annoying, there's enough ornamental slabs and cobbles set into it that you're often catching one caster only and being yanked to the right. OTOH I didn't notice the camber of the pavement this time, which is usually yanking me constantly to the left. Overall, likely a definite improvement once the tippiness is fixed.
So I got my hair cut and headed back. Given the cobbles I decided to head up the other side of the road to the cathedral (which I normally do anyway, I only took the Cathedral side to test it out). That's slightly complicated by the (cobbled) entrance to a pub car park and the side road up to the castle, which does have kerb cuts. The car park entrance turned out to be a nuisance, it needed a slight wheelie to get over the lip back onto the pavement and the cobbles and slope were making it more complicated, plus tippiness, so I grabbed the brick pillar at the side to yank myself up, and the chair flicked around 90 degrees, with one set of wheels on the path, the other on the cobbles. I had to be rescued by a passing pedestrian. 5m later I hit the kerb cut onto the sideroad. Going down is no problem, it works against the tippiness. Going up is more of an issue, it exaggerates the tippiness, the only way to handle it was lean right forward and inch up, which bemused the passing traffic. I was getting noticeably tired by this point, back is slightly uphill and the constantly working against the tippiness was wearing. Given the issue with slopes I went a slightly different route back to the car. That does have one perfectly level section, and it was an absolute delight.
Test 2: PC World
I wanted to look around PC World to see what they had in the way of electric razors (I need to replace the foils and cutters on my existing one and the cost of that isn't much different to a cheap new one). So I parked up, and headed up to the rather long ramp up to the entrance. Tippiness again. I was rather amused by the contrast between the thoroughly Cha'am-accented 'Need a hand, mate?' from the guy behind me, and the Arabic (I think) he was using to his family. Again, on flat surfaces, it's absolutely ideal. OTOH PC World seem to have stopped stocking razors. Bah!
Test 3: Asda
I needed to do some shopping, so I got the chair out, stuffed my carrier bags between my knees and headed down to where they keep the wheelchair-adapted trolleys. *Headdesk* the GPV is too narrow, just, to engage with the connecting bars. I grabbed a few things I needed using a basket on my knee, and again, flat and smooth is great, but I'm gong to have to go back with the clown chair, which does work with the trolleys, to get the bulky stuff, and wheeling back to the car, slightly uphill, while trying to keep two carriers on my knees was, ahem, interesting.
Household access note:
The path up to my front door has two steps and the kerb at the edge of the drive (plus the typical lipped front door you get from double glazing companies). Getting the GPV down them was a pain. With more practise I might be able to wheelie it, but I went out with crutches and pushing the chair (awkward as it's low-backed and doesn't have push handles). Pushing it forwards probably explains why the paint on the footbar is completely missing, with the castors set towards the rear of their position range the footbar hits first if you just let it roll, tipping it is slightly better. Coming home I had a look at trying to wheelie up the kerb, but chickened out and pushed it in. I really should look at getting the path replaced with a ramp and a kerb cut, but I need to check the building regs on slope and rise height. it may be just too high to do in a straight run.
And once in the house I went pretty much straight to bed and slept for six hours (which was more to do with not sleeping well last night than anything else).
All the signs are there that a rigid framed chair will be massively better for me. Transport will be slightly more of a nuisance (unless I manage to get an L-shaped frame that can sit on the passenger seat with the wheels off). The GPV, though, is just too narrow. I could tolerate it for a couple of hours as I did today, longer I don't know, I'll experiment tomorrow. But the catching on clothes just emphasizes it isn't practical to keep it. And equally several issues I might have tolerated if it was as-advertised - solid treadless tyres on the main wheels, front castors needing new tyres/castors imminently - just add to the not this one feel. I'll open an issue with Ebay's resolution system saying 'not as advertised' in the morning. Postage was £50, so after refunding me and paying for return postage, they're going to be £100 out of pocket on a £200 item. If they offered me £100 off I might consider keeping it as a temporary chair I can use until I lay my hands on something better. Most of the issues with handling are the tippiness, which just needs the axle shifting. I don't have the torque wrenches needed, but I suspect my next door neighbour will have, and if I'm willing to wait a few weeks until my next trip to Durham, I'm absolutely certain my brother-in-law will either have them himself or will be able to borrow them from one of his friends in the garage trade.