Keys and Tips for Dynamic Wheelchair Bowling

Dynamic wheelchair bowling is the sport that was created by the development of the IKAN (“I can”) Bowler. The bowling is “dynamic” because it incorporates the movement of the wheelchair.

The bowling process with an IKAN Bowler is basically the same as what able-bodied bowlers perform: setup for the shot, then physically approach the foul line and release the ball as you stop short of the foul line. Because the two processes are essentially equivalent, the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) sanctioned the IKAN Bowler for league or tournament play — any league or tournament, anywhere in the U.S. — bowling with and/or against able-bodied bowlers or fellow IKAN Users.

This opened up the game/sport of bowling to wheelchair users, and especially power wheelchair users (who are typically thought of as society’s most physically-limited people, yet we can compete on a fair “playing field” with able-bodied bowlers:).

With the formalities established above, I’ll now discuss how to compete as effectively as possible, i.e. keys and tips for dynamic wheelchair bowling. To qualify myself to do so, Claude Giguere and I are the two people credited with co-inventing the IKAN Bowler, and I was also the first wheelchair user to break the 200-score barrier with an IKAN Bowler.

This is quite long, so here are the topics I discuss:

• PROPER IKAN BOWLER ATTACHMENT AND SETUP
• CHAIR IN (AT-LEAST) DECENT DRIVING CONDITION
— UPDATE! 5/10/2009
— UPDATE: 5/30/2009
— STOPPING THE CHAIR WITH THE KILL SWITCH
— UPDATE: 1/2/2012
• KNOWING (AND LEARNING) YOUR BALL
• BUYING A BALL
• BOWLING STRATEGY
• WHEELCHAIR DRIVING TIPS (FOR BOWLING:)
• A DRIVE MODE FOR BOWLING
• MY DRIVE SETTINGS FOR BOWLING
• HOW TO KEEP SCORE
• HOW TO SCORE “BIG”
• IKAN BOWLER STORAGE AND TRANSPORTATION

You can scroll down to see the above topics.

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Ok, in order to bowl to the best of your ability, there are three keys from a functional standpoint:

1. Your IKAN Bowler needs to be PROPERLY attached and setup for your chair.
2. Your wheelchair needs to be in at-least decent driving condition.
3. You need to know what your ball will do when it comes off your Bowler.

The above three components are necessary to give you the best opportunity to bowl well.

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PROPER IKAN BOWLER ATTACHMENT AND SETUP

The IKAN Bowler has two main components: the Universal Mount and the IKAN Bowler Arm (the well-engineered “ramp” portion). Instructions for properly setting up the Universal Mount are available here: http://www.ikanbowler.com/UserGuides/0562UniversalMount.pdf

But I want to stress a few things. The clamps should be adjusted so they are as wide as the chair’s legrests (and should not be attached to power-elevating legrests; contact us if your chair has them). And the clamps should snap securely in place, and hold the “V” grooves flush to the each legrest, without sliding. Also, the mounting bar (the bar that the clamps are attached to; see above file for a picture) should appear level (horizontal).

If the IKAN User sits with his/her head more to the right or left of center in his/her chair, then consider sliding the mounting bar toward that side, so the person is as “directly behind” the ball as possible. That’s assuming he/she can see over the ball. If the person cannot see over the ball, ask if he/she would like the mounting bar centered or off to either side. Our instructions say to center the mounting bar, which is good general advice, but I’m pointing out that the mounting bar can go a little left or right if the user desires.

If your body is capable, I think it’s best to be centered in your chair and sitting “as tall” as possible (i.e. not sliding or slouched down). To ensure this, I tilt all the way back in my chair, and have my caregiver pull me up by my armpits; this helps center me in the chair when I sit back up. Incidentally, I always tilt back for at least one minute in between games to relieve the pressure on my sitting bones and to help my circulation (click this link for the importance of doing so roughly every half hour: http://www.lookmomnohands.net/pressure_relief.htm).

Instructions for properly setting up the IKAN Bowler Arm are available here: http://www.ikanbowler.com/UserGuides/0565BowlingArm.pdf

Once setup, place the bowling ball on the “launcher surface” (at the top of the ramp) and put the “ball release” in locked position (so the ball won’t come down). Now check both bubble levels again, and make sure the bottom caster is about one finger-width above the floor (between one-quarter and one-half inch, roughly).

The two levels are key. The front level determines if your Bowling Arm is perfectly straight up and down, i.e. perpendicular to the floor (and it needs to be, because it’s more difficult to bowl with an askew ramp). When your chair is mostly upright, in the position in which you intend to bowl, the back/rear level needs to indicate that your bowler is slightly tilted back (see picture in above instructions). You don’t want it perfectly level (if it was, your ball would roll off too early) but you don’t want your Bowler to be tilted too far back either, because it would take too much speed to get the ball to come down when you stop.

The reason the caster needs to be properly positioned is because it supports the end of the Bowling Arm when the ball comes down. That does two important things: (1) it helps maximize ball speed (our patent-pending design features a parabolic shape which translates the inertia and gravitational down force into maximum ball speed); and (2) it also makes for a smooth delivery and minimizes the potential for wear and tear on your wheelchair.

Incidentally, if my ball is seemingly going off-mark, I’ll have my front bubble checked, to see if the Bowling Arm is perpendicular (but there are other reasons your ball could go off-line from where you aim that I’ll discuss in the next section). If your caddy accidentally kicks the end of the Bowler (hopefully they don’t trip and fall) or if he/she sets the ball down atop your Bowler very hard, it could get the Bowler (and front bubble) out of whack. But it’s easy for them to fix, so no worries. I often bowl 3-5 games without needing the Bowling Arm adjusted.

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CHAIR IN (AT-LEAST) DECENT DRIVING CONDITION

I used to think my wheelchair needed to drive and stop perfectly straight, but that’s not practical with most of us, and not totally necessary, I believe. Bowling success still comes down to the skill and knowledge of the driver, and how well we make adjustments.

Pay attention to what your chair does as you drive and when you stop. Does it pull right or left as you’re going forward? Does it stop immediately? Does it tail off to the left or right when you stop?

Currently, my chair tends to pull to the right when I’m driving forward. So, as I approach the line, I just correct as I go. The key, obviously, is that you want to be aimed properly when you stop. It’s kind of like sighting a gun, and aiming at a target. But also, my chair now tails off to the left when I stop (this makes for some challenging bowling:). So I have to aim further right than I would normally.

With my chair doing this, I have to share new info I just discovered. I’ve never bowled extensively with a hard tail off (it’s a problem with the brakes & motors, which I think are combined in one unit for each drive wheel on most chairs). I’ve noticed that when it tails off to the left, if that causes my Bowler to be aimed too far left (and it will if I don’t initially stop with it to the right of my target) I will try to make a quick correction to the right — WHILE the ball is coming down. Sometimes this works, if the ball is still near the top, but a few times, when setup perfectly to bowl a straight ball, I was absolutely shocked to see my ball go significantly off-target (versus where my Bowler was pointed when finally stopped).

I realized that if I’m turning my chair while the ball is coming down, some of the inertia from the lateral movement “stays” with the ball, after it rolls off the end of the ramp — even if I’m stopped before the ball reaches the end. I sat at the foul line in disbelief of what the ball did, so I asked my caddy to check the front bubble (which indicates an askew ramp and can cause the shot to travel a different path than expected). My bubble was fine and the knobs were tight; my clamps were flush, snug, and holding the Bowler level and with the caster just off the floor (see above regarding their setup). So then I paid more attention to my last-second lateral corrections and realized that unless the ball is near the top (and has enough ramp to travel to lose the lateral inertia) then it can affect the shot significantly.

So with my chair pulling right as I drive forward, and tailing left as I stop, that just barely qualifies as being in “at-least decent driving condition” — but I managed a 179 in my 5th game (after I figured out how to adjust for it) which is always a good score (unless you’re trying to beat someone who just scored higher:). I’m used to bowling without having to think about my driving; I’ve bowled enough that it’s just natural. So accounting for the extra “left tail off” isn’t an easy adjustment (I would say that sometimes it seems to tail more left than other times, but that messes with my head and if I think it’s not consistent, it means I just have to get lucky with where I stop and how much it tails… “aaaaaaaahh!” he screams:).

So what is the fix? My chair acts as if the left brake is engaging too soon or the right brake isn’t engaging (either would explain the left tail off). We can try to adjust how my brakes are programmed to stop, which might help, but most likely I need the brake/motor units replaced. But I’m sitting in a wheelchair that’s 11.5 years old, and insurance companies and/or Medicare/Medicaid typically approve new chairs every five years. So I’m either getting a new chair, or getting the brakes & motors replaced on here (or both; my brakes & motors have been replaced before, but not in a long time). But until then, I just have to anticipate what my chair will do, and counteract it (by aiming significantly to the right of my target).

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UPDATE! 5/10/2009

Ok, I wrote the above before bowling yesterday, and shared all that detail in case it might help someone with a similar problem.

Yesterday, I “fought” my chair for four games and gave great effort, but my scores ranged from 111-130 — I simply couldn’t get any consistency with my chair tailing off to the left when I would stop. Talking afterward about getting a new chair with my buddy Ben, who has a chair I’m considering and he is also a sip-and-puff user like me, I asked if he liked his chair because I’d heard that the sip-and-puff was somewhat slow to respond (e.g. the chair wouldn’t stop immediately). He said he uses his kill switch to stop quickly. I hadn’t tried that.

A kill switch is designed to stop one’s chair if you lose your driving method, e.g. if I hit a bump and my sip-and-puff straw gets away from my mouth as I’m driving forward the kill switch can stop me from running into danger.

So in Publix after bowling, with nice, level aisles, I asked Jackie to put me in my bowling mode (more on that below) and I simulated bowling and stopping via my kill switch (in pictures on my website, it’s the yellow switch next to my head) and to my amazement, my chair stopped quickly — AND STRAIGHT! NO TAIL OFF!

So I started thinking about it, and the “stop” input is the same as “turn left” but it’s a hard sip, not a soft sip. So I realized I must have a sip-and-puff problem, because my attempt to input a hard sip, i.e. stop, it was registering as a soft sip initially (which turned me left) before it finally stopped. That explains why the amount it would turn me was inconsistent (one time it would turn me so that I needed to aim two-feet right of my target pin, and the next time it wouldn’t turn me as much — very frustrating).

So Jackie looked at my sip-and-puff which has a section of relatively thin tubing — and she noticed three small holes in my tubing (almost pin-sized, like the tube was pinched repeatedly; I’m not sure how). But we have almost identical tubing with my nebulizer setups, and they sent a kind I don’t like, so Jackie cut the one I don’t like (a fantastic use for the tubing) and fixed it! I noticed my sip-and-puff is is more responsive, and that’s just doing weightshifts. But I’m 99.9% sure that she solved my tail-off problem, or at least, it’s not my right brake that is causing it. It’s my sip-and-puff, and I think it’s fixed. The brake worked fine when I stopped via my kill switch in Publix, so this all makes perfect sense. WOOHOO! :-)

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UPDATE: 5/30/2009

I thought my chair was fixed. It’s a little better, but there’s still something wrong with my sip-and-puff. It isn’t as responsive as it used to be, or should be. My sip-and-puff control system has a difficult time recognizing a hard sip and a hard puff — which, depending on whether I’m driving forward or in reverse — those are my braking/stop inputs.

Sip-and-puff users have four different inputs available: hard sip, soft sip, hard puff, and soft puff. For the difference between a sip and a puff, think about drinking a glass of milk with a straw. Take a drink — that’s a sip. A puff would be “blowing milk bubbles” with your straw.

Even when I conscientiously sip or puff as hard as I can (my ability to do so is strong; that isn’t the problem) the control unit doesn’t immediately recognize the hard sip (or puff). Before it recognizes the sip (or puff) as hard, it first recognizes the sip (or puff) as soft — and those are turning inputs. So as it “takes time” to recognize the sip (or puff) as hard, it turns me until it recognizes I am trying stop (by giving the correct hard input). Does that make sense?

That explains why I thought my right brake wasn’t engaging. Because trying to stop while going forward, my hard sip was initially misinterpreted as a soft sip, which means turn left. So I would turn left for about a second, before stopping, and since I tried to stop with my Bowler aimed at my target, a second-worth of turning left would make me miss the shot by a LOT.

Granted, I have been trying to compensate for this left turn by aiming significantly to the right of my target, but I estimated one second of turning (i.e. soft sip recognition) before stopping (hard sip recognition) and I’m certain sometimes it would recognize the hard sip faster than others (meaning it could turn left anywhere from a half-second, to one and a half seconds, roughly). That means I simply had to get lucky and hope however far right I aimed would match how much left I would get turned before the stop was recognized.

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STOPPING THE CHAIR WITH THE KILL SWITCH

Ben mentioned stopping his chair with his kill switch. Since the kill switch is supposed to immediately stop the chair, I thought I could use it to stop straight (from my earlier thoughts on this, it seemed to work great in Publix). What I found when bowling, was that the kill switch seemed to have a slight delay before it stopped me. Again, from my earlier thoughts on this, you may remember my chair pulls to the right as I go forward. However, that is influenced by the direction of my casters. For example, with my chair pulling right, my casters are going to the right, and if I hit the kill switch, the slight delay would result in my chair “drifting” farther right than I wanted.

However, if I gave a left turn input and got my casters going a little left, and then hit the kill switch, with the short delay, the amount of “right drift” was significantly less than the scenario in the above paragraph. But to execute shots, I often am turning either right or left (slightly either way) as I approach, to get my chair and Bowler in the proper position. So there were times when I would turn slightly left before hitting the kill switch, and my chair would only drift back right slightly before it stopped. Then other times, if I made a slight right turn before hitting the kill switch, it would drift right more than the previous scenario. THAT DROVE ME NUTS! :-)

As you can imagine (if I described that well) I had an extremely difficult time trying to execute shots with any consistency, and of course, I missed many. I think my four scores ranged from like 109-128, and when my sip-and-puff stops me “immediately,” my average game is usually about 150 (sometimes, when I’m bowling particularly well, my average can be quite a bit over 150, but there are times my average is under 150 even with a properly functioning chair).

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UPDATE: 1/2/2012

I eventually realized that my sip-and-puff tubing was super clogged and very little air could get through.  Once my sip-and-puff was replaced, my chair started stopping straight again.

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KNOWING (AND LEARNING) YOUR BALL

First off, you should want to use a 16-pound bowling ball. That’s the heaviest legal size. The heavier the ball, the greater the force (impact) it will have on the pins, and the greater the “pin action” will be (and greater pin action equals greater scores). I’d be happy to elaborate on the physics of it if desired.

Ok, you have to know what your ball will do (curve left, right, how much, stay straight, etc) in order to know where you want to aim and how you want to setup for your next shot. You should have choices.

Every bowling ball has some type of weight inside of it, and depending on the ball’s positioning, the weight inside will cause the ball to curve one way or another, or go straight.
My ball curves or goes straight according to this chart: http://www.lookmomnohands.net/sample_ball_position_chart.htm

But I know IKAN Users with the same brand & style of ball (mine is a Columbia White Dot, one of the least expensive bowling balls made) and their balls break/curve differently than mine (not according to the above chart).

You don’t have to own your own ball, but I highly recommend it, because otherwise you have to learn a house ball (one from the bowling alley) every time you bowl.

To learn what a ball will do… I would use my above chart and position your chair with the end of the Bowling Arm just behind the foul line, aiming straight ahead, and straight at the center arrow on the bowling lane. Using my chart, put the ball in each of the positions shown on the chart, and roll it off the Bowler to see how it curves (or doesn’t) in each position. Just keep your chair setup to roll straight down the middle of the lane and bowl as if you’re using a stationary ramp. You could do this every time you go bowling with a house ball, or you could buy a ball.

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BUYING A BALL

If you’re looking for the absolute least expensive option, some bowling alleys will sell you a used house ball right off the racks for probably something quite reasonable (like $20 or maybe even $10). But if you’re going to buy a house ball, get a signed note from management describing the ball and stating they sold you the ball. This could be important if you’re bowling at their bowling alley, or any alley, who might have the same type of house balls.

For reasons stated above, you should want a 16-pound ball. Any type should work with an IKAN Bowler, but please read the next three paragraphs.

Some Quad Squad Bowlers use undrilled bowling balls successfully. I personally think it’s more difficult to learn an undrilled ball, and it’s more difficult for a caddy to carry and setup for you. But if your primary caddy or caddies don’t mind carrying an undrilled ball, and have the patience to help you learn the ball (there’s a dot on every undrilled ball that supposedly identifies the center of gravity, I think, and between the dot and the ball’s logo, that gives two identifying markers that you can use to test the ball in different positions) in theory, it would be better than a drilled ball (if for nothing else, without drilling three finger holes, the ball would have greater mass and therefore more force at impact).

I actually tried an undrilled ball when we were first developing the IKAN Bowler, and I couldn’t keep the undrilled ball on the lane. However it was setup, it would typically go in one gutter or the other, even though I was attempting to roll it right down the middle. Then we tried a drilled house ball, and with my first shot, I hit the headpin and knocked down 9 total pins.

If I was buying a ball, I would go to a bowling alley with a Pro Shop (they sell balls) and simply start trying different balls in stationary fashion as described above. I would start with the cheapest balls (plastic covered balls) — even used balls — and if I found one that curved quite a bit both ways, and would also go straight, that’s what I would get if cost was a concern.  If you don’t find any you like, or if cost is a big concern, try a bunch of house balls until you find one you like and ask management if you can buy it (if so, get something in writing that says you own the ball, especially if you’re going to bowl at that alley).

If cost wasn’t a concern, I would try some more Pro Shop balls, especially some of the more expensive ones, because those balls, in theory, are better (the way they are made might make it spin faster). I would try to see if the better balls give better performance — either by a ball speed increase, or a greater curve — both of which would increase the impact between the ball and pins, and therefore increase pin action and your score.

I discuss buying a rolling ball bag in the “IKAN Bowler Storage and Transportation” section near the end of this blog entry.

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BOWLING STRATEGY

Some people bowl with every ball setup to go straight, no matter what the shot is (whether it’s a strike or spare attempt, and no matter which pin or pins remain if it’s a spare attempt). That’s fine; some people are good at it, but for strike attempts, it’s difficult to get the proper angle on the headpin, a.k.a. 1-pin, for a strike.This link shows where you should aim for a strike attempt, and also how to pickup a particularly nasty split: http://www.lookmomnohands.net/dynamic_wheelchair_bowling_tips.htm

Personally, for a strike attempt, I like start the ball out to the right side of the lane and have a pretty big curve to the left, and hopefully it will hit right in the “pocket.” The above link shows where the pocket is, and also where to hit the headpin for a Jersey or Brooklyn side strike (they mean the same thing; the link shows Jersey side for a right-handed bowler; it’s the reverse for left-handed bowlers).

On strike attempts, right-handed professional bowlers almost always curve the ball from right to left into the pocket, so that’s what I try to emulate (except my ball is traveling at about one-third of the speed of able-bodied male pros; what we IKAN Users lack in ball speed, we try to make up for with precision). If you hit directly on the nose of the headpin (between the two dots at the above link) that usually results in a nasty split (usually some combination of the 6, 7, 9, and 10 pins is left — see the above link).

For spare attempts, my fellow Quad Squad Bowler Alex likes to use a moderate left or right curve, depending on what is left. I typically use a straight ball on every spare attempt. When we’re both bowling well, we usually convert the majority of our of the makeable spares (everything but nasty splits, although as the above link says, I have picked up the 6-7-10 split six times, but considering how often I’ve had it, I convert it probably 2% of the time:).

Some splits are fairly makeable, and actually all but the 7-10 and 4-6-7-10 are possible (we don’t have enough ball speed to slam either the 7 or the 10 off the side wall and over to the other corner pin on the 7-10 split; for the 4-6-7-10 split, it’s possible to just shave the outer edge of the 6-pin and have it slide across the lane and hit the 7-pin while the ball gets the 10-pin, that’s what the above link shows, but sliding across to get both the 4-pin and 7-pin doesn’t work, and neither would the reverse shot).

Where to setup on the lane… that depends on what shot you are attempting and how you want to approach it. I like a long approach, so I always start back by the ball return. But some people use a shorter approach, which is ok (but it’s not dynamic wheelchair bowling if your chair is stationary and you push the ball off — that’s another sport called, yep, stationary ramp bowling — but the IKAN Bowler is great for it also, because the chair user can adjust the ramp him/herself, whereas some stationary ramp bowlers don’t have the strength or arm ability to move the ramp themselves; they have to ask for assistance).

On my strike attempts, I usually position my chair roughly in line with the third arrow from the left — but I drive toward the center arrow, and try to put the ball between the center arrow and the arrow to the right of center. My chair is usually angled slightly to the right after I stop. When I do it properly, it usually puts my ball out to the right pretty far (it probably gets to about 10-12 inches from the gutter, I’m guessing) and then it should come back and hopefully hit right “in the pocket” (see above link).

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WHEELCHAIR DRIVING TIPS (FOR BOWLING:)

I cannot emphasize bowling relatively “slow and in control” enough. By slow, I mean roughly the equivalent to an adult walking pace. You don’t want to attempt to sprint from the short distance between the ball return and foul line. I tested that (I basically put my chair in sprint mode) and what little I gained in ball speed, I lost much more accuracy, and speed without accuracy means fast gutter balls (or errant shots).

If you’re curious as to my speed tests… my chair will do about six mph. I setup Drive 4 to give me 100% speed in first gear (this is fun for an empty parking lot, but dangerous just about everywhere else:). Not only is it extremely difficult to stop at the right time (the total distance between where I start by the ball return to the foul line is about 12 feet, 15 at the most) but I had NO time to turn and essentially no accuracy. Additionally, it only took my ball speed up about one mph.

I tested the IKAN Bowler both as a stationary ramp and dynamically. As a stationary ramp it produced a ball speed of about 6.0 mph. When bowling dynamically, at appropriate driving speeds, the ball speeds range from roughly 6.1 to 6.5 mph. My ball speeds are usually closer to 6.1 mph, but my teenage buddy Alex likes to drive a little faster, and his ball speeds are closer to 6.5 mph.

When I tried crazy bowling at 100% speed (incidentally, I did this after hours with management’s permission — if they saw a chair user driving that fast they would definitely tell you to slow down — or throw you out — and they might not let another chair user come bowl if they think everyone might do that) AND the ball speed didn’t even break 7.0 mph (it was like 6.8 or 6.9 mph). So it’s best to drive at a speed at which you can aim and stop properly, i.e. relatively slow and in control.

Remember, the end of your Bowling Arm (ramp) should not cross the foul line. That means your wheels should never get real close to the foul line, so if you do happen to foul (by a few inches, or even a foot), only the Bowling Arm’s caster should touch the lane. You also don’t want your caster to be resting on the floor as you approach the foul line (the caster is designed to simply support the ramp when the ball comes down; after the ball leaves, the ramp should raise to the one-quarter to one-half inch range at which it was initially setup).

If your caster was touching the floor as you drive forward (you can hear it, it isn’t designed to roll that fast) it could affect your ability to turn, but if you foul, you’re going to pickup a fair amount of oil from the lane and drag it back and forth as you bowl. Bowling alleys won’t appreciate that as other people could later get injured.

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A DRIVE MODE FOR BOWLING

I have a drive mode specifically programmed for bowling. I think most power wheelchairs have multiple driving modes (mine has four) that can be programmed for different conditions. For example, my default mode, Drive 1, is my safe “indoors” mode which is pretty slow and doesn’t have continuous (latched) reverse, so I can navigate indoors without hitting things (or people:). Actually, Drive 2 and Drive 3 are both programmed for bowling. They both are a little faster than Drive 1 (I wanted “first gear” to be a little faster than my indoors setting) and I have reduced the turning speed quite a bit. The very slow turning speed means that I will only make small adjustments left or right as I approach the foul line.

Think about this: the end of my Bowling Arm (ramp) extends out I’m guessing a good three feet from my wheel base, so it’s similar to how a shotgun or rifle would extend out. Turning your base a little would make the end of the gun move quite a bit. So to make small adjustments in how I’m aimed, I have very slow turning speeds.

My Drive 2 and Drive 3 are both very similar. I don’t own the device that programs my chair, so I looked at the print out of my four drive modes, decided what adjustments I thought would be good for bowling, and had my wheelchair service technician put my two best guesses in Drive 2 and Drive 3. Then I tested both at the bowling alley and I like Drive 3 best.

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MY DRIVE SETTINGS FOR BOWLING

In the previous blog entry, I mentioned I initially setup two drive modes for bowling.

The below link shares roughly what my actual drive settings are.

Note of caution: depending on your motors and driving system, my settings may not be good for you.

I actually think the torque settings (the amount of “power” available for turning) is wrong on the below PDF, because that list was initially setup using my chair’s original two-pole motors, not the more powerful four-pole motors that it currently has. The torque settings I think are about half (or even less than half) of the percentages shown in the file.

I think the key is the turning speed. I have my turning speed at only 20% in my bowling mode, whereas it’s 35% in Drive 1, which is my safe/indoors mode.

If you aren’t sure how to read that table, Drive 2 has my forward speed at 60%, but notice it’s “latched type” is three speed. That means I have essentially three “gears” to get up to 60% of my chair’s maximum speed. Maximum speed for my chair, I think is six mph. So when I am in Drive 2, one hard puff gets me rolling forward at probably 20% speed and that is essentially first gear (it’s like an electronic gear). Another hard puff is essentially second gear and is probably about 40% speed. In order to reach the programmed setting of 60% speed in Drive 2, I have to give another hard puff to put it in third gear.

Now that you know what the three-speed gears are like, I bowl only in first gear. As described above, it’s probably about 22% of my chair’s maximum speed, but my moderately-paced approach allows me to adjust as I go forward and when my chair is behaving properly, I’m usually pretty accurate.

You might wonder what the alternative to “three speed” latched type is, and for my chair, I believe it’s one-speed. That means that whatever speed percentage the Drive mode is set for, the chair will accelerate and reach that speed as fast as possible. This can be fun — DANGEROUS — but fun in the right situation. Just for fun, I had my wheelchair guy setup Drive 4 with 100% speed, on one-speed. With the vent on the back of my chair, if I tilted back a little from my most-upright seating position, I can actually pop wheelies and have my two front casters off the ground for about 8-10 feet before they come back down.

I actually don’t know if my Drive 4 is still set on the dangerous 100% one-speed setting. It’s dangerous because if I get put into Drive 4 and don’t realize it, I could easily crash into something — and that happened once. One time in my bedroom, I guess my nurse kept hitting the toggle switch which turns my chair on, but if it’s pulled in the on-direction while it’s already on, that advances the Drive mode. So I actually accelerated like a maniac and crashed into my bed. Fortunately I was wearing shoes and there was no damage to my body, chair, or bed.

If you’re curious as to why the below file has two tables, the top is my current/previous/old settings. The blank table is so we can make note of any changes to new settings, if I want or need something changed. (Then I can later add the new/current settings to my file; I’ll share the Word file if anyone wants to put their name and settings into a file like mine.)

Bill Miller’s wheelchair settings (Drive 3 is my bowling mode):

http://www.lookmomnohands.net/objects/BillMillerWheelchairSettings.pdf

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HOW TO KEEP SCORE

Do you know how to calculate the score?

I know, “the machine does it for you, just look up.” :-)

To add your score yourself, when you get a spare, you add the next ball to the frame in which you just got the spare. For example, in frame one, if you bowl your first ball and get 9 pins down, and pickup the single-pin spare with your next shot, notice the machine waits to fill in your score for that frame. And if you get 8 pins with your next shot (the first shot of your second frame) it will add the 8 pins to the 10 total pins (9 + 1) that you got in the first frame, and put “18” in frame one. If you get one of the two remaining pins in your second frame, your total that frame is 9 and your score after two frames will be 27.

If you have a strike, you add the next two balls, not just one. For example, with a strike in the first frame, followed by the 8 + 1 in the second frame (like the above example) then both the 8 and 1 would get added to the strike frame, giving 19 (10 + 8 + 1 = 19) in the first frame and 9 more total in the second, for a 28 after two frames.

Compound strikes REALLY add up. Three consecutive strikes adds 20 to the first strike (10 + 10) and consecutive strikes really can help you score big. With our moderate ball speed, getting strikes requires either near-perfect placement, or some luck — but you absolutely MUST hit the headpin to have a chance for a strike. Consecutive strikes are a key to scoring “big” which I’ll discuss more now.

* * * * *

HOW TO SCORE “BIG”

First, we have to define “big” and there are several ways to do so.

Each wheelchair user has different physical circumstances (including the driving method and condition of their chair; as I described above, it can make a huge difference) but breaking 100 should be every beginner’s goal, and it’s “big” for a beginner. Then I advocate trying to keep breaking your personal record, and in doing so, you could be setting category world records for dynamic wheelchair bowling, like these: http://www.wheelchairbowlingrecords.com.

“Big” is certainly any score you achieve that breaks your personal record. But, in a general sense, I’ll define scores in the 150s as “pretty big” and 160-Club (a score in the 160s), 170-Club, 180-Club, and 190-Club denote progressively bigger achievements.

The REAL “BIG” that we can all agree on is 200. To break 200, you have to have some consecutive strikes — usually at least two consecutive strikes, and if you only have two consecutive strikes, then you probably need marks in every other frame (a mark is a spare or a strike; a frame without a mark is called an open frame). With multiple consecutive strikes, it’s possible to break 200 even with an open frame, or two, if you have enough consecutive strikes.

To my knowledge, there are presently three IKAN Users in the 200-Club: the overall world record holder, Jon Musgrave (see above link for record scores); a Veteran named Anthony who I believe had a high game of 214 before he passed away (he loved bowling, and his passing underscores the need for us wheelchair users to enjoy our days as much as possible); and me, with a current personal best of 206, as of 5/10/2009.

Strategy wise, you have to hit the headpin (preferably either cheek, as described above) in order to give yourself a chance at a strike. I try to put my ball in the pocket (the headpin’s left cheek) but if I miss, hopefully it will cross over the nose of the headpin and hit Jersey (the right cheek of the headpin for a right-handed bowling approach). If you hit the nose, you have to get lucky and hope you’re not left with a nasty split (hopefully you’ll leave either one or two in one corner, not one or two in both corners). If you don’t get a strike (I’ve gone as many as four full games without a strike) you have to convert your makeable spares.

I think I’ve had four total games with a mark in each frame. And since I’ve broken 200 seven times (I’ve bowled three 201s, two 202s, a 203, and a 206 as of 5/10/2009) that means I broke 200 several times while having an open frame. So make sure you hit the headpin, preferably in the pocket or Jersey side, and hopefully a strike will result. If not, hopefully you’re left with a very makeable spare.

* * * * *

IKAN BOWLER STORAGE AND TRANSPORTATION

My bowler sits on the front seat of my van; the Universal Mount on a towel on the seat, and the Bowling Arm leaning up against the seat — not attached to the mount — and all seatbelted in. After arriving at the bowling alley, my caregiver usually puts the Universal Mount on in the parking lot so I carry it in. If it it’s a bowling alley I’m familiar with, I’ll often carry the Bowling Arm in also. But if I have the Bowling Arm attached, I make sure I’m tilted back enough that the end of my Bowling Arm is off the ground roughly 6-8 inches until I get inside (the bowling alleys I frequent either have a curb cutout or speed bump to negotiate).

Incidentally, if you’re planning to roll in with your full IKAN Bowler attached, and it’s a bowling alley you aren’t familiar with, have your caregiver check inside to see if you can navigate safely down to the bowling area. Some alleys are crowded either by design or with many people.

Your caregiver should also check to see if the bowling surface is accessible. Some older bowling alleys have a step near the ball return. If you choose to bowl there, you’ll definitely need a ramp by the ball return, so if you back up too far, you start down a ramp instead of going off a step. In that scenario, have your caddy do a reverse count down as you backup 3… 2… 1… stop! That can help you stay away from the step.

If you buy your own ball (which I highly recommend, even if it’s a used house ball; see above) chances are you’ll want to also buy a ball-bag that has wheels and rolls in. If your primary caddy is someone who will also want to bowl with you, you might want to get a two-ball roller bag. But as a starting point for price, know that you can get a one-ball roller, brand new and delivered, for about $40 online. So if you buy one locally, try to do better than $40 if you just want a one-ball bag with wheels.

With a rolling ball bag, you can bungee cord your IKAN Bowler Arm to your ball bag, and roll it in. You can actually put the Universal Mount on the bag too. Of course if your caddy/caregiver is relatively young and strong, he/she can carry the equipment in. A less-able caregiver can always ask someone at the bowling alley for assistance, or you can invite a young & strong friend to bowl with you. I’m just pointing out the various options possible, so an IKAN Bowler owner can potentially bowl as often as desired.

With that — I’m DONE with my “keys and tips for dynamic wheelchair bowling!”

I hope this helps. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at billmiller@ikanbowler.com.

Bill Miller :-)
C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 206 High Bowling Game
Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
Business website: http://www.ikanbowler.com
Personal website: http://www.lookmomnohands.net

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About billgator97

I started this blog to highlight how wheelchair users, especially power wheelchair users, are being empowered through sport, in particular: dynamic wheelchair bowling. It's actually bowling that emulates the able-bodied bowling process, i.e. setup, then physically approach and release the ball upon stopping short of the foul line. I happen to be paralyzed from my neck down, and ventilator-dependent, yet I've actually bowled 24 legitimate games of 200 or better. I say that NOT to brag, but to show what is possible and make the point that ANY wheelchair user who can safely operate their chair, they can bowl (I helped invent a device that makes it possible). Please look around and feel free to ask any questions! Thanks and God bless!
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