I began working with Bart Kylstra at Daedalus Wings (later to be named Rio Mobility) in early 2006. Bart had secured design funding from the NIH and NSF for multiple mobility project ideas that ranged from handcycles to lightweight power wheelchairs all the way up to a wheelchair lever drive system.
Having some manufacturing and sales experience, Bart trusted my opinion enough to ask which project should we bring to market first. I saw a vintage handcycle on the wall, pointed to it and said “that right there, that’s the future.” Bart seemed puzzled and a bit perplexed as to why I would choose the simplest design product in his vast mobility grant quiver. After some convincing on my part, Bart agreed and we started designing the first Dragonfly handcycle in the Spring of 2006.
Bart pioneered the small wheel handcycle design which many have copied over the years, but never duplicated due to Bart’s ingenious design acumen. This lead to Rio Mobility’s Firefly design, which can turn any standard lightweight manual wheelchair into portable power scooter.
For Bart, is was less about money and more about helping people stay mobile while reclaiming independence and championing “problem solving” products that “Big Mobility” wouldn’t produce.
I left the company in the Spring of 2008 to go work at Ultra Motor where I met my current business partner, Alex Hunt, (a funny story for a different blog post.) Bart always left space for me in the shop to tinker on my side projects, he was just that kind of guy….
In 2013 Rio Mobility had completed a successful online advertising campaign, however the supplier, at the time, couldn’t meet the demand. The previous generation Firefly tooling was looking a little dated, by today’s standards, and we wanted to improve the design of the Firefly and the Dragonfly. In 2014, TSEV was hired by Rio to redo the tooling and take over production. Basically, we were responsible for the fork design and Bart took care of the mounting and steering design. The Firefly 2.0 was an immediate success and orders have been increasing as fast as the manufacturer could supply.
This is just a small insight of Bart’s heart and professional mobility career journey that spanned about 16 years.
Bart will be sorely missed by his friends and family, the community, his peers and the customer base. However, through Bart’s tireless efforts and intrinsic humanitarianism, people that utilize his products have regained independence and, most of all, mobility.