Sitting still, the Triborg is a confusing thing. Its three wheels seem mismatched, and are stuck to a frame that has the kind of beefy functionality one would expect from a complicated piece of landscaping equipment.
But when it moves, it is hard to deny its beauty.
Though he’s far from the first to try, inventor Matt Pople has, perhaps, figured out the motorized skateboard. The Triborg puts a large drive wheel directly underneath the rider for optimum balance, and places the steering well in front where it belongs. A simple lean — on one wheel or three — makes for an effortless carve. Perhaps more interestingly, the setup also makes for an aggressive climb.
Pople grew up on dirt bikes, and knows the value of a powerful back wheel. “When you get into trouble on a bike, what gets you out is to wheelie it and hit the throttle.” This same hop-up-and-over maneuver lets the Triborg handle rough terrain, speed bumps, stairs and curbs, and even rocky scrambles of up to 45 degrees.
The rear wheel is chain-driven by a Lithium-battery powered motor, controlled with a cable that ends in a thumb throttle and hand brake. Dampened springs keep the drive wheel on the ground and cushion the ride, and are adjustable for different terrains. The rider’s trailing foot rests on an angled kick plate, while the front foot does the business of steering. “Once you start moving,” says Pople, “it feels like any other skateboard or snowboard.” It’s good for 20 miles at 20mph, and comes in at $2,450 without options.
Once you start moving, it feels like any other skateboard or snowboard.
Pople has built 10 prototypes in his home in the US state of Michigan, “but the last three have all been pretty much the same,” he says, “so it’s time to get them to market.” Like the prototypes, the retail models will each be hand-built around the same basic geometry and dirt-bike-tough welded aluminium construction, but most other parts are built to be user-customizable. “I use the same bolt pattern as most skateboard trucks, so there are thousands of trucks you could mount.” Wheels are interchangeable according to use, caliper brakes can be added to the front, and the whole thing can be coated with polyurethane elastomer — the material used for spray-on pickup-truck bed liners — for extra durability. The battery and motor can also be upgraded, says Pople, “and we can change out the sprocket to double the torque or speed.” Since each board takes 50 to 60 hours to build, he notes, “Spending 20 minutes talking to a customer to get what they want doesn’t seem like much trouble.”
The Triborg is built for tricks — a wheelie seems almost inevitable, and when balanced on the big rear tire the vehicle’s turning radius almost ceases to exist. At just under 50lbs, it’s too heavy for a true boarder’s ollie, but it can handle a motorcyclist’s equivalent. “Just pre-load the suspension and hit the throttle, and it will climb up and over stuff, and even get a little air,” says Pople.
We know there are thousands of inventors tinkering in sheds to create the next transportation trend, but the Triborg seems built to get some traction.
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