- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Matt Pople turns heads at least once a day.

You’ll find him tooling around downtown Lansing or along the city’s River Trail on his own three-wheeled invention. Standing atop its two-foot-long aluminum frame, clutching a handheld accelerator and brake, the hum of an electric motor beneath his feet, Pople moves at a steady pace of between 10 to 20 miles per hour, the Lansing State Journal (https://on.lsj.com/1PsHBUb ) reported.

The two wheels in the front lift up when he takes off. Springs on either side help to balance the 50-pound ride, righting the board when it tilts. He can move from pavement to dirt, to rocks and to grass with ease.

Dubbed the “Triborg Skateboard,” and created by hand in a shed at Pople’s home, it’s durable, water-resistant and road-trip tested. It’s traveled everywhere with him. He’s ridden it on the beach in Florida, on the sidewalks and streets of New York and up and down hills in Colorado.

Pople has come to anticipate reactions from bystanders when he buzzes by them.

“What is that?” they ask.

“People stop, look, turn around,” Pople said. “They ask, ‘Did you build that?’ and ‘How fast does it go?’ How far does it go?’”

It took Pople, an Eaton Rapids High School graduate, three years to perfect the design. He’s built about 10 different prototypes and, through trial and error, perfected the invention.

Today Pople’s working to patent the design. He’s created a website and is selling custom-designed Triborgs.

He describes it as parts dirt bike, skateboard and tank.


Pople isn’t an inventor by trade. He didn’t study construction or electrical engineering in college. By day he’s a sound technician. He works for local sound companies, bands and venues.

“But I was always building stuff growing up,” Pople said. “I made swings and stuff out in the woods.”

Then eight years ago Pople started tinkering around with a used welder he’d purchased. He wanted to build something with it, but had to learn how to use the welder first. So he watched YouTube videos, did some research and eventually settled on an ambitious project.

It took him two years to create a crude, but functional electric motorcycle.

“I’d take it on Interstate 496 and get a whole bunch of looks because there were open batteries strapped together,” Pople said. “There goes a ratchet-strapped, weird-looking motorcycle down the highway past you.”

It wasn’t pretty - but it still runs today.

And it was a hands-on lesson that prepared him for his next challenge.

“Just one step at a time you build something,” Pople said. “You get stuck and you learn how to do that. You get stuck again and you learn how to do that. At the end of the day, you have something.”

He can’t even remember how he came up with the idea for a three-wheel electric skateboard. He wasn’t an avid skateboarder, but he had purchased a gas-powered version a few years earlier and knew what didn’t work.

“It fell apart,” Pople said. “The motor was in the back, so every time you’d turn it you felt something wobbling around back there. After you got up to about 12 miles an hour it would start shaking.”

When that happened Pople couldn’t help but jump off the board at a run.

He wanted to make a skateboard that would remain steady at higher speeds. Once the concept took root he dove in.


You’ve got to start somewhere, Pople said.

It took time to figure out what didn’t work - a small wheel in back - and what did - springs on either side of the front that right the board when it starts to tip.

“I just had to connect the dots, put everything where it needed to be,” Pople said.

Today’s version looks nothing like the first, which was constructed out of steel.

“I closed everything off a little bit more and improved the shape a little bit.”

The final Triborg Skateboard prototype can move at 20 miles per hour and run for up to 20 miles between battery charges, which take about three hours. It can get over concrete curbs and transition from a smooth surface to a bumpy one without resulting in a wobbly ride.

“It’s more like a motorcycle really,” Pople said.

It’s not a toy and isn’t built for children.

“It’s really an adult toy,” Pople said.

The basic model is $2,450. Extras cost more, but Eric Schnaitman, 45, of Grand Ledge said it’s worth the price tag. He plans to buy one soon.

“I was there when he first drew it up on a piece of paper,” he said. “The first one looked like an erector set.”

Schnaitman is an avid skateboarder and snowboarder. He’s known Pople for several years and has ridden every prototype of the Triborg Skateboard. He said the experience is unlike riding anything else.

“It rides like a snowboard,” Schnaitman said. “It’s more agile, but you really get the feeling of a snowboard. Once you ride them you want one.”

Pople doesn’t have grand ambitions, but he’d like to see more people with one. So far, he’s received orders for two.

“If they happen to sell that’s great,” he said. “If they don’t, I still made a really cool skateboard.”


Information from: Lansing State Journal, https://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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