The Skateboard That Climbs Down Stairs

Skating down long steep stairs
Image: Stair-Rover
The Stair-Rover in action

When faced with a set of steps, it would be normal for skateboarders to either grind one of the rails or jump right over the obstacle – but not with this skateboard. Nope, with the Stair-Rover it’s now possible to skate down a flight of stairs without falling straight off the board and cracking your skull. Skateboarding in an urban environment has suddenly become a whole new experience.

Down concrete stairs
Image: Stair-Rover
Gliding down stairs

According to inventor PoChih Lai, his new skateboard design “creates a groundbreaking form of sport which previously never existed and utilizes the hidden energy of our cities – stairs.” Lai explains that using the Stair-Rover will turn boundaries or limitations into much more positive experiences.

Skating down stairs with dome in background
Image: Stair-Rover
Inventor PoChih Lai was inspired by the city of London.

The Stair-Rover’s design incorporates an eight-wheeled chassis instead of the conventional four-wheeled skateboard design. The board uses pivoting “V” shaped mechanisms that allow the wheels to move up and down independently on stairs, providing a smooth and steady descent. And it’s not just steps – even cobblestones and bumpy ground can now be skated across with ease.

Skating down short flight of stairs
Image: Stair-Rover
Why jump over stairs when you can simply roll down them?

Lai, a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art, began working on the Stair-Rover two years back, and the current – and 15th – prototype is now up on project launch website Kickstarter.com. The latest boards feature maple decks, flexible thermoplastic V-frames, custom aluminum trucks (axles) and weigh 11 pounds (five kilograms) each. There’s also a black fiberglass deck option called the Stair-Rover Pro if you pledge around $407 (£270).

Sitting on the skateboard
Image: Stair-Rover
The tricks that can be done on this board haven’t even been invented yet.

On his blog, Lai wrote that London was the inspiration behind the Stair-Rover. He wanted to create a skateboard that would be capable of fully exploring the city. Lai also adds that “the sub-culture of graffiti, free-running, skateboarding, street dance, and extreme sports are now accepted and a valid and valuable influence on our generation.”

Jumping on the stair-rover
Image: Stair-Rover
The board also works on uneven terrain.

Street skating is one sport that’s very much tied to the urban landscape. Skaters make use of pavements, walls, benches and handrails as they carve their way through their cities. By creating a board that can navigate stairs, Lai has created fresh opportunities for skaters to explore. In addition, they’ll be able to perform tricks – and may even discover some new ones.

Skating down long narrow stairs
Image: Stair-Rover
Skating down stairs is not possible on a normal skateboard.

On Kickstarter.com, there are quotes from people who have tested the board. One reviewer says, “At first I was skeptical, but I’ve come to enjoy riding [the] Stair-Rover. It’s unique in that it is adaptable to its environment. I suppose all skateboards are in a way, but Stair-Rover takes the concept one step further.” However, not everyone is as positive, with some skaters suggesting that the new board is overly complicated and that it doesn’t add anything.

Close up of stair-rover on stairs
Image: Stair-Rover
A close-up look at the innovative wheel design

Skateboards have actually changed quite a few times since they were first invented in the mid-20th century. For example, the first skateboards had metal wheels, which were later replaced by wheels made of clay. As you can imagine, neither would have been very practical for modern skateboarding tricks. Fortunately, these clunky wheels were replaced by polyurethane versions in the ‘70s.

Going down stairs in the city
Image: Stair-Rover
The folks behind Stair-Rover say that the sport mixes longboarding with surfing.

During the early days, there were no specially made trucks for skateboards. Instead, skaters had to make do with cobbling together roller skate parts under their decks. This severely limited what could be done with the boards – and riders were restricted to just moving forwards.

Skating on flat ground
Image: Stair-Rover
The Stair-Rover moves quickly and smoothly over flat ground as well.

However, the problem was solved in 1973, when Ronald Bennett invented the skateboard truck. More companies started making skateboard-specific trucks, and the popularity of the sport soared. Suddenly, skaters could perform turns and maneuvers rather than simply rolling. And as the trucks were improved upon to allow greater freedom of movement, the boards themselves also changed shape, which made them easier to control.

Close up the stair-rover wheels
Image: Stair-Rover
The wheels of the Stair-Rover move independently to climb down stairs.

Other advances that have been made to the original skateboard design include the kicktail (an upturned back end) and smaller wheels. But though these modifications have been groundbreaking, the tricks the skaters themselves perform have arguably been the sport’s greatest innovation.

Skating down circular stairs
Image: Stair-Rover
The Stair-Rover is sure to draw attention on busy city streets.

Whether the Stair-Rover will catch on as well as earlier models is yet to be seen. For now, though, the Stair-Rover definitely makes a fun novelty board for those who want to try something a little bit different, and if the project can raise $75,600 in funding by August 1, 2013, it may just become a reality.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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