Skate-buggy / Soapbox Derby in Rural China





Introduction: Skate-buggy / Soapbox Derby in Rural China

About: Dan Goldwater is a co-founder of Instructables. Currently he operates MonkeyLectric where he develops revolutionary bike lighting products.
Recently I was traveling through rural china. in the mountainous areas in southwest Sichuan province, near Xichang, i was excited to see on several occasions young kids zooming down steep hills on their simple home-made rolling chassis, deftly avoiding the ubiquitous busses and dumptrucks. their buggies are stripped-down soapbox-derby style, or maybe you'd call it a skateboard or skate-car. I don't know how local this hobby is, I did not see it in Yunnan provice but I also saw less kids playing in traffic there too. I think this must be a fairly new hobby, as there were no paved roads in these areas until about 5 years ago and these buggies will only work on a paved road with the wheels they had. All the kids in the videos are Yi people, a minority culture that lives in and around Xichang.

Step 1: How to Do It

unfortunately i only got a good photo of one of the buggies, both the kids in the first video use the design shown in the first photo below. the kids in the second video have a somewhat more complex design, the best photo i got of it is in the 2nd photo below.

1st design shown below: the wood bits are pretty obvious, just sticks and scrap wood. the three wheels are large ball bearing races from some unknown deceased vehicle or machinery. they just whittled down the sticks and jammed the bearings onto them, then nailed the wood together.

operation: to steer, you just lean left or right a bit, and twist the front wheel a bit left or right using the hand grip.

the 2nd design below is a bit narrower and more like a skateboard than the first, the two-wheeled rear-end is straightforward as shown in the photo. the front end has a more complex setup with a steering column - there is a vertical stick which has a perpendicular handle at one end for steering, and the front wheel is mounted at the bottom end of the steering column on another perpendicular stick. note: i'm not sure the more complex steering system here is actually an improvement. the reason i didn't get a good photo is that the kids were afraid i was going to steal their buggy and wouldn't let me near it!

Step 2: Be an Emissary

also when traveling in developing areas it is important to spread goodwill. i gave instructables stickers to all the kids with homemade deathmobiles. they thought the stickers were totally awesome. i did not tell them what to do with the sticker, about a quarter of them immediately stuck it to their heads, as shown below.



    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest
    • Make it Move Contest

      Make it Move Contest
    • Casting Contest

      Casting Contest

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    Some people just seem to be able to be content and bounce back no matter what the circumstances.

    I love that sticker on his forehead! That is so funny!

    1 reply

    it looks like the kid is saying " whaa? Sticker on me forehead is so kewl. also it make me snotty.". LOL. btw the pic. is HILARIOUS!

    I was a kid playing this

    wow even i couldnt make something like that here they did really good they look pretty fast aswell

     omg that kid built that with stuff he found in like the woods and stuff. poor kid i wish i could give him money and bring him to home depot and then see what he can make :)

    thats freaking awesome! i love the little robot cart he made to match the big one so his kid could ride along

    Very nice and exiting. I call it soap box racing back to the roots. Greetings from Germany!

    Hello Dan. In Step 2, pict 2 you said it is complicated to make a rotating steering column but it is not. Maybe those guys in Chine just can't get enough materials do do ir better. Here in Brazil boys used to play a lot with this and we call this buggy "rolemã car". Rolemã is the popular word to this kind of iron wheels. The rotating steering system is very useful and easy. Please, point your browser to any searching engine into internet and look for "carrinho de rolemã" under picture option. You will see lot of types from Brazil. Anyway, develop your rotating steering system and you will have more fun with your buggy. See you.

    1 reply

    To anyone else whose browser shows that word incorrectly, the last word is "rolema" with a tilde (~) over the a (try Alt+0227 on a Windows machine), but just googling "carrinho de rolema" will work.

    That is great that those kids are doing that! It looks so fun!! I want to try and make one of those.

    wow thats awesome... but how do u ride it?

    Oh wow, unfortunately the roads near me are country roads and too rough for a normal skateboard... ):

    Very Cool. I think I might make one of these!