‘Summer snowboarding on steroids’
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado – Former Vail resident Andy Keel recently did a shoot with the TV show “Modern Marvels” about his snowboard-inspired invention.
His Motocrossboard is a mash-up between a motorcycle, mountain bike and snowboard. As one blogger put it, it’s “summertime snowboarding on steroids.”
Keel, 39, says he was an avid snowboarder when he lived in Vail for four years in the early 1990s.
When he moved back to Georgia, where he currently lives, he went into a sort of adrenaline withdrawal.
“After moving back to Georgia, I really missed snowboarding,” he said. “I knew I wouldn’t have access to snowboarding the way I did in the past. I tried to look at summertime substitutes for snowboarding.”
He found one in the form of professional motocross racing; and when he temporarily moved to California, he indulged in surfing.
While those sports offered a temporary fix, an idea for a new offroad contraption started to take shape in Keel’s mind.
In 2005, he built his first Motocrossboard in the basement of his Georgia home. It was in some ways reminiscent of a mountain bike (Keel used wheels from a bike he bought at a thrift store for $5) but also had a 2-horsepower engine and a snowboarding-style steering system.
With a 16-inch bicycle wheel in back and two bicycle rims welded together in front, the early prototype had plenty of jagged edges.
“It really looked like something that would cut your fingers off,” Keel said. “It looked like, basically, hell on wheels.”
Despite the rough appearance, the invention worked pretty well when Keel took it offroad at his parents’ farm.
“From that initial test ride, I realized the overall formula of what I had designed really had a lot of potential,” he said.
Over the past few years, Keel, who worked as an engineering recruiter by day, has refined his design. Today, he has two different versions of the Motocrossboard for sale, one with a gas engine and one with an electric engine. They’re rigged to go 20 mph for the entry-level rider, although Keel has built prototypes that go as fast as 50 mph. The device contains a no-hands steering system.
“The turn is initiated by basically just putting pressure on your toes or heels the same way you would a snowboard,” Keel said.
Although Keel suspected his invention had potential, he had no idea he could wind up on The History Channel’s “Modern Marvels.”
In mid-November, Keel sent out a press release to several gadget magazines, telling them about his Motocrossboard. The next day, he got a call from someone at Modern Marvels, inviting him to be on the show.
By Nov. 30, Keel was filming at an offroad motorcycle resort called Durhamtown Plantation in Georgia. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm had ripped through the area the night before, so Keel said he couldn’t demonstrate the board to its full potential.
“When I tried to cruise around and demonstrate it, I got covered by the red clay there in Georgia, so I’ll be covered with mud in the episode, even when I’m just interviewing and talking about it,” he said.
Conor McCarthy, a producer for the show, said he expects the episode to run sometime in the spring.
On the heels of the publicity he expects to get through “Modern Marvels,” Keel plans to start manufacturing the boards in March. He was in Vail this week visiting with investors.
“Ideally, somebody will read this and want to become a distributor in the Vail Valley,” he said.
Currently, Keel is selling the electric model for $2,999 and the gasoline version for $2,499.
In the future, he wants to build a model more like a “full-blown motocross bike” that may go over 60 mph.
“It would handle a lot more aggressively,” he said.
While he suspects the Motocrossboard could do well in markets like Vail, where snowboarding is popular, he also thinks the Motocrossboard could help people ease into snowboarding.
“Snowboarding has so much exposure,” Keel said. “The halfpipe was such a huge TV event for the Olympics last year, it beat ‘American Idol.’ People see that and think ‘I sure want to snowboard but I don’t want to spend $2,000 or $3,000 on a snowboarding vacation, not knowing if I can actually do it.'”
If people are unsure about snowboarding, buying or renting a Motocrossboard could help, he said.
“I think it would give them the confidence that they could learn to snowboard,” he said.
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.