On the 18th of August 2019 Livingston Round Table ran the town’s first ever Soapbox Race. As Purdie Worldwide always like to get involved with the local community we thought this would be an excellent opportunity to do some team building and create something we were all proud of .
On the day there were an exciting range of home made soapboxes navigating obstacles and ramps with all the usual thrills and spills, and hopefully lots of money raised to ensure Round Table can continue to contribute to the community. Here’s how we did it at Purdie Worldwide:
After selecting our small team of 5 from the ranks of Purdie Worldwide, we had a few team meetings to discuss design options for the soapbox.
Although we liked the stability of using a 4 wheeler, and our inital concept (see picture to the right) did indeed have 4 wheels, after watching this video from Colin Furze, we decided to go down the 3 wheeler route. We went down this route for 3 reasons; Number 1 – it would be easier to do the steering. Number 2 – there is less drag from 3 wheels than 4 wheels. Number 3 – The turning circle from the single front wheel would be much better than having 2 wheels. We didn’t know how tight the course was going to be, so to have handling on our side was a bonus at this point.
Although our small team of 5 are very skilled in the Removals & Packing game, we all lacked important fabrication skills like welding to complete a project like this. We had no idea how to rig up some kind of prototype for testing, or indeed where to start with the metal itself, do we go with box section, square or rectangle? How heavy will all the metal work be? In order to get us started we discovered some right angled shelving brackets which had holes drilled all the way down each length. By using lots of these right angled lengths we were able to put together a basic shape and bolt it together with standard nuts and bolts.
After a little bit of adjustment, trial and error, we were all pretty happy with the prototype we’d created. Now the next step was to re-create the protoype in real metal tubing, square or otherwise.
After a visit to our favourite engineering shop for advice (GJS Engineering) we were advised not to go for square box section as we’d need to go pretty thick and heavy to get the reliability we were looking for. Since we were limited to 100kg total soapbox weight, we opted for 30x2mm round tubing. Gerry & GJS very kindly bent our main chassis rails for us into 2 “U” shapes to place on top of one another to replicate the chariot style we’d went for.
Thanks to the prototype we already knew the sizes we needed, so cutting all the tubes to length and laying them up together was relatively straight forward.
Everything was coming together very nicely until we realised that working with round tubing was going to be a lot harder to match up the ends than it would be if we had used square box section.
Every point where a bit of tube joined onto another needed to be contoured to fit the curved shape of the recieving tube. Although very time consuming, some of us actually found it quite therapeutic and enjoyed grinding and smoothing the pipes to fit.
As a customer focused removal company we couldn’t really pencil in specific times to work on the project. We could never get everyone in the same place at the same time as there would always be someone still out on a job or waiting on keys. However, in the end I think almost everyone on the team had had a shot of cutting and grinding at some point, even if did take us about 2 weeks to get to that stage.
Once everything was cut to size and countoured to fit, we used the work’s welder to tack everything into place before recruiting the skills of David Foy to weld everything together.
Probably the most important part of any good soapbox racer are the wheels and tyres. We were restricted to a maximum of 26 inches in diameter. Although we thought about using the largest wheels we could, having watched numerous Red Bull Soapbox videos where almost all of the large spoked wheel racers buckled and bent during cornering, we wanted to avoid this. We didn’t want to go too small either and risk losing top end speed.
So we came to a compromise of 20 inch wheels from a BMX. Our front wheel and forks came from an actual stunt BMX, so the main spindle was about twice as thick as standard, perfect for our front wheel. At the rear we used standard spindled BMX wheels, but with double spokes for extra stiffness.
Once we had fitted and tested these we took the wheels to Scot Cycles and got the bearings renewed and a fresh set of tubes and multi-coloured tyres fitted!
We also got Scot Cycles to replace the front headset with a new one as we thought that would be a major stress point. If you look closely you can also see the extra bit of bar we added at the front headstock to stop flex and reduce stress at that point.
Although the specifications only called for a rear brake as a minimum we decided to brake all 3 wheels for safety. For the rear brakes we welded on stand-offs from a standard bike and used V-brakes with some extra washers for spacing. These worked pretty well and even aided the steering as we had them seperated on left and right brake levers, so you could pull the left brake a touch, and even without steering it would pull to the left and vice versa for the right.
For the front brake we used the standard canteliver BMX brake, which in retrospect we should have relocated the lever for this one as it was hard to pull when you were pulling both the back brake levers at the same time.
Our orignal plan was to use the seat you see in the first couple of pictures with the passenger standing behind the driver. However, after doing some test fits we found the seat position meant the driver had to have his legs out the front of the soapbox, not ideal. So we changed things up and decided it would be best for maneuverbility if the driver and passenger were both kneeling. It would be easier to throw our weight from side to side this way and hopefully increase cornering ability. So we removed the single seat and replaced it with the bases from 2 MX-5 front seats. These fitted perfectly one behind each other and that just left some finishing touches to be done.
Now here is where our team excelled. They wrap and pack furniture day in day out, so wrapping some tubing and some seats in our furniture wrap wasn’t a problem for our guys. In fact, we even had some Purdie employees who weren’t on the soapbox team helping out with the wrapping (cheers Stevie!)
Lastly was the turn of Purdie Property Maintenance to help us attach our van sides to the soapbox and put in the floor. Literally done in less than afternoon’s work Peter’s team had us all set and ready to rock and roll, all that was left for the big day was for Archie to finish our bespoke bubble wrap suits!
After a good few months of working on and off this little project, race day was finally here! I have to admit, we were all a little worried when we arrived and found out we were the only 3 wheeler team entered, and everyone else had 4 wheels. However, we all had faith in our little soapbox and were more than eager to show what it could do.
Having walked the course we were confident we’d complete it in good time. The only issues we anticipated would be landing the jumps straight, and the force when you hit you the ground after coming off the start ramp. We were right to be worried about the start ramp as quite few teams made it down the ramp only to hit the road and have their wheels splayed apart, or in some cases buckled or cracked.
After a lengthy wait on some ambulances returning to their posts (Get well soon Mrs Deadpool!) we were up next. After a very hard push from Stu, Stevo and Andy, myself and Iain were thrust down the course faster than we had gone in testing, and probably faster than any 3 wheeled soapbox had gone before! The initial hit off the ramp onto the road wasn’t as bad as we’d anticiapted but coming off both jumps was pretty hairy! On all the runs we tried to pull the front wheel up so that we could land rear first and touch down like a plane, but in practice this didn’t really work and we had to endure a pretty solid impact off the jumps.
The first run went almost perfectly and we were very happy with the way it ran and quietly confident we could go faster. Iain took the controls for the second run in slightly wetter conditions, and although we were starting to drift it in the rain, stopping over the finish line proved a little more difficult as Iain pitched the nose in and we graciously flipped the soapbox on it’s side and slid to a stop. Fortunately our bubble wrap suits gave us an added layer of protection!
Luckily we only suffered some cosmetic damage in the second run and we were cleared to go for a final run. Unfortunately the rain had gotten a lot worse since the last run and the course was pretty slick, particularly over the finish line! We tanked it down for our third and last run, drifting it out of each corner, but as I applied the brakes over the finish line nothing really happened. Rather than go head first into the hay bales I thought it best to broadside it and go into the bales sideways. The plan worked and although we broke the spindle on one wheel as we hit the bales, the soapbox threw us both clear and into some nice soft bales of hay.
I’m pretty sure were were top 5 out of 36 teams in terms of speed. Although we didn’t get into the top 3 we were awarded 1st place for Best Design! Thanks again to Livingston Round Table for all their hard work and time, we hope there will be one next year and everyone at Purdie Worldwide looks forward to entering again! Special thanks to Kelly Roberts for videos of our runs (our go-pro ran out of battery!) and Liam Thompson and Andrew Lambie for the pictures! We’re really looking forward to 2020, and although we won the award for Best Design, we’re aiming for the fastest time down the hill for next year!