Disabled Motoring Magazine caught up with Tim Morgan – inventor of the Mountain Trike wheelchair

Disabled Motoring Magazine caught up with Tim Morgan to question him all about his invention – if you have ever wondered where the idea of Mountain Trike came from and some of the more technical side of things to the Trike then read on..

  1. What was the inspiration for the Mountain Trike?

I am a Design Engineer and I also race in the Welsh National Downhill Mountain bike Championships. Taking part in this extreme sport got me thinking about what wheelchairs were available and there didn’t seem to be a manual powered all terrain wheelchair that was off road capable but practical as well. This was the gap in the market I saw and as part of my final year masters project at Bath University, developed a first prototype Mountain Trike All terrain wheelchair that would provide wheelchair users with the freedom and independence to enjoy the countryside.

  1. How does the Mountain Trike work?

The unique patented design features of the Mountain Trike combined with proven Mountain Bike technology enable wheelchair users to access and enjoy the countryside in comfort and safety. In the Trike they are able to get to places that would be physically impossible in any other manual wheelchair.

Drive– A unique lever drive system that gives wheelchair users the mechanical advantage needed to push up steep hills, through difficult ground surfaces and over obstacles. This system also means the rider can enjoy the countryside in all weathers, with clean hands  as they don’t need to touch the wheels to drive.

Suspension – the Trike features fully independent air suspension that gives a comfortable and highly stable ride

Direct Steering – simple and intuitive one handed ‘joystick’ control enables the rider to carve smooth turns and traverse across slopes without the need for differential braking or drive. This maintains their momentum and saves energy whilst making the ride highly dynamic and great fun!

Hydraulic disc brakes provide excellent stopping control in all weathers

Robust yet light weight aluminium chassis copes with the rigours of riding off road.

Ergonomic adjustable seating developed from feedback of 100’s of different wheelchair users.

Foldable to fit in the boot of most cars and fits through most doors so the Trike is highly practical as well as off road capable.

  1. What sort of person would you recommend Mountain Trike to?

We have a very wide range of customers, as young as 11 and as old as 70, men women, and a variety of abilities. Many love the trike for the way it enables them to take part in family activities such as trips to the beach, country walks/rides, or walking dogs in the park and tackling urban obstacles such as kerbs and cobbles comfortably. Whilst in the same device, they may go and explore woodlands, mountain bike trails or if they are feeling adventurous, even Snowdon or Ben Nevis!

  1. What physical abilities must you have to use mountain trike?

If the rider has enough arm strength to propel a normal wheelchair, they would almost certainly be able to ride the trike, often finding it even easier than their standard chair.

Finger control is needed to operate the brake lever and some wrist control needed to steer.

We are working on a ‘Tetra braking’ adaptation to enable people with higher spinal injuries or limited hand strength to operate the brakes without the need for finger grip strength.

  1. How does mountain trike differ from other all-terrain wheelchairs?

Compared to an electric off road wheelchair, the Trike is far more light weight, cheaper, more transportable and provides the rider with great physical exercise. Other manual wheelchairs marketed in this area just seem to be a standard wheelchair with knobbly tyres so do not offer the features needed to travel off road effectively. The rider still has to touch the wheels to drive which is ill suited to coping with mud, snow or sand or ascending hills. The Trike’s lever drive, steering, braking and suspension systems enable the rider to tackle hills, obstacles and  wide range of surfaces and conditions that would be very difficult or even impossible in any other wheelchair.

  1. You featured on Dragon’s Den in 2013. What was this experience like? What did you learn from it?

The experience was exciting but draining. What Viewers didn’t see was that I was in front of the Dragon’s answering their questions for over 2 hours! Although it is an entertainment program, for the Dragons and Entrepreneurs it is a serious investment so all the necessary detailed discussions must take place there and then. Overall it was a great experience and I learnt a lot about the kind of things a potential investor is looking for in a company and was happy to see how positively they reacted to the product and the way I presented it too. Since filming the show in April 2012 we have progressed fantastically with our own plan for staged investment in die cast tooling to streamline our manufacture process so have achieved our goal without the Dragon’s investment.

  1. You started developing the Mountain Trike at university, how did you take it from a university project to a business?

After developing a good first prototype MT at University I had some local wheelchair users test it and provide excellent feedback. I saw then that the product would be well received on the market and I should develop it further. I was fortunate to meet an experienced local businessman David Rogers at a design exhibition in Bath who helped me set up the business, form a board of directors along with two good friends from university (Ed Elias and John Wardle), develop the business plan, carry out market research and seek investment. While doing this I held a full time job at Bentley Motor cars in Crewe for 3 years whilst continuing to work on the Trike in my spare time. This was a tough period in the product’s journey but I was able to carry out more design work and prototype development with our new Manufacturing partner GB Engineering (Nantwich) who I had met through my work at Bentley. Eventually, the trike was developed to a good stage that I was able to leave my job at Bentley and go full time on the Trike and finalise its design, certification testing, setup production and launch onto the market in August 2011. Since then The Trike has gone form strength to strength with sales increasing steadily year on year, selling 50% overseas either direct through our website or through our growing network of distributors. The future is bright for mountain trike with the growth of sales and development of new models to widen the range of wheelchair users it can benefit.

  1. How would a person find out more about Mountain Trike?

Visit our website

Or via Facebook or Twitter

And watch our various videos on our youtube and vimeo channels which help highlight the Trike’s performance or your can email us: info@mountaintrike.co.uk