Hello dear readers, Electric Skateboard HQ’s newest writer here!
For my first article, I would like to take you down the journey of how I decided on purchasing my first electric board, but first, a little background about me. I have been riding, sliding, and racing skateboards for over 8 years now. From racing (and crashing) in competitive events to running from cops in the dead of night, skateboarding has left an indelible mark on my life and become one of my favorite activities, and far and away, most preferred method of locomotion.
I am of the (rather strong) opinion that skateboards are a strict improvement over walking, and that, if everyone in the world learned to skate, we could solve most of our travel infrastructure problems instantly. As a Bostonian, I have found myself racing people in cars, buses, bikes, and even trains to get around the city and have always found skateboarding to be as fast, or often faster, than these more cumbersome modes of transportation, if slightly more dangerous.
But Why Skate?
Skateboards are light; you can bring them with you into most businesses and forms of public transportation. A wise man once said, “Why sit in a thing that runs on money and makes you fat, when you could be having fun commuting on something that runs on fat and saves you money?” On top of that, skating can be a very sophisticated form of self-expression. From wheels, trucks, and board cosmetics, to choice of gear* and even the style in which you ride, there is something about skating that lends itself to having a rich culture and identity element, much more so than biking or driving a car.
With all of this said and done, skating does have some shortcomings:
- You can do it in the rain, but you will be miserable
- Long distances can be very tiring and make you arrive at work dirty and sweaty
- Riders are confined to paved roads
As a skate-commuter, all of these factors had begun to wear on me. I hated having to walk to work in the rain or keep a separate set of clothes at work to change into when I arrived. At this point, I noticed that eSkateboards were really beginning to explode in popularity. I started to see yuppies zipping around Cambridge on the new Boosted Boards, and kickstarters popping up regularly for boards with more range, power, and speed.
Sadly, I couldn’t bring myself to pay the high prices of these new eSkates, not because I disliked the specs, but as a former skater, I noticed the low quality of the components. No way was I going to pay above market price for a Loaded Vanguard and some O-Tang wheels! I had much better setups at home. (At this point let me pause and say, that if Boosted partnered with Rayne or Landyachtz to make an electric Killswitch or Evo, I would throw my wallet at them faster than Predator Banshee can get off the line.)
At this point, I began to look into building my own custom eSkate. Sadly, the components were expensive, difficult to life-proof, and would require a fair bit of proficiency to spec out and then assemble. As a skater, I knew that I needed a commuter that I could beat the hell out of, that could survive the constant abuse of Boston’s winters, as well as my inane need to push my gear past its limits every chance I get.
This led me to the One Wheel. It doesn’t look that hot on paper with a top speed of 19 mph and a range of 5-7 miles, but it had a lot of other features that made it a very appealing alternative to the eSkates that I had been researching.
Those points boiled down to:
- One Big Wheel
- No Remote Needed
- Don’t Look Like a Fool
- Really Bright Lights
- Very Unique
- One Big Wheel:
First of all, the One Wheel features….well, ONE wheel, but it’s one BIG wheel. The wheel is actually a big, inflatable, rubber go-kart tire, capable of eating up cracks, potholes, and most road-debris thrown its way. All skaters know the feeling of having to take a couple of extra cautionary pushes when cruising over sketchy road conditions, but with the One Wheel, this is not the case.
Boston’s roads (some of the oldest in the nation) are not exactly known for their immaculate upkeep; I have often been forced to jump off of my skateboard and walk for a couple of hundred feet in order to avoid some bricks that look like they were installed in ancient times by Christopher Columbus himself. Having the big, inflatable wheel of the OW looked like the perfect solution to Boston’s unexpected landscape.
- No Remote Needed:
One of my major gripes with most eskates is the need for a handheld remote. Skateboarding is so cool because you can do it hands-free! I have ridden back from the supermarket countless times with an armload of groceries, or ridden along while getting something out of my backpack, or answering the phone. Requiring you to use one of your hands to “drive” the skateboard takes the user further away from the experience, and is just another device that can malfunction and ruin your ride.
The OW has only two rider controls:
- Lean forwards (to go forwards)
- Lean backwards (to go backwards)
As a lover of the “flow” of skateboarding, this is an ideal control mechanism. It keeps my body engaged in the control of the board, and keeps my hands free to balance, high-five strangers, and pat any adorable animals that I may pass by on my travels. Riders claim that these controls feel very natural, and also enable the rider to do something most eskates don’t: go backwards.
A quick youtube search revealed these controls in practice; I witnessed OW riders executing slides, grinds, stalls, and pivots on their machines, in much the same way that a street skater would tear up a rail or curb. I was enamored to see an eskate that had some trick potential Sick of watching hundreds of videos of kooky youtubers “cruising” down long smooth roads on their Boosted and Meepos, the OW was looking roughly 60% more fun at this point.
- Don’t Look Like a Fool
One of the biggest gripes I have with “hoverboards” and Electric Self Balancing Unicycles (ESBUs) is that you look like an absolute TOOL riding them. Rolling along in a neutral standing position has got to be one of the worst ways to travel. Compared to skaters, ESBU users are taking up twice the width of the sidewalk, and are about as aerodynamic as a brick wall.
Conversely, the OW allows the users to take a skater’s stance, narrowing your profile on the ground to the wind, and giving you an aggressive lean that (admittedly still not anywhere approaching “cool”) hopefully won’t cause EVERYONE who sees you to make some sort of Robocop joke. This wider stance also gives you more stability as you ride, which allows you more balance and confidence at higher speeds. What’s not to love?
- Really Really Bright Lights:
As a skater who commuted to and from work and school for around 6 years, I have definitely had my share of close calls with vehicles. Learning over time, I began to mitigate this risk by wearing hi-vis clothing, attaching reflectors to my backpack, and just generally attempting to become the human version of a Christmas tree.
The OW helps you out in this regard by supplying a headlight and taillight that dynamically change depending on your riding direction! It also bears mentioning that these lights are BRIGHTER THAN THE LIGHTNING BOLTS OF ZEUS. As in, do-not-look-directly-at-the-device-when-you-turn-it-on-or-you-might-go-blind, bright. This creates a really cool effect at night, where you seem to fly around effortlessly on a bed of white and red lights. It also has the effect of really freaking out some pedestrians, so I would recommend that you give people who look easily surprised some space.
- Very Unique:
One thing that I will say about the One Wheel is that it has a very unique and noticeable design. I was prepared to get some interesting looks, but not prepared for the number of people who would approach me to learn more about it, and even attempt to ride it! From old grandpa’s on the subway, to some of my more straight-laced clients, everyone wanted to learn more about the OW, and very few people had anything but wonder and joy to express. I won’t say that the OW is immune to random haters, but the vast majority of people seem to really enjoy watching the thing roll around.
One of my biggest concerns with getting an eskate was gaining the ability to commute to work (5 miles) in the rain or snow. If my ride couldn’t handle a downpour or an inch of snow, I would be better off just sticking with my old skateboard. Traditional eskates would be tough in the rain because, while they are mostly waterproof, the placing of the exposed wheels is perfectly set to rooster-tail water right up and onto the rider. As a downhill racer who has done a number of events on wet mountain roads, I was familiar with just how soaked you can get from this strange phenomenon.
The OW, however, is uniquely designed to keep all water UNDER the board. With the addition of an OEM plastic (or sick after-market carbon fiber) fender, the OW can self-contain all water spray below-decks. This keeps your legs dry, and your need to take an immediate shower upon arrival in check.
Even as a little kid, I fantasized about being able to ride a skateboard over any terrain. The only thing cooler than the effortless feeling of gliding over the pavement would be to continue right off of the road and into your favorite backwoods trail.
One of the coolest things about the OW is its ability to go anywhere and everywhere. Taking a quick look around youtube today, you can see that there is around a 50/50 split between OW footy that is on and off-road. These things can absolutely TEAR IT UP on dirt trails. The single, powerful motor built into the hub of the wheel combined with the large tire make the OW well suited for off-road riding, and I have even seen some users fit special treaded tires on their OWs for additional traction in mud and dirt.
All of these points, combined with the sudden theft of my motorcycle, led me to make the purchase of a new OW+. Since then, I have since ridden this strange device for over 125 miles, and have countless stories to share, but those will have to wait for next time!
I hope you enjoyed this little narrative of how I chose my first eskate; I apologize if it had less wheels than you were expecting. I would love to hear any feedback on my first article, criticisms of my process, or any requests for future articles, so feel free to email me at [email protected].
Until next time, let the good times roll!