Carving Asphalt. Electric Skateboards are the Snowboards of the Summer.

Jonathan Thomson | | Gear ReviewGear Review
Electric Skateboarder
Flying down the streets is almost as fun as flying down the slopes. Almost. Image: Engadget

If you live in a large city like San Francisco or New York, no doubt you’ve seen the “cool kids” buzzing down the street on their skateboards never lifting a foot to push themselves along. The electric skateboard has become one of the preferred choices for in town or “last mile” travel in major cities across the United States. They are fast, efficient, and pretty damn fun…if your commute included buzzing by cars stuck in traffic and sneaking in the occasional carve, you would arrive at work with a smile on your face too.

For the rest of us not commuting, electric skateboards also serve a magical purpose. The ability to carve S-turns or Straightline all summer long on the wide-open streets of our hometowns. Granted asphalt has nowhere near the give as even the firmest hardpack (yes, thankfully they do have brakes) or the fact the room for error on main street USA is significantly less than the corduroy at your favorite resort, you still get that sensation of initiating a turn, holding an edge, and finishing with style. Plus add in the “coolest kid in the neighborhood” factor and an electric skateboard should be on your list of boards to add to your stable.  Before we look at a few boards let’s look at some of the important technologies to pay attention to:

  • Battery Size/Swappablity: The size of the battery will determine the range of the board. It will also affect the overall weight and ability to easily transport the board. Some models have batteries that can be removed and swapped making for easier travel and the ability to swap a spent battery for a fresh battery.  Battery size, type, and ability to remove also determines if you can check that board on for your trip to Hawaii or San Diego…always check with your carrier.
  • Motor Type: Some models have external belt-driven motors while others use an in-hub or direct drive type motor.   Belt driven motors will typically provide more torque and power, and allow for customizations with different size and tooth gears, great for hilly terrain. Direct drive motors are more efficient and much quieter and have more “skateboard” feel to them. They can also be pushed like a regular skateboard when you run out of battery life.
  • Wheel Configurations: With standard skateboard configurations you can expect a skateboard like ride without the need for any pushing. Swapping wheels sizes and durometers (level of hardness) you can customize the feel.  New designs such as the One Wheel place a single large wheel in the center of the board for a more agile turn, while others such as the Summerboard experiment with 5th and 6th wheel placements underboard to mimic an on-snow feel.

Luckily for you, I have had the pleasure of testing out a few of the more popular brands and models out there (disclosure: I ended up on Evolve Carbon GT 2-in-1).

  • BoostedBoosted is the one of most “skateboard” like of the boards out there. The Boosted Plus flexy deck and traditional shape feel like you are riding your favorite longboard.  The 22 MPH top speed and 14-mile range remind you you are not.  This board has an appeal to the traditional skater looking for a standard looking longboard, it’s ride is smooth and silky and the kids in the neighborhood will be super jealous.
  • Evolve Carbon GTR:  This is the board for the Tesla crowd. The latest in space-age materials and a stealthy all-black (other color wheels and hubs available)look are all about stiffness and speed. With the ability to swap between traditional skateboard wheels and all-terrain wheels it’s not only about speed but also about versatility. Boasting a top speed of 22-26 MPH and a range of 19-31 miles depending upon wheel configuration this board feels rock-solid underfoot and can be made to feel as tight or surfy as you want.
  • One Wheel: Guaranteed to get you the most looks, the One Wheel XR with its single 11.5-inch wheel has a few key differences that you’ll want to try. First, it is remote controlless so starting and stopping only requires a shift in body weight. Second, the ride is unlike any skateboard you have ridden in the past. With a single pivot point and car-like tire, you can easily blast through uneven terrain and use the pivot to turn more quickly.  While the above boards feel more like carving the ride on the one wheel feels more pow like.
Evolve Carbon GTR AT
The Evolve Carbon GTR can be fitted with traditional electric skateboard wheels or a variety of all-terrain wheels (shown). Image: Evolve Skateboards

The above-mentioned models are just a few favorites and all boast a hefty $1200+ price tag (worth every penny IMO). There are many models from the brands above and others for other budgets and it is a purchase you will not regret.  There are also many sites for the DIY who wants to build a board from the ground up with parts available readily online.

DIY Electric Skateboard
Instructions and parts for a DIY board are all over the internet and YouTube. Image: YouTube

The ability to carve on asphalt and take the occasional off-piste adventure will help satisfy your needs until fall rolls around and the snow starts falling. Many shops offer test rides and host manufacturers demo days so you can try out a board for yourself.  Protective equipment is a must because as nearly all skateboarders, both electric and traditional, have found it’s not a matter of if you will fall but when you will!

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