13 May How to Take Your Electric Skateboard Off-Roading
Few people even consider taking their electric skateboard off-roading. Most stick to paved roads and city streets, not knowing the kind of fun that awaits them outside the concrete jungle.
Carving up dirt roads, rolling over roots and rocks like they were nothing, even taking a leisurely loop around the local lake are underrated activities that anyone with an electric skateboard can do…
On the condition that they have the right setup.
One doesn’t just move from urban to off-road riding without changing a few things. In fact, a proper all-terrain electric skateboard requires certain components and a certain riding style as well.
This article is meant to give you an idea of what it takes to go off-roading with your electric skateboard. Whether you’ve just invested in a brand new dedicated all-terrain e-board or just want to customize your current electric skateboard, there’s something new here for you to learn. By the end, you’ll have a much better idea of what you need to do before hitting the trails.
Dedicated vs converted vs DIY
You have several different options if you want to go off-roading with an electric skateboard:
- Buy a dedicated all-terrain electric skateboard – This is obviously the surest way to ensure you have the best off-road electric skateboard possible with all the right features. These will have optimal protection, proper wheels, and enough power to conquer the gnarliest hills. Only downside: these will much more expensive than standard e-boards.
- Convert your current board – Most electric skateboards could be turned into decent off-roading machines with just a few extra parts. Granted, they won’t be able to handle the same as a dedicated all-terrain board but should still manage. This is a great way to save some money and avoid buying a completely new board.
- Make your own – For those who want to have an awesome all-terrain electric skateboard without breaking the bank. Those who undertake this project will obviously need to be quite handy and have the right parts. Make sure you have the time to cause you’ll be doing everything from scratch.
All-terrain electric skateboard vs mountainboards?
It’s important to distinguish between all-terrain electric skateboards and electric mountainboards because they’re actually quite different.
An all-terrain or off-road electric skateboard will most resemble a common electric skateboard. They’ll have a longer deck, a bigger battery, one maybe two motors, and some kind of all-terrain wheels.
Mountainboards on the other hand are a whole different animal. These are designed to handle the most difficult terrain possible and are highly specialized. They come with enormous wheels, full suspension, and often feet bindings. In fact, they resemble more snowboards with wheels than a longboard with a battery.
This article most covers all-terrain electric skateboards and not mountainboards. If you want to learn more about mountainboarding, you can refer to this article here.
Regardless of how you come to own an all-terrain e-board, almost all of them will have certain qualities in common. Let’s talk about those similarities now.
So what makes a good off-roading electric skateboard? Here is what you need to consider.
First and foremost, you will need to have a good set of all-terrain wheels. Unlike standard skateboard and longboard wheels, these are pneumatic, meaning they’re pumped full of air and are made of rubber, rather than Polyurethane material. Wheels of this sort are much better at handling variegated ground and riding over little pieces of debris that you might find on the trail.
A good set of all-terrain wheels will have a decent amount of tread on them, which provides extra surface grip. The more tread there is, the more able the wheel will be when it comes to handling rugged terrain. Super grippy wheels may not be as fast though due to drag. To compensate, use a larger wheel to achieve higher speeds.
An additional benefit of pneumatic wheels is that their internal pressure can be adjusted by adding more or less air. Firmer tires will be faster and be better on firmer terrain whilst slightly deflated tires are better at handling rougher tracks.
A lot of people, especially commuters, actually prefer to use all-terrain wheels in the cities because the extra balance they provide is useful even in urban environments. Cracks, curbs, and litter will all be less of an issue with a larger wheel. Just be careful of sharp objects – unlike solid Polyurethane wheels, pneumatic wheels can still be punctured and then rupture.
It is possible to get something between a pneumatic and Polyurethane wheel as well. Manufacturers like MBS and CloudWheel make a larger, treaded wheel that is cast from solid material. These are good if you want a little extra traction without sacrificing too much speed. We prefer to use this kind of wheel with Linky.
You’ll want to make sure that your board can handle the additional beating it might receive on the trail.
A sturdy yet flexible deck that can bend without snapping is very important as you’ll be bouncing up and down very often. The longer and wider the deck is as well, the more stability you will have.
Your board ought to have a good hardshell that covers the battery too. If your deck goes over something protruding and bottoms out, your battery is going to get bashed. Enough force and it could become damaged. A compromised battery might cease to work or even become a fire hazard.
Linky boards, for example, are made of tough carbon fiber and have very sturdy battery casings. The battery is also conveniently located at the front.
One thing to note though is that because Linky is made of two equally-sized pieces (joined by a hinge), the center can be a weak point. Avoid situations where sudden and massive force might be applied to the bridge in the middle of the board.
We won’t get into the technical requirements of all-terrain motors, drive trains, and belts. Only those making DIY all-terrain boards will need to know these gory details.
As a regular rider using a consumer board, all you need to know is that the more powerful the motor, the better. More power means less trouble with difficult terrain. Your board is going to need all the help it can get if you want to conquer hills, especially if those hills are covered in dirt or gravel.
Top speed isn’t the true indicator of power in this case either. Rather, torque is the thing that you should be focusing on.
Technically speaking, torque is the amount of force your motor can generate per rotation and not the number of rotations it can achieve in a certain period. The former, torque, is what gets you up the hill, not necessarily quickly but reliably. That latter, on the other hand, is speed.
Torque is not usually listed on electric skateboard sales pages so be sure to inquire about it directly with the manufacturer you’re considering.
Most middle to top-shelf electric skateboards come with motors that offer decent torque. Single motor drive systems are often good enough but two is better. The upcoming Linky 2.0 is going to have dual motors, an exciting development that will make it even more competent off-road.
Bear in mind that more powerful motors will also consume more power, which means they’ll need more powerful batteries. Double-check your electric skateboard battery’s capacity and make sure it will still last long enough (around 10-12 miles) before needing to be recharged.
Trucks, Bearings, and Suspension
The size of the trucks will influence the size of the wheel you can use, and vice versa. For example, 8” pneumatic wheels usually have larger bearings and a larger bearing requires larger trucks.
So it’s not the case you can put a large off-road wheel on EVERY single electric skateboard – some’s trucks will be just too small to handle the larger wheels.
Some trucks come with a built-in suspension system. Having suspension on your board can be pretty convenient as it really smoothes out the ride. Not only will make your board further from the ground but will also absorb lots more shock, both of which drastically reduce bumpiness.
Suspension is not a common feature with electric skateboards though so you’ll either have to buy a special model that comes with it or install it custom yourself.
Insider tip: Adjust your trucks’ bushings depending on the type of terrain you’re riding on.
Standard trucks can feel a bit too stiff when used off-road, especially when the track is twisty. This is because standard bushings are meant for more flatter surfaces with higher traction where slight shifts in body weight is enough to turn the board.
If the terrain is relatively compact and straightforward, you might not need to do anything different. On the other hand, you’re riding somewhere you know you’re going to be leaning a lot, then you might want to loosen the bushings. This will help you take those sharper corners and nail those bends.
There are certain kinds of terrain that are more fun than others when it comes to off-roading.
Loose sand, mud, and other soft surfaces that shift easily are terrible to ride on. Even the most powerful all-terrain electric skateboards can struggle with these conditions. Spin-outs, tail whips, and dug-outs are all possibilities.
Firm surfaces, like dirt trails, grass, gravel roads, and even compact sand are much more enjoyable. Although they are not completely flat, they offer enough traction to ensure that (most of the time) your ride goes smoothly.
A lot of people think that riding an all-terrain electric skateboard means going into nature or the wilderness e.g. the woods, beach, mountains, whatever. Whilst all of these are places are certainly possible (and enjoyable) to ride your board at, there’s one particular spot with a lot of untapped potential: BMX courses.
BMX courses are a great place to test out your new all-terrain e-board. For one thing, they’re controlled environments, which means you don’t have to worry about someone or something jumping out in front of you. For another, the tracks are all specially designed to give you and your board just enough of a challenge whilst still being fun as hell.
Before hitting the trails, you’ll definitely want to know how to ride your electric skateboard first, at least on the usual terrain. Once you’ve got that down, then you can move off-road.
When you’re off-roading with your electric skateboard, you’ll want to consciously squat much lower to the ground. This will help you not only maintain your center of gravity, which will constantly be altered by the varied terrain but will also give you greater control of the board.
When handling large bumps, make sure your knees are bent. That way your body will be better able to absorb the shock when going clearing it.
If you lean forward too much on a steep incline, you may end up spinning out. This is because there is too much weight on the front of the board and too little on the back where the motor usually is. It might seem unnatural at first but you’ll have to lean back a bit on those inclines to ensure there’s enough traction between the wheels and the ground. With practice, you’ll find the happy medium.
If, on the other hand, you’re using a board with front-wheel drive, like Linky, then you won’t have to worry so much about shifting your weight when going up hills and inclines.
While at the BMX course, in addition to bumps and dips, you’ll also be hitting berms: bowl-like turns. At first, these can seem like serious obstacles for those new to BMX courses, but they really don’t require any special technique. Just maintain your speed and don’t too turn too sharply when taking the curve. Rather, lean into it naturally and let it happen.
Extra safety gear
It’s much easier to fall off your board when off-roading. Your center of gravity is going to be a whole lot less solid and the odds of you hitting something destabilizing is much greater. If you haven’t already learned how to fall properly, now would be a good time before you hit the trail.
As always, you should always be wearing a helmet when you’re riding an electric skateboard. You won’t have to worry about cars or traffic taking you out, but you will have to worry about scraping your face against the gravel or a low-hanging tree branch.
Unless you feel really confident in your skills as well, you should also seriously consider knee, wrist, and elbow pads. That variegated terrain is going to wreak havoc on your skin if you take a dive you’ll be lucky to talk away with your outer epidermis still on. Picking wood or cleaning dirt out of wounds isn’t any fun either.
Since we’re on the subject, you should probably throw a first aid kit into your longboard backpack while you’re at it. Just in case.
Most electric skateboards are capable to some degree to go off-roading. Just throw on a pair of all-terrain wheels, make sure the board is strong enough, and know what you’re doing. Do these and you should manage in most cases.
If you’re serious about off-roading and want to have the most capable e-board possible, you’ll want to invest in something more specialized or build your own. More suspension, larger wheels, a larger battery, and a more powerful motor are only going to help you out on the trails.
All that being said, we hope that this article has given a better idea of what off-roading with an electric skateboard is like. Don’t be intimated next time you want to try it out 🙂
What is your all-terrain setup like? Do you use a standard electric skateboard with a few extra accessories or do you have something more custom? Let us know in the comment section below!