Alternative transportation: Electric skateboard edition

Living in downtown Toronto, I’m always looking for new forms of transportation. I use the TTC (public transportation), Bike Share, a personal bike, and very recently an electric skateboard. After a month of using an electric skateboard (e-board), here are my thoughts of using the Acton Blink S2 in a big city.

At almost the size of a regular skateboard, it’s definitely heavier and rides further from the ground.

First ride

I’ve been skateboarding (a regular skateboard) for all my life, so I thought riding an electric skateboard would be easy. Hence, I set my e-board to pro mode (there is beginner/normal/pro modes) and hit full-throttle on my remote. The board immediately shot out of my feet and I almost wiped out. Talk about hubris! Make sure you lean forward when you accelerate and start with beginner mode, no matter how experienced you are with other forms of skate/surf/snow/long-boards. To this day, I still keep the board in normal mode, going around 15–20 km/h.

Short-range

Electric skateboards are coined as “last-mile” forms of transportation. That is to say they complement other forms of transit, such as the train. They’re also useful for short rides. I bought an electric skateboard for short-range (5km radius) trips and errands. Fortunately, I’ve never had to ride my board for more than 4km in a single trip. It really is stressful on your feet and knees. Standing on a shaky plank of wood is not comfortable for long distances.

Rider of 6'3'’ 245lbs (with a very heavy bag) in just normal mode usually beats most casual cyclists.

Bumpy roads

Downtown Toronto roads can be rough. A lot of roads have bumps, big cracks, potholes, and streetcar tracks which make for a very hazardous ride at times. Pay attention to the road, as a hole in the road can cause you flying and your board being crushed by a car. The Blink S2 is a stiff board. It doesn’t flex and absorb bumps like a longboard. Thankfully, the wheels are big enough to handle most bumps on the road. Unfortunately, I’ve seen reports of the soft wheels cracking due to rough surfaces (mostly for eboards that have only one in0wheel motor instead of two). I also wonder how much vibration/shaking the in-wheel motors can handle. So far, I have not encountered any issues.

Errands

Weighing in at a heavy 16.5 lbs, the board is cumbersome to handle. For example, going to grocery story is a bit awkward because you have to hold a dirty board with one of your hands. With a bike, you can lock it outside and enter the store with your hands free. Nonetheless, the board is great for traveling to the office or some other place where you can easily and safely stow the board. I’ll stick to bikes for errands or picking up food.

Safety

Safety is a major concern while riding one of these electric skateboards. The Acton Blink S2 comes with front/read/side lights, which is helpful for riding at night, but can also attract unwanted attention — I personally turned off the front and read lights and covered the sidelights that cannot be turned off. I always wear a helmet riding this eboard. The hectic roads and crazy downtown drivers (aggressive taxis, ignorant drivers) are too unpredictable to risk not wearing a helmet. Thankfully there are many bike lanes and smaller roads you can take to mitigate risk riding downtown.

Side lights at night in Toronto’s bike lane.

Final thoughts

Despite some of the shortcomings with riding an electric skateboard, I have to say that it’s a lot of fun! Being able to carry the board from my tiny apartment to the door and immediately taking off is very convenient. I don’t have to worry about theft (like a bike). For short trips, I can be lazy and not expend any calories or sweat.