Earlier this year, we wondered aloud if powered skateboards could be the perfect solution to the challenge of the “last mile” being both portable and effortless to ride. Having used my longboard skateboard almost exclusively to commute from home to college in addition to quite a few nighttime runs down our local hills, I was curious to take the idea to the next level and give them a run through the paces.
Boosted Boards was up for the challenge and sent me one of their Boosted Dual+ boards to run through the paces and see if it really could be a real piece of the solution. When the box arrived, I knew right away that it was stacked with potential, as the box came labeled as the solution to the “last mile” challenge. Claiming this doesn’t make it so, but the fact that the company is honed in on the problem is a great start.
What’s in the Box?
Just from the way the board was packaged showed me a lot about how the company operates. It was packaged in a box that a lot of care had been put into — from the “last mile” branding to the way the handle for the box was reused on a box within the box that contained all of the little supporting bits, it was a well-thought-out and designed package that really started things off on the right foot.
One thing that especially stood out to me was the fact that the package came with a handful of business cards for the board and a note about how so many people will ask about the board that these will help. To be completely honest, I thought this was a bit presumptuous, but boy was I wrong.
After just a few short minutes of taking this thing out on the town — whether at the park, around my neighborhood, or for a quick boosted ride around after church — people couldn’t help but ask about it, and man, I wished I would have brought these cards with me. Fortunately, that’s easily fixed moving forward. 🙂
In addition to the board and the business cards, there’s a remote, the charger, a quick start guide, and a few boosted board stickers.
The board arrived fully charged right out of the box — though, at first, I wasn’t sure. You see, the board has 4 operating modes, starting at turtle pace (level 1) and ramping all the way up to insane mode (level 4) that will boost the board up to 22 miles an hour on flat ground.
I live in a neighborhood with rather steep hills and the way it came out of the box wasn’t enough to roll up the street outside my house, so I came back in and plugged it in, only to find that it was already fully charged and ready to go. In watching a few other video reviews, I’ve seen a few that struggled with this as well (lol Casey Neistat … me too!). After reading the quick start guide (rtfm Kyle!), I found out how to kick the thing into a higher gear that was better suited to the hilly terrain and I was off!
The Ride — Throttle
Having quite a bit of time on longboards under my belt, I expected to be immediately comfortable on the board, and while that wasn’t completely wrong, the sheer power of the board caught me by surprise and took some getting used to. With a typical longboard skateboard, cruising on flatland and up hills takes work. Conversely, going down hills — while exhilarating — can get out of control very quickly.
Boosted Boards solves both of these challenges with one fell swoop. The rolling throttle on the handheld controller allows precise control of speed and allows for very gradual acceleration which is critical to maintaining balance and control when flying up or down hills. I spent most of my time in mode 4, which allows for the full range of acceleration and speed, and loved that the acceleration felt so natural.
The downside to having so much speed at the roll of the throttle is that I found myself flying — thankfully, not in the literal sense — and very quickly moving at speeds that required protective gear. One of my first ventures out of our neighborhood with it was to a local park with my family. The kids were on their bikes and my wife was jogging. I hadn’t brought a helmet because I hadn’t been at speeds requiring one on a skateboard since back in college and figured it would be just a mellow cruise around the park.
Check out the video here where I let the throttle fly for the first time and very quickly realized what I was up against. The speeds were not unfamiliar to me, but being able to hit them without having worked up a sweat to propel myself or to bomb down a crazy hill was a completely new experience. I’m definitely not complaining — the experience was exhilarating — but it did take me by surprise. Riding a Boosted Board is like letting that voice inside your head that says “faster, faster!” do what it wants without hardly a second thought.
The Ride — Braking
On the flip side, I was completely surprised by how much control the addition of motors provided when going downhill. Normally, a rider is subjected to the forces of gravity and can only fight back by carving — basically riding in big S-curves back and forth across the street — to slow down. Boosted Boards took a brilliant approach to this problem with not one but two methods of control while heading downhill.
The first control that can be leveraged is the trigger. That engages regeneration, which allows the rider to regenerate power and takes the edge off of the speed. It’s the equivalent of dragging your feet on the ground when riding a bike. You can feel it and it’s helpful but it’s not offering a ton of braking power.
In addition to that, the motors can actually be run in reverse to actively slow the board down. This feature is HUGE for both recreational riders and commuters as it adds a new level of safety and control to the ride that previously didn’t exist. I took the board down several hills that would have been downright ludicrous (gasp!) without this ability and instead had full control. Check out my video review at the bottom for an example of this. You can see that I was still nervous (it’s a really steep hill!) but handled it without any issues.
The ability to throttle both forward and backwards provides for a seamless experience of not having to worry if the board is actively accelerating or decelerating, but rather, just a speed controller that would either add velocity or subtract velocity to meet my needs.
Is Last-Mile Solution Boosted?
Are Boosted Boards practical solutions for the last mile? After running this one around just about every scenario I could dream up, I have to say yes, but with a few caveats. The board has ~6–7 miles of all-electric range, and with that, is great if the end of your commute off of transit is less than 3 miles or if you can charge at your destination.
The charge is extremely quick at around 1 hour and always surprised me that it was done so quickly. The charging system is a typical laptop style brick that’s on the large side but still portable, which allows for the option of bringing it with you to extend the effective range of the board. The boards are heavy but manageable and are still more portable than a bike that gets awkward on most forms of public transit very quickly.
Finally, there’s the obvious aspect of being able to ride a skateboard. Being a long-time rider myself, I found the board a natural extension of what I was used to and would expect that many skateboarders would find the same whether their previous experience was on long or short boards. For those who don’t have experience, the learning curve is definitely there, but is easily worked off in a matter of a few trips around the block.
I handed the reigns over to many non-skateboarders and not only did they all escape without casualties or bodily harm, they loved it and all of them were very eager to go up to the next mode after a few minutes. I’m not saying it’s perfect for everyone, but the Boosted Board definitely breaks down the typical image of a skateboarder with a nice lithium-powered boost.
I shared in the video that the Boosted Board comes in 3 different versions — the Boosted Single, the Boosted Dual, and the Boosted Dual+ coming in at $999, $1299, and $1499, respectively, which admittedly places it into a rather luxurious category whether it is used for recreation or commuting. Having said that, the extra ride control the board allows for recreational riders adds a level of safety that makes the cost something I would have considered if I were 10 or 20 years younger. To be honest, it’s still a very attractive option, and could see fitting it into my life even today.
Check out my video review of the product in action below for my perspective on the product … while riding it. You can purchase Boosted Boards from http://boostedboards.com — though, the site (and possibly its products) are soon getting an upgrade. 😀
All videos and images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica
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