Electric Skates vs. Normal Inline Skates

How this page will proceed

Because I always like to examine things in the abstract absent actual products (why limit oneself to perhaps sub-par designs that already exist?), I will be primarily examining the idea of electric skates rather than any particular model. Same deal goes for the regular inline skates mentioned: I’m not going to be talking about specific products per se, but an abstraction of the type.

Thundrblade, the electric skate that has a crowdfunding campaign launching May 2018, is currently the only serious electric skate company that I am aware of. So there is that.

(Edit: unfortunately Thundrblade didn’t make it through crowdfunding. So that makes this post little more than abstract theorizing; you can’t actually buy electric skates).

Talking to the pros

I have had extensive conversations with people from two different skate brands about their products. I am going to post them so that other people can see the dedication of these folks and how they answer questions. You will also see a distinct evolution in my own thought as I learned more.

Note that responses have been slightly edited for conciseness (off-topic and personal questions/circumstances were removed, e.g.), clarity, typos, etc. I did not change meaning anywhere.

First conversations: Daniel Souza of Thundrblade

Steven

Hey, quick question. Can Thundrblade handle rain and riding through puddles? Couldn’t find this information on this [Facebook] page, YouTube, or the site.

If not, I might suggest considering making the enclosure more water-resistant. I’d like to be able to commute even on wet days.

Good job so far!

Daniel

Hello Steven Tammen, thank you for your interest in Thundrblade. Don’t forget that our crowdfunding campaign is going to launch very soon. Subscribe to our mail newsletter to be notified.

Thundrblade is not waterproof and is not meant to be used under any wet conditions. Most people would not skate when it’s raining, so it is not a highly demanded feature.

Thundrblade will not break or stop functioning with the occasional splash. It has more to do with the drive system than the electronics/batteries.

Our unique ultra-lightweight and compact drive system allows for the motor to disengage for free-wheeling. Meaning you can skate freely without the motor resistance when needed/wanted, usually when the batteries are dead or when training/exercising. The downside is that it doesn’t work when the wheel is wet.

If we can make Thundrblade a reality we might make a more commuter-oriented version in the future meant to withstand rain, but this is only going to happen if we make it through this campaign now.

Steven

Thanks for the quick response. I would be more worried about the battery/electronics getting easily compromised, so it’s good to hear that it won’t instantly short upon water exposure. The more capable the electronics in this regard the better.

Does your response mean that if you always keep the motors engaged the skates won’t have problems with water, or that they will always have a problem due to the nature of the system?

Daniel

The electronics will be well protected against dust and dirt, so unless you dip the skates into the water (with batteries and turned on) there should be no problem with rain.

The way our drive system works, when the wheel becomes wet, the motor can’t get enough friction to push the wheel and it slips. The motor will spin, but it will not move the wheel. The moment the wheel becomes dry again it will go back to work again. So if you go through a puddle the motor will momentarily slip until the wheel is dry, which usually takes a few seconds on dry pavement. That’s why we tell everyone to avoid wet pavement and water.

Of course, when using the all-terrain rubber tires this effect is reduced because of the increased rubber grip.

If you must skate through wet pavement, turn off the skates and disengage the motors so it will become a normal inline skate.

we still have a development phase after the crowdfunding campaign. Basically developing custom motors, remote and electronics and finalizing the product deisgn and engineering. In this phase we will try to minimize this system disadvantage.

Steven

Thanks for the information! I just have one more question at the moment:

Do the electronic brakes still work as normal in wet conditions? This is one of the main selling points of these skates for me – the ability to stop without T-braking (which can make balance more iffy) or powersliding (which can be difficult to do in tight spaces/crowded places). So if the water on the wheels removes electronic drive capabilities but leaves the brakes intact, then we’re like 80% there, in my opinion. I don’t mind having to push under certain circumstances if I still have the awesome braking. (Particularly for downhill and in tight spaces where braking in wet conditions can get hairy ordinarily).

Thanks again for taking the time to respond. If the brakes work as above, I’ll almost certainly be backing this during the campaign. I’m really excited about what you’re doing, and really hope it succeeds!

Daniel

The brakes are operated by using the motors as an electric generator making resistance to the movement while recharging the batteries.

If the motors are disengaged or can’t get friction out of the wheels the brakes will not work. It’s easier to brake than to push on the friction side, so the brakes will have some effect even if the wheels are wet, BUT it’s not guaranteed to work.

It’s better to assume that in the rain, Thundrblade will be a regular inline skate.

Even if the first generation of Thundrblade is not exactly what you want I ask you to please back us so a second generation might happen someday. We will also hear and talk to backers about some key design decisions while finishing the product.

Steven

Thanks for getting back to me.

I understand that design is complicated and that first iterations can’t always be what one would wish them to be (particularly when there is not an abundance of capital to begin with). I will think about it. While I would love to contribute to what you are doing (and put electric skates on the radar), $1200-1500 (or the high hundreds or whatever for early-birds) is a lot of money.

Let me explain my reasoning a little bit:

For me, braking is a big draw towards the concept of electric skates (hill-climbing and being able to move forward without a wide stride in crowded places also being important). So the fact that the brakes do not work (fully) under wet conditions is actually sort of a big deal to what I would want to get out of electric skates.

For people using these as expensive toys, things are different. And obviously one wouldn’t go out in the rain typically for pleasure. But for anyone considering these as a a drop-in replacement for some of the high-end electric skateboards, for example – as commuting vehicles to replace cars and bikes in urban environments – rain is unavoidable. I cannot simply not commute on rainy days, even if they are rather infrequent.

This makes makes the choice harder. I prefer skate-commuting over skateboard-commuting for a number of reasons. For example, skates are more maneuverable by far at low speeds (and can be made to present a narrower profile in crowds to squeeze through gaps), have greater stability at high speeds (since you can spread your legs in a scissor-stance), and can take full advantage of streets and sidewalks as good conditions present themselves (by effortlessly transitioning up and down curbs/stepping over other obstacles). But if I lose higher speeds (from motor-assisted skating) and electronic braking in the rain, that makes them fully effective commuting devices only in fair weather conditions, and definitely inferior to (water-resistant) belt-driven or hub-motor electric skateboards in the rain.

Ideally, I want to buy only one form of portable electric transport. I am already 100% on-board with Thundrblade in fair-weather (for the reasons stated above). But if this is to be used as a form of primary transport, then rain seems to me a non-negotiable variable. To me, it’s not an afterthought… it’s a primary design concern.

Daniel

I completely agree with you. A primary commuting vehicle should be able to handle rain. And the advantages of inline skating are as you stated above.

But to get these features some sacrifices would be too much for most people. We have to think about how to be a viable business before anything else.

The biggest sacrifice is weight. A hub motor would be the solution to almost every concern a commuter would have, but we are talking about getting the skates WAY too heavy to be enjoyable using them. A powerful enough hub motor would make the skates at least 2-3 pounds heavier. Thundrblade now weighs in at 5 pounds, the same as an aggressive skate.

A drive belt would be a bit lighter, but it then takes it to the second sacrifice.

The second sacrifice is the ability to free-wheel. Hub motors are a little bit better at this then drive belt, but still they have a little resistance. Enough resistance that you would probably only skate like this as a last resort when batteries are down. Belt driven is actually so bad I would prefer to take my skates off and walk in socks than skating with belt drive resistance. Thundrblade can completely disengage the motors to free-wheel as a normal inline skate.

Thundrblade focuses on being an electric skate that is everything an inline skate is and a lot more with no drawbacks. It is the same weight, skates the same plus motors and brakes.

Going the commuter route would mean sacrificing the inline skate feel, which would ultimately take away the FUN of it. When the primary reason one would choose Thundrblade over any other commute mode is that skating is more fun than bicycling, scooting or skateboarding.

We intend to develop a small and powerful enough hub motor to be able to make a commuter and overall better version in the future, but it is just not possible with no funds.

If you, in the end, decide that you will not invest fully in the first version, please, at least back us with any amount you can as the number of backers help us a lot on the crowdfunding platform. The more backers we have the higher the chance of being featured on the front page, raising the chances of a succesful campaign. You would also be able to see backers-only updates and follow the development of the company.

Steven

Thanks for the good points. Like I said, I’ll think about it. I’ll definitely back you in some regard no matter what I decide about the skates themselves.

I’ll write up my thoughts more fully and send them to you via email when I get the chance. I’ve thought a fair bit about pros vs. cons with respect to bikes, skateboards, drive systems, etc., and you might find it helpful. (I’m not an expert or anything, but it might help you get a “customer perspective”).

I see what you’re trying to do now, and I can respect it. One question: if a big selling point for Thunderblade is the ability to deactivate motor resistance, how easy is it to do? Is it a button you push on the remote, or is it something you need tools for?

Daniel

Thank you very much sir. I appreciate very much you spending your time to get me some precious feedback like this.

About the disengage system it will depend on how successful the campaign will be. If we get enough funds the disengage system would be automatic: you would press a button on the remote controller to activate it and hold this button to accelerate, this way every time you release the throttle the motor would disengage automatically letting you free-wheel always. Very similar to the “safety” button boosted boards has on their controller which must be pressed for the throttle be enabled.

If we can’t get enough money to implement that or if the backers don’t have interest in this feature the disengage will be manually operated by a lever next to the motors on the side of the frame.

So this will probably be a “stretch goal”. if we get to a specific threshold we will implement it.

Steven

I sent an email to thundrblade.com@gmail.com with some more detailed thoughts.

Please have a look at it as convenient.


Hello,

This is Steven Tammen, the person who was asking questions on the Thundrblade Facebook page. Since our discussions were getting kind of long (and I knew this would be even longer), I thought it might be best to move into the email format. It also makes everything easier to reference later. I’ve organized this email into sections. Here’s the TL;DR:

  1. My hypothesis: there’s not actually any great reason to have full free-wheeling except for similarity to skates people are already familiar with. You can just run the motors on hub-motor/belt-driven/etc. skates to make up for their unavoidable resistance. a. Making skates fully waterproof isn’t as easily marketable to some people as making them light and similar to other skates. So it is better for a first crowdfunded product to appeal to market demand than focus on a design idea that might be better in some senses, but harder to “sell.”
  2. Skates have many advantages over other things in the product space (which I take to be {electric folding bikes, electric skateboards, the Onewheel product line, electric folding scooters}). They also have several disadvantages. It might be a good idea to compare and contrast them with electric skateboards in particular, since those have had good success on crowdfunding websites.
  3. Moving past the initial product: what an ultimate commuter skate would look like, in my opinion.

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1. Regarding free-wheeling and reasons for not having hub-motors or belt-driven mechanisms that could stand up to rain

I’ve spent some time thinking about what you’ve said, and I think I’m failing to grasp the main point.

Essentially, why does an electric skate need to be able to free-wheel? The more I thought about this, the more I could not get past the fact that any inherent resistance from hub motors or drive belts (or some other system) could simply be overcome by using the motors. You could still “skate normally” — just with the motors overcoming the resistance inherent to the drivetrain that powers them. You wouldn’t have to only use the motors, but just use them enough to get rid of the resistance they cause.

Am I missing something? Because, aside from a slightly higher drain on the battery than free-wheeling skates (if you are getting most of your power from yourself not the motors), I don’t see a practical disadvantage to the situation above. (And with swappable batteries, and a ~8 mile range. This wouldn’t even be a problem for most people, I would think). So while free-wheeling saves power (due to removing motor resistance when skating manually), if you simply keep the motors running a little bit when you skate with non-free-wheeling skates, there won’t be a performance difference.

Are there other differences? Yes. No matter how you do it, electric skates will be a bit heavier than normal skates (and will only have 2 wheels, so will ride a little bit rougher than skates with 3 wheels of the same size). But I’m not so convinced that an “always-on” system would be much more than a couple pounds heavier than the system you are using now.

Let’s say an “always-on” system adds ~3 pounds of weight (which would be on the high end, I would think) over what you have now. Would this restrict what you can do? Now, I’m no pro skater, so I’m not familiar with fancy stuff. But from a practical point of view, I don’t see much that would get affected by a slightly heavier skate. You’d still be able to step up curbs, powerslide for emergency stops, splay your skates for balance, etc. etc. You’d just have a little bit more weight on your feet. It would be different than regular skates, that’s for sure, but not inferior in any way that I can think of.

In fact, from a certain point of view, more weight is a good thing. It’s a better workout. Over time, as muscles develop from skating with heavier skates, you’d get accustomed to it, and wouldn’t even notice it.

Note that all this is assuming you can run the motors while skating normally. I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be able to do this, and believe this is what the “assisted-mode” the website mentions is. ??

Now, then, I’m assuming you had a reason for designing the skates as you did. It seems to me that the biggest reason why you would want to keep the skates, well, “skate-like” (i.e., similar to other inline skates that already exist) is to encourage adoption. If you are primarily targeting the experienced skater demographic who always wished their skates could function normally but have the additional functionality of going up hills and having electric brakes when desired (as I’m assuming you are), then it follows that making the skates behave like “normal skates” would make them happier even if it is just because they are more similar to what they are used to. So the reasons for the present design, while not divorced entirely from pragmatic considerations, are in some respects designed more for market appeal than practically.

Am I correct in this? This would make a lot more sense to me then — you are allowing free-wheeling rather than having a system with always present resistance not so much because the latter is worse than the former in practice, but because it is less like normal skates than the former, and therefore less immediately attractive to your market. Once you have a successful product and more money to fund further development, you can then work on a skate that is perhaps more focused on practical commuting realities (namely, handling water well), rather than fun and market appeal.

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2. Advantages and disadvantages of skates

I started writing up a lot about comparing skates with skateboards, bikes, scooters, etc., but then I figured that you are already familiar with why skates are practically superior to those, so I decided to just hit the main points. (You probably wouldn’t have a skate-focused startup otherwise!). We hit on some of the main ones in our Facebook exchange, but here’s a more thorough overview of my views on the subject:

  • Skates deal with curbs and transitioning from sidewalk to street better than any other option. (The ability do do both in urban commuting is important, and so is switching between them). Skates are really the only option that can transition from sidewalk to street or vice versa without coming to a stop, which can be dangerous in many situations (particularly in the street —> sidewalk case).
  • Skates deal with crowds and maneuverability (particularly at low speeds) better than any other option. By putting the skates in line it is possible to present a narrower profile in tight spaces than any other option. Keeping your body facing forward also means a backpack won’t stick out and whack people, giving skates a distinct edge here over things like skateboards that cause you to have a side-profile.
  • Skates have better stability than everything other than bikes. Bikes have gyroscopic stability, but are not terribly maneuverable. Skates give you options. If you widen your stance and stay low, you can be quite stable. But if you pull your skates in and get your center of gravity higher, you can also make really sharp turns and direction adjustments. Bikes only let you do the former. Skates let you do both.
  • Skates give the best obstacle avoidance. Bike tires will be able to go over more, sure, but if you can step over or jump over things, that is certainly even better. Additionally, skates make it easy to change exactly where your feet line up without changing the amount of space you take up. So, for example, if there is a big pothole in a bike lane, a biker would have to swerve and stick out more on one side, but a skater could simply adjust his skate position without changing the overall amount of space he takes up. (Assuming the pothole isn’t enormous, that is).
  • Skates are the most portable option out of the product space (which I take to be {electric folding bikes, electric skateboards, the Onewheel product line, electric folding scooters}). With a good skating backpack (like those made by Seba), you can basically carry you skates around hands-free without significantly altering how much you can carry. They’re not exactly unnoticeable, but they are a lot better than the alternatives in this regard.
  • At moderate speeds, skates probably have a better ability to execute emergency stops than any other option. You can do more controlled stops with the electric brakes on all the options, but the problem with this in an emergency situation is that the brakes will lock up and you’ll lose control. For example, you have to be careful on bikes not to over-apply brakes and lose traction, since you are almost guaranteed to fall if you do. You can powerslide on longboards for a somewhat controlled slide, but it’s easier to mess up than on skates (I think). With skates, a powerslide is effectively a controlled friction stop. You intentionally lose traction to slow yourself very quickly, but since you are expecting it and do it intentionally, it’s different than if you lose traction braking normally. (The only issue with powerslides is that you can only really do them at slower speeds. Trying one going 25mph is likely to not succeed and possibly even break ankles and so on).

[Editing note: This assumption on my part about not being able to do slide stops at speed was just straight up wrong. See this video from Shaun Unwin of Shop Task].

I could no doubt go on, but I think that’s most of the big ones. You might be able to come up with a good marketing blurb about some of the advantages skates have relative to electric skateboards in particular, since those have been pretty popular on crowdfunding sites. Of course, for fairness, you’d probably want to mention skates’ disadvantages too. I can only think of these:

  • They take longer to put on and take off. You can just hop on and off a skateboard and pick it up, but you generally have to fiddle with skates for a bit before you head off. The transition can be made less painful by using a well-designed skate boot that allows for quick in/out, and using an elasticized lace system on your normal shoes (like this). It’s worth pointing out that you have to fiddle with folding bikes and scooters too, even though you don’t need to do a shoe-swap in those cases.
  • They make stairs a bit harder. Not impossible, but just a bit harder. You can, of course, ride down them with practice, and jump them if there’s not too many. As long as there are handrails on the stairs, this shouldn’t ever be a significant problem (or even slow you down very much), but dealing with stairs can take a bit of practice.
  • They are harder to design and more complex since you have to effectively double everything relative to “one-piece systems.” Two drivetrains, two batteries, two receivers for the handheld remote, etc. This means that they will probably always be a bit more expensive than similarly capable electric skateboards or other things of the sort.
  • They are probably a bit harder for people to learn than other options. Most people I’ve ever met can ride a scooter with a wide base right off the bat since it doesn’t really require much balance. Most people in the western world can ride bikes. A few people can ride skateboards, and would be comfortable with them at speed. Even fewer people than this are comfortable with skates from the get-go — at least this has has been my n=1 observation.
    • It’s worth pointing out that electric skates do actually solve the #1 problem people have with inline skates when learning: the lack of a good stopping mechanism. T-braking requires good one-foot balance and powerslides are hard to learn at first. Heel brakes are just bad. But electric brakes at the press of the button makes learning how to skate presumably much simpler.
    • However, they are probably still on the difficult end of things. Maybe right around the same level as electric skateboards, maybe a bit harder.

[Editing note: while I don’t think heel brakes are always bad like I thought when I initially wrote this, the low surface area of the brake compared to an entire set of wheels makes the T-stop/drag stop more effective one you master it. At least this is my present understanding.]

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3. An ultimate commuter skate

Skates for slalom and/or park use (grinding rails and the like) are a different breed than what I like to call “practical skates” — skates that make a superior form of personal transportation. I am happy that other types of skating exist, but for joe shmoe practical skater, the only sort of skates that are of ultimate concern are those that best allow commuting/urban travel. With this in mind, here’s a checklist of what I would like to see in an electric commuting skate eventually:

  • Top speed: around 25mph. Paradoxically, going slower than this in many cases is probably more dangerous that the risks associated with going at higher speeds (more abrasion, higher impact forces, etc.). When riding on roadways, other motorists/bikers/skateboarders etc. are a bigger threat than asphalt most of the time (particularly if you are skilled enough not to fall on your own). You don’t want to be going slower than people around you so as to be a traffic hazard. Of course, on sidewalks with people, you can always just go slower.
  • Hill gradient: at least 20%. More would be better, but there are diminishing returns with respect to motor size, motor weight, and power consumption. I would rather have a skate that could do ~20% hills and only weighed 7 pounds than a skate that could do ~30% hills but weighed 10 pounds due to bigger motors and a bigger battery.
  • Full water-resistance: as discussed, this means not only that the electronics should be fully splashproof (submersion resistance really probably isn’t necessary, but rainproofness is — IP65 certification would be ideal), but also that the electric drivetrain should operate as normal under wet conditions, as should the brakes. The skates should, in other words, not lose capabilities due to wetness.
  • Range: I’d say about 8 miles is a good target to shoot for. Again, diminishing returns here. I’d rather have smaller batteries that were swappable than bigger batteries that added significant bulk and weight.
  • Batteries: the batteries, as mentioned above, should ideally be swappable. It would also be good if they used fast-charging technology, as long as it doesn’t jack up the costs too much.
  • Boots: it would be best to keep Thundrblade as a frame system, like you currently have it. This gives people flexibility in what boots they decide to use with the skates, which is a very good thing.
  • Drivetrain resistance: since making the skates handle water effectively will probably entail a drive system that adds some base rolling resistance, it would be good to keep this as low as possible to avoid unnecessary energy losses. This would probably mean avoiding belt-drive in lieu of hub motors or some sort of other solution. (Probably worth looking into how Jed Boards handle rolling resistance since I’ve heard that they almost got rid of it completely in their drive system). It’s not worth sacrificing top speed or torque (hill climbing ability) for lower rolling resistance, as I argued earlier in this email, since you can just run the motors a little to overcome the resistance. But it’s good to make it as low as possible given other design constraints.
  • Wheels: allowing a choice between 110’s and 125’s, like you are already doing, is really great. Also, having the option for inflatable tires is also good. I’m not convinced they are the best for city riding (you lose a degree of power transfer, correct?), but it is still a good option to have.
  • Full hybrid design: skating provides a good form of exercise. It would be even better if you could get the exercise (i.e., skate normally) while also running the motors to increase speed. I think the current design allows for this (“assisted skating”), but if not, this would be high on my priority list. It seems to me that it might be worth only running the motors when a skate is in contact with the ground. I don’t know how feasible this is (via sensors and firmware, e.g.), but it would hypothetically save power and perhaps be a bit safer to boot.

I think that covers most of it. I’m sure there’s various other factors to get into, but that’s the main “wishlist” for what I’d like to see in an electric skate eventually. If you get to make a skate after the Thundrblade design you currently have, pretty please let it be something like the above!

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I’m still seriously considering backing the current design fully as a “good enough” solution for all the times when it is not raining. But I’d really, really like a skate that functioned normally in the rain/wet.

Again, I appreciate the responses so far, and am glad to be able to discuss these things. Towards a future with electric skates in it!

Best regards,

Steven

Hey, hopefully this will be the last question. After thinking more, I think I’m on board with backing Thundrblade all the way. But I want to confirm a couple things:

  1. You got the email I mentioned. You don’t have to respond to it or anything, I just want to make sure that you got it and it didn’t bounce. It contained a lot of thoughts about commuting and skating that I thought you might find relevant.
  2. You can confirm my reasoning below.

Reasoning:

The current type of drivetrain is not water resistant. Hub-motor drivetrains, belt drivetrains, gear drivetrains, etc. are (or can be).

The question is whether anything is gained from not being water resistant (i.e., having the current type of drivetrain). Initially I was skeptical. But over the last several days I’ve compiled some reasons.

The current drivetrain has speed and torque similar to the other options under dry conditions. So the benefits need to come from other areas. Assuming similar performance, drivetrains affect skates in primarily four ways: 1) physical size of the drivetrain; added bulk; 2) physical weight of the drivetrain; added weight; 3) electricity consumed per unit distance; 4) design complexity.

  1. The current Thundrblade design appears to be more space-efficient than hub motors — which require some size to work effectively, and would doubtlessly make the wheels larger in some dimension(s) — belt-drive systems, and gear systems (with the latter perhaps being the most comparable). So the skates retain a bulk profile nearly identical to normal skates, unlike other options that would add bulk.
  2. The current Thundrblade design appears to be as light or lighter than other options. Hub motors would probably weigh more, and things like belt-drive might be about the same.
  3. Due to free-wheeling ability, the current Thundrblade design takes no electricity to obtain “free-wheeling performance.” So there is no power drain to maintain such performance. I am guessing that the power drain on the battery is roughly comparable to other drivetrain methods when throttle-only or assisted skating modes are used. All this means that, assuming the majority of energy is coming from the skater, (a) Thundrblade consumes less electricity per unit distance than other options (reducing usage costs and environmental impact), (b) Thundblade needs a smaller battery than other options for the same range capabilities, leading to less skate bulk and weight, and © there are no upper range limits with free-wheeling ability on Thundrblade since it is independent from battery power. So if you are doing a long day to get a lot of cardio in, the battery power will be sufficient without having to buy/carry extras, saving money and bother.
  4. I am a little bit fuzzy on exactly how the Thundrblade drive system operates, but it seems to be simpler than at least hub motors. Simpler things have less points of possible failure.

So what do you gain? Thundrblade can go 5 miles on throttle alone and something like 9 miles assisted (I wouldn’t think batteries any bigger than this would be necessary), but is lighter and less bulky than options that could match the range of free-wheeling performance. Lighter and less bulky means better/more fun skating.

Can you confirm that all of this is generally correct?

Daniel

Yeah I got it [the mentioned email]. There are a few things in the email that you assumed wrong, but most of them you got right in the message. Anyway I intend to answer it throughly.

Since you are really concerned about the drive system I might as well explain it in detail.

Our drive system is what is called in the engineering world a “friction drive”. It consists in rolling a smooth rubber belt or wheel directly in contact with the output shaft. Meaning there are no gears, moving parts or “teeth” on the belt. The simplicity is the biggest advantage of it, and the disadvantage is that you need to ensure proper friction at the point of contact.

It is basically the lightest and simplest possible drive system for electric skates. The biggest point where it’s hard to believe we are using this system is the obvious problem with wet pavement. We actually have a next generation friction drive being developed that might actually work in light rain, but it’s not certain that we will use it for the first generation. It will depend on further tests.

To further understand our choice I will get into the concept used in bicycles for gear ratio, called “gear inches”. To calculate gear inches you get the number of theeth in the front cog, divided by the rear cog. For example: 50 teeth in the front and 25 in the back will mean a 1:2 gear ratio, or 2. Then you get this number and multiply by the diameter of the wheel, let’s say it’s a 20 inches wheel. Finally you get this magical number “40 gear inches”. It’s a pretty useful simplification of gear ratio when multiple wheel sizes are used. A smaller gear inches number means a “lighter” gear and a bigger number means a “faster” gear. In the previous example, the same gears might be used in a 29-inch-wheel bicycle, but it will not be the same gear ratio. 5025*29=58 gear inches.

Now, get this and translate to our electric inline skate.

Let’s use EVOLVE skateboards as an example. They use a belt drive and have 2 different sets of wheels with very different sizes. When they change from the street PU wheels to the off-road rubber tires, their motor suffers a lot more with the bigger wheel. They can’t put a bigger gear because of the size of the wheel since the cog is placed directly to the side of the wheel, and if you wanted to change the cog for a bigger one when changing wheels you would also have to change the belts and distance between the motor and the wheel making it way too cumbersome to be usable. Whats the solution to this? It’s actually very simple: USE A BIGGER MOTOR. Evolve has probably the biggest and heaviest motors in the under 2000USD electric skateboard market.

Ok, so with this concept in mind, how do we get the lightest possible setup on Thundrblade? We get the best possible gear ratio to use the smallest (and lightest) possible motor.

Our prototype motor weighs 170 grams versus 1.5kg of a hub motor with the same torque. it’s around 8 times lighter, 2 pounds+.

With our friction drive we can get a gear ratio of 5:1 whereas evolve has around 1.5:1 with their rubber off-road tires. A 5:1 gear ratio means we multiply the motor torque by 5 times.

A hub motor actually has the opposite gear ratio, meaning it’s around 0.6:1. The bigger the wheel around the hub motor the worse this setup is for torque as you can see by the gear inches system.

EVOLVE’s motor weighs probably around 1kg or 2 pounds, so it is not that much more than a hub motor, but it is still 6 times heavier than ours.

Now to answer the rest of your message:

  1. A satellite motor always takes more space in the total setup versus a hub motor. You are right on the point that we would need custom wheels and they would be larger, way larger than normal inline skate wheels. A inline wheel is 24mm wide, we would need 50~60mm wide wheels for a hub motor. This would not make the frame wider than it already is because batteries already use that much space.
  2. The current design is much lighter, as I have explained before. The total weight is at least 3 times lighter than a hub motor setup since batteries will still be heavy anyway.
  3. a. The free-wheeling increases range as most of the time people are only cruising, and when you see a red light or some other obstacle far ahead you just let the skates roll. The free-wheeling lets the skate roll much further so you use the motors less. Friction drive is actually more efficient than belt drive even without the free-wheeling, by around 10-15%, in ideal conditions. b. We will use the biggest battery we can anyway because in our survey, range is the second most appealing feature second only to max speed. c. Being a TRUE HYBRID means you can use human power as well as electric power in any ratio you want. When going 100% human, if the motor is giving the skater resistance enough to make it not worth using it for long rides, it’s not a true hybrid. Having the peace of mind that you can always skate normally even if the batteries die will increase the usage of Thundrblade, since different from a commute, you never know how long are you going to skate when you go out. Even when commuting you can maybe change your route a bit to get something to eat or buy that might cause you range anxiety and with true free-wheeling you can go and enjoy. More on that is the brakes: you could go to skate up a mountain for training and then have the electronic brakes to get back down. You can always carry extras, of course, but even extras end up dying in the end and those last 2 miles home will still be easy with free-wheeling.

In the end the major decision points are what will make it sell more. You can do it all in the current design, but if we go the commuter route the skates are going to be heavier, slower and by doing that they will be less appealing.

If you do a little research on the market, electric skateboards are selling 99% on the leisure market. Commuters end up getting a bicycle or a kickscooter because they are not skilled enough to use skateboards to commute.

Also the biggest point is that commuters usually are not early adopters. Some of them are, but most are followers: they use what’s been tried and proven. E-bikes are starting to go mainstream because of that.

Steven

Great! Thanks for all the clarification.

I certainly do apologize if I misread motives, etc. in my email. I was just trying to understand, and floating ideas more.

It is difficult to be on the outside of such a project, and really grasp how everything works. For example, I know about torque and engines at a high level (and am even somewhat familiar with gear inches), but was woefully ignorant of how friction drive systems stacked up to the competition, and why you would ever want to use one. I figured there must be a reason (see the first section of my email for my attempts to come up with one lacking specific knowledge), but couldn’t see it without knowing more.

Now it all makes more sense: gear ratio advantages and torque at the lightest possible weight are big advantages of the friction drive system.

One question: if friction drives have all these advantages, why aren’t more vehicles using them (electric skateboards, e.g.)?


If you are planning on answering the email thoroughly that’s great. I never know quite how much to “share” with people. One of the beautiful things about crowd-sourcing is the communication aspect: things consumers say actually can be integrated directly into design. (Compared to most of industry where there is much talk of “listening to consumers” but little actual listening).

I could probably keep asking questions for a long time (it’s just how I am about things I buy). But I’m sold enough on the design now to back it.

I look forward to the email response.

Aftermath

At this point Daniel and I stopped talking back and forth: I got really busy with college (finals, etc.), and he got really busy with the final stages of launching his startup on Indiegogo. I also started looking more into non-electric skates to see what else was out there before I dropped a lot of money on electric skates.

(My email never got answered via email, but he answered most all the big points in his Facebook Messenger response so it didn’t bother me).

Later conversations: Leon Basin of Wizard Skating

I started out similarly here (longform email), but we quickly transitioned into talking on Skype since, well, it was easier. With Leon’s permission I recorded our conversations, and have them linked below. At some point I’ll get around to adding link outlines for different topics (e.g., frame discussion happens at 15:35, rockering at 24:40, etc. – these are made up examples), but I figured I’d go ahead and post this even before I got around to it. These outlines may end up in a different post eventually.

I should point out up front that I decided ultimately to go with Wizard skates (i.e., non-electric skates) over Thundrblade, for reasons that will be explained more fully below.

Steven

Hey Leon,

Big fan! I really appreciate all the content you’ve put out and what you’ve done for the community. Thanks! In particular, your video The Wizard of Wall Street was really inspiring for me.

I have some questions about Wizard skates, and was wondering if you’d be willing to help me out with some explanation. I get that this is sort of a lot, so feel free to say “whoa bro, slow down,” or whatever.

Some background

I’m a college student looking to pick up skating mainly as a serious hobby. I skated a little bit back when I was younger, but it’s been a while. Seeing some videos from you, Shop Task [Editing note: Leon is part of Shop Task… haha. Was thinking of Shaun Unwin in particular], Ricardo Lino, and others really inspired me to try and pick up skating seriously.

I have some background in engineering (long story — doing different things now), and have an obsessive research tendency. So I tend to try and really research the designs behind stuff before jumping in. Doing this for skates, frames, rockering, and so forth led me to Wizard skates. But I just want to make sure I understand everything before I drop nearly $1000 on a pair (which I’m willing to do, but, well, that’s a lot of money for me at the moment).

As I said, there is a lot below, so get back to me as time allows if you can (or let me know if you can’t). I certainly don’t want to burden you or anything. I’d rather you took your time if you need it than try to cram everything into a quick reply.

And just a FYI, I’d be willing to write up some of this as a “intro guide” on my website to point people to in the future if you think that would be helpful. (At least for those individuals like me who want to get into the nitty-gritty technical details). Without further ado:

1) Stability

My understanding of the Wizard skate/natural rockering is that you typically only ever have two wheels on the ground at a time (?). Since stability is mostly a function of wheelbase, and the (axle to axle) wheelbase would be ~101mm and ~111mm (for 100mm and 110mm wheels, respectively), then I’m sort of having a hard time seeing how the skates may be termed stable, compared to even smaller wheel configurations like non-rockered 4x80mm (e.g., a 243mm frame).

1a) Are Wizard skates termed stable since the larger wheels do lead to a larger wheelbase compared to rockered 80mm skates, for example? So it’s not so much they they are stable compared to non-rockered skates but that they are more stable than rockered skates with smaller wheels?

1b) Or am I understanding wheelbase wrong, and the Wizard skates have a wheelbase more like ~303mm and ~333mm? How does this work if the front and back wheels aren’t in contact with the ground at the same time? Does going on edge (e.g., getting a steep skate angle in a turn) put all wheels in contact with the ground, and thus give you access to the full wheelbase?

In other words, what exactly is meant by “wheelbase,” and how does a longer 4x110mm frame increase stability if not all the wheels are actually on the ground?

2) Rockering and frame design choices

2a) From what I’ve read/watched, the Wizard frames have a bit of a forward tilt. Could you explain the advantages of this, and why the frames are designed this way?

2b) I have seen natural rockering described as something like 1 2 3 2. However, I have also read that the Wizard frames have a bit more rockering in the back than the front middle wheel. Could you give the precise height differences of the holes (e.g., the front middle skate is 1mm higher than the back middle skate, the front skate is 2mm higher than the back middle skate, the back skate is 1.5mm higher than the back middle skate?

2c) Could you briefly explain why the natural rockering was chosen, and explain the relative distances from (2b)? E.g., why would you choose to make the rockering different between the front wheel and back wheel (if it is), and what advantages does it give you? Why is something like (e.g.) 0 1 2 0.5 the rockering pattern chosen (with 2 being the lowest, back middle wheel)?

3) Wheel size

3a) Could you briefly comment about the pros and cons of the 100mm skates vs the 110mm skates? My foot is right around ~28.5cm so I’m nearly between sizes for the the two frames.

3b) My understanding of wheel size is this: larger wheels give you a) better speed retention, at the price of acceleration, b) more front-back stability due to a wider wheelbase, c) less side-side stability due to a taller frame, d) more ability to use extreme wheel edges due to the greater height/more extreme possible angles, and e) a wider (less tight) turning radius.

So, basically, the 100mm skates would be a bit slower, be a bit less stable at high speeds, be somewhat more stable side-side, have a bit harder time using edges, and be more maneuverable. And the 110mm skates would be a bit faster, be a bit more stable at high speeds, be somewhat less stable side-side, have a bit easier time using edges, and be a bit less maneuverable.

Is any part of my understanding incorrect (in particular, anything about edges, which I haven’t seen covered much)? Did I miss anything important?

3c) Given the fact that I am technically in the 100mm foot-length range, would you recommend I stick with the 100mm wheels? I am planning on valuing speed somewhat more than maneuverability, which is why I’m thinking I may want the 110mm wheels.

4) Comparison with tri-skates

4a) I have also looked at and am interested in 3x125mm tri-skates. Could you briefly compare and contrast the ability of a 4x110mm Wizard frame with a a 3x125mm unrockered triskate frame (like the flying eagle ultrasonic frames)?

4b) From what I know, the 3x125mm tri-skates would be faster (maybe significantly so) but less maneuverable, and the 4x110mm Wizard skates would be somewhat slower but more maneuverable (more balanced with respect to speed/maneuverability than the tri-skates). Is this correct? Any other big differences? Would the 4x110mm be more stable due to a longer wheelbase in some circumstances (like bombing hills)? (See wheelbase questions above).

4c) This is somewhat outside of the scope of Wizard skates but do people rocker 125mm skates? Would it ever make sense, or does the wheel positioning just make it not useful? In the very hypothetical case that you were to rocker 3x125mm skates in some way, how would they stack up with 4x110mm Wizard skates?

5) Miscellaneous

I have other questions, but that is most of the big ones. Here’s a couple that don’t really fall into any of the sections I made:

5a) Since my foot length is around ~28.5cm, would I buy the 28cm skate (10us) or the 29cm skate (11us)? I understand that the intuition liners would mold to my foot, but I would like to get the best fit possible.

5b) Is there an argument to be made for starting on normal 4x80mm skates (e.g., Seba FR2s/FR1s, Flying Eagle F6 Falcons)? I’m interested in big wheel skates (either 4x110mm or 3x125mm, depending on considerations above) in the long term, so is there a downside to just starting there as a beginner?

Thanks for your time!

Best regards,

Leon

Hey Steven,

Wow, that’s a lot of questions ;)

Thank you for reaching out and for all the detailed info and background, that’s very helpful.

So I’ll jump right in to it…

1. Stability…

The stability is provided by the longer overall wheel base (303mm-333mm). The Natural rocker is very subtle and your stability, in terms of being able to fall back or forwards, will be similar to a flat frame in the same length. This video might be helpful to better understand frame logic… https://www.youtube.com/watch?time%5Fcontinue=376&v=0tybc%5FZA72g

2. Rockering and Design choices.

The goal of the Natural Rocker design was to recreate the pattern of how most wheels wear out for most users… The outer wheels wear out more than inner wheels because of turning, and the front wheels wear out more than the back because most users spend more time skating forward.

So the forward tilt and the subtle rocker is something the will be created in most cases as the wheels wear out from the skater’s natural body movement. The Natural rocker frame instantly feels more intuitive and easy to control compare to a flat frame because the design accounts for the natural body movement on skates.

3. Wheel size

The recommended wheel size is based on the skater’s size for a general, all around, all purpose skating experience. But the frame length can also be different depending on your specific skating style and skill level. So it’s very possible that over time you will enjoy the 110’s more but the 100’s will be a better start for you.

4. Comparison with tri-skates

The important thing to consider when choosing between 3 or 4 wheels is the frame length. The Super sonic has a 266mm wheel base and the Wizard NR110 has a 333mm wheel base. The Super sonic frame is also designed for skates with a raised heel. So the Super sonic frame will feel very high off the ground and unstable compare to the Wizard NR110. The 3 wheels will feel much lighter and have a more familiar feeling of skating, whereas the Wizard 110’s might feel too heavy for some and a little different in terms of body movement. The Wizard NR110 is like a big sword: it’s heavy but it will perform great for a strong (or big and heavy) skater.

5. Miscellaneous

To help me better advise you on size, can you please answer the following questions:

  1. What is the exact measurement for both your feet in cm?
  2. Are you using any special insoles and what kind of socks will you use for skating?
  3. How tight would you like them to fit and what other tight footwear have you used before (ski boots, hockey skates, etc.)?
  4. How wide is your foot (Narrow, Normal, Wide, Very Wide) ?
  5. If something is to tight what area of your foot feels most uncomfortable (the toes or the sides)?

In terms of frame size for casual all around skating experience for a beginner in your size, my recommendation will be the Wizard NR100.

The 3x125 or Wizard NR110 are more specialized and is not something that I would recommend to start with for a skater in your size.

Hope I answered most questions, please let me know what I missed or if something is unclear.

Talk soon.

Steven

Hi Leon,

Thanks for getting back to me.

1) Stability

I’ve watched that video several times. The thing I’m a little bit confused about is this: with a flat skate you have more wheels on the ground at any given time, right? So when you use a rockered skate, you have less wheels on the ground than a flat skate.

Is this not important? Is the important thing how far the front and back wheels are from each other even if they are off the ground during normal skating (so that you can lean forward or back onto them rather than having nothing there = more stable)?

Now, this is probably something that would be obvious if I were an experienced skater, but like I said, I’m just getting into this (and am trying to decide what skates I should buy to start). So it’s not obvious for me.

2) Rockering and frame design choices

Could you explain this more: “The Natural rocker frame instantly feels more intuitive and easy to control compare to a flat frame because the design accounts for the natural body movement on skates.”

How does making the skates have a frame design that recreates the normal wear pattern automatically lead to this? This seems to be the main selling point of the Wizard frames, and I’d like to understand the “why” behind it.

3) Wheel size

When you say the 100s might be better to start off with as an all-round skate and that the 110s are more specialized, exactly how do they differ? Which would be better for what kind of skating styles (and what exactly are different “skating styles”)?

Act like I don’t know very much about skating, because I don’t really. I’ve watched videos and stuff, but I’d like to understand the “why,” like I said.

4) Comparison with tri-skates

Understood.

5) Miscellaneous

  1. My feet appear to be pretty symmetric: right around ~28.5 cm without socks, ~28.6 cm with the socks I normally wear, and ~28.675cm with a second layer for really cold temperatures.
  2. Was not planning on using insoles. I’m wearing light wool toesocks from Injinji. If it gets really cold I’ll add a pair of Darn Tough lightweight socks over that. See the measurements above.
  3. I’d like them to be firm (for responsiveness) but not unduly constricting in any way. I haven’t really used other tight footwear before.
  4. Pretty normal width, AFAIK. It’s depended on brand, but the one consistent thing is that I have narrow heels relative to the width of the rest of my foot.
  5. Not really sure. Toes I would think. I try to lace shoes tight over the instep and leave enough room in the toebox to not constrict my toes.

Thanks again for for answering my questions.

Best regards,

Leon

Hey Steven,

Sorry for the late reply again.

Would you be able to chat on the phone?

Might be easier for me to answer all your question on the phone or Skype.

Talk soon.

Steven

Sure, this might be easier.

[Scheduling stuff]

If you’re OK with it, I might record the call so I can go back over it. I don’t have to if you’re not cool with it.

In addition to my questions from above, I started a thread on the rollerblading subreddit asking about Wizard frames and how they compare to 3x125mm frames. So I may ask some of the questions from there too. You can have a look here.

Thanks!

Leon

Hey Steven,

[Scheduling stuff]

For now, the Reddit thing is a great idea, there are many users out there that can give you very valuable feedback.

Talk soon.

Audio recordings

I recommend readers of this post check out the Reddit thread I linked in the above email exchange (here, again). Lots of interesting perspectives on there too.

After this Leon and I had a phone call as we had discussed, and then a Skype call after we got cut off since my phone ran out of minutes for talking to Canada (Leon is in Vancouver – the call actually bricked my phone for a couple days since I exceeded the money attached to my monthly plan). I was more than a little bit disgruntled to learn that I can’t actually call Canada and Mexico on my 7GB/mo. data plan on Verizon. It was probably in the fine print somewhere, but you have to pay an extra $5/mo. to get calling to Canada and Mexico, and even more for international. Boo.

Anyhow, we ended up talking for quite a long time, with our conversation ranging across a wide variety of things. I was quite surprised to have someone well known (at least in the skating world) like Leon spend a bunch of time answering my barrage of questions. Here’s links to the ~3 hours of discussion (the second one is really short because we got cut off, but contains the beginning part of the conversation in the third call. Plus you get to listen to me saying hello and sounding confused):

Discussion

Note: I significantly changed this section soon after I published this page. I was afraid this would happen with blog posts. Oh well.

Things electric skates allow

To my mind, here are the things that electric skates enable that normal inline skates do not:

  • Skating without exertion, or skating with less exertion.
  • Faster speeds when confronting uphills of any gradient.
  • Faster speeds in situations where there is very little side-to-side space. (The more horizontal space, the faster you can go on manpower alone due to wider pushes).
  • Braking requiring less precision. Braking with electric brakes takes less skill (you do not need good single foot balance, e.g.), and does not put you off balance as much, especially if you get in a scissor stance and stay low. It also requires marginally less space than drag stopping, and noticeably less space than many slide stop variations.

Examining these things one by one

Exertion

One of the whole reasons I am picking up skating is for exercise. Minimizing the amount of work I have to do is not something that I personally rate high on my list.

However, if I were to misjudge distances and find myself exhausted on my skates, having the ability to skate without further effort is a boost to safety. People make poor decisions when tired, reflexes slow, and muscle fatigue can lead to situations in which you would ordinarily be able to do something but cannot under present conditions – a mismatch of expectations to reality can cause errors in judgment. This situation can be avoided by knowing your limits and skating accordingly.

There is also the matter of sweat. If you commute on skates, it may not be socially acceptable to show up to the office drenched from a good workout. This sort of depends on the individual and their circumstances.

Electric skates that allow for drivetrain resistance to be completely eliminated by decoupling the drivetrain and the skates do not force you to skate with lots of resistance if you do not want to use the motors, meaning that they do not impose low-exertion skating upon you.

Faster speeds uphill

Faster speeds are a double edged sword. They are more fun (psychological benefits), but also come with increased risk (higher impact forces, more abrasion from sliding, reduced reaction times = higher likelihood of unexpected events to cause crashes).

Electric skates allow for two important things that may matter for you: 1) they let you be less of a traffic hazard if you are skating in traffic since you can better match the speed of city vehicles when facing an uphill, 2) they enable much longer potential commutes, in the higher double-digits of miles, for a given commute time, since you won’t be slowed down at all by terrain.

If you want to have the option of going fast uphills, only electric motors can give you that.

Faster speeds in tight spaces

Generally speaking, tight spaces are more dangerous, and due to this increased risk, should be taken at appropriately reduced speeds, in my opinion. Particularly if by “tight spaces” we mean “crowds of people.” Skating responsibly requires looking out for the well-being of others before ourselves. I would never want to be responsible for injuring an innocent bystander because I lost control due to speed.

However, I can certainly conceive of city situations in which you may want to maintain speeds, but have little side to side room. Perhaps you are in traffic with cars on both sides but no way to gracefully get off the road, and not enough room to get a good stride. Perhaps you are in a bike lane with a biker behind you who might want to pass if you go too slow – forcing them pass puts them at significantly higher risk. And so forth.

Electric skates give you the ability to maintain speed and even accelerate in tight spaces.

Braking prowess

Taking away the skill component for braking on skates means there are less ways for things to go wrong. Braking techniques that require balance, precision in weight transfer, and a stance less stable than a spaced scissor stance (i.e., all braking techniques) have more possible points of failure when stopping.

Of course, once you get good at drag braking, slide stops, and speed shedding techniques (slaloming down hills, e.g.), you don’t actually need electric brakes. The idea that electric brakes are necessarily less dangerous is really not true in general: people who have practiced braking techniques to the point that they are automatic and in muscle memory don’t care very much about a braking method that requires more skill of them so long as they have the requisite skill. But this is not the case for beginners and even much of the intermediate skating population.

Electric brakes can also handle very tight spaces better than other braking methods. But drag braking (i.e., the so-called “T-stop”) does not require very much room either, and there are few situations even in closer-quarters city skating in which you would able to do the former but not the latter.

People with electric brakes should still learn slide stops, in my opinion. Why? Electric brakes require you to keep traction (think cars and ABS brakes), otherwise you lose control. Slide stops are essentially a voluntary loss of control, but you expect it and control it. The two things are entirely different beasts. Safety is born of consistency: knowing when you are going to lose traction and doing it intentionally makes the loss of control in slide stops distinctly less dangerous than the loss of control in electric braking if you brake too hard too fast. Which means in situations where loss of control is inevitable (extreme emergency braking), slide stops are just straight up better because they are more consistent. At least in theory.

How about cons?

Electric skates

  1. Will always be heavier than non-electric skates (that have the same number of wheels) by at least some.
  2. Will always be bulkier in some way than non-electric skates (due to the battery + drivetrain). If the batteries are not skate-mounted the extra space required for the drivetrain is probably less of an issue, depending on the system.
  3. Will always be more expensive than non-electric skates (by quite a bit).

If there is an anti-rocker setup (with the batteries in the middle of the frames), there are even more disadvantages:

  • There is only one very specific way to skate. You cannot effectively shift your weight to different parts of your foot since you don’t really have multiple wheels under you.
  • Anti-rocker skates have a very large turning radius – they are not maneuverable since their effective contact distance is very long. Since there are no middle wheels, there is also no possibility for the development of a natural rocker over time, which usually leads to even flat 4x80mm setups becoming fairly maneuverable eventually (assuming a certain type of wheel rotation).
  • Since the wheels are on the outside edges of the skate, there is no pivot point when turning. The best you can do is transfer weight to the back wheel to make it easier to point the front wheel.
  • Less wheels mean less grip, which leads to less braking potential in slides. A lower number of wheels also means that more weight will be on each wheel, leading to higher deformation and higher rolling resistance. Whether or not this is a good thing or a bad things is dependent upon your use case.

My decisions concerning this matter

My intended use case for skates

I am currently in the process of setting up 4x110mm Wizard skates (working on finding the right boot size), and will learn how to skate with them. I do not anticipate ever buying electric skates for myself due to the following reasoning:

  1. I am not planning to commute on skates because I am not planning on living in big cities long term. If I end up in one in my early 20s temporarily, I still won’t commute on the skates due to the risks involved – it would be an unnecessary and avoidable injection of risk into my life. I would, of course, still skate in the city – even at high speeds – but I would be picking the times and places so that I never had deal with lots of pedestrians and traffic.
  2. Since I wouldn’t have to deal with lots of pedestrians and traffic, the legitimate benefits that electric skates have over normal inline skates would be wasted on me. See below.

Exertion

I want exertion for exercise, so don’t mind skating up hills; I will always be careful to monitor my exhaustion levels to never put myself in a risky situation. I will never have to worry about getting sweaty and whatnot since I won’t be commuting to work on my skates.

Faster speeds uphill

I will be going fast for the psychological benefits (“playtime” is not just a thing that should be limited to children; I believe that research will more and more show that adults that purposefully have fun will have lower stress levels, better relationships, less chronic health problems, etc. etc.). Faster speeds will always entail greater risk, to a certain point. But since I plan on choosing the surroundings in which I skate to minimize unexpected events (pedestrian interactions, most notably), and to never skate at speeds beyond my present skill level, the risks should be low enough that the increased enjoyment that comes from high speeds should outweigh them.

However, I do not need to have the ability to go fast up hills. I’d rather get the exercise and have my fun in all the other parts of skating. And since I won’t ever have to worry about traffic flow and posing a risk by going slower than others, nor how fast I’ll be going on uneven terrain since I won’t be commuting (and concerned with how long it takes), there is not a big downside to me going slower up hills.

Faster speeds in tight spaces

Due to choosing my skating environments myself (rather than having to deal with commuting paths), I should rarely have to confront tight spaces. Because they entail more risk I will intentionally avoid them.

However, even if I should find myself in them, since I won’t be in traffic or in other city-specific situations that would make it safer for me to stay at speed rather than slow down, I will always just slow down. This is safer.

Braking prowess

I plan to focus a lot of my early efforts in skating on learning all the braking techniques I can, and practicing them a lot. The good news is most of them are fun in and of themselves (parallel slides, for example), so it’s not like I will be sacrificing all my enjoyment to get to the point where I can skate safely. Once I have all of them automatic and in muscle memory, there will not be a substantial downside to not having electric brakes.

Once more, since I will be choosing my skating environments, I should not ever get into such tight spaces that I cannot use a drag-stop. So I will not be missing out on that particular advantage of electric brakes either.

What does all this mean?

Due to how I plan on skating, all electric skates would do for me is add weight, bulk, and a lot of expense. However, as can be seen above, they do offer some unique advantages that make them a good choice for some people, particularly those skating in cities that don’t get to choose their surroundings due to commuting.

Because I think Thundrblade is a good project and worth pursuing, I am going to back the project to some extent. But since I should never actually have a need for the frames, I will not be buying the product itself.

 


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