Hello current and future ESK8ers!
This article that is aimed at new forum members who are interested in getting into the DIY side of the house. The goal is to help you determine if going the Do-It-Yourself route is for you and to help you manage expectations of going in this direction for your electric skateboard.
First, I want to tell you why I am writing this. Many of the regular members here time and time again see new people come here to the Builders forum for information. And for good reason! This place is an amazing resource and a wealth of information. Sadly, newcomers do not understand some fundamental things that will ensure a successful and enjoyable foray into this DIY scene. We are going to try and help that with this summary of "What to expect with DIY ESK8"
So without further ado, here are the sections that I would like to cover:
Table of Contents
- I. An Industry In Its Infancy
- II. Riders VS. Builders
- III. The False Economy
- IV. What Do I Need
- V. How To Forum
- VI. Vendors And Purchasing
- VII. Safety And Risk Management
I. AN INDUSTRY IN ITS INFANCY
The electric skateboard industry is a relatively new frontier in the vast world of personal transportation. It is only a few years old, and because of this, the industry is in constant flux and has had its’ fair share of growing pains. This is to be expected, but it is also what makes being a part of it so damn exciting for many of us.
This forum is where innovation happens. The best builders (both personal and businesses) are here. If they are not, you damn well better believe they are lurking in the shadows for the next great thing to happen. You know why? Because it literally happens HERE FIRST. The best and brightest people in our little niche of transportation from all over the world are here. Sharing new ideas, solving problems, bringing new products to market, and all around making Electric Skateboards the best that they can possibly be. I know it sounds a bit grandiose in light of something that on the outside seems like a mere hobby, but for many of us, it is so much more than that. It is people’s sole transportation. It is their livelihood. It is their escape.
This industry being so young does have its’ downsides. With changes happening constantly, there can sometimes be a lack of standardization. There are often be major delays in product production. It can be hard to distinguish between reputable vendors and those that are trying to make a quick buck off our passion.
II. Riders VS. Builders
So this might seem like an odd section, but I think it is important. There are two main elements of our little DIY E-Board world. Building these treasures and, of course, riding them.
Not everyone who loves the wind in their face zooming around on these awesome devices will inherently enjoy the aspects of building them. AND THAT’S OK!!! I consider myself a builder first and a rider second. Seems strange to say that, but it is true. The problem solving, the learning, the experimentation. It is awesome!
A good friend of mine, Mike Manner (a leader here on the forum) once told me, “If I could never ride again, I would still build these boards,” and I have to agree.
But of course, building isn’t for everyone. It truly is a huge pain in the ass if I am being honest. I mean it turns into work, can be extremely frustrating, and takes loads of time both in the actual building process and the amount of research required to build a board properly. Not to mention it is expensive and can take a long time to finally ride the board you have been working on for weeks (or more likely, MONTHS)
But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I will never purchase a Prebuilt board. Not that there aren’t any awesome options out there, because there are! I just really enjoy the process. You start to love the waiting, love the anticipation, love the research, love the commitment. It is so damn satisfying flying down the road on your very own 4 wheeled death machine that you built yourself. To me and many who are regulars here, nothing compares.
Riders are just that. They freaking love riding these boards, often times maybe even more so then people who invest a lot of time, money, and energy into building their own. Absolutely nothing wrong with this. They aren’t techno-nerds who like to debate and get into weeds of this micro-verse. They would rather be out riding these bad boys all the time than sitting down surrounded by tools and parts from all over the place that may or may not work out as planned.
It reminds me of my main riding buddy, John. I am a builder, he is a rider. He is on his board every damn day. Rain or shine. Cold or hot. Good weather and bad. Not that he hasn’t contributed anything into the building process of his board, but he isn’t like me. He doesn’t frequent the forum looking for the latest and greatest innovation. He doesn’t get excited about that stuff. I can see his eyes glaze over when I start talking about “this new thing coming” or “this awesome thing I just learned.” He just loves to ride and has a damn blast doing it. When I talk to Mike Manner, we get lost in the weeds until one of our wives points out we have been talking about nothing for 2 hours. Sort of two different sides to the same ES8 coin so to speak.
You don’t have to be some great builder to want to have a badass board.
You need to figure out which one you are. Because if you are really a rider and get too deep down the DIY path, more likely than not, it will lead to frustration and dissatisfaction for the whole thing. Be honest with yourself. This dweeby ass building shit isn’t for everyone. However, this forum is still FULL of good information and products if you deem yourself a rider. There are awesome vendors out there that can build you the board of your dreams, and they would love to do it for you.
III. THE FALSE ECONOMY
So this tagline “The False Economy” is from one of the true Original Gangsters in the DIY and Electric Skateboard industry, founder of the esk8 builders forum, Jason Potter (@Onloop on esk8.builders). I am going to give my take on it. Be sure to check out his thread on the subject (link at bottom). It is full of insight from an industry insider.
It seems there are 2 main reasons people turn to DIY. The first is for performance. They typically have a production board (not always) and have outgrown its capabilities. They want more speed, more range, more torque, better aesthetics, etc etc. The other reason people turn to DIY is cost savings. They think that they will be able to save some coin by building their own instead of spending the money on a prebuilt.
In my opinion, one of these reasons is valid and one is not. If you are looking for performance, then drive on! If you are just looking to save a few bucks by building your own board… I hate to say it, but it probably just won’t happen. Not to say that this is always the case, but more often than not, it is. The amount of time and necessary tools alone precludes many from actually seeing cost savings in going the DIY route. By the time you get all of the necessary tools and small unaccounted for parts, a build is typically pretty damn expensive. Even cheaper builds. Of course, this isn’t always the case, maybe you are an esteemed DIYer in your own right in some other facet and already have the tools and the know-how in order to do this well and save some money. This is seldom the case.
Often if you are spending less than a grand, there is a prebuilt out there that just might be a better option.
This is merely to warn you that if you come here thinking that you are going to save all sorts of money by building a board yourself, it really just isn’t true, and you are getting into DIY for the wrong reasons.
If performance is what you are after and that is why you are here, you are more along the right mindset. DIY is often MUCH MORE expensive than pre-builts, but you have the opportunity to customize. Want a light speed demon but don’t need much range? Go for it! Need 35 miles of range but don’t want to kill yourself and stick to sub 22mph? DO IT!. Want a board that looks exactly the way you want? Have a deck you just love? You can get creative and the world is your oyster… Just realize, shit ain’t gonna be cheap!
Are you one of those Riders and don’t want to get into the building side? Never Fear! There are many extremely talented builders around the forum that can give you all this. They can build your dream board with the range, speed, and looks that you are after.
IV. WHAT DO I NEED
I sort of alluded to this in the last section. Many people are not able to venture into the DIY realm for a myriad of reasons. You actually need quite a lot of resources to do this effectively. Most notably, tools, time, and space.
I have probably spent close to $500 or actually probably more in tools alone in order to do the things I want to do in DIY ES8. Obviously, you don’t need everything I have purchased, but they sure do make life a lot easier. The point of this section isn’t to spell out every tool you will need to build an ESK8, but to point out that there will be things that arise that make you need to spend money on tools if you do not already have some sort of workshop already. For instance, I use my $90 Dremel tool all the time for various stuff. If I never bought a QUALITY Soldering Iron, I wouldn’t be able to get anything done. Heat guns for shrink wrap, Nice Hex key sets. Drills. silicone wire, bullet connectors, loctite… the list almost feels endless. The point is that these are often overlooked and unforeseen costs. Many people make the mistake of thinking their build will only cost the amount of the main parts to be ordered when in actuality you end up spending much more when it is all said and done.
Another thing that you need is Time. That is a commodity that we all wish we had a bit more of. With regard to ESK8, you need time to research, time to build, time to tinker. This time adds up. It might not be worth it to you if you were to know early on you might have to invest 30, 40, 50, 100 or more hours into your build.
The last thing is space. You need a place to work. All of these parts and tools requires quite a lot of working space, and if you are limited on space, DIY might not be practical or feasible.
Of course, all of this can be gotten around. Friends with a workshop and not putting your Build under some imaginary time constraint just because you want to get out and ride.
V. HOW TO FORUM
So I talked early about how this forum is a wealth of knowledge, but sometimes it can be hard to find the things you are looking for. Especially early on in your research. If you haven’t already made an account, stop reading, go make one, and then come back.
You have an account yet? Good. Now go complete the “Forum tutorial.” it will be in your message inbox welcoming you to the forum.
Sometimes information can feel spread out all over the place on here… Well, it is. Sorry about that, but the more time you spend on here, you will get quite savvy with the SEARCH function. It is there! USE IT! If you can’t find the answer you are looking for right away, try changing what you are searching for. Try different wording. I know all you bastards know how to google shit. Also, when you find the information you don’t want to forget, BOOKMARK THAT SHIT! I don’t know how many times I have referenced my bookmarks for key information.
Read First, Ask Questions LATER!
Regular members can come across as overly harsh when people ask basic questions. You need to understand your very basic question has been asked and answered repeatedly over the years. I guarantee you can find the answer to your question you have somewhere on the forum. Help yourself and really try to seek out your own answers to the best of your ability. It isn’t that the Regulars don’t want to help, it just gets a bit old when we KNOW the question your asking has been answered literally 1000 times before. If you can’t find the answer, don’t be afraid to ask- mention the search terms you used and where you looked. You’ll earn the respect of Regulars and Leaders if you show you have done your due diligence in your quest for information.
After spending a good bit of time reading and getting a basic working knowledge of all this and you still want to build, you need a damn plan. More likely than not, you are not about to reinvent the wheel. Most everything has been done before. Well, that isn’t entirely true, but on a first build, you should definitely model it after a somewhat tried and true formula. To do this, you should start searching through various build threads and find one that is well put together and similar to what you are trying to accomplish with your own build.
Plan of action
1. RESEARCH - Spend some time learning about the forum, checking out build threads, and learning how electric skateboards actually work.
2. Determine a budget- Decide on how much money you want to spend on your build, and realize as you are pricing things out that there will ALWAYS be additional costs during the build process (connectors, wire, risers, various hardware, needed tools, etc.).
3. Determine top speed and range goals.
4. Find a Build Thread that aligns with #2 and #3 that you feel is a good fit for you.
5. Start your own Build Thread
6. Ask your questions and get updates ON YOUR BUILD THREAD as to not clutter up the rest of the forum. or in the “Newbies questions Thread”
7. Keep Reading. Don’t get discouraged. Have Fun
Obviously, these are quite broad strokes, but I hope you get the idea.
Definitely check out this first link. Lots of good stuff here and links to other must-reads!
VI. VENDORS AND PURCHASING
I hope you’re still with me because if you read one section in this entire article, this should be it.
This is simultaneously the most important and the most challenging section to explain. As I mentioned before, innovation happens HERE. I truly believe that the individuals, companies, and small vendors that are on this forum are responsible for the exponential increase in ESK8 tech over the last couple of years. It is important for you to gain some insight into who these vendors are, why they are so important, how to approach purchasing their products, and how to protect yourself and your hard earned money.
Most of the vendors and small companies on the forum do this because they have a passion for this. They aren’t making money hand over fist or anything of the sort. Many have day jobs and do this on the side because they love it! Personally, I think that is just awesome! But, you must realize that this isn’t Amazon. It isn’t Walmart. This isn’t McDonald’s; no, the customer isn’t always right. Instant gratification rarely happens here. If you want the latest and greatest, get in line (I am at the front!) and learn to be patient.
The best way to approach purchasing from vendors is looking at it as a partnership. In any partnership, there is an inherent risk. Nobody is here to screw anybody over. It is extremely difficult bringing products to market. It takes trial and error, and it takes quite a bit of capital. Sometimes things don’t go as expected. Sometimes there are manufacturing issues. Sometimes their quality control issues. Sometimes there are personal issues (vendors are people too, and they have a life outside of ESK8; many are 1 man shows). Sometimes things just don’t work out. Buying components for things in such a niche market is always a bit risky. Be that from a small vendor on the forum or an international manufacturer. This is the nature of the beast, but it is getting better all the time. It is important to remember that buying from the vendors here on the forum (and those that aren’t!) is literally making an investment in the future of Electric Skateboarding.
That being said, who you go into “Partnership” with (read: buy products from) is of course entirely up to you!
Do your research! NOT ALL VENDORS ARE CREATED EQUAL!!! Some are amazing and will bend over backwards for you and are constantly innovating. Some are just reselling mass-produced products for profit. Some are working out of their garage and producing world-class products. Some have access to all the manufacturing in the world and produce shit. Some come across as assholes but are awesome. Some are actually assholes who you may want to avoid. It is all here; let me tell you! But truly, the good outweighs the bad. The forum has a way of “weeding out the bad apples.”
Find people who have bought their products, find people using their stuff (or NOT!), READ ABOUT THEM. Even ask them some questions. I am not saying bombard them with questions that you can easily find the answers to yourself, but engage with them or see how they engage with others so you can make up your own mind whether or not you want to go into partnership with them (once again, read: buy their products).
Support your damn vendors! If these guys weren’t out there fighting the good fight, we would be riding on shit all.
You also need to know that there are good ways to protect yourselves against possible “unfavorable experiences.”
Always use Paypal and send money under “Goods and Services” and not under “Friends and Family.” It is easier to dispute things this way if things go south for whatever reason. Do I always do this? Of course, fucking not. I consider many of these guys friends, and if they absolutely need to abscond with a few of my bucks, lame, but OK. However, forum rules are to always pay and charge under “Goods and Services,” so there is that. Don’t try to do a bullshit charge-back if you are in the wrong, you will not succeed, and it is a major asshole move.
Don’t try to hop into some new Group Buy for the latest tech on a first build. I mean, you will see many of us doing this exact thing, but we already have boards to ride. We can wait, we understand the game, and we accept the risk. If you aren’t a seasoned builder, go with something tried and true and actually available. Following this rule will save you some heartache on that first build. If you stick around, get in line for the latest dope shit, because I can guarantee there is already a line forming.
HAVE PATIENCE! Like I said earlier if you did your research and chose to buy from a reputable vendor, give them a damn chance to deliver. This ain’t Amazon Prime. God, I wish it were sometimes. It took me almost 6 months to finish my first build for a little perspective.
If you stay on the forum long enough, you will notice that most of the regulars have a detest for what we call “Vendor Bashing.” That is when one dude has a negative experience, opens a Thread and shits on said Vendor. Sometimes it is justified, but this is a fairly rare occurrence. Don’t be surprised if you try some shit like this and a bunch of regulars jumps on your case, or the thread even gets removed by our tireless forum moderators. I coin this elite group of regulars as “Vendor Defenders,” and I am proud to consider myself among their ranks. Yes, there is some really crappy stuff that happens, and that is why you should always be careful with who you give money to.
VII. SAFETY AND RISK MANAGEMENT
If you don’t already realize that riding and building these electric powered death machines is dangerous, then I worry about your intelligence level.
Obviously speeding around in excesses of 50 kilometers per hour is going to be a bit risky. Please where proper safety equipment. A good helmet (full face preferably) and gloves are a must. I also wear a kevlar padded hoodie when I ride. Downhill knee and elbow pads are a good idea too. Some guys even wear back/chest protectors. The point is these are very fast machines that take skill and experience to use properly. Even then, mechanical and electrical shortcomings can result in a crash no matter the skill level and experience of the rider. Proper safety equipment is key to reducing injury and risk of death. Take this seriously.
We see it all the time here on the forum where new guys build a nice board, don’t have proper equipment, eat shit, injury themselves, then they go out and buy the safety equipment after the fact.
PLEASE Save yourself some skin, and get the right equipment BEFORE you start ripping around on your new death stick. You and your family will really appreciate it.
While the inherent dangers of riding high speed electric skateboards might be apparent, the dangers in building a board isn’t quite so obvious.
Batteries are very dangerous and handling without proper care can be quite hazardous. You shouldn’t hop on here after watching a 15 min battery build on youtube and think you can throw together a 10s5p Lithium Ion battery pack. Won’t happen.
Do not invest the time and money into building your own batteries unless you really plan to get into the DIY game and build your own packs for multiple boards and other projects. Just buy a quality pack from one of the experienced Vendors here on the forum.
Yes, they are expensive, but way cheaper than replacing a burned down home if you don’t know what the hell you are doing.
I build batteries (I know just enough to get me into trouble at this point), and they terrify the shit out of me honestly.
That’s a lot of stored energy in a small space.
If you are thinking about learning how to build batteries properly, research A LOT.
Also, go up to the search bar and punch in “Battery Fire.” It will be eye opening.