Meepo now includes Import Tax

meepo v1.5

The very well regarded, and competitively priced, Meepo v1.5 hub-motor e-board is now priced with shipping and import tax (duty and VAT) to the EU, as well as the US.  This is great news as not only is it a good spec board for less than £500 (I have tested the v1 and v1.5 looks even better), but their customer support is very well regarded and, importantly, you can purchase individual components or it all as a kit. This makes fixing issues, although from China, much easier than other similar £500 options.

tax faq
Meepo FAQ

Cost (at time of writing) is £302.52 for the std battery and £446.92 for the more powerful Sanyo model. Cost is the same for either the short 30″ or my preference, the longer 38″.

meepo short

Links:

Body protection for riding

http://skateszone.com/skateboard-protective-gear/
Skatezone protective gear article

I am a big supporter of always wearing helmets when out on the e-board, and most of the time on my conventional boards, always wearing mine (a standard skate helmet by Bullet). For once, I will leave out my usual diatribe on reckless fuckwit social-celebrities promoting helmet-less city traffic riding and just cover some options for protective gear.

I have considered a full-face skate helmet, with greater protection but lighter than a motorcycle helmet, and may get one depending on my riding.

 

The other things I consider essential are my gloves, where I use normal cycling gloves as they offer decent friction protection without limiting remote-control movement.

In addition, when going fast (and not nice and friendly with my youngest) I use my armored motorbike jeans made by Force Riders, with armor in the knees and, importantly, hips. Previously I have had a bad pelvic injury, so protection of my hips is important for me. Interestingly, pelvic protection is not normally worn by skateboarders, but as I have learned it can be a fragile body part if you fall in a specific way.

I am not sure if Force Riders jeans still exist (I could not find any links to them – mine were bought on Amazon), but there are other makes, including Richa, Bull-it, UglyBrosRoadskin, and Draggin, who are well established and with a solid reputation. My Force Riders were relatively inexpensive, but I replaced the basic foam protection that came with them (same with many of them) with much better and more flexible sorbothane and shock foam CE rate armour. They work really well, especially when out just cruising around the local cafes (looking less kiddie-like than external knee pads), and I would highly recommend wearing them.

Oxford-Super-Sliderz-SS2-Kevlar-Jeans-Blue-1

 

 

 

Buying your first e-board

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I see quite a few people looking at, or who have bought, e-boards who are completely new to the whole scene, including conventional skateboarding or longboarding. It looks cool, which it is; fun, which it is; and a good commuting option, which it is not. The last point I will save for a separate post, but let’s assume the first two work.

Before I get into some good ways to start and what you will need, there is the fun bit of choosing your e-board and, to me, if you are new to this whole scene, there is one really big question to ask yourself first when choosing your e-board: “what am I going to do when something breaks (they all do) or when I brake it (we all do)?”.

If you are DIY handy, and with a little experience of, electrical and mechanical DIY, then it is much easier – simply buy a board which you can get spare parts for and you are good to go.

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However, most people in today’ consumer world are not that capable and don’t need to be for most other things. If you aren’t DIY handy, then choose your board very carefully, is the best advice I can give you. When something stops working (and it will) do you really want to be trying to send back to China? You can buy off Amazon or eBay, but they don’t fix things when they stop working. Answer this question, work out your plan for fixing, before taking any more steps and certainly before parting with any of your hard-earned money.

What does this mean, well, if you have a local retailer, a friend with one already, someone selling in your country, choose that e-board over anything else you read is ‘awesome’ online. Even if your local option is more expensive, not as fast or, quite frankly only available in pink stripes, yellow polka-dots and with unicorns patterns in the grip-tape (hey, actually I am first in line for that).

Remember, it WILL break or you WILL break it and then what?

If you need help then there is a list of European retailers that I know of here: https://longboardlife.org/european-makers/

Answered that, then go ahead and choose what works for you and your need for speed, range, terrain, looks, carry-ability, riding style etc.

How much are you going to pay?

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When you do your calculations just be aware of any import duties and shipping that might apply, not just from the purchase but when you need spares or even, depending on your country, when getting an existing board fixed and shipped back. Those belts that you need to replace might only be £8 each, but £60 in total to get two of them shipped to you.

I keep thinking about getting a Meepo kit and fitting it to one of our existing longboard decks, but the import duty in the UK, shipping from China, would add on at least 22.5% to the cost, as I would have to import it and be subject to both import duty and VAT.

What to learn on

lush smba
Next, I have a suggestion for you, which you may not have considered – buy a conventional push longboard as well to learn ok and get early confidence. If you are new to all this, the last thing you want to be doing is trying to learn how to start, brake, switch-ride etc when you are doing 20mph or more with cars, people, and rough old pavements. Conventional push longboards are relatively cheap, easy to resell, and much easier to get confident on; as well as being fun in their own right. Knowing and being confident with a few skills will make a huge difference in enjoying your e-board or not.

Helmets and more

helmet

Next, choose your helmet – it is essential, a must; don’t do it without one and ignore all the irresponsible tossers and fuckwits on YouTube weaving in and out traffic with no helmet – arrghhhhh.

I very sadly have one friend already with permanent brain damage after a minor no-helmet cycle fall. Not a life for anyone. After the helmet, get whatever protection you want, it is your legs, arms, knees etc. And it is not just other traffic, people, dogs or roads that you have to worry about, remember… it will break… if it disconnects at 20mph or the wheel shears off or the motor jams, you are most likely have a trip to a hospital. The perfect empty smooth tarmac road is still not danger free. Adopt the view that your e-board, as well as everything else around you, want to kill you and you get it.

Tools & Checks

t-tool
Finally, pick up a few tools (you don’t need much), like a T-tool and anything else your board needs, and get familiar with some basic maintenance checks – if there is nothing from your board maker (use that as a judge on quality and support), then start here: https://longboardlife.org/2018/02/01/checking-before-riding/

Check, tighten and loosen.

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When you board arrives always check the trucks, connectors, nuts, bushings, washers, cups etc. Personally, I would always take off the wheels and check there are spacers, speed-rings etc. in place – one of our boards previously turned-up missing speed rings, so we now always check. It is easy for it to happen if the quality control is not great and with most cheap boards right now, it does not seem to be.

Tighten or loosen the wheel nuts and kingpin screws – there is an optimum for them, just like with wheel nuts, neither too loose or too tight. Remember, over-tightening the kingpin nut onto the bushing cup does not increase the stability, it just deforms the bushing and reduces its ability to progressively manage all multi-dimensional forces it has to balance.

Earlier post on “how tight“: https://longboardlife.org/2018/01/27/truck-bushing-how-tight/

Get the right bushings.

oust-bushings

Finally, on the bushings, find out what the stock/default bushings are and if necessary replace them. Personally, I have yet to be impressed by any stock bushings, so personally would always change them for ones from a reputable make, like Venoms, Blood Oranges, Riptides, Oust etc.

If you are not sure what bushings to use, I would set up your board like a conventional downhill board with barrels, board–side and road-side and a durometer rating that matches your weight for a stiff downhill ride.

If you are not sure of the durometer to use, this post includes some calculators: https://longboardlife.org/2018/01/27/bushing-duro-calculator/

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UK Law & E-Boards

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I have been doing some digging into what is the current situation with UK law and using our e-boards on public roads and pavements.
First off, it is important to note that I am not a lawyer, nor transport official, just an enthusiast with a vested interest, so please take this as nothing more than my interpretation and comments.
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I have seen a number of people comment on various forums that the situation is a “grey area” or “unclear”. Personally, I don’t think it is unclear, I think is very clear – it may wrong, based on antiquated laws and little understanding, but it is still clear and unfortunately illegal for us to be on the public road or pavement.
With the exception of cycles (with pedals) where there is specific classification, it looks very strongly that our e-boards are classified as “motorized transport” on public roads and therefore, subject to UK road law. Plus, unless you are on an OneWheel, as e-boards have four wheels, they are classified as cars and not motorcycles or mopeds. This means they need to meet safety, registration and licensing laws.
Ref: Department of Transport, Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986. 
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So unless you can get your e-board through an MOT, with insurance, seat-belts, working brakes, lights etc., we are illegal on public roads; great on emissions, but still illegal. The situation is no better it seems with regards to riding on pavements; as under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 (yes, 1835!) it’s is an offense to ride a vehicle (and we are on motorized vehicles) on the public pavement.
At some point, the UK, even Europe, may do something to classify e-boards (and e-scooters) separately, like bikes and e-bikes, but there seems to be no sign that will happen in the near future or more – sadly, and frustratingly, we will be illegal on all public roads and pavements for many years to come. If you want this stupid and antiquated situation to change – write to your MP, join a (responsible) action group etc.
2013_london-Rd_
Not wishing to incriminate myself, if I was (I stress “if I was“) to consider taking my e-boards out in the UK, in an emergency situation or after a moment of illness induced memory loss, I would choose to not antagonize the authorities and keep my riding to empty back-roads (not weaving ‘NY-Casey-style’ through city traffic!) or slowly on relatively empty pavements. It would wise to even be careful with cycle lanes and paths, which are generally still public roads or pavements.
My personal experience with law-enforcement in the UK has been nothing but good. A few police officers have shown interest and just asked general questions on the technology and how you control an e-board; but then at the time I had been both riding safely and respectfully of the environment and people around me. I do fear, however, that over time the situation will change for the worse and the authorities (as with aerial-drones now getting increasing banned in public places), after some high-profile dangerous incidents, will be forced to publically enforce the laws. All it will take is one or two serious injuries, the videos on YouTube and we will all be left with only our home driveways and group-hiring of privately owned racetracks. Want to know when e-board prices will drop? This is when there will be a flood of pristine second-hand e-boards on the market, but sadly nowhere to use them.
Why do I write all this – well, besides protesting responsibly and making our views known to those in power, we need to learn a lesson from what is happening to flying drones in the UK. Please, please, ride responsibly, not just for your own safety, and those around you, but because right now we have a special time in the UK and we could lose it very quickly.

Interesting Gear: Ridge EL1

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Ridge, the Liverpool (UK) based company have brought out a small, almost a penny board 27″ deck, in-hub motor e-board called the EL1, that weighs only 3.5kg. The main thing, however, besides the obvious European support is that it is only £350. My first thought was “toy”, but reading the Esk8 review on their site, it needs to be taken seriously as a small high portable fun deck.

Esk8 Sweeden also did a good video review:  youtube review

Video review of small e-boards

 

E-boards, trucks & bushings

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Red 93a Paris bushing

With rain outside (yet again), I changed the bushings on the Boosted Dual. The stock bushings are apparently 86a durometer, which in theory are too soft for me at 85kg (187lb). I say “in theory” because they don’t feel like 86a, they feel much firmer; however, they are easy to change, so why not. I had some spare Paris made barrels, so put in 93a boardside and 90a roadside. I may step up to 94a+93a, but will try the 93a+90a combination first.

UPDATE: After trying it (I am 85kg), I moved up to the 94a+93a combination and have settled on that.

I used Paris bushings for now (the 94a’s I have are DohDoh), as they are what I had spare, but any good make would work. I see a lot of e-boarders using Orantang Nipples, but there is no reason any good make will not work: Venom, Riptide, Mindless, Bones etc.

I like to run the e-boards like conventional downhill boards, based on the premise that both need to be stable at speed: two barrels and firm, rather than my usual barrel+cone cruising set-up on the conventional push boards. In simple terms, barrels have more surface area over cones and will hold their shape more.

 

 

With e-boards and their high-speeds, my preference would be to not run bushings at all and use spring trucks, like the Trampas or Seismic G5s. A polyurethane bushing has a complex job to do, given all the multi-dimensional forces it has to react against. Their dominance of the truck world comes from skateboarding, where they are cheap and make truck manufacturing easy; but skateboarding is not e-boarding, especially at speed. For now, however, I will live with the Boosted and Yuneec running conventional longboard trucks, but if there is ever an upgrade option, or I replace one of the boards with a Nottingham made Trampa or some exotic derivative, I will do it and go for springs.

trampa_vertigo_truck_i

Finally, I see a lot of people jumping into e-boarding having not ridden push boards before, not a problem if people take it easy to learn e-boarding and build up the speed carefully. One thing, however, that does become apparent, with those who have not push boarded before, is that lack of awareness of how important bushings are and the need to use ones with a durometer that matches the rider and type of riding. Given how inexpensive and simple they are to change, there is a need to get greater awareness in the community and new riders using what is right for them; especially, given the job of a bushing is to keep you out of a hospital and enjoying the ride.

hd_product_Riptide-APS-Double-Barrel-Bushings-(Assorted-Colors)
Riptide bushings (note – there is no color standard, all manufacturers use different colors for their various durometer ratings).

Links:

 

Interesting Gear: JayKay E-trucks

The Germann company JayKay have been developing their innovative electric board trucks (battery and hub-motor in the trucks) and wireless gesture controls for some time. The new wireless controller uses arm gestures, rather than the initial finger movement detection.

I really like the idea, as with the interesting Mellow kit, of fitting the motor parts to your own boards; it would be great to add something like this to my beloved old-style pintails. My main reservation with the JayKay is just the strength of the small battery built into the trucks, but one to watch and see how it matures.

jaykay2

 

Interesting Gear: Raven-1

Raven 1

Spotted a new interesting European e-board maker, Arex Motors, based in Lithuania with their Raven-1 board. Sold in the usual 1 and 2 belt-motor configurations, using lightweight airline-approved batteries. Currently being promoted for advance orders on Indiegogo.

There are lots of new e-boards now out (counted over 20 this year – most of them direct from China) and, unless you are very competent mechanically and electrically, I would hold off on any new maker until they have proven themselves. There are just way too many case-studies of new e-board launches with long delays, recalls, poor support and, quite frankly, board disasters. I will stick with our long-termers for now, but watch interestingly how Arex and others get on.

Raven 2

 

 

 

E-Boards State of Market

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I am looking to get another electric board to go with the Yuunec and wanted to share, less my thought process, more the state of the market; especially for those of us living outside the US.

First off, the market right now is almost all made up of start-up companies with little history, experience, and pedigree in manufacturing. The technology is generally not stable, not standardize and constantly evolving – it is the wild west and we all have to gamble to varying degrees with our hard earned, and not insignificant, cash.

Although electric boards are relatively simple in functionality – there is really not much to them, they are all just a deck, some trucks, wheels, motor, a battery, and controller – the reality is that the quality and functionality of the batteries, the motors, the controllers, especially the controllers, all vary massively. Some are OK, a few are actually good, a lot are crap and nearly all of them have reports of quickly developed, or “from bad batch”, faults. Add to this that most of the manufacturers are still talking only “pre-orders and hoping to ship sometime soon” and our choices seem to be choosing the

Some of the e-boards are OK, a few are actually good, a lot are crap and nearly all of them have reports of quickly developed faults. Add to this that most of the manufacturers are still talking only “pre-orders and hoping to ship sometime soon” and our choices seem to be very much choosing the lesser of evil/risk.

electric skteboard

So if you don’t mind the Wild West, and are prepared to risk your money, I would categorize the available options as:

  • Expensive boards, at £1000-3000, from some big marketing spend start-ups; who, on the upside, seem to at least understand skateboards and longboards, but are still spending more on their marketing than actually shipping to customers.
  • Much cheaper, at £500-1000, direct-from-china start-ups; who see the manufacturing and sale opportunity, but rarely seem to understand the skateboard and longboard experience. Lots of variable quality, no real support and often the poor experience leaves you frustrated and wishing you had bought something else.
  • Smaller start-ups with not much money (especially in marketing to take on the big start-ups), with older generation technology, trying to do their best but still charging £1000+. Not sure how many of these actually survive and, at best, you get a board, but it can not be repaired and, at worst, your order will never arrive and you lose the money.
  • Kit parts – you can now buy relatively easily all the parts you would need to build your own, with some suppliers providing all the parts as complete kits to make it easier. In the end, it all comes down to how good you are technically, but it is not a bad option if you are competent, as faults are then much easier to rectify.

If you are prepared to risk, because that is the big overall point here, your hard-earned money on an electric board (accepting that it will be quickly obsolete and surpassed in a few months time) I would put five questions at the top of my decision making,:

  1. When it goes wrong (high probability it will), what am I going to do?
    Return to the supplier in China, the online retailer, fix it myself with parts?
  2. What riding do I want to do?
    What size deck, how flexible and, equally important and often overlooked, what wheels do I need? Is this for smooth concrete runs where thin urethane in-hub motors will be fine, or bad pavements needing full wheels or even off-road wheels for rough ground.
  3. What is the reputation of the e-board maker with the community?
    Any board, cheap or expensive, will be dangerous at speed. Examples of controller disconnects or motor-biting at speed is not worth any cost saving; medical bills will always be more. It is worth noting the experience of others have had and not buying anything that is going to endanger you. failure to start or battery sag is not the big risk with a bad board, it is a failure at speed.
  4. How much range, speed and hill-climbing do I need?
    Boards all differ on their power ability, it is important to read what users have said it is like in the real world and take with a pinch of salt what the advertising says – does anyone actually regulate these companies? it is not just about being dangerously fast, to slow or too weak to get up any hill will just not encourage you to use it and end up left in the basement. A dull bord is just as something that gives you no confidence.
  5. What is the control like?
    The software and the remote-control unit. Some boards (bad boards in my view) are unprogressive in their control, being almost just off or on. Just as important as how progressive is the speed, is how progressive, ie. safe, is the braking. And this is an area that is not just the cheap boards, some of the premium brands have produced dreadful controllers.

More than anything, remember the boards now will become obsoletely very quickly and will retain very little second-hand value. How fast they are evolving, and their high rate of faults, makes these effectively very expensive short-term disposable purchases! Great fun, but it is still early days for these devices.