Part of being a member of a small but growing community is answering a lot of questions. They come in from all angles, not just from the form on my website or through email. I get all manner of questions through instagram, facebook, even tumblr. Occasionally, I’ll even get a text from somebody I met at a group ride or some such event. I try to answer all of them, but inevitably some are either so involved that I wold have to charge a consulting fee to answer them or so incredibly stupid that it would be safer for me to just ignore it.
While many of the questions are about what new things to get and what to skip over, many more of the questions are related to issues people are having with the boards they currently own. I get a lot of questions from both DIYers as well as commercial board owners, and the latter seem to be scattered all over the spectrum from Teemos to Evolves and even Enertion Raptors. Sometimes I get questions regarding which new board to buy, which Chinese clones are worth the price difference, and what can be done to improve the board they already have. But by far the biggest pile of questions I get from any source is of the “something is wrong with my board” type, and more than half of the time I later find out during the information extraction process that they were riding in the rain.
Why do so many of you think this is ok?
Is it the commercials? We see ads all the time now with boards splashing around in puddles and even photoshopped water in the product photography. This in particular seems incredibly stupid on the retailer’s part because selling cheap boards (that will take a shit on you when ridden in the wet) by advertising them alongside images of them being ridden in the wet can’t be good for business. Your support lines are going to be blowing up with people needing replacements or refunds because, as previously stated, these boards will fail not long after the water gets inside.
Maybe you’re just used to riding your regular longboard or skateboard in the rain. If that’s the case, try to remember that electric skateboards are not “regular” and you now have a lot more to worry about. You were probably able to simply spend 30 minutes re-greasing your bushings, wiping down everything, popping out your bearings and cleaning them, wiping out your wheels and putting everything back together before you lean it on the wall for next time. But now you have a lot more to worry about.
You’ve got more than just bearings to worry about now, but also, your bearings.
inside the enclosure of your electric skateboard is a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t want to get wet. When moisture makes its way into an enclosure, it no longer has any incentive go anywhere else. It will stay in there until it evaporates, and when it does, it will leave electrically conductive filth all over everything. It also has a way of condensing elsewhere after evaporating and spreading into places you thought would be impossible. Often the symptoms don’t show until the board has had a chance to dry out so that the conductive sludge can settle on any and all available electrical contacts inside the box. Solder points, connectors, and pins on chips are the favorite places for deposits to collect. Your mind is probably filling with images of shorted batteries and possibly even fires, but that’s not what happens most of the time.
What will probably happen instead is you’ll pick it up to ride the next day and wonder what the hell is wrong with it. It might make one of the motors spin and not the other, or it might briefly turn on, do some weird blinky thing with the power button, then turn itself off. Or it might ride fine for five minutes and then cut off while riding or even slam on the brakes or something equally dangerous. In the safest scenario, it simply won’t turn on at all. At this point, you’ll probably think to yourself “but it was fine yesterday, and I ride in the rain all the time.” Then you’ll contact me and I’ll just straight up ask you if you got it in the wet.
In addition to the added electronics, you also have additional bearings. Some of which you can’t replace easily if at all. Wheel bearings are easily cleaned and replaced, you’ve probably done it several times already and don’t think much about it. Motor bearings, however, are not easily replaced. Wheel pulley bearings may or may not be easily replaced, depending on the type of pulley. Typically both motor and pulley bearings are sealed and pressed in, which are not the type that can just be pulled out and cleaned like the ones in your wheels. They will instead suffer wet filth ingress and begin to degrade. Good job, Captain. Now you need new motors too.
It’s not the rain as much as the puddles
If the rain simply fell through the air and landed on your board’s internal electronics, it might actually be better than what really happens. Instead, the water from the sky just puddles up on the top side of the deck, while the filthy, salty, silty, electrically conductive dirt-slush from the pavement sprays up all over the bottom of your deck from the wheels. When it sprays up in a fine mist like it always does, it will inevitably find a way into the smallest, least likely crevice (starting with the obvious gaping holes if there are any of course) and begin collecting inside the enclosure.
Once inside the box, all bets are off. Skating is a vibration-heavy sport. The box is shaking terribly while riding at speed, and everything is vibrating inside where that water is. What that translates to is that the water isn’t just sitting in the box in some corner out of the way. It is instead sloshing and spraying about all over your electronics while you are blissfully engaged in rain-riding.
But my box is sealed, and conformal coating on my circuit boards, and.. and…
Good luck, champ. Ultimately it is your decision to roll the dice and roll in wet. But you should know I’ve been building boards with liquid silicone sealed enclosures and conformally coated PCBs since late 2015. Unless your plan is to pour liquid silicone into the box and completely engulf the electronics, making heat dissipation and maintenance an impossible dream, you’re going to suffer eventually if you keep riding wet. But chances are, you’re riding a mass produced commercial board, none of which have any sort of real water ingress protection, and even if you did seal the box with something good after you bought it, there’s no guarantee it will stay functional for long if you keep rain-riding.
It just isn’t worth it, yet
You’re probably telling me how much fun it is, or how you “just get caught in it all the time” because of where you live, or that you wouldn’t be able to ride at all because it rains every damned day where you are. I live in Florida where it rains almost every day half the year, and the other half it merely rains a lot. I’m not going to tell you to quit skating, but I am going to tell you to set aside some cash to replace your commercial board or to keep replacing parts on your DIY build. You will need it.
Eventually, however, the parts used inside boards will become more tolerant to moisture ingress and the seals will get better. One day I imagine being able to ride freely in the rain and even through puddles four or five inches deep without having to worry. However, that day is not today.
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