It was dark, I was going 20 mph on my Boosted Mini, when suddenly I headed down a slope I didn’t even see. The board started trembling under my feet. It was the dreaded “death” wobble. A fall and a few scratches (plus a ruined backpack) later, I was determined to learn how to avoid this from happening again. So how do you avoid speed wobble from snowballing into a big ugly fall?
The cheapest and quickest way to mitigate the speed wobble with your electric skateboard is to tighten your rear truck a bit more than the front one. A larger wheelbase also helps as well as a lower degree baseplate (drop through trucks rather than top mount). However your stance and skill level has a lot more to do with avoiding and dealing with speed wobbles.
As you you might have guessed, dealing with “death” wobble is not as simple as it seems. I mean there might be a reason why they call it death wobble right?
Ok, hopefully I’ve spooked you enough to keep reading. Let’s get into it.
What causes speed wobble?
Wobbling is caused by ourselves. That’s right, as amazing as human beings are, we’re so sophisticated that often times we have a hard time controlling our own bodies. Especially when riding at high speeds, like 25 miles an hour on an eskate, our body, who’s not naturally used to rolling on concrete on top of a piece of wood, tries to auto regulate and correct our posture and balance to make up for the inconsistencies and imperfections of the road.
This is mainly dictated by two things:
- our conscious balance control (or proprioception) regulated by neurons within muscles, tendons and joints
- our reflex arc, the neural pathways controlling our reflexes who, basically bypass our brains to avoid costly delays
It’s easy to say that our board setup influences speed wobbles and has direct impact on avoiding them, but let’s face it, we’re not gonna circumvent thousands of years of evolution that easy.
As mentioned, the best and most long-term solution to prevent speed wobbling is to practice.
How to gradually find your way through speed wobbles
Practice non electric first
As suggested in the r/ElectricSkateboarding Reddit community, if you’re new to eskates (or skateboarding in general), your best bet at fighting wobbles is to practice first with a non-motorized board.
You can get a good enough, standard longboard and loosen your trucks to get a feel for what wobbling is like. You won’t need to go at crazy speeds to feel it trust me. Always make sure you’re wearing the right protective gear and dedicate some time every day to riding and getting your muscles and instinct used to it. Expect the whole process to take a month or two. Consistency is key.
Start paying attention to your stance and foot placement.
Skateboard turning is dictated mostly by your front foot (reason why you see a ton of downhill longboarders putting almost all of the weight on their front foot and just leaning in with their rear foot), so it’s important that you move your weight towards the front while riding.
Once you’ve got some experience with turning and just riding straight at decent speeds, it’s time to begin working on your carving. Gently swing from side to side, feeling your body and how your wight shifts as you lean in each direction. Always pushing yourself slightly more than you previously did.
Move to eboards (and focus!)
Once you really experienced wobbles, it’s time to move on to an electric board and do the same. Thing with eskates is, you will need to be good at managing wobbles even if you don’t plan on riding downhill, because of the speed you can reach even on flat surfaces. So any moment you can spend to practice will be worth it.
As a side note, if there’s one thing I realized early on, after my e-board ended under a car (luckily it was just the board), is that when riding you need total focus.
Your five and sixth (balance control) senses need to be immersed in your experience. So wearing headphones is a big fat NO. This is because listening to music really lowers your awareness of everything that surrounds you and of your own body. Stay sharp and focused while practicing.
The first few times you will feel the wobble for sure.
Even if you’ve been practicing on a standard longboard for while. When that happens, release acceleration on your remote and just keep cool and relaxed. The board will adjust and stabilize, as you slow down.
Once wobbling is over, get back to it, try to stay low and lean forward. With practice you’ll get a good sense for how to deal with it if it happens and even avoid it entirely.
What set up adjustments can you make to avoid eskate wobble?
These won’t fix your wobbling issues, but merely delay the point and speed at which your board will start wobbling. That said, they’re good to keep in mind both when selecting your e-board and in general, to learn how it works and what to change if needed.
Tighten your trucks
Tightening your trucks reduces the board’s ability to turn, which in turn (pun intended) reduces the risk of speed wobbles. Some people recommend to loosen the front truck and tighten the rear, but I think it’s more of finding the right balance of what feels good and it also depends on the kind of riding you do on a daily basis. If you’re more into long, fast rides you can afford the trucks to be quite tight.
If on the other hand you need to be nimble and flexible to face turn after turn, I’d definitely say, give yourself some manoeuvrability margin and try with loose front trucks and slightly tighter on the back until you think the chance of wobbling is minimized.
A pice of advice, never over tighten your trucks to the point where your bushings look like they’re imploding. If you need stiffer bushings, buy stiffer bushings.
Lower degree baseplate and truck mount
The baseplate is the part of the truck that attaches it to the board. You can find these in different angles which change the how much you will be able to turn. If you’re not DIYing your board, then pay attention to what kind of truck the one you;re buying mounts. If you already own a board, then as mentioned getting stiffer bushings can mitigate a high degree baseplate.
Again, here it will be a matter of finding what works for you and making choice between carving ability and speed.
Another way to work with your position towards the surface and how far you are from it, is to consider drop through boards (picture below). Their trucks are screwed to top of your board making it lower to the ground. Again lower position, lower turning range.
Top mount boards (like you see below) on the other hand place you higher towards the ground, making it easier to carve, but also easier to face plant after a speed wobble.
An alternative to changing how your trucks are connected to the board is to use a drop down board, which kinda gives you a similar feeling to a drop through, but can provide more carving range. An electric skateboard company who offers pretty high quality drop down boards is Boundmotor.
The wheelbase of your electric skateboard or longboard is the distance between the center of the front and rear wheel. As I painfully demonstrated to myself, falling like a bag of potatoes with my Boosted Mini, a smaller wheelbase (short board) makes it more likely to wobble than a larger one (longboard). Which is tied to turning ability as well.
A short board turns much more easily than a longboard, but it also allows for easier speed wobbling.
That’s one reason why a lot of people recommend starting with a longboard if you’re new to electric skating. So keep this in mind when picking your board. If your DIY board gives you the chance of adjusting your wheelbase, start practicing with a larger one and then reduce it until you reach your sweet spot.
Practice, practice, practice
Just to iterate, the only way to really deal with and hopefully avoid death wobbles with your electric skateboard, is to learn how your body reacts during your ride with your specific board.
You can make adjustments yes, but they won’t be your long-term solution.
Your brain and muscle memory will need to be trained and used to higher speeds as you gradually progress and improve your skill level. So go out, have fun, focus and train.