I was quite literally riding into the sunset when I began calculating just how fast my legs would have to move in order to abandon the electric skateboard under my feet. The winding road from the High Point Lookout of Red Rock Canyon in Nevada to the bottom of the basin sounded like the perfect place for my first ride on Dot’s new electric board — until I looked down at the small screen on my board’s remote.
The speedometer read 27 mph. Since middle school, I have ridden longboards in both cities and suburbs, but never in my life had I gone this fast or been this stiff with fear.
Riding an electric skateboard gives you the false sense that hills don’t exist because you have battery-powered brakes — that is, until you are racing downhill without one. In theory, regenerative braking is a dream. But in reality, it makes braking on a full battery incredibly perilous. And when you’re standing on a 37-inch piece of wood that is propelling you down into a desert valley at top speed, and your brakes suddenly aren’t responding to the controller in your hand, you realize that hills do, in fact, exist.
Before speeding downhill on a fully charged Dot skateboard, I fell in love with the board’s traditional skateboard feel. All three Dot models — the Compact, the Cruiser, and the Transporter — are made from a composite of maple V-Ply and fiberglass. Powerful hub motors allow them to cruise without drag; you have to pump or get the wheels moving before the motors will engage.
Dot Boards is the brainchild of three Australian brothers and skateboarders, Matt, Stephen, and Pete Hill. Operating under the belief that most electric skateboards on the market didn’t have that true skateboarding feel, the bothers spend six years developing one of their own. Last year, they finally launched their own products, which are now available for purchase through the company’s website.
Both the Compact and Cruiser sport pinstripe decks with kicktails while the Transporter is a woodgrain drop-through. With each board, you have the option of adding additional battery modules. And on the two smaller boards, you can add an additional hub motor as well. One motor provides enough power for a 15 percent hill climb, while two motors double that to 30 percent. Each battery provides six miles of range and costs an extra $200 per module. And all of the boards have rear brake lights built in.
The Compact Dot Board starts at $1,279, and while the size and weight are great, the range leaves something to be desired. You have the option of one or two motors, with the latter costing an extra $170. The speed maxes out at 18 mph, which, on a small board like this, feels pretty damn fast. The Compact Dot Board whips and is easy to carry. It feels extremely similar to Boosted’s Mini.
For full speed, range, and comfort — but a lot more weight — there’s the Transporter. Starting at $1,599, this board is the Cadillac of Dot’s lineup. You can upgrade the wheels to 120 mm “stable-ride” versions for $100. These wheels make it feel like you’re riding on a cloud. I got comfortable going real fast, real quick. You can get up to 24 mph on this board, with a maximum 24 miles of range per charge. But you give up a lot of portability with the Transporter. The board is huge and heavy, and it’s definitely an A to B vehicle with little to no stops in between.
The Cruiser sits comfortably in between the Compact and the Transporter. It starts at $1,299 with a maximum speed of 18 mph and 18 miles of range. This is the sweet spot for electric board sizes. It’s light enough that if you had to hop on the subway, it wouldn’t be a hassle, but it still retains decent range and speed.
The Dot remote is a little different than Boosted’s. The acceleration and brake buttons are on the backside of the remote. I found myself using my pointer and middle fingers to accelerate and my ring finger and pinkie to brake. But it was a little tricky, and I was often spooked that I would hit accelerate when I meant to hit the brake. With its snappy braking and acceleration, a slip of your hand could leave you on the pavement.
There is, however, a very useful — and very tiny — screen on Dot’s remote. You can see a speedometer, distance traveled, and a range of settings. While the board is not waterproof, the screen on the remote will tell you if your motor is wet. It also has haptic feedback to alert you of certain messages. For example, if your board is vertical, and therefore the motors aren’t going to start, the remote will pulse. I appreciated being able to feel that something was wrong via the haptics.
We need to talk about the regenerative braking system and how I reached 27 mph going downhill on an electric skateboard. Dot claims it actually caps the power to just below 100 percent while you’re charging the board, leaving a bit of room for any additional power from the brakes to be sent back into the “full” battery. But when I took off on a fully charged Cruiser at the top of a lookout point in Red Rock Canyon, I began generating more power than I needed.
Once the battery hit full capacity, which happened to be in the middle of a large hill, the braking felt a lot like a speed wobble. There were real quick pulses that caused the back of my board to shake, then the brake would cut out. This is a huge problem for anyone riding these boards, and I hope to see Dot address this in a better way than capping the amount a battery can charge.
I reached out to the company about this issue, and Dot responded by saying the remote will alert you if you try to brake while the battery is full. The alert will be a repeating haptic signal and a “Low Brakes” message on the remote screen. Unfortunately, during my experience, I did not receive this message, and I worry that, for an inexperienced rider, this signal could be too little too late.
What Dot is doing right, though, is the modularity and customization. Motors are swappable via an Allen key that is stored in the front truck, and batteries are easy to unscrew and remove. In contrast, changing a wheel on a Boosted board requires taking motor caps off, relieving belt tension, and removing motor gears.
I was able to change out a wheel in about two minutes and put an additional motor on in one minute. I really like that you can buy the base model of any Dot Board and, in a few months or years, add batteries or extra motors. Of course, that relies on Dot staying afloat in a market that not only has the huge incumbent player, but also has seen companies come and go. Dot’s bet on DIY, customizable boards is refreshing, though.