Electric Skateboard Control by Leaning | Strain Gauges

Traditional electric skateboards have generally always used a hand controller of some sort to control acceleration and braking.

The first electric skateboards mostly had a tethered hand control, even some today still use wired systems. Then various wireless controllers became common. Infrared was used for a while, mostly because it is cheap. However IR is line of sight which is not great if you accidentally cover the receiver with your foot. Then came RF Contollers which use Radio frequency, which is by far the most common & reliable method of sending control signals to your speed controller. Most eboard manufacturers choose one of the above.

However there is one company that has tried to do something different. They are Z-Board, they got rid of the hand controller entirely. They put the responsibility of controll in your feet. I like the concept, but i just don’t like they way they implemented it.

Z-Board is one of those things you either love or hate. Their control method is via two buttons protruding from the deck that you press with your feet…press down the one at the front to go forward, one at the back to brake…

I haven’t personally tried the zboard method of control, so it wouldn’t be fair to criticise it too much. But I do ride a skateboard and I know that the position of your feet is critical to controlling the skateboard, especially at high speed. Even more critical is the weight or pressure you apply across the sole of your foot. These intricate foot movements and subtle changes in weight distribution are the key to becoming a highly skilled skateboard rider.

A perfect example of this is trying to ride a skateboard with big heavy steel capped boots. It’s much harder then when compared to wearing a decent skate shoe with a flexible sole that gives the rider a feel for the deck. A big boot doesn’t allow intricate foot control.

When travelling at 40+km/h you traverse up to 13 meters each second. 13 meters is a large area to cover in one second. Depending on the terrain & obstacles there could be the need to subtly change direction 5 or 6 times a second. So my point is you need a sound foot hold on the deck. You need to be able to feel the road beneath you and you need to be able to rapidly transfer weight across the sole of your foot into the deck to change direction. This is why I think the z board control method is flawed… taking your foot off the deck, moving your feet around to find a button to press down is not ideal at high speed.

An interesting observation when riding an electric skateboard at high speed is the natural tendency to lean forward when you are accelerating rapidly or travelling at top speed and to lean backwards more when you are decelerating or applying the brake. It’s natural to do this and you do it for various reasons (such as preventing a wheelie). However mostly it is due to countering the forces of inertia and trying to maintain balance on a vehicle that you are not attached to.

Unlike a bike or scooter or pretty much any vehicle (except a surfboard, which also coincidently requires the surfer to lean/tilt the board forward to increase speed down the face of a wave & lean baking to slow or stall the board) humans like to ride, on or in, a skateboard and the skateboard pilot are very much seperate entities. To maintain contact and control of a skateboard the rider must rely on gravity alone. This is why riding a skateboard is very challenging for many people. As gravity is all that holds your mass on the skateboard you must become an expert at controlling your mass. Keeping the mass balanced on top of the deck whilst navigating over various qualities of terrain is a fine art, so if a skateboard pilot is already skilled at controlling mass and shifting weight around to maintain balance it seems that this skill could also be used for controlling the rate of acceleration and deceleration. But it needs to be more sophisticated then using two big buttons that you press with your foot. It needs to be intuitive and precise and it needs to work without the rider being forced to change their stance or raise the foot up off the deck.

So can the strain gauge achieve all of this? YES!

Justin from Grin technologies has prototyped this control method successfully. You can read more about his lean controlled (weight sensing) eboard here: http://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=49557

I think It would be fair to say it should be natural for a electric skateboard rider to control their vehicle in this manner. You want to go forward? Lean forward because that’s what you would do if you had a hand control… with the hand controller you would slowly press the trigger and you would balance yourself by putting your weight forward so your board doesn’t fly off without you on top of it…

If controlling boards with strain gauges is to become common I think it would be very important to have precise & individual controll over the sensitivity of the front and back sensors… you would want that custom feel tuned specifically to your riding stance.

I believe if such a control method became available to DIY eboard builders & was affordable and easy to implement It would be very popular and may become the standard control method.



Unweighting to gain some lift over an obstacle or preparing to pump into a transition kills this concept for me. It’s the sole reason foot pedals on a board are a bad idea. I constantly move around on my boards. Staying in one position puts your limbs to sleep and makes for a boring ride. Most importantly, it takes the feel and fun out of riding a board.

Yeah i hear ya… i personally use a deck with a kicktail, when i am approaching a gutter or crack that i need to go over cleanly at speed i will put weight back onto the kick tail to lift weight off the front wheels. If the “sensing system” then takes this weight shift as an indication to apply the brakes its a problem for me.

From reading Justins thread about this technology I think with the filtering algorithms he uses it is possible to tune the system to ignore certain types of inputs… but how tuneable is the question?

When you want the brake on you want it on exactly when you want it on…

I suppose this system would need to have some fairly advanced AI like algorithms to work.

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completely agree- I’m always shifting around on my board, especially my pnuematic one when turning, and weight sensing would literally kill me… lol

I like to throw my weight around alot when im carving and I also like to have a kicktail. On thing i have noticed while riding my kick assist board is that I have to pay attention not to un weight the toe button on hard heelside carves. It is something that isnt too difficult. But its not 100% instinctive. Something you need to learn. But once you have your head around it its quite easy to do.

It’s hard to focus on not messing up with your feet. Personally, I like to make some dancing moves while I cruise, so I would literally kill myself on this kind of board :dizzy_face:

I know this is an old topic, but I really like the idea and just finished reading the thread on endless sphere mentioned in the first post.

It seemed like everyone who thinks too hard about it doesn’t like the idea, and everyone who tries it claims it’s better than sliced bread.

I think it changes the carving/sliding/foot braking aspects of longboarding, but that’s not necessarily a deal breaker for me. I would buy a pair of strain sensored trucks in a heartbeat, and if they don’t become available I’m gong to try to figure out how to implement them myself (which may take a while, considering how new I am to this.

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I have / had a z board. the first edition and i liked the foot control. i know about 7 people with z boards and they all liked them. That being said, I have to mention im not a great skater. I hadn’t rode a board in 20+ years before I got on a z board. so I didn’t know how to use my weight right and I still could use more skill. the foot controls felt natural enough.
The problem for me and 6 out of 7 people I know who own a board is reliability. the esc is junk. Every one with one has burned their esc some people multiple times I replaced mine about 4 times and i replaced other’s for a total of 5 times. I never found out why but the same component burned in all of them. then z board stoped selling replacements and didn’t offer any other way to fix them. so a lot of people are stuck with broken board’s I ended up converting my board with a new motor motor bracket vesc and a remote control. I wasn’t sure I’d like the new control method but I do. the only downside is not having both hands free. Not a big deal unless carrying pizza. I reused the deck and battery and at first the trucks and wheels but i changed trucks because there was no motor bracket available for the zboard trucks Now my only problem is the battery. is there a way to test it to find out what set up it is? As far as series and parallel i don’t know so I can’t setup my vesc and be 100% sure its right. One more thing if anyone is considering a z board id recommend a different brand. save money and frustration.

This is too bad but not too bad because the VESC should be able to use the strain gauge foot control as it is not much different from a ebike throttle and brake.

Oh so you are already on your way! @NuRxG will know how to make this work.


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Same as auto vs manual. Is manual trans old fashioned? Yes. Do we REALLY want to have a nanny telling you when to shift? Or be able to mash the throttle, to feel like mini gods?

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