We Need Weatherproof Bikes, Boards, Scooters and Skates

We know that cars are on the way out, at least in terms of local trips. We know that the climate has changed significantly already (we’re already above 1.5c compared to 1750) and it’s only going to continue getting worse for a long time to come. And that means more rain.

So therefore it stands to reason that people are going to be riding bikes and scooters much more for commuting and fun. And they’ll almost certainly be skating, skateboarding and long-boarding more as well. Every time you get rid of cars, everyone’s out on the streets with the skates or boards they found at the back of the cupboard and dusted off.

The problem is that all of these wheeled objects are incredibly badly suited to riding in wet conditions. There are some bikes that are much better suited to riding in rain and on wet roads, but even they are not perfect. Skateboards, skates and scooters are not even close to weather resistant. Ride any of them on a wet day once and your bearings will be shot. Now is the time for innovation from these industries. You could argue that people won’t skate on rainy days, but I think they will. Dry ground days are going to be few and far between in the wetter months. But even if that were true, people will be commuting on e-scooters, and many of them are currently not designed for wet weather riding either.

As far as cycling, this challenge means a rapid move away from exposed chain and derailleur systems and towards belts or chain cases (which I’ve argued for many times already). But there are many other parts on even the most protected Dutch bike that will still rust and go wrong very quickly when used in the rain a lot and kept in less-than-ideal conditions.

At the moment it’s hard to really see this change happening, especially for the more leisure equipment. But as the demise of the car becomes more obvious in the next year or two, we will start to see something happen. Sales of skates and boards will increase as people get inspired by empty streets, and that will lead to a bigger R&D spend, and hopefully the innovation we’re looking for.

It can’t continue to be the case that products are being sold that aren’t designed to be used in the way the manufacturers know people are going to use them. Just from a pure sustainability point of view this needs to change very quickly.


Why I was wrong about Aggressive Skating

When I was a kid, I had a pair of cheap aggressive skates. I never really tried to get good, and even though I could keep my balance OK, I never learned to do any tricks. Instead, simply dismissing the sport as too easy because the wheels are strapped to your feet, like snowboarding and unlike skateboarding.

Watching vert skating especially looked to me at the time like cheating. It was so easy to do I thought. Looking back now and watching the sport, you realise that the things which I and many kids unfortunately seen as making the sport easy, actually give the sport its uniqueness among extreme sports. Few other sports in this genre allow you to use your whole body to emphasise tricks. Some of the grabs you’ll see from vert skaters are some of the most spectacular and stylish you’ll see. The extensions of the grabs, combined with the speed and therefore height that the skaters achieve is something amazing to watch.

Equally, spinning tricks are obviously easier to control as the skates are attached to your feet, but this just offers more room for experimentation and style. In the same way snowboarders can do incredibly complex and stylish rotations on axis skateboarders can’t achieve, the same is true here. The speed and angles of some of the spins are extraordinary. Watch the Yasutoko brothers, Takeshi and Eito and you’ll see what I mean.

Put simply, skateboarding, like BMX are more technical sports, while aggressive skating has more of a natural flow and freedom to it when done well. I like all of these sports and essentially all extreme sports to some extent, but the simplicity and style of aggressive skating makes it stand out. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with a lot of smooth surfaces and nice grind spots, then you can have a great deal of fun. Plus, it’s a lot less daunting to newcomers. If you fall on a trick, you’ve got no big bike to get tangled up in and even though you can’t bail out if you get it wrong, it’s easier to start smaller on skates than you can with a board due to it’s less technical nature.

With all this said, I think when you consider the progression the sport has seen in the last few years, as well as the fact that with more TV presence, what more could be done. I definitely think that ESPN should strongly consider reinstating inline back into the X-Games. It’s one of the founding extreme sports and I think it deserves its place back on the biggest stage. Progression of tricks would go through the roof if the sport was given a second chance.