With its outrageous orange wheels, 38-inch longboard body, and the unmistakable whine of its rear-wheel motors, Boosted's original electric skateboard is a poster child for powered boarding. For good reason! Challengers have spent years trying to compete on price, features, and form factor, but none have managed to build a board that's nearly half as fun.
Now Boosted is expanding its reach, exploring a world that it had left mostly untouched. The result is the $750 Boosted Mini S: a high-power, well-built, portable commuter-grade board at a tantalizingly low price. All those laurels make the Mini S a terrific means of conveyance. The catch is that it's just not a particularly fun one.
On paper, the Boosted Mini is just a smaller Boosted Board. Rather than a springy 38-inch longboard body, it has a stiffer 29.5-inch "cruiser" board much closer in size to a typical skateboard. It has the same hand-held control mechanism, the same regenerative brakes. It's got the same motors which give it unbeatable get-up-and-go. It's got the same 7-mile range of its older, bigger brother (although the latest 38-inchers have upped the ante to 14, as will an upcoming version of the Mini, ).
It is, in all ways but size, a Boosted Board. But out on the asphalt, size makes all the difference in the world.
The basics of boarding, long and short
Motorized or not, there are some key mechanical differences between longboards and cruisers that make them as different as a Cadillac and a Miata. It's a crucial distinction that underpins the entire conversation about the new Boosted Mini.
Longboards, with their greater length and wide-set wheels, are remarkably stable and steady. Giant wheels let them steamroll over cracks and pebbles with relative ease, and without threatening to buck even an inexperienced rider. Thanks to their inherent stability, longboards can have springy, flexible decks that insulate your feet from every jolt of a poorly paved road.
Longboards are not particularly maneuverable in tight spaces because of a huge turning radius. Nor are they easy to carry around. But they're safe and comfortable in motion—especially at high speed—which makes them the obvious choice for downhill racers and electric board manufacturers alike.
Cruisers are a different story. Owing to their shorter length and narrower wheelbase, they're necessarily less stable and require more skill to ride, especially at higher speeds. Pebbles and cracks will give you more of a jolt because cruisers need stiffer boards to maintain stability. Big, soft wheels can smooth things out at the cost of a little maneuverability, but the ride is fundamentally less smooth than it is on a longboard. Oh and stiff boards love to rattle, giving you more of that signature "those damned punks!" sound whether you like it or not.
Of course cruisers aren't all downside. They're much more portable and lighter than longer boards, therefore far less obnoxious to take on a bus or a subway. Their smaller bodies makes them more nimble, letting you make tighter turns or even your way through stopped traffic.
It's ultimately a matter of preference, but in my book cruisers are king, especially in a city like New York. That's what makes the Boosted Mini so damn exciting—but also serves as its Achilles' heel. Motors just don't mix as well with cruisers as well as they do with longboards.
The Mini's middle ground
When I first set foot on the Boosted Mini, it took me back to my first thrilling ride on the bigger Boosted. I braced against the sharp kick of the electric motors and grinned like an idiot as I sped off uphill at full speed, experiencing the all-consuming joy of riding any electric skateboard worth its salt.
When I made it to a local beat-up and bumpy bike lane out in Queens, the differences between the smaller Boosted and its bigger cousin emerged. The Mini's rigid deck straight-up vibrates as you speed over gravel and divots, and the lack of a longer board's rock-solid stability made acceleration feel a little squirrely.
The board didn't unmanageable or dangerous, but control felt vaguely tenuous in a way that kept me a little on edge. As I crested a hill and cut into the well-paved road to carve my way down, I got the full experience of the Mini's double-edged sword. Its stability, ever-so-slightly-lacking just moments before, was now ever-so-slightly-overbearing. I strained to make it swoop and turn quite the way I've come to expect from my favorite smaller boards like , which are what got me so excited for the Boosted Mini in the first place. I could muscle the Mini through the motions, but it didn't feel quite right.
This is the Mini's curse, a consequence of physics more than any failure of engineering. The Goldilocks zone for a small, powered board is incredibly—maybe even impossibly—narrow. Handling and stability are fundamentally at odds, and cruisers' ability to opt for the former at expense of the latter is possible in large part because no one really expects them to tackle the same high speeds that a longboard can.
By throwing a motor in the mix, Boosted complicates that balance. In trying to thread the needle, it arrives at something that rides like the compromise it is. The Mini would flirt with at its limited top speed, then fail to corner as nicely as I'd expect through an intersection. It'd race over beat-up asphalt admirably, with no real threat bucking me off but with a hellish whine of its motors, the rattling of the deck, and some other strange sound I was never able to place. At intersections, instead of smirking with glee, I found myself just enjoying the relative silence as my foot vibrated with aftershocks.
Wanting a workhorse
For all my concerns about nuance and feel, it's important to highlight that the Mini's on-paper advantages hold true. Smaller and lighter than a 38-inch board, it's the first Boosted that can take you up hills with ease and not make you a pariah on a crowded bus or subway. Boosted's engineering is still top-notch, and the Mini will get you moving quickly and without fail.
But where bigger Boosted Boards have beckoned to me from beneath my desk to blow off work and go rip around Central Park, the Mini just hasn't had the same sort of joyride appeal. If anything, it's inspired me to get back out on the push-powered boards I already own and, frankly, prefer to ride.
I also slightly worry about folks who pick up a Mini as their very first board. So much of my sense of balance comes from learning to shift my weight on boards I had to push by foot, and while the largest Boosted Boards are so stable as to render this moot, the Mini threw me a few iffy moments where I was glad I'd already cut my teeth on other boards at lower speed. I'd recommend that you do the same if you are chiefly looking for a hobby and not a way to get to work.
All that said, the quality of Boosted's boards is unmatched so far, and the Mini's many minor failings feel more like the necessary compromises of tackling a genuinely near-impossible engineering challenge. If the Mini slots particularly cleanly into your commute and budget, and the road to your office is well-paved, it's worth considering as a tool if not a toy. And if electric recreation riding is your main concern, a bigger Boosted is almost certainly your better bet. As for me, I think I'm going to keep kicking around town on .
The Boosted Mini S .