“It was a dream come true and I quickly got the hang of it… riding is all I can think about” – Bryan F. CALIFORNIA
A common question we receive is, “How long does it take to learn the LEIF?”
While some depends on your physical shape and ability, more depends on your desire to ride and learn! Riding the LEIF is a lifetime of progression, with the ability to develop skills and a riding style unique to you. Progressing on the LEIF comes in phases, and here’s our best shot at describing the phases of riding using our customer examples.
The phases are measured by our customers in battery cycles – which is the amount of riding for one battery charge. If you are commuting with LEIF, then 2 battery cycles or more per day is very typical.
Here’s a brief video of a customer that documented the first 90-minute ride on the LEIF. For reference, this customer (Cedric & McCauley below) only has experience skateboarding and snowboarding:
These videos show pretty much all of the phases you’ll go through on Day 1. In general, here are the time frames of the typical rider progression:
Since the SR360 wheels are omnidirectional caster wheels, you must have them both facing in the forward direction to be able to get started. If they are opposing each other, then the motors will be working against each other and you won’t go anywhere – the board will just vibrate and make an unpleasant noise.
To get the SR360 caster wheels facing the forward direction, give a small push start like a skateboard. This will get the board rolling forward, which will automatically align the SR360 wheels. It is important that you get both feet secure on the board before using the remote control accelerator.
The rolling start sequence looks a bit like this:
1) Push forward with your front or back foot
2) Get both feet securely on the board
3) Hold the safety trigger on the remote and slowly roll the accelerator wheel forward
It doesn’t take a strong push or a ton of speed to get started. Over time you’ll learn that simply stepping on the board in a forward motion is enough to do a rolling start. If you find the board yawing on the push, then just dig into your heel edge to keep the board going straight during the push.
Rolling starts will also give you a smooth start and increase battery mileage since getting started from a stop requires a ton of energy! Always use a rolling start if you want to maximize your battery range.
Start by riding the LEIF with no bindings to make jumping off easier in the first few minutes. Riding without bindings is more difficult as you have less control, but putting in work without the bindings will pay off – because once you put the bindings on, it will feel like power steering.
Most of the first 20 minutes is spent riding for a few feet then losing balance and jumping off. This is your brain learning to balance on the board, just like riding a bike for the first time. Typically after 20-30 minutes, you are able to stay on the board and ride without losing your balance. Jumping off every 10 seconds can get boring – but if you keep at it, you’ll have it down in just 20-30 minutes!
Stepping on the LEIF for the first time feels very foreign. The center wheels and edge wheel system is very weird at first, and this is something that takes a good hour or so to start to understand and get comfortable riding. The LEIF ships with 1/8″ risers under the trucks. This lowers the ‘rocker’, which is the difference in height from the ground on the center and outer wheels. This is easier to get started on, but you will want to remove the risers as soon as possible to increase the rocker once you start sliding – which makes the LEIF much easier to slide on and ride like a snowboard.
Start by learning to carve like a longboard, which I mean mostly straight but with some carving turns. Making carves on the LEIF requires bouncing from edge to edge. Like a snowboard, you want to use your edges but you don’t want to put too much force on them – otherwise you’ll tip over or turn too sharply. Get comfortable riding in a straight line and bouncing from heel edge to toe edge.
Try to ride while putting the least amount of weight on your edges. Put just enough weight to make your carve turn and smoothly transition to the opposite edge. It is important to learn this before trying to slide!
Throwing your very first slide takes confidence – so take the time to get some balance on the board by carving before you throw your first slide. Also make sure to keep the bindings off the board for your first slide, so that you can jump off easily and bail if necessary.
Once you feel comfortable carving turns, try sliding to a stop. Just like in snowboarding, you will likely catch an edge because sometimes that is the only way to find where the edge is! Therefore, you should not use the bindings while learning to slide.
Keep your knees bent and a low center of gravity. This way is much easier to control your edges than standing tall with straight legs.
The most important part of learning to slide is to really visualize the snow beneath you and do your best to use your snowboarding muscle memory. Doing this is tough because your brain fights it and tries to make you ride like a skateboard – but if you can get into your snowboarding muscle memory even for a moment, it just magically works.
The risers on the trucks are there to restrict the rocker movement, which adds stability to the board at the expense of sliding ability. Therefore, the risers are great for getting introduced to the LEIF system, but you really want to take them off as soon as you are ready to start integrating slides into your ride.
Many of our customers that have a ton of board experience find that starting without the risers is actually easier. So if you know how to surf, skate and snowboard – then you might want to consider removing the risers even earlier in your learning process. The following learning exercise can be done with the risers, but we recommend removing the risers before going forward.
Once you have the sliding to a stop down, see how far you can slide in that stopping position. Putting a ton of weight on your edge will make you stop very quickly. Easing your weight onto your edge slowly will allow you to extend your slide – just like on a snowboard. Use parking lot lines or other markers to help you challenge yourself and see how far you can extend the slide.
Learning to extend your slide is critical because this is teaching you to ride with more weight on the SR360 wheels and less weight on the edges. Great LEIF riders put 90% of their weight on the SR360s and 10% of their weight on the edge wheels – using them for small adjustments and control while riding.
Once you get the slide to a stop on both edges, you have got the feeling for what it is like to slide on the LEIF. Now you’re ready to start weaving slides into your turns. Start by doing a frontside carve and letting the back end slip out a bit to engage the slide. Again, if you can summon your snowboarding muscle memory then this will just happen naturally.
It is a crazy feeling when you get it the first time! For some reason, the backside slide came more naturally to me when I was learning the LEIF.
Allow the back end of your board to drift out, then pull the board back straight to center (like riding straight on a skateboard). Going back to center is something you need to learn because going back to center is getting back to the safe zone. It is impossible to catch an edge while riding straight and not sliding, so always be able to snap back to center at any moment while riding. Always being ready to snap into a slide stop is great too and will increase your confidence at any speed.
If you feel the back end of your board slipping out while riding, especially on the backside edge, then select Myagi mode. If you are having this problem in Myagi mode, then shift some more weight to your back foot – we call this ‘squashing the bug’ and this will stabilize the back end instantly.
Like Ced in the video above, many riders get the first spins in at the 1-2 hour mark. Notice how he’s not using bindings yet – and this is a great thing! The more work you put in without bindings, the better – because when you do put bindings on, you’ll have much more control and be super comfortable.
Once you feel comfortable sliding on the board, it is time to put on your bindings. This will allow much more control of the board and allow you to control donuts, burnouts, slides and spins with a much greater degree!
Follow the guide in the LEIF Manual for installing the bindings and put the bindings at a comfortable height for the style of riding shoe you are using. Skateboard shoes are great for the LEIF because they have great traction on the bottom and a large cushion on the top that puts a nice layer of padding above your foot.