Is it difficult to ride on hoverboards?

Hoverboards

It will be the means of transport of the future – they tell us – everyone will move on hoverboards ”. It seems impossible to remain indifferent to the new toy arriving from the UK, so we decided to have fun with this bizarre green vehicle for a few days. They call it a hoverboard, in homage to the Back to the Future skateboard, but it’s actually a sort of compact version of the Segway, the self-balancing vehicle that has never managed to break through due to its very high cost. Segbo, and its other companies, have brought this new version to the UK which allows, for less than £329.99, to put your feet on a small motorized platform that ensures more than 20 km of autonomy at a speed of about 10 km/h.

Segway and Hoverboard

The principle is the same as the Segway: two wheels with a pair of motors and an accelerometer manage to keep a driver in perfect balance who will issue commands by slightly unbalancing the body. Driving, or rather, going around the street with the hoverboard is not at all difficult: after the first few minutes of acclimatization, necessary to understand that the vehicle does not betray trust at all and really manages to keep a person in balance without any danger (but it is good to try in a large space), you can use it without problems.

After two hours, provided that one is inclined and has a little balance, the two wheels will seem natural appendages of the legs, and one will be able to go up and down smoothly by making precise slaloms between obstacles and going back and forth with a speed overall moderate. But let’s go in order.

The Segbo DOC should not catch fire

The hoverboard model we tested is the Segbo DOC: two small wheels, a fairly wide platform, two lights to illuminate the road (they create a scene but are not very useful), and an on/off button on the side, next to the door to battery charging.

DOC has no remote control or even a smartphone app: it is controlled by slightly unbalancing the body in the direction you want to go. The sensor at the base, sensing the change of inclination and angle between the two wheels, manages the motors in the best way to ensure a straight ride or to make a curve.

The DOC, it is useless to hide it, is aesthetically identical to all the other models based on the same principle on the market, however, there should be minor internal differences that allow a known brand to be preferred to an unknown brand product sold online. In fact, if the body and the wheels are identical, under the plastic there are two motors and a battery pack which alone represent 75% of the cost of the product. These two elements determine the quality of the product, and Segbo assures us that it has used quality lithium cells and two motors with good power and long life. In short, the Italian product shouldn’t explode or catch fire like other similar products: the batteries and the assembly are of high quality.

Using it on the road is illegal…

“ If a policeman sees you on the road with a hoverboard, he is more likely to take a picture of you ” – the Segbo brand manager tells us, however, if we look at the highway code this product cannot be used either on a sidewalk or on a cycle path. In fact, it falls into that category of ” speed accelerators ” such as skateboards and skates, products that have never been regulated by the Italian highway code and for which action will have to be taken in some way.

Hoverboards, scooters, and electric skateboards will somehow become objects of common use to speed up transport in urban centers, and the regulatory hole will somehow have to be covered. Many American cities have already had their say, there are those who have banned it and there are those who instead allow it to be used on cycle paths.

And maybe it’s for the best

Yes, we have used it on the road as well as we have used it on dirt roads, uphill, on wet shiny pavement and in every possible condition, and after more than a week and a lot of ground km we can say that the DOC is fun. but probably not yet the right product to get around town.

The top speed is not very high, a bicycle is certainly faster (and healthier), and especially small wheels don’t go very well with the disastrous situation of many Italian roads. Just take a 3 cm step at high speed, a manhole cover, or a hole to find yourself in mid-air without the Doc under your feet. The wheels are small, too small for bumpy and uneven asphalt and too much even for uneven ground: the DOC is perfect on a smooth road, if the grip is lost the wheels start to slip.

The autonomy is excellent, and the top speed reached by those who learn to handle it well is also good, a speed that is in any case aligned with the weight of the user. In our case, 87 kg, the DOC probably struggled a bit and this reduced both performance and fuel consumption: a lighter person gains a few km and above all will be more comfortable going uphill. For example, we were unable to climb a 10° slope without giving a few hip thrusts, but the engines with a 20 kg lighter weight can certainly handle the situation without problems.

But if you’re shy it’s not for you

The Segbo hoverboard is really fun, helps improve balance, allows you to move faster than on foot, and will attract a lot of attention to you. Going around the streets on the DOC means getting used to many questions, curious people who want to know how much it costs, or even ask to try it. It’s a novelty, and like any novelty, it needs adaptation: the performance is there, the speed is perhaps a little low for us but it falls within the safety parameters that the company has set itself, the only doubt is related to the wheels, too small in our opinion for urban use.

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