Hoverboard 101: Everything You Should Know Before Buying One

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Are hoverboards real?

When you hear the term hoverboard, you might immediately start picturing a hovering board or a levitating board that you might have seen in sci-fi movies or cartoons, like the one from Back to the future II [1]. Who can help it? Having a true hovering board like that would be really really cool. The technology for making something like that does exist. Unfortunately, tech companies haven’t yet managed to make a viable consumer version of a true hoverboard. There are a few companies (zapata.com, lexus hoverboard, hendohover.com, ominhoverboards.com and arcaboard) that are experimenting with it and hopefully we will see a consumer version of a hovering board in the near future. We can only dream … hoverboards are not real just yet.

What is a hoverboard?

Back to reality … These futuristic models created a lot intrigue and interest. So companies have been creating products that are being marketed as hoverboards, though they do not levitate or hover. So what is a hoverboard? These are the cool, futuristic looking skateboard-ish contraptions with two wheels that people zip around on. The one that allows them to maneuver around cars and people, while you are stuck in the same spot in rush hour traffic and also go off-roading and racing. That my friend, is the present day hoverboard!

The name is a little misleading as it moves around on wheels. However, it is still a pretty neat machine. It provides the illusion of hovering by transporting its rider around in a smooth gliding motion without the rider seeming to move at all. It is also known by other names like self-balancing scooter, [1] self-balancing board or swegway, but ‘hoverboard’ is by far the coolest.

It is a fun, quick and a smart means of personal transport. It is also marketed as an environmentally friendly mode of personal transport since it runs on electricity. Although, a bike or traditional skateboard might be better in that aspect but you will have to break a sweat … Anyway, I digress, let’s get back to the hoverboard.

How does a hoverboard work?

The hoverboard has a platform that is about shoulder width long and about 6 inches wide. The rider stands on the rubber pads on top of this platform. There are two wheels on the longer ends of the platform pointing sideways unlike a skateboard where the wheels point along the length of the board. The platform also houses the motors and battery that are used to power the wheels. Most hoverboards have headlight and tail lights to improve visibility. They also have speakers for cool sound effects and to play your music.

The hoverboard is called a self-balancing scooter or self-balancing board for a reason. It has a special ‘self-balancing’ mechanism built in that makes riding easier and ensures that the rider is always upright to prevent falls and accidents. This is a pretty neat technology. The motion of the rider leaning in a particular direction triggers sensors on the board and the self-balancing mechanism kicks in to make the rider stable. It does this by operating the motors to move the board in the same direction as the rider’s lean. The more the rider leans, the faster the board moves in that direction. The rider can turn by twisting the pads individually. This mechanism is very intuitive and easy to learn. It makes riding the hoverboard as easy leaning your body in the direction you want move. So there are no brakes, steering wheel or other mechanisms.

Are hoverboards safe?

Hoverboards soared in popularity around late 2015. However, they quickly got a bad rap because of some publicized incidents where they caught fire due the battery overheating or defects in the electrical systems [2]. So you ask, are hoverboards safe and should I get one? Yes, they are much safer now than in 2015. At the time that these accidents occurred, there were no design standards and government regulations in place to ensure rider safety. But over the years, actions have been taken to eliminate any design flaws. US and Canada have introduced a mandatory safety certification called UL2272 [3] that each hoverboard has to undergo before being sold. This certification guarantees that all hoverboards have been rigorously tested.

Hoverboard capabilities

Hoverboards can be used as a means of transport in a wide variety of terrains. Some are mainly meant for use indoors and on smoother surfaces like pavements. Others are equipped to handle off-roading on grass, gravel, dirt etc. They also have a good load carrying capacity. The maximum rider weight supported by the boards can vary a lot depending on the power of the motor and the construction. Some of the boards can carry more that 120 kg / 260 lbs.

Hoverboards have a rechargeable battery and can travel 7 to 15 miles between each charge. However, the speed and range depend on the power of the motor, the weight of the rider, the incline of the road, the terrain, etc.

Hoverboards can go pretty fast. They can reach speeds of about 6 to 12 mph.  To put that in perspective, some of the world’s fastest marathoners run at about 12 mph, much faster than the average person.  At first that might not seem like much, but for something that looks like a skateboard, that’s pretty fast.

Different kinds of hoverboards

All hoverboards are not created equal. They are designed differently to help cater to your needs. Some people want smaller, sleeker boards to be able to maneuver in tight spaces, while others want to explore the outdoors on theirs. Some people care mainly about speed, while others care more about the power. This is why there are so many different types of hoverboards on the market and it is helpful to understand which one best suits your needs. The main design differences are:

  1. Wheel diameter : which gives the board sufficient clearance while riding on rocky, bumpy roads.
  2. Tires : Just like cars, the type of tires determines the surface you can use your board on.
  3. Motor : You will need more powerful dual motors for steeper, rougher surfaces.
  4. Size : Tighter spaces need a more compact and lighter design, while you will need a bigger, sturdier board on bumpier surfaces.
  5. Construction : The material used in a hoverboard can vary from plastic for lighters riders and smoother terrains, to Aluminum for more rugged surfaces to protect the board better.
  6. Price : This can vary a lot based on the capabilities of the board. Some of the souped-up versions come with a hefty price tag.

Many hoverboards on the market are also very structurally different [4]. While the most common hoverboard looks like a skateboard with 2 wheels, some others have just one wheel. A few like the Segway, have a handle bar. All these different types of board can give you varying experiences.

Hoverboard Uses

When we bought our first hoverboard, we must confess, we did not really care about what we could use it for. We just wanted to get our hands on this cool piece of technology and zip around. Over the years however, we found a lot of practical and fun uses for it. The uses are only limited by your imagination. Here are some suggestions.

  • FUN! Hoverboards are an endless source of fun. Kids and adults alike can use it play tag, zip around and race each other. Challenge your friends for different activities and tricks.
  • Off-roading and exploring trails: You can use the hoverboard to explore outdoor trails and go off-roading with your friends and family. You will be able to explore much longer and farther than you can on foot while still enjoying the outdoors.
  • Urban commute: Driving to work in big cities involves dealing with rush hour traffic and expensive parking every day. Instead using hoverboards for commute to work can been life changing. You can save a lot of time each day which you can spend with your family and do other fun things. The hoverboard can be packed into a backpack that you can carry with you once you reach your destination. So you don’t have to work about parking.
  • Last mile commute: Millions of people use public transport each day to get to work. While the hoverboard might not be a substitute for this in your long commute, it can transport you from your home or office to the public transport station more easily. Running to catch the bus/train will be a thing of the past. Also, since the board is pretty small and light, you can carry it along easily AND it can double as a stool when placed on its side. Another huge plus … you will never break a sweat while getting to work!
  • Walking the dog: Have a high energy dog who needs a lot of exercise in order to maintain your sanity? 🙂 … You should get a hoverboard! You can retain some sanity and also enjoy the outdoors without tiring yourself out.
  • Substitute for your golf cart: Why sit in a boring golf cart when you can zip around the golf course on a hoverboard? It is a lot more fun. Also, try hitting the golf ball without dismounting from your hoverboard. Take care though, It is really tricky!
  • Getting around big campuses, warehouses and offices: Being on your feet all day and having to walk between campuses, in huge warehouses and stores can be very taxing, especially if you suffer from leg pain. The hoverboard is great for this and will provide you some relief from your pain while transporting you to your destination faster.
  • Better for the earth: If you are concerned about the health of our planet and want to do your part in reducing your carbon footprint, substitute shorter car travel with your hoverboard. Since the hoverboards run on electricity, you don’t have to be concerned about car emissions. Yes, a bike is even better for the earth, but hoverboard can be more convenient (especially if you have bags of groceries in your hands).
  • Cool hoverboard tricks: You can do some pretty neat tricks with your hoverboard. Think tricks like ‘the turnstyle’ (360 back-to-front) and even headstands! Just use your judgement and take sufficient safety precautions.
  • Exploring new places:  You can carrying your hoverboard on your travels (not on flights). We love that it helps us explore newer neighborhoods of cities we are visiting and help us see a lot more of a place than we did before, without getting tired.
  • Increase your Pokemon Go reach: If you are a little confused about this one, we get it! We have all heard of Pokemon Go, which became a huge phenomenon, where people search for characters from the game in the real world. The aim is to collect as many characters as possible and the hoverboard has helped people get an edge over the ‘walkers’ in going farther and faster while collecting Pokemons!
  • Transport: You have use the hoverboard to pretty easily pull kids wagons, golf trolley bags and beach carts loaded with stuff.
  • Go kart: Yes, you read that right. We have saved one of the best uses of the hoverboard for the last. What if we told you that you can transform your regular hoverboard into a go kart or a buggy? Amazing, right! Well, there is a hoverboard accessory called the HoverKart. This attachment converts your hoverboard into a seated three wheeled go-kart/buggy, which is way more stable and easily maneuverable. There are other fancier conversion kits with a steering and pedals that convert the hoverboard into a true four wheeled racing go-kart.

As you can see, hoverboards can be a really cool toy and also a very practical means of personal transport. They are eco-friendly, cost-effective and portable [5]. They are fun for kids and adults alike. We love our hoverboards at LeisureHead and we use them all the time.

If you are ready to get your hoverboard now, check out our reviews of the best hoverboards on the market. We have already done all of the research for you so that you can be confident in your hoverboard choice and spend your valuable time having fun.

Also, check out some of our other articles for more valuable information on hoverboards.