The Renaissance. The Industrial Revolution. The Computer Age. Each era of history has produced its own remarkable inventions. What will history remember most clearly about our own epoch? Perhaps the many kooky ways we’ve invented to avoid walking to work.
Yes, we’re living an exciting age for people challenging the conventions of traditional skateboards and scooters. Segway may have never fully taken off, but it opened the door to dozens of other rideable motorised devices. At the same time, skate culture is producing its own variations on traditional skateboards that are geared towards experimentation and tricks.
You’ve probably seen at least a few of these on the street, maybe with a teen attached, probably vaping or Periscoping, and wondered what on Earth you were looking at. Here is your guide.
What is it? This viral-friendly device sits on two wheels and self-balances to keep the user upright. Two motors, one for each side, produce speeds of up to 10mph. They cost about £300 on Amazon.
Odds that you’ll see it on the street: Surprisingly good. These scooters have become a sensation online, and I’ve seen at least two people wobbling around in public.
How poorly could this go? Sploid’s own Casey Chan has one of the devices and says, vaguely, that it “doesn’t do well with New York streets” but that there’s “a quick learning curve”. Another Gizmodo staffer comments “it tried to kill me.” Six out of ten gooey knee scabs.
What is it? Created by an engineer in California, OneWheel is the “self-balancing electric skateboard” that began as a Kickstarter and is now all the rage with people who wish that Segways could be an extreme sport.
Odds that you’ll see it on the street: Depending on where you are, it’s pretty common. Especially in San Francisco, where it’s a favourite with the same group that buys technical clothing and extra Fitbits “just in case”.
How poorly could this go? You have to balance on one wheel. Seven out of ten messed-up fingers that can’t be used for coding this week.
What is it? Here’s a perfect example of the crossover between the skateboarding world and commuting world. This is a foldable skateboard. Think a Razr scooter but a little cooler, and commuter friendly: it can be folded up into a tiny package and locked to a bike rack.
Odds that you’ll see it on the street: Pretty good! These things have been around for years and have a relatively low barrier-to-entry since they start around the £65 mark.
How poorly could this go? If you’re OK on a skateboard, you’ll be fine with this. One out of ten bent-back fingernails.
What is it? The most recent walking innovation — walkvation? — to hit the scene, this Japanese-built platform is just a little bigger than a laptop, equipped with six wheels and a small motor that lets you cruise along at speeds that are, to be sure, not much faster than walking.
Odds that you’ll see it on the street: You won’t. It’s still under development and its inventors say it will go for about £500, making it even less likely that it will become a widely used device.
How poorly could this go? The WalkCar seems like a safe bet, until you consider riding it over bumps, curbs, or any holes in the pavement. Still, it’s pretty tame. Two out of ten sore knees.
The Wave Board, aka the RipStik
What is it? A skateboard-style deck that’s split into two pieces, connected by a spring that allow the rider to move each foot independently. It’s supposed to be more like surfing or snowboarding. They go for about £50.
Odds that you’ll see it on the street: Very high, especially if you live near yoofs.
How poorly could this go? There’s very little speed or height involved here, but there’s also a huge learning curve when it comes to controlling them. Seven out of ten cracked ribs.
The Boosted Board
What is it? A rechargeable electric longboard that costs around £600-£700, controlled by a wireless remote operated by the rider.
Odds that you’ll see it on the street: High. Boosted has struck a perfect balance between wanting to go fast and wanting to look like you ride a longboard. Expect to see one in a bike lane near you soon.
How poorly could this go? These suckers are capable of reaching up to 22mph depending on the model, but they’re pretty steady. Unless you start doing tricks on them. Four out of ten skinned palms.
The Lexus Hoverboard
What is it? A Lexus-built “hoverboard” unveiled in July that uses a “combination of superconductors, magnets and liquid nitrogen” to hover an inch above the ground (you can check out how it rides thanks to our friends at Jalopnik). Considering that it is mainly an ad for Lexus, you may never be able to buy it.
Odds that you’ll see it on the street: Nope.
How poorly could this go? As with some of the other more skateboard-ish inventions on this list, it mainly depends on your skill with a skateboard. Worst case scenario, your friends will laugh at you.
What is it? An electric unicycle with a sleek plastic body clearly designed to make you forget you’re riding an electric unicycle. Made by Honda, not available for sale yet.
Odds that you’ll see it on the street: Actually, not terrible: Honda trots this thing out at press events all the time.
How poorly could this go? Gizmodo tried it a few years ago and reported that it was extremely easy to operate, thanks to its gyroscopic wheel. I mean, just look at this guy:
Bonus: Fliz Bike
What is it? An adult-sized balance bike that requires you to don a crotch-pinching harness to get to work, Fliz bike is an unwieldy walk-ride hybrid that epitomises the spirit of this genre.
Odds that you’ll see it on the street: If you see this on the street, please call me immediately.
How poorly could this go? If you could handle a balance bike as a child, you can handle one as an adult. Plus, it has discbrakes! But if you do have an accident, your private parts seem to be taking most of the force, which sounds painful. Six out of ten brush burns.