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Electric skateboards, unicycles, and scooters: rideables are here

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Top Shelf: It's electric!

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The time is now: rideables are here.

I first heard the term a few weeks ago during an email exchange with Ben Forman, one of the creators of the ZBoard — and it's perfect. A rideable is something you ride on. It has an electric motor that's powerful enough to use as a commuting device, and it’s small enough to take into the subway or office with you.

Of course, the idea of the rideable isn't new at all. The MotoBoard — a skateboard with a weedwacker engine — was created by a lazy skateboarder in the mid-70s. But thanks to modern battery technology, electric motors, and crowdfunding websites, rideables have skyrocketed in popularity in just the last few years. Today, we have everything from electric rollerskates to skateboards, unicycles, and scooters.

I rode skateboards from the future

For the past few weeks I’ve been actively using four rideables — the Boosted Dual+, the E-GoZBoard Pro, and the SBU. I also rode something called the Leif here in New York, and flew to Washington to see what Inventist — a company that, well, invents things — was up to.

Inventist makes all sorts of weird quirky rideable things. The Solowheel and Hovertrax are both personal electric vehicles, and they’re both unique in their own way. Solowheel has one wheel and uses a variety of sensors to keep you upright (like a Segway). I got the hang of riding it really quickly, mostly because I’d already mastered the self-balancing unicycle. If this thing was, say, a quarter of the $1,800 price, I’d be happy to recommend buying it. (It, or something like it, will definitely hit that price eventually.) Then there’s Hovertrax, basically a tiny Segway without the handlebars. You just get on it and point your toes downward and you take off and do the opposite to go in reverse. I got the hang of it after 30 seconds of riding it. The Hovertrax goes no more than 4 or 5 MPH, but it’s meant to be used in an office. I want to get one to ride around Verge HQ, but $995 is a steep asking price.

I also tried riding the Orbitwheels and Lunicycle, two Inventist rideables that don’t have motors. The Orbitwheels are essentially a pair of wheels with platforms in the center of each of them; you’re supposed to place your feet on the platforms and glide on the ground by moving your legs like a sine wave. I tried for about 15 minutes with absolutely no luck — I just couldn’t propel myself at all. I tried tweaking my stance, shifting balance, nothing. But I watched Investist do it with ease. Then there’s the Lunicycle, which is a new take on the unicycle: instead of a traditional unicycle with pedals that are fixed to the center of the wheel, the Lunicycle’s pedals revolve with the wheel. It’s really hard to explain what that means, and it’s really, really difficult to ride. I simply couldn’t do it.

Once prices drop, I’m confident rideables will be way more popular

Maybe we haven’t quite decided what they look like yet, but rideables are definitely a thing. They’re here, they work, and they’re expensive. Right now, the market is sort of like when HDTVs came out — they were available and there were plenty of options, but pricing was steep for early adopters. I’ve seen three or four others in NYC riding rideables, but I want to see more, and once price goes down I’m confident that will happen. That’s really the only thing standing in the way.

For now, I’m going to continue skateboarding to and from work. But who knows? Maybe someday rideables will be as popular as bikes for commuting, and maybe we’ll even get our own rideable lane.