￼￼MANCHESTER, NH – I was pulling into a gas station on Hanover Street the other day when I saw two people floating along the sidewalk.
I watched them glide across the street, and intercepted them before they could hop off their futuristic skateboards and go inside to buy some candy for home movie night.
Shuvom and Llalania Ghose were not surprised that I had questions.
“People stop us all the time,” says Shuvom.
“Yeah, they hang their heads out of their cars and yell, ‘What is that?’ as they drive by,” adds Llalania.
They were riding on Onewheels, a high-tech travel board that uses the same technology as the Segway, relying on balance and a single go-cart tire to make it go. It’s decked out with LED lights on the front and back, and completely customizable.
But the real fun part is simply floating, they tell me.
“You can ride on grass, dirt, sand if you want to. Engineers really love them. It’s a beautiful mixture of possibility and smart-thinking design,” says Shuvom.
Yeah. He’s one of those smitten engineer.
Since discovering Onewheels, the couple can be seen floating around the city, whether on a quick run to the gas station for candy, or downtown for some Ben & Jerry’s.
“They charge in 20 minutes,” says Lllalania. “We can just sit there and have something to eat, plug them in to charge, and then we’re on our way.”
Onewheels are equally efficient and fun for city traveling, or off-roading.
“We use them every single day unless it’s raining,” Llalania says.
Onewheel began as a Kickstarter four years ago, touted as a “one wheel electric skateboard,” and has grown into a successful enterprise – third-generation Onewheels are already available through the manufacturer, Future Motion.
They’re hugely popular on the West Coast, says Shuvom, especially with the 40-year-old guy crowd, and he predicts they’ll catch on here, too, although they are not cheap.
“Segways are $10-15,000 and not as much fun. A good mountain bike will cost you about $1,000. This is in that range, somewhere between $1,300 and $1,500, depending on which model you get,” says Shuvom.
Shuvom first encountered Onewheel at a trade show in California. The company he works for, Stratasys, manufactured the fenders using 3D print technology.
“When he got home he couldn’t stop talking about it, so we looked into it and found that we could rent them, so we did,” Llalania says.
They found a place in Boston and were immediately hooked.
“We’ve talked about it in terms of once a year saving up for vacation. You want to go to Florida, it’s about $3,000 for a few days, once you factor in the flight and hotel, and two of these are about the same and we use them every single day, so it’s like a vacation at home,” says Shuvom.
It come with a phone app which tracks everything from your speed to your mileage, and regulates which “mode” you’re operating in – kid mode, mission mode or delirium. You can even see an animated version of your route.
“Mission is smooth and buttery. You just set the mode and the intelligence takes care of the rest,” Shuvom says. Although you can go up to 25 mph in delirium mode, the manufacturer does not recommend it.
“There’s something called pushback,” explains Llalania. The Onewheel actually will push back if you start going faster than about 15 miles per hour. You can override at your own risk, but it’s not safe.”
Shuvom and Llalania show me the scuffs on their handguards as proof that safety gear works.
“You do fall sometimes, so you have to have the right gear,” says Shuvom, showing off a road rash scar on his right arm from a spill early on.
A charged battery is good for 5 to 7 miles, enough for them to hit the Piscataquog trail – which seems like it was made for Onewheeling.
“We discover places we never knew existed now that we’re using these,” says Shuvom.
I ask if these are the hover boards we’ve been waiting for since “Back to the Future.”
“These are as close as you’re going to get right now,” says Llalania.
“Yeah, this is kind of what we were dreaming of; you just lean your body and the board goes with you. And anyone can ride. You don’t need any special skills. I have some snowboarding experience, and it feels like that, only it’s the same whether you’re going uphill or downhill. But my wife didn’t have any board experience, and she learned it pretty quickly,” Shuvom says.
“It’s easy to learn and hard to master, but if you have any sense of balance, you’ll be able to get the basic hang of it in an hour. Dismounting is the hardest part,” Llalania says.
Sometimes they go to Boston to float, where Onewheel communities hold group rides.
“Imagine 8 or 10 people on these things floating past you on the street,” Shuvom says. “It’s pretty cool.”
“You’ll know after an hour if it’s for you,” says Shuvom. “We didn’t want to give them back.”
“We ended up buying two,” adds Llalania.
As they prepare to take flight, Shuvom does the chivalrous thing and offers Llalania his hand so she can get situated – both feet need to be on the board before it will go.
“Commit!” he says, part safety warning, part cheerleader, and in no time flat, Llalania is bobbing and weaving like Marty McFly on a futuristic bender, just because she can.
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