We’ve all laughed at the Facebook videos – people, mostly parents, trying out the hoverboards they got their kids for Christmas or birthdays. But the pain can be pretty real, especially on concrete. And we’ve seen the videos and read the warnings about “knock-off” batteries that explode – not a comforting thought.
If kids have the genuine article, however, hoverboards can be great fun and are a very cool way to get around the neighborhood and even display a few tricks. Like everything mobile, however, there are some precautions. Most are just common sense, but a few reminders don’t hurt – here are six of them.
1. Know Where to Ride
There is no simple answer to this. Of course, you can ride them in neighborhoods, probably in parks, and in most places where you can ride bikes and use skateboards. Some cities have banned their use on streets, though, so you will have to check with local laws. While New York City has banned them and publicized a $500 fine, they are all over the sidewalks and bike lanes in that city, and no one seems to mind.
In the UK, mobile boards have been banned for 180 years, and people were reminded of the law when hoverboards began to be seen. In the UK, they are only allowed on private property and then only with the owner’s permission. Already, however, this ancient law is being violated without much punitive action. Another banishment is coming from some college campuses, related to fire concerns, and, at least at George Washington University in D.C., the banning covers all battery operated transport devices, such as Segway’s.
The best bet, though, is to check with your local police department before riding on public streets.
2. Practice Before Hitting The Roads
Getting right on a new hoverboard and taking off is probably not a good idea. The first skill is a balance, and it is this that causes the initial falls. Getting on and off the board is also pretty critical because you have to go one foot at a time. And when getting off the board, always step backwards, not forward. The dominant foot should get off first. Other parts of your practice should include being certain that you do not bend your knees and that you keep your posture quite straight. And keep your feet relatively apart. This stance, along with keeping your eyes straight ahead, should allow you to have the best balance on the board.
Even if you ultimately choose not to wear safety gear (though it is recommended), you should be during your practice sessions and until you feel accomplished. Head, elbows, and knees do not get along well with concrete.
3. Stay Safe While Riding at Night
Hoverboards have lights, but they are low and not that bright. Riding at night, then, should mean extra precautions. First of all, as you’ve been told before when running or bike riding at night, wear white. Second, you might want to consider some light up shoes. These have small lithium-ion batteries such as those you have in your phone or computer and are quite safe. They must be charged, just like phones and computers, but the soles not only light up but continue to flash and change colors and attract more attention than just the single-colored solid lights on the hoverboards.
4. Hoverboards Don’t Fly – By Themselves or on Planes
Again, because of safety concerns, most airlines have regulated bringing hoverboards on board, as of January 1, 2016. Here are just a few of those regulations:
- Several airlines have banned them altogether – Delta, JetBlue Alaska, and Frontier
- Board must be checked and battery removed and carried on – United
- Can’t be checked but can be carried on – American, Virgin America
- Allowed if battery is less than 160 Watt-hours – Southwest
In general, it will be important to check with any airline before taking a hoverboard to an airport. Regulations will be changing, and you will need to keep up on them.
5. Charging Overnight is A Bad Idea
Even if you know you have a top-of-the-line hoverboard with a genuine battery, don’t take the chance. Charging overnight means no monitoring at all while you sleep. Most hoverboard batteries take about four hours to charge fully. If they continue to be plugged in, a fire is of greater potential.
Many riders plug in their batteries as soon as they finish, even if they do not have four hours for a full charge. We do the same with our phones and computers too, and they have the same types of batteries. The goal is to keep enough charge to be usable for the time you want. It’s another good idea to monitor while it is being charged.
6. Use Them as They Are Meant to Be Used – No Flying
Hoverboards are not skateboards. We have all seen skilled skateboard riders take long high ramps, fly through the air, and land beautifully. Skateboards are manually maneuvered and speed is generated by a pushing foot. They are thin boards of wood that are lightweight.
Hoverboards are thicker and, news flash, they have a battery, and move more slowly. Trying ramp tricks with hoverboards is foolish and more than a little risky — and skateboard-type tricks will mean that hoverboards will crash. Light bumps may not harm, but crashing can injure the board so that it is not balanced anymore. At the very least, it will have to be re-calibrated. At the worst, you could explode the battery. Hoverboards are meant for smooth pavement and easy riding – use them in that way, and you’ll have years of good use from a relatively expensive piece of transport.
Hoverboards are great fun — there is no argument about that, and kids who have a naturally good balance have taken to them well. In some instances, they have replaced bikes for moving about neighborhoods and parks. As they are improved and made safer in terms of fire hazards, it is possible that, where they are currently banned, they may become quite common modes of personal transport and not just for kids and teens.
Featured photo credit: larkin.family via flickr.com