You’ve seen them all over YouTube: but what are they really like to ride? Are they ridable off-road? How long does it take to learn? Get answers to these questions and more while getting some gorgeous up-close views of the one, the only, the original: Swagway.
This is a Swagway. Not a Segway, a Swagway. Also known to many as a hoverboard. Technically, though, the box says it’s a smart balancing electric skateboard. Okay. It costs $399, goes 10 MPH and has a range of 20 miles per charge. So… how’s it work?
Turn it on, get on and lean forward or backward to move. You can apply a bit of pressure on the right or left to turn. But holy cow: this thing is hyper-responsive. While you can understand how it works and get some basic movement down within a few minutes, it takes several hours of riding to get to the point where you can go in a straight line smoothly for extended distances.
The easiest thing to do on this board is spin in circles and that’s super, super fun. The hardest thing to do, though, surprisingly, is go straight; well… go straight while going fast.
That’s because when you’re learning how to ride it it’s pretty easy to accidentally turn a bit, overcorrect with the other foot and head into a fishtail that sends you out of control. So start slow and after some practice you’ll really start to get the hang of it. It’s like they say: easy to learn but tricky to master. For me, after a couple of days, I can comfortably ride in a straight line about twice as fast as I would walk without getting out of control.
And you can definitely lose control when you’re first learning how to ride. One helpful tip is not to over-break: when I was hauling fast I slammed on the breaks and leaned too far back which sent the board flying out in front of me.
One thing I’ve found is that it’s much easier for me to go faster uphill for some reason. Another interesting note, at least with my test board, was that it turns much faster to the right than to the left when you’re trying to turn as fast as possible.
Riding the Swagway definitely works best on smooth surfaces. Sidewalks and asphalt are no problem at all, but off-roading isn’t the greatest experience.
And you’ll have to experiment with foot placement. Some people like to ride with their feet touching the outer edges, but I found I got a bit more control with my feet closer to the center of the control pads. And it seems like going just a bit pigeon toed makes turning a little less harsh if you’re trying to cruise for a long distance.
And speaking of long distances, while the board itself might be able to run for 20 miles, you’re feet are likely to get tired far sooner (at least until they’ve gotten used to it). You end up working a lot of muscles you normally wouldn’t otherwise.
But that doesn’t mean the ride isn’t smooth. It is. Very smooth. In fact, the board is so smooth and stable that I was able to take many of the notes for this review on my iPhone while riding around.
One thing you might not realize from looking at all these YouTube videos is just how heavy these things are. And that means that unless you’re riding them, have them stashed in the car or buy the carrying case, they’re really not that portable.
Alright so lets talk about the build quality. This thing is solid, that’s for sure, but don’t expect the exterior to stay in perfect shape for long. Even with the included bumpers, which seem to peel off easily if exposed to too much heat, my Swagway ended up with plenty of scratches within the first hour of riding. But who really cares about that? I’ve never ridden a snowboard or skateboard that was cosmetically flawless after real-world use.
So what’s my recommendation? Definitely buy a Swagway if you’re looking for some fun but don’t plan on using it for serious transportation until you’ve put in several days or even weeks of practice.
And two final words of caution. Your Swagway will definitely roll away from you down a hill if you’re not watching and the battery can run out on you while you’re riding it which means it will quite balancing… so pay attention to the constant beeping telling you it’s time to recharge.