If you’ve ever been to a touristy locale, you’ve likely seen flocks of tourists riding Segways — the electric, two-wheeled, lean-steered, (dorky) personal transporters. There are two major problems with them though: they’re very expensive, and they’re very heavy. But a small company called Inmotion may have just solved those problems. I got to zip around the sidewalk outside this year’s CES on one of InMotion’s SCVs, and I had way more fun than I should have.
Let’s start with the cold, hard details. Segway’s entry-level model, the i2, weights 48kg and costs around $US6500. In contrast, the SCV R1EX only weighs one third of that, coming in at a one-handable 16kg.
The extending top handle can pop off in seconds, making this something you could easily pop in a trunk or even carry up a flight of stairs. It’s a major advantage. Arguably even more importantly, it only costs $US2500. Still expensive if it’s just a toy to you, but if you want it for commuting or need it because you have mobility issues, that might well be worth it.
The SCV R1EX has a top speed of 14km/h and can go 16km to 29km on a single charge, depending on conditions. Not bad! Segway’s i2, however, has a top speed of 20km/h and can go up to 39km, so the big boy still has some advantages.
The SCV, however, has some fancy bells and whistles. For starters, it talks to you, letting you know if you’re running out of juice or going dangerously fast. It also has GPS and Wi-Fi. Why would you want that? Well, when you install Inmotion’s app on your smartphone, you can summon it with the press of a button, and it will come to you. Or it could follow you down the street. Seems kind of dangerous to me, but fun none the less.
But let’s get down to the good stuff. This thing is really fun to ride. You first put one foot on it, and it vibrates to let you know it’s ready. Stepping on it for the first time is a weird experience. We’re used to doing our own balance compensation, so when there’s something under your feet trying to do it for you, it feels really weird — but you get used to it after a minute or so.
Like the Segway, you control it by leaning. When you lean forward for the first time and it lurches forward, it feels like your feet are about to zip out from under you. Again, you get used to it pretty quickly. Leaning way forward to ramp up the speed is a bit like doing a trust fall exercise. You just have to believe that this thing from a company that you’ve never heard of isn’t about to dump you on your face. Luckily, my faith was rewarded and I require no dental work.
After just a couple minutes I got very comfortable with it. Too comfortable, really, and I started to see just how idiot-proof this thing was by using it in ways not intended by the manufacturer. Could I do a one-handed spin and hang on for eight seconds? Yes. Could I go hands-free “I’m king of the world!” style? Yep. Could I stand on it backwards and steer with my arse? Apparently! It was irresponsible behaviour, but it proved that this thing is actually about as wipeout-proof as it could be. Also, it was very fun. I was impressed.
The only thing I didn’t like was when you start going too fast, it tells you so (out loud), and then slows you down a little abruptly, which made my heart skip a beat. That’s a pretty small ding though.
Ultimately, I had a good time on it, and I think that if you’ve considered getting one of these things in the past but were turned off by the price or the bulk, this is definitely something you should look into. Personally, would I get it? No, because I don’t need it in any way, and $US2500 is still a lot of money. If that sounds like a reasonable price to you, though, then check it out. My first impressions were definitely favourable.