In the name of truth, transparency and consumer satisfaction, sometimes there are casualties. I take my role as Gadgette’s chief wheel-based-personal-transport reporter very seriously and if that means absolutely battering a product I’ve been given to review, so be it. Unfortunately for the PR company that lent me the Smart Glider, this was one such occasion they didn’t exactly get the item back in pristine condition.
When the package arrived at my office, there was a flurry of excitement as I unboxed the Smart Glider, a mid-range brand of a category of personal transporters often misleadingly referred to as a “hoverboard”. They’ve been billed as the latest commuter gadget but I’ve only once seen an adult using one, the time I was momentarily spooked by a be-suited man gliding eerily several inches above the ground, reminiscent of the Gentlemen from that particularly creepy episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I have to admit, there was a moment of trepidation before stepping on it for the first time. I honestly didn’t know if I’d proudly sail around the room like an officer on the bow of a ship or immediately deck it. It was somewhere in between.
Indoors, the Smart Glider was a lot of fun. Most people in my office took a turn and after about five minutes of practice were scooting up and down, (mostly) avoiding chairs and desks. It fits through a doorway with a bit of space either side so, bar a couple of instances of taking chunks of plaster out of the walls, it was easy to manoeuvre from room to room. It can turn on the spot too and is actually surprisingly comfortable negotiating small spaces.
It worked well on carpet but with its substantial-looking wheels I wanted to try it outdoors, and what better army of testers, I thought, than the group of builders working behind my building?
Having practiced a little, I’d probably made it look easy when I showed them how to do it. Leaning forwards makes you go forwards, and back makes you go backwards. If you lean forwards with one foot and back with the other, you spin on the spot.
One keen bean couldn’t wait for a go and launched into it full-throttle, spasmodically swinging forwards and backwards trying to stabilise himself, before jumping off. Another brave soul gave it a few goes and managed to get it up the road and back.
Hands-free scooters are still a rare sight, even in central London, and I definitely did not enjoy the attention I got while using it. During my first 10 minute journey, two tourists took uncomfortable pictures of me and four people stopped me to ask about it. I felt awkward being stared at so much by strangers, which maybe says more about me than the product, but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re thinking of getting one.
To my relief, I never fell off but it’s easy to lose your balance on uneven and varied surfaces. Anytime one wheel loses grip you get a split-second of wheelspin which causes the Smart Glider to jerk to one side making it difficult to handle.
I was interested to see what speeds I could get it up to without street furniture and people in the way. Legally the Smart Glider can’t be used on roads, so I took it to a carpark. Without a speedometer, I can’t say for sure it can reach the 10mph claimed, but it certainly felt about that. It was practically unusable on cobbles but it did manage grass very well, to my mild surprise.
It travels up to 15km in one charge so, distance-wise, theoretically I could have made it from Victoria to my meeting in Clapham with ease. It can handle dropped curbs, but you need to completely dismount and pick it up any time there’s even the tiniest step – which was surprisingly often I found.
Eventually, I got tired of this stop-start journey and resigned to doing the rest of the distance on public transport. Unfortunately the Smart Glider weighs 13 kilos and is quite bulky, so even for someone who’s relatively strong it was quite unpleasant to carry. In the end, it seemed to be more trouble than it was worth for me.
I expect the Smart Glider will be a popular Christmas gift for pampered kids this year and will probably engage the toy-scooter-riding genus of commuter too. I had great fun for a few days bashing it into things and covering it in mud, grass, grit and (somehow) sand but, after all that, I couldn’t see myself using it for anything other than entertainment.
Fancy trying it for yourself? You can pick up a Smart Glider from FutureWheels.com for £399.99.