Hoverboards, mini-Segways, Swegways or self-balancing boards – whatever you call them, are in demand in the UK following the start of the craze in 2015. As with any product on the market, you can buy them almost anywhere in a variety of shapes and sizes, but what is the best hoverboard for you?
Here, we talk to you about the different features to consider when buying a hoverboard, as well as the laws regarding using hoverboard use and our pick of the best hoverboards currently available.
What hoverboard wheel size do I need?
Like with many modes of transportation, the size of the wheels is important to consider. The generic hoverboard has quite small wheels, around 6.5-7in in size, to make it smaller and more efficient.
While this is fine for smooth surfaces, hoverboard users may find that these smaller wheels will wheel spin when coming off the ground on an uneven surface (like many of Britain’s pavements) and when the wheel regains contact with the ground, it’ll jerk forward and cause some users to lose control – especially when riding at high speed.
This means that hoverboard users have to ride slowly over uneven surfaces, even at walking pace, to make sure they stay balanced and safe.
There are other wheel sizes available, namely 8in and 10in. The 8in wheels should provide a slightly higher level of stability than than those using the 6.5-7in wheels, whilst preserving its relatively small and compact form factor. If you’re looking for something that can handle off-roading, we’d go for the 10in variant.
However, the AirWheel features a much larger wheel, around 11.6-14in in size, that should handle uneven surfaces with ease, especially when compared with its’ board counterpart. The fact that there’s only one wheel should negate any issues with losing control on uneven surfaces, as we’ve observed with riders on our daily commute. We’ve even seen advanced AirWheel users grab their rideable between their legs and jump up to pavements from road level, something that can’t be done with the hoverboard.
Am I too heavy to use a hoverboard?
Weight is an important element to consider – both the weight of the hoverboard and the rider. Generally, standard 7in hoverboards carry a weight limit of around 100KG, or around 15 stone 7 pounds for those of us in the UK.
For those of us that weigh more than 100KG, you have two options; you can either opt for the 10in hoverboard or the AirWheel, as generally speaking both can support heavier riders, with a weight limit of 120KG, or 18 stone 8lbs.
Warning: Buying from China
As many saw in the news, a spate of ‘fake’ hoverboards made their way to the UK in 2015 – in fact, 15,000 of 17,000 hoverboards examined from several UK ports were deemed dangerous by the National Trading Standards agency.
Many Chinese manufacturers produce their own non-branded hoverboards ready for purchase, at a much lower price point – but issues with the on-board battery and charging cable can cause them to overheat and explode.
These fake hoverboards can usually be identified by the style of box it’s shipped in – if it’s a garish box with “Smart Balance Wheels” or “Smart Balance Board” written on the side with poorly written instructions, they are likely to be fake and you should stop using it straight away.
How can you check if it’s safe? As long as the seller can prove that their hoverboards are compliant with applicable safety standards, including UN 38.3 (battery), UL 1642 (battery), and UL 60950-1 (charger), the hoverboard should be fine to use.
Is it illegal to ride my hoverboard in the UK?
Before you head out and buy yourself a hoverboard, there’s something you should know; it’s illegal to ride them on public roads and pavements in the UK.
Even though hoverboards have only popped up recently, they’re illegal thanks to a 180-year old law. The 1835 Highways Act states that people cannot use the footway to “lead of drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description” which, sadly, includes hoverboards. But notice how it only mentions footways and not roads – can you ride your hoverboard in the road like a bike?
Again, nope. Any motor vehicle used on the road needs the user to be licensed and insured, as well as the ‘vehicle’ itself, according to the ‘European community whole vehicle type approval’, or ECWVTA.
It has to be road legal, which requires the hoverboard to match a host of conditions connected to construction of various elements. But what about bikes? Apparently as standard pedal bikes don’t feature a built-in motor, they don’t have to play by the same rules.
FLY Plus hoverboard
The FLY Plus hoverboard available from hoverboards.co.uk is one of a new range of hoverboards now available in the UK that won’t explode like those when the hoverboard hype was at its highest in 2015.
Why? Unlike the cheap knockoffs available back then, the FLY Plus has authentic Samsung battery cells (4400mAh) and a UK charger fully compliant with UK electronic safety regulations.
In terms of design, the FLY Plus is one of the more eye-catching of all the hoverboards we’ve seen. Sporting a black body with flashes of yellow, blue, green, red and purple electricity, it’s stylish without being too in your face. The ‘electricity’ detailing also helps it disguise scrapes and bumps that the hoverboard is bound to build up over time.
In terms of dimensions, the FLY Plus measures in at 21.6in x 7.3in x 7.0in with 6.5in wide wheels and a weight of 12KG. Admittedly it’s heavier than some of the other hoverboards we’ve seen, but that is due to the 4400mAh Samsung batteries that offer almost double the capacity compared to other, lighter options. The FLY Plus comes with a handy carry bag too, making transporting the board (when you’re not on it) a little easier.
The most important question is, how does it perform? Is it easy to ride? The FLY Plus features a plethora of built-in tech that makes it incredibly easy to ride with a very small learning curve. After you’ve found your centre of balance, just adjust the pressure on your feet to move forwards, backwards, left and right with ease. The small wheels do make it a little difficult to use on uneven ground – those looking for an ‘off-road’ hoverboard should opt for one with bigger 10in wheels.
Powering the wheels under the hood are two 350W Silent Drive Motors, providing an *almost* silent experience. You’ll hear a slight hum as you build up speed on the board, but it’s not enough to get noise complaints from the neighbours when you’re whizzing around the neighbourhood.
Those twin drives provide a maximum speed of 12kmph, or around 7mph, with around two hours of use before it requires a top up. That time somewhat depends on the weight of the rider – someone who weighs 50kg will get more out of it than someone that weighs the maximum weight (100kg). But despite the large capacity of the Samsung batteries, the FLY Plus only takes around 2-3 hours to be fully charged.
If that wasn’t enough for you, the FLY Plus also offers a built-in Bluetooth speaker. Simply connect your smartphone and play your favourite tunes as you whizz around. The speaker quality isn’t amazing, but it’s loud and should be sufficient for most users.
Xiaomi Ninebot Plus
The Ninebot Plus from Xiaomi is a bit different to the other hoverboards in our round-up, and with two 400W motors quite the beast.
As with the others here you lean forward and backward to propel the device, reverse and to bring it to a halt, but to turn corners you bend the centre-mounted ‘stick’ with your knees. This takes a little bit of getting used to because when you turn, say, left, your body will naturally want to move to the right to stay upright. However, it quickly becomes natural.
At which point the Ninebot Plus actually feels a lot more stable than most hoverboards – partly due to having something extra to cling to, and partly due to a pair of large 11in anti-slip tyres that do a great job mounting small curbs and basic off-roading. It helps that the board is self-balancing, and unlike other models won’t shoot off as you climb aboard, but when you turn off the power the Ninebot will come crashing to the ground.
The Ninebot Plus can handle wet surfaces, thanks to special grooves in the tyres and a waterproof (IPX6) battery cover.
This stick has another function, too, allowing you to mount a camera (not supplied) to the Ninebot. It seems a crazy thing to do, putting a camera between your legs, but you won’t look any more silly than you would with said camera strapped to your head. A storage compartment here allows you to stash away the camera when not in use.
The other thing that marks out the Ninebot Plus from other hoverboards is its remote control, which connects over Bluetooth with an operating range of around 20m. Using this you can remotely control the Ninebot, and even get it to follow you in ‘puppy’ mode – ideal if you want it to carry the shopping, or simply don’t feel like riding or carrying it (it weighs around 12kg). The remote can also activate a lock, and if anyone tries to walk off with your toy it will sound an alarm.
The Ninebot Plus works with the Ninebot mobile app, too, which lets you turn off the otherwise automatic headlight, change the colour of the reversing/brake lights, see how fast you’re going and how much battery remains. It’s also through the app that you turn off the speed limiter, allowing you to take the board from around 6mph up to a maximum just short of 12mph.
When used at top speed total mileage will obviously be reduced, but Xiaomi says you’ll get somewhere between 20- and 35km from the 18650mAh battery, with the rider’s weight also affecting things here. The Ninebot Plus can cope with a rider up to 100kg in weight.
Overall the Ninebot Plus offers a huge amount of fun. We got ours from GearBest, which ships from China, so do keep in mind that you may be asked to pay import duty. This works out at 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork, plus an admin fee of around £11.
The Ninebot Plus hails from Xiaomi, a well known Chinese brand we trust. It does ship with a Chinese plug, however, so you will need an adaptor (GearBest should be able to supply one if requested).
Razor Hovertrax 2.0
The Razor Hovertrax 2.0 is apparently UL certified and listed for electrical safety, passing all required EU safety/certification requirements, which should provide peace of mind for prospective buyers.
In terms of functionality, it does everything you’d expect a hoverboard to – it features pressure sensitive plates to control it and a built-in gyroscope to help you stay up-right, rubber tyres, and of course, a few LEDs to make it look cool. It does up to 8mph, and provides a claimed 60 minutes of continuous use on a single charge.
Bluefin Classic Hoverboard
If the Hovertrax 2.0 is a little expensive for you, Amazon also features the Bluefin Classic self balancing scooter. As suggested by the name, it sports the classic hoverboard design and comes in four colours – white, red, blue and black. Unlike the Hovertrax 2.0, the Bluefin Classic boasts four hours of ride time on a single charge, with a maximum speed of around 10-15km/h.
Like the other Amazon-listed hoverboard, the Bluefin Classic is also UL and CE approved, featuring a Samsung battery with protection circuit.
While this isn’t technically a hoverboard, it’s a really cool accessory for those that already own one, or are looking to invest in one.
The HoverKart attaches to the standard 6.5in hoverboard and turns it into a makeshift go-kart, providing extra functionality and a safer way to ride the hoverboard.
Ninebot Mini Pro
The Ninebot Mini Pro is an exciting choice for those looking to purchase a hoverboard in 2017, as it provides users with a slightly different way of controlling the balancing board.
While you’ll still use your feet to control movement, users have a new steering wheel controlled via the knees that looks natural and intuitive. It can go up to 10mph, can handle 15 degree hills and can go up to 14 miles on a single charge.
It’s pretty portable too, weighing in at 12.8kg, only slightly heavier than the hoverboards everybody was using in 2015.
The Swegway Pro looks to offer something interesting for prospective hoverboard owners – a 8in hoverboard with built-in Bluetooth connectivity, allowing users to connect their smartphones to the hoverboard and play music as they ride the board, thanks to the built-in speakers.
Unlike other hoverboards, the Swegway Pro also provides two riding modes for practise and pro use, allowing you to get used to the board first before using all its power.
It charges in only 60 minutes, and should provide up to four hours of continuous use on one charge according to the website.
OneWheel+ is an all-electric self-balancing skateboard that was successfully funded on Kickstarter back in 2014 and is now available to buy – although it is a little on the expensive side at $1,499.
With a four mile range and a top speed of 15mph, the OneWheel wasn’t designed to last long distances, it was designed to look good. Besides, the supplied Ultra charger will charge the board in “well under an hour” according to the company.
The motor is fully integrated into the wheel in the middle of the board, so there are no visible electronics on the board. Apparently, it only takes a slight lean forward and back to control the speed and lean on the sides to turn.
The Ninebot One is created by Xiaomi, and looks to be an upgraded variant of the AirWheel that was popular back in 2015.
The one-wheeled hoverboard boasts impressive specs with a maximum range of 22 miles, a top speed of 14mph and a weight of 14kg, and it looks gorgeous.
There isn’t a single screw or plastic joint on the exterior, and features LED lights around the wheel that can pulse in a variety of ways, and is customisable via the Ninedroid app.
However, it’s the safety element of the One that makes it most impressive – it features an intelligent safety warning system that integrates sound, light and touch, and will monitor the status and riding conditions at all times.
If it detects excessive speeding, over-inclination, low power, internal failure or overheating, the rider will be alerted and the board will adjust itself appropriately.