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Not everyone wants to ride a scooter, nor are they prepared to learn how to ride a unicycle; thankfully there is a third way. Hoverboards can smoothly and quietly transport passengers around for short distances, controlled totally hands free. Suitable for riders of all ages, the InMotion E3 can be picked up in minutes and ridden for confidently ridden for hours. Let’s take a look at what a modern hoverboard provides.
Modern hoverboards aren’t yet the advanced floating decks we were promised in ‘Back to the Future : Part 2’. The term has been applied to electrically powered, two wheeled transporters that employ advanced gyroscopes and powerful in-wheel motors to self balance.
Whilst Segway-style transporters are nothing new, they appear to lack the popularity of the longitudinally-laid out kick-scooter-style brothers. Following the series of serious fires due to faulty battery management systems (or just poor build quality) members of the public could be forgiven for being scared of any hoverboard-style device. Thankfully reputable manufacturers are now building on Segway-Ninebot’s successes in the sector, releasing compact but capable robust and safe personal transporters.
Assembly is straightforward, just slot the knee-bar onto the protruding nub between the footplates and clamp it down using the quick release catch at the rear. If it is loose you can tighten it by adjusting the screws (whilst unlatched) using the included allen/screwdriver tool, further details are available in the supplied quickstart manual.
The tyres arrive inflated but we advise upping the pressure if you are heavier than InMotion’s typical ‘75kg’ rider. With the unit laid down, rotate the wheels until the valve shows in the cutout behind the wheels. Remove the metal valve caps and screw on the included inflation adapter which, thanks to its integral valve, won’t immediately deflate. Terminated with a Presta valve, the tyres can be inflated with a normal car foot-pump/inflator.
Arriving partially charged, the E3 can be ridden straight away, but we recommend fully charging the battery. Lay the unit down and reveal the charge port which is hidden behind a rubber cap at the rear of the deck, before inserting the keyed four-pin cable. The supplied charger will take around 5 hours to charge from completely flat.
Below the power button is a small status indicator window that will display a bluetooth icon when connected to your phone or a red triangle in the rare cases where a problem occurs. You can also see the current battery charge level, shown in five segments, each representing 20% of the batteries capacity; a more accurate percentage reading can be seen in the application. When nearing empty the indicator (along with the arch lights) will start flashing.
Unlike other devices, the board relies on sensors under the soft footplates for forward and back motion whilst the angle of the upright ‘knee bar’ section for rotating left and right. Push down on your toes or lean slightly forward and the E3 will drive ahead, stand upright and flat on your feet and the E3 will stop, lean backwards and it will reverse. Levering the upright bar to the left or right will rotate the entire board in that direction. This can be achieved by pushing your knees from side to side or by leaning your entire body.
At its lowest position the knee bar is perfect for those of average height 160-175cm (5ft3in to 5ft9in) but can be extended for taller riders or to use as a dollying handle for walking it around. Loosen the screw on the front of the bar, slide the soft pad section up to the required height before tightening that screw back down.
At the rear, under the lip of the footplate, is a deploy-able ‘kick’ stand, for propping the E3 up (at a slight angle) when charging or storing it. Ensure you collapse this stand before powering the board up to avoid accidents.
InMotion have adorned the E3 with tens of LED lights. There are two bands of ring light on the inside edge of the wheel guards, a long LED bar on the back of the deck and a powerful headlight on the front. The bright white LED headlight automatically powers up in dark areas, illuminating the path ahead. It can also be turned on and off via the app, where both the arch and deck lighting can also be configured and adjusted.
Out of the box, the bar of LED’s on the rear illuminate blue whilst riding and switch to red whilst slowing down. The rear bar light will also animate across in yellow whilst turning to indicate to those behind, of a change in direction. Beyond aesthetic or entertainment value, the lighting is used to inform the rider of the board status. For example, the ring lights will illuminate red and pulse whilst riding to remind the user that the battery is low .
InMotion provide a smartphone application for both iOS and Android devices.Once you have managed to create an account it will allow you to pair to the board via bluetooth. When connected the app displays the current battery level, estimated remaining range and trip information such as total mileage, average speed and max speed.
It will also allow you to alter the configuration of the E3 such as changing the headlight behaviour (auto/on/off), resetting the balance point, switching the lighting patterns/colours and more. Simply put, it isn’t a great application, released with numerous spelling mistakes, missed translations and bugs; we hope that InMotion addresses this in the near future.
One interesting feature is the ‘remote control’ mode. This allows you to drive the board around using an on-screen joystick or by utilising the gyroscope in your smartphone when nothing is touching the pedals. There is some lag in the system and the board is limited to 4mph when remotely controlled, but it could be used to carry a heavy bag without touching the E3, or just to spook your coworkers.
As with its competitors, we failed to hit the E3’s stated 30km range, averaging low 20's or below, the range shrinking quickly when a heavier passenger (the E3 can cope with a payload of 100kg max) stepped aboard. InMotion’s 30km range reportedly comes from a 75kg person riding the board at a steady 12km/h on a flat road. Unlike a more traditional scooter, we feel people will use this device to travel around a local area, or even indoors in say a large office complex or warehouse, where range is likely to be less of a sticking point.
If you have never ridden a hoverboard or segway style transporter before it can take some getting used to. With its ability to self-stabilise when stationary, the learning process is nowhere near as daunting as a unicycle, most of our office staff picking it up in under an hour. Relaxing is key, as stiffening up your body, or violently jerking around will result in you fighting the board, making it oscillate back and forth beneath you.
When mounting for the first time, place the E3 alongside a wall allowing you to stabilise yourself against it with a hand. Check the kickstand isn’t deployed, power up the device and allow it to balance itself. Standing behind the board step onto the deck with your dominant foot and quickly transfer your weight and your trailing foot onto the opposite pad without knocking the steerer bar in the middle. Relax your core muscles and get a feel for the balance, gently swinging your hips to experience the drive motion. After a few minutes on the board going forward and backwards, leaning (or twisting your hips) to turn the board is the final hurdle.
There can be a tendency (especially if you ride a unicycle regularly) to lean your body forward to accelerate and decelerate, but only a minor weight shift onto your toes or heels is required to control the board. Conversely, when turning at any speed, its advisable to lean your weight across the steerer bar rather than pushing and pulling your knees sideways to steer.
It is all too easy to max out the E3’s approximately 18km/h top speed. As you approach the top speed and continue to push forward the board will rapidly beep at you to warn you, before it starts to lean back as seen in the last photo below. This rotation will shift the riders weight backwards to a more upright position which will in turn slow the acceleration and ultimately the speed of the board. Heavier riders will find that the E3 ‘push back’ occurs at lower speeds as the motors have less headroom, working harder just to balance the passenger.
IP54 rated, you can use it on wet ground, the manufacturer recommending you do not ride in the rain for more than 10 minutes. With its shallow cut tyres, the E3 is at home on tarmac and firm dirt paths, this is not a transporter for off road use. It will cope with small bumps in the path but isn’t designed to tackle kerbs or sharp drop-offs. Thankfully at only 13.5kg its easy enough to step off and lift it (with the kneebar properly tightened) over any obstacle in your way by the pads.
Compared to the fiercely competitive electric scooter market, there are relatively few ‘high end’ hoverboards around. Ninebot’s Mini is probably the most popular board available at this budget.
The E3 and the Mini could have been separated at birth, such are their similarities. They share a common wheel size, deck width and depth and even ride in a near identical fashion. Both offer remote operation via the smartphone app, have powerful LED headlights, wheel fenders and comfortable ride thanks to their tubeless pneumatic tyres.
With a hump splitting the footpads and a knee bar that cannot be adjusted for height, the Mini is arguably less practical as it cannot be used to dolly packages around. Our office consensus is that whilst the Mini is subjectively prettier, the longer range, marginally higher top speed and the extra lighting options edge the E3 ahead. The only other thing to note is that In use, InMotion’s board has a more aggressive push-back when riding at the limit
Hoverboards have proved popular in the office with our staff doing everything from picking orders, to making (and traversing) the office with cups of tea in hand. Its hands-free operation makes it ideal for operating a camera gimbal, carrying items short distances or even chatting on the phone.
However when it comes to covering ground, the hoverboards do not compare to a folding electric scooter. With a top speed of just 11mph and a range that suffers heavily when ridden everywhere at top speed, the E3 isn’t the right choice for travelling any real distance.
Hoverboards may be slower and a little larger in ‘footprint’ but they are significantly easier to master than their electric unicycles brothers. Anyone looking for a ‘hands-free’ transporter (should you be a gimbal operator, work in a large warehouse, want to move around an estate) that will also allow them to balance on the spot, should consider the E3.
If you are looking for a personal transporter for regularly covering short distances, the InMotion E3 will work for you. Should you wish to travel 4-5 miles at a time, we’d recommend looking at a folding electric scooter that is more suited to longer rides.
You can purchase the InMotion E3 on our webstore. It currently includes free next-working-day delivery to the UK!