Everything You Need To Know About Hoverboards

Everything You Need To Know About Hoverboards

It seems as though our quest for more straightforward and faster transportation would always be a journey rather than a destination. These days, one of the most sought-after and trending modes for individual transport is a hoverboard. The devices are self-controlling and self-balancing two-wheelers which usually run on batteries.

These devices that resemble dumbbells first appeared in 1989 in a famous movie "Back to the Future."

Although the hoverboards that are in use nowadays cannot actually “hover," they are quite exciting and inspiring, especially when it comes to knowing and understanding the use of a variety of sensors. Hoverboards are also known as self-balancing scooters.

The initial sightings of hoverboards began in 2014 in China, and soon after that, these devices started to gain increasing popularity in 2015.The hype and craze associated with hoverboards were so intense that a lot of celebrities began to endorse them. As a result, hoverboards exploded into the mainstream market throughout the world.

What Is A Hoverboard (Self-Balancing Scooter)?

Hoverboards (also known as a self-balancing board or self-balancing scooters) are self-balancing personal transporters that feature two power-driven wheels often connected with articulated pads. The rider places his or her feet on these pads.

For controlling the speed of a hoverboard, the rider either leans backward or forward, while you can change the direction of travel by twisting the pads.

Man on hoverboard.

The device was first invented in the current form back in 2013, and since then has been the subject of numerous complicated patent infringements and disputes. In 2014, large-scale manufacturing of hoverboards began in China.

However, most new hoverboards were susceptible to catch fire because of their overheating battery. As a result, manufacturers recalled a majority of products in early 2016, including more than 500,000 units. Eight leading manufacturers sold these units in the US.

The American founder and businessman Shane Chen filed a patent for a similar device in February 2013. He also launched his fund-raising campaign for this purpose in May 2013.

The increasing popularity of hoverboards in especially in the Western countries, such as the US, has been attributed mainly to product endorsement by many celebrities. These celebrities include Jamie Foxx, Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Soulja Boy, Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa.

Shortly after that, the founders of PhunkeeTree, an American company, encountered the hoverboard at a famous electronics show in Hong Kong in 2014 and started distributing the product. In June 2015, hoverboards were being manufactured by various manufacturers, particularly in a region of China called Shenzhen.

Hoverboards have two wheels with diameters ranging from 6.5 inches to 8 inches (170 mm to 200 mm). A stable self-balancing mechanism controls and connects these wheels with and a built-in sensor pad and gyroscope.

The rider can easily control the direction and speed of travel by tilting the pad. With a hoverboard, it is possible to achieve a velocity ranging from six miles per hour (or 9.7 km per hour) to thirteen miles per hour (or 21 km per hour).

With a majority of hoverboards, riders can travel within a range of about twelve miles (or 19 km). This limit depends on a variety of factors such as the terrain, model, and rider’s weight. As with any wheeled vehicle where users are exposed, Consumer Reports highly recommends all users to wear suitable safety gear when riding.

How Does A Hoverboard Work?

Hoverboards have various components or parts. All of these parts contribute to how a hoverboard works. These parts include:

  • Pressure pads
  • Steel frame
  • LED lights
  • Logic board
  • Battery
  • Charging port
  • Two infrared sensors
  • Power switch
  • Two gyroscopes
  • Control board
  • Central pivot

A hoverboard is designed and built in a manner that both the wheels have their unique tilt, gyroscope and speed sensor. These components are often placed underneath the board frame where you put your feet.

Foot on hoverboard.

Once you plant your feet on the hoverboard, the gyroscope will provide relevant data to the logic board whenever you tilt backward or ahead. When you are not leaning, the board’s IR sensor, positioned under the foot placement, provides data to its logic board to stop moving and not operate the motor.

It is how a hoverboard senses the pressure exerted on its foot pads and moves accordingly. If you tilt the hoverboard in a specific direction (such as backward or forward, depending on the make and model of your hoverboard) to a particular angle, the gyroscope relays the data to the logic board to operate the motor.

It allows the board’s wheels to rotate and you move ahead. Keep in mind that the higher the tilt, the higher the speed the device will generate.

Both wheels comply with their unique gyroscope to make turns. If you turn left, you will have to move your right leg ahead. It will activate the right wheel only and keep the left wheel’s motor off, taking a left turn.

 Similarly, if you want to make a right turn, you will have to move your left foot ahead for the tilt. On the other hand, if you would like to go in circles, just tilt any one foot forward. That can be quite fun and exhilarating, but it is not productive.

IR sensors found in hoverboards are often conventional sensors which utilize infrared rays to receive the reflected data. This data is used to measure the distance and presence of the object from the sensors.

Keep in mind that the speed and tilt sensors are used to measure the wheel speed in revolutions per minute (rpm). These sensors then relay the data to the logic board and gyroscope to control the hoverboard’s speed.

The logic board is an essential component of a hoverboard and is akin to the central processing unit in a personal computer. The logic board features a microprocessor, which is its main component. This microprocessor receives and sends data to all sensors.

Also, it transmits the processed data along with the logic to the board’s motors to enable it to make the required movements. It helps provide riders with continuous adjustments and gives them a balanced and stable vehicle. Also, the microprocessor manages the power derived from the battery and makes sure that the battery does not burn out.

You will quickly find a variety of battery packs on the market. However, the most widely used battery pack for a hoverboard is a 4400mAH 36V battery. It is also worth noting that a lot of riders make their battery packs with a laptop battery; however, we do not recommend it due to safety issues.

Pressure pads make up the platform where you plant your feet. A lot of people are often intimidated by pressure pads and seem to believe that these pads have very complex components underneath.

However, this is not true! In fact, just two rubber pieces sit under the pressure pads. They act in unison with gyroscopes as switches. When a rider steps on a hoverboard, the pads are pushed into two separate rubber triggers. They send an infrared signal which informs the motherboard that the rider is on the hoverboard and it starts balancing.

Hoverboard anatomy.

Molded plastic is used to make the outer shell casing of a hoverboard molded plastic. A majority of kits sold online are available in four pieces. So, two parts make up one half of a hoverboard. In case you have a hoverboard with a lot of scuff marks that it has endured over the years, it is a good idea to buy a brand new shell.

You can easily find these shells on eBay and Amazon for about $15 to $50. Apparently, the price will depend on your preference and style as well as any customized graphics you like.

Top-notch steel and aluminum are used to make a hoverboard's frame structure, and it is its sturdiest part aluminum. As these frames are quite robust, their chances of breaking are quite slim. In case you somehow break the frame structure, you can quickly order a new one in a jiffy.

How To Ride A Hoverboard?

Although a hoverboard has the smarts to keep the riders upright and stable, there is a lot more to riding them than just hopping on and expecting the best. Here is how you can ride a hoverboard like a pro.

Never jump on a hoverboard unprepared. Before you think about moving, please ensure that you have all the necessary safety gear. We recommended the following items.

  • Wrist guards
  • Helmet
  • Knee pads
  • Tailbone protector
  • Elbow pads

Properly equipping yourself could help minimize the risk of an injury. It is essential to bear in mind that a majority of hoverboards can travel at eight to ten miles per hour. Although these speeds are very impressive for a car, they could be quite dangerous if you are on a hoverboard. It is why it is vital that you wear the necessary gear to protect all your body parts.

Standing On Your Hoverboard

Before you try standing on your hoverboard, please make sure it is fully charged and switched on. If it is powered off, never try standing on a hoverboard because you would fall or trip almost immediately.

Switch on your hoverboard (a majority of them feature a silver button usually on the rear end). In case your hoverboard provides it, choose the most suitable beginner riding mode, especially if you are riding for the first time.

Standing on the hoverboard.

Start by planting one foot on your hoverboard and use the foot to make sure the board is in a level and upright riding position. Once you are ready and well balanced, raise the other foot off the floor and place it on your hoverboard. At this moment, try your best not to over-think it. Just think of it as walking up the stairs.

Try to place the feet at the furthest ends of your hoverboard, while making sure you are comfortable. It is because both a wider stance and bent knees help improve stability and balance. The great thing about a majority of hoverboards is that they are often designed to balance riders electronically once they step on it.

That said you might still wobble a little bit while you try to find the center of gravity. In case you are nervous about losing your balance, it is better to use your hoverboard near a wall that you can hold onto in case you trip.

Going Forward And Backward

Once you can stand still on your hoverboard without wobbling or shaking, it is time to get a move on your board. You can move forward and backward. Standing on a hoverboard is relatively easy; however, there is undoubtedly a learning curve – particularly when it comes to braking and speed.

The idea of movement on a hoverboard is straightforward – you will have to lean forward if you want to move forward, while lean backward to reverse and slow down.

It is vital to make sure your knees are sufficiently bent to gain more control over the speed of your hoverboard. And always keep in mind to slow down gradually with plenty of time. No one wants to hit a pesky obstacle and go flying off!

Turning Right And Left

Turning a hoverboard is very similar to moving it forward and backward. It is essential to bear in mind that a lot depends on balance and pressure. Each side of a hoverboard is, to some extent, independent of the other. It allows the rider to twist each side quickly. If you wish to turn left, you will need to push the right foot forward, while to turn right, just push the left foot forward.

It is always a good idea to start off using gentle and slow movements before you move up to drastic or quick spins. It is because it is quite easy to lose balance and control while rotating. However, when you get the hang of it, it is plenty of fun. 

Getting Off Your Hoverboard

Just like stepping on a hoverboard requires some skill, there is a knack when it comes to getting off your hoverboard without falling. The key here is to ensure that you step off your hoverboard backward rather than forward.

It is because stepping off forward can cause you to exert excess pressure on the front of the foot. It can make your hoverboard shoot ahead, causing you to fall as a result. Of course, you can argue that almost the same may happen if you step backward; this may be true, but it happens less frequently when you step off from the back.

Getting off hoverboard.

Now you know all there is to keep in mind while riding a hoverboard. So, start practicing and show off those crazy hoverboard skills.

At What Age Should A Child Ride A Hoverboard?

There is considerable debate regarding what is the suitable age for riding a hoverboard. Although many manufacturers claim that children as young as 6 to 8 years old can ride these self-balancing scooters, various states in the US have mandated a higher minimum age limitation.

For example, in California, hoverboard riders must be at least 16 years old if they want to ride them in public.

These laws also mandate that kids should ride hoverboards on streets with a maximum speed limit of 35 mph.   

Advanced Features

Hoverboards have come a long way not just concerning speed, range, and appearance; these devices have also evolved a lot when it comes to various add-ons and advanced features.

When we say add-ons, we are talking about specific elements of hoverboards you can just do without, believe us. In case you are a practical rider, it is likely you will not require these features as they do not enhance the speed or quality of a hoverboard.

What's more, these extra and advanced features can make the riding experience more convenient and fulfilling. Some of the advanced features include built-in Bluetooth speakers and built-in GPS. ​

These speakers can connect with your cell phone, and make your riding experience more enjoyable. Also, the most recent models of hoverboards have built-in gyroscopic sensor pads. And some models even come with a remote.

 It is entirely up to you whether you want to equip the hoverboard with these sophisticated features or not. When making this decision, always consider the value and convenience they will give you.

Are Hoverboards Legal On Streets?

As is usually the case with a majority of personal transportation devices, a lot of countries, cities, states, universities, airports, airlines, and shopping malls are enacting laws and rules to either ban or restrict hoverboards. One of the primary reasons for this is the increasing concern relating to cases of hoverboard explosions and fires.

Man on hoverboard in the street.

 Many fire hazards resulting from cheap and shoddy models, as well as people damaging or abusing them, are the main reasons for plenty of recent bans. For instance, people are not permitted to ride a hoverboard in New York.

In case you are caught riding a hoverboard for the first time, the cops would let you go; however, succeeding violations will cost you $50.Similarly, in the UK, you are not allowed to ride a hoverboard on the pavements and public roads.

Before you pack your hoverboard for a flight, keep in mind that most airlines in the US have banned hoverboards. These include American Airlines, Jet Blue, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Authorities impose these bans and restrictions because hoverboards pose some threats not only to the rider but also other people.

As is the case with all fast-moving vehicles, riding the hoverboard could result in injury. As a majority of hoverboards could reach a speed of about ten mph to 15 mph, you can sustain severe damage if you fall off.  Besides, as with skateboards and bikes, there is a significant risk of getting into a severe traffic accident, mainly if you are in or close to a street.

Maintenance Tips

To maintain your hoverboard in excellent condition, follow these maintenance tips and extend the life of your device.

Charge Before Using

If you use your hoverboard without charging it first, you may damage it in the process. Charging your hoverboard is necessary, even if it is brand new. Also, do not store the hoverboard in a place which is too hot.

Check Screws And Tires Regularly

These pieces are likely to come loose on frequent use of your hoverboard. You can solve this issue quickly if you detect it in advance, this is because you will only have to tighten them. An excellent way to check for loose parts is by shaking your hoverboard slightly.

Check Internal Cables

In case your hoverboard is not working, the culprit could be a released cable inside. In most cases, this is often because of a factory defect. If you have some rudimentary electrical skills, you can fix the problem yourself or have it repaired by a professional. 

Conclusion

We have discussed what hoverboards are and why they have risen in popularity in the recent years. We have explained how a hoverboard works and the various parts that make it function such as steel frame, logic board, battery, gyroscope and pressure pads among others. We have also looked at how you should ride a hoverboard and the safety gear you need before riding.

Man on hoverboard.

We have highlighted some of the advanced features of hoverboards such as Bluetooth speakers, remote controls and LED lights. We have also covered the legality of hoverboards on the streets and why their use is banned or restricted on the streets. 

We have also provided some instructions on how you can maintain your hoverboard in excellent condition. Our buying guide will discuss the different features that you should consider when buying a hoverboard along with some recommendations.

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