Brandon Boyd, 31, commutes about a mile and a half to work at a Seattle startup. He used to walk, but in 2016 started shopping around for an option to make the trip a little easier.
He looked at electronic rideables, including electric skateboards that couldn’t navigate the terrain and electronic bikes, which were too expensive. A Solowheel split the difference. He learned to ride in less than 30 minutes and now commutes on a Solowheel daily, in almost all weather.
“You can navigate some pretty poor road conditions,” he said. “From a practicality standpoint … it’s kind of silly that more people don’t use them right now.”
But there’s still the Segway problem. “People look at you like you’re an idiot,” Boyd said.
And then there’s the occasional snide remark from passers-by who see them as a symbol of the city’s new tech elite. But for many riders, Boyd said, a “wheel” takes the place of a far more expensive car.
“It gets a bad rap as an expensive toy,” Boyd said, “which is not how the people that I know that ride them regularly use them.”
The idea for Hovertrax came when Chen saw his daughter riding two Solowheels at a time, one foot on each. A 2013 Kickstarter campaign, promising a brand-new product that was practical and easy to use, raised $85,744.
But the design was quickly copied, and then the copies copied. Chen sued some of the Chinese companies that began churning out hoverboards, but eventually licensed his patent to RazorUSA, the company whose folding kick scooters were an early 2000s craze. That company has carried on the litigation.