This article titled “The Airwheel: review” was written by Martin Love, for The Observer on Sunday 19th April 2015 05.00 UTC
Price £649Weight 10.5kgTop speed 12mph
“Oh you are dead, totally DEAD! I am, I swear, actually going to kill you! I’m going to snap off your stupid metal pedals and I am going to use them to dig out your horrible little stupid annoying electric heart and then I am going to throw you into the canal! Arrrggghhhhh…” I pause for breath, clutching my chest as I writhe about panting on the pavement, engulfed in pure fury. If this was Top Gear, I’d be expecting a steak about now… I pull myself to my feet, straighten my shirt and have a look at my bleeding shins, my gashed knuckles. Then I gaze with unquenched hatred at the small beeping machine lying on its side… its wheel still turning.
If you’ve seen John Cleese thrashing his car in Fawlty Towers, then you’ll have a good idea what I was up to last Monday. I’ve had many bad starts to the week, but this was right up there with the very worst. And it began so promisingly. My plan had been to glide effortlessly to work on the revolutionary new Airwheel – a self-balancing electric unicycle that is, apparently, “the commuter’s dream” and is “set to transform urban transport”. My journey is seven miles. It took me about half an hour to cover the first mile – which got me to the station. I gave up and took the train. I am no Shackleton.
It’s undoubtedly a clever piece of kit. They’ve already sold 300,000 of these Chinese-made, American-designed machines since it launched last year. It looks a bit like a Segway, but crucially it doesn’t have those upright handlebars for you to control it. In fact, it doesn’t seem to have anything for you to control it. Instead, an “ingenious” gyroscopic device means that to accelerate you simply lean forward (ie fall off forwards) and to slow down or stop you lean backwards (ie fall off backwards). A powerful electric motor is mounted above two small wheels which are harnessed side by side to form a unicycle. A single charge of 90 minutes gives you a range of 13 miles and a top speed of 12mph.
In theory it’s superb. You straddle the gadget, tilt forward and whizz about town as if you are some alien with gravity-defying powers. But, in fact, you are a middle-aged dork lying on the pavement in torn trousers, close to tears – and the office is still six miles away. Thanks a bunch, Airwheel.
Look at the promotional videos and you’ll see smiling people looping across city squares, smoothly floating over the road. They’re bastards, all of them. They’re not normal. The Airwheel has been invented to make you feel bad about yourself. It’s so difficult even the makers accept that mastering their infuriating gizmo is far from easy. Depending on what you read you’ll need two hours to make a stab at the absolute basics (standing and moving forward slowly) and a full day to crack anything more impressive (turning, stopping, glissading through shopping malls). And it wasn’t only me who couldn’t do it. I asked Katie, Ed, Rob, Juliet, Rufus, Vita, Mel, Adam, Ned and Jude all to torture themselves with it and all failed miserably. What’s wrong with just walking, we kept asking ourselves.
The Airwheel is heavy, almost 25lb, and it doesn’t stop when you fall off it – unless it topples over, so you live with the constant fear you are going to whack out some pedestrian or smash into the side of a parked car or take out a shop’s plate-glass window. It’s like heading into town with a ferocious uncontrollable ankle-shredding circular saw. This means you spend most of the time carrying it. It has sharp metal pegs which bang into your calfs and an industrial-grade plastic handle that cuts into your palms. And even if you do find a bit of safe open metropolitan space you feel properly ridiculous riding it – so I usually carried it then, too.
I didn’t manage to kill it. Sorry. It’s still out there. Watch out.
He’s designed an award-winning range of bicycles for Halfords, now one of Britain’s great cyclists has designed a range of bike wear to complement the bikes. Chris Boardman’s capsule collection includes 14 pieces designed for performance and style for men and women and includes a 360-degree reflective wind jacket, gel-padded cycle mitts and quick-drying jerseys for when you get caught in a downpour. Prices start at £4.99 for the socks, £29.99 for the shorts and jerseys and £39.99 for the windbreaker. All are available from Halfords and online at halfords.com.
My dad used to make my brother and I put boot polish on the wire-spoked tyres of his old Austin Healey, before polishing up the wheels to be glossy and black. We hated it. If only Muc-Off had invented its tyre foam we’d have saved a load of time. This new product is a one-stop treatment for your car tyre sidewalls. You spray it on like shaving foam and then leave it to work its magic: no agitating, no wiping, no hassle, no scuffed knuckles. After about 10 minutes you are left with an awesome shine! And I am not sure why, but cars always seem to run better on clean tyres – it must be psychological. There’s a whole range of car-cleaning gear from Muc-Off to complement its bike maintenance range. Have a look at muc-off.com. And while you are at it – treat yourself to a tub of their Nano Grit Hand Cleaner. It’s the best hand degreaser I’ve tested.
Email Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MartinLove166
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