Videographer Logan Meis of Overland Park didn’t want his new two-wheeled electronic scooter to be too conspicuous, so he decided to buy a basic black one.
“I didn’t want a too flashy, ‘look-at-me’ type,” he said. “But it’s going to do that anyway.”
It’s hard not to notice the electric two-wheeled scooters, which are gaining in popularity across the country.
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Think of them as a cross between a hands-free Segway and a skateboard. They come in various brands and are called various things, including hoverboard, mini-Segway and handle-less Segway.
Costing about $300 to $1,800, they can roll for hours on a single electric charge.
Online videos show riders calmly floating along as they zip down hallways, around apartments and onto elevators. They weave around obstacles and pedestrians on sidewalks. Advanced riders spin in place, ride backward and stop abruptly.
Meis, who shoots music videos, said he first noticed them on business trips to Los Angeles and Atlanta. Artists he was filming rode them around the set. Then the craze hit YouTube, as people posted videos of riders showing them off.
He just had to have one.
“I got it more for entertainment,” Meis said. “I thought it would be kind of fun to ride around and see what they are all about.”
He quickly learned they’re easy to ride.
“You just have to stay relaxed and trust it,” Meis said. “Start small and you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.”
The scooters rely on the same concept and similar technology as the Segway. Built-in gyroscopes help keep the rider stable. To maneuver, riders shift their weight and their feet.
To move forward, riders put more weight on their toes. To move backward, riders lean back, putting more weight on their heels.
To turn, they point their toes slightly downward with the opposite foot. So to turn right, a rider pushes his left foot downward.
The scooters’ popularity is being fueled by hip-hop stars, rappers and other celebrities, some who have been using scooters in promotions on social media.
Last week, Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar showed up for team photo day riding one.
The scooters even made headlines late last month when U.S. Custom officials briefly detained rapper Wiz Khalifa at the Los Angeles International Airport for refusing to get off his scooter.
Last spring, a short Instagram video posted by model and television personality Kendall Jenner caused PhunkeeDuck Inc.’s sales to explode.
“Overnight, we went from 300 Instagram followers to over 18,000 Instagram followers,” said Matt Waxman, co-owner of New York-based PhunkeeDuck, a scooter that can reach speeds of about 10 mph and run for six hours on a single charge. “We are are now at about 145,000 followers.”
Waxman feels that the scooters could become more successful than Segway because they are much cheaper. At about 20 pounds, they also are smaller and less bulky, so riders can slip them in a bag or backpack.
Alex Klemovich, a senior at Kansas State University from Lenexa, is hoping to cash in on the scooters’ popularity. She started a company, UpWave Marketing Inc., that soon will sell the scooters under the GhostWave name.
“I wanted one of these scooters because I’ve seen them all over YouTube, Vine and all social media,” said Klemovich, who took her dad’s advice to start the business.
She’s placed her first order for 150 scooters and plans to sell them through her website, upwavemarketing.com, for about $350 to $390, depending on the model.
In the meantime, Klemovich has been riding two scooters around campus, the Country Club Plaza and downtown Kansas City to generate interest.
“I get a lot of attention and a lot of people coming up to me and asking, ‘What is that? and ‘How much?’” she said.
Lenexa-based Monorover has been selling its scooters since summer 2014, beginning with a one-wheel version, said Lucas Assenmacher, the company’s president. The company added a two-wheel model in November. The scooters sell for about $500 and $600.
Monorover staff has been promoting its scooters by riding around Kansas City, including the Country Club Plaza. The company sells primarily online at monorover.com.
“There has been an exponential growth in the whole market,” Assenmacher said. “It’s a fun one to be in.”
The challenge is making the scooters something people can continue to use, not just a “glamour product” for celebrities, Assenmacher said. He said there’s strong potential because they’re quick, portable and above all fun.
“This has definitely opened up the door to show that Americans are ready for an alternative form of transportation as opposed to the bike or car,” Assenmacher said.