John Walden had his first experience with a mini electric vehicle more than a year ago.
He was at a birthday party when someone broke out an electric hoverboard, a small board affixed with wheels and, of course, an electric motor.
Riding one requires balance, but it didn’t take Walden long to catch on.
“I learned it like in five minutes, and I had so much fun with it,” he said.
He was instantly hooked on small electric-powered vehicles.
Walden began to collect them. He has a bicycle, a scooter, three hoverboards, a pair of hover shoes, two hover carts (similar to a go-cart) and three unicycles — all electric-powered.
“I’ve been collecting anything electric that can get you somewhere,” he said.
His mission is to educate the public about these ridable electric devices in hopes of building a community of electric vehicle enthusiasts.
“That is a goal of mine, is to have a place to sell them and where people can actually try them before buying them,” he said.
He’s not aware of any stores in the Northwest where electric-powered unicycles and hover shoes are sold. Hoverboards and hover carts can be purchased at Walmart.
A hoverboard costs about $200 while a cart that attaches to the board can be purchased for about $70. Replacement batteries cost about $100 and last a year or longer. Unicycles can cost anywhere from about $300 to more than $1,000.
Walden showed off his electric devices on a recent afternoon at Franklin Park, where he allowed his two nephews, friends and onlookers to ride them.
Victor Aparicio rode a hover cart, and later took his infant daughter for a ride on it.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I had never seen anything like this. I feel like we were going 8 mph or so. It’s fun.”
His girlfriend and mother to his child, Arely Fonseca, rode a hover cart, too.
“It was faster than what I thought it was going to go,” she said.
The hover cart is a tube frame with two front wheels and attaches to a hoverboard. Two levers on each side, similar to joysticks, are used to steer the small vehicle.
Walden’s two grandsons zipped around the park’s running track on the hover carts before handing them off to a group of youths who just finished Grid Kids football practice.
“Can we ride one?” one of the players asked.
Walden explained how to use the joysticks to steer the cart and move it forward and in reverse. The boy darted across the area without any problems.
Meanwhile, Luke Holms zoomed across an asphalt area of the park on a pair of hover shoes. They resemble small platforms about the size of a shoe with a wheel on the bottom. They require good balance to operate.
Holms began riding Walden’s hover shoes and unicycles months back and is gaining an interest in the electric devices.
“I haven’t bought one yet, but I’ve been heavily into it,” he said.
Walden has three unicycles. One has a large wheel and lights that flash when in operation. Another is small and sleek with no lights — it’s the fastest one.
“It’s called the pocket rocket,” he said.
Walden helped a few others ride the unicycle. They held onto a nearby wall while Walden extended a wooden pole that looked like a broomstick for them to hold with their other hand while they moved forward on the unicycle until gaining balance.
Walden then hopped on the unicycle and rode it backward, a difficult feat.
He’s headed to the Electric Unicycle Games in Los Angeles on Oct. 26, where he plans to compete using his “pocket rocket.”
The competition features several events with obstacle courses. Walden said he’s competing in an event that tests who can idle on a unicycle the longest. Idling requires the rider to slightly move forward and then reverse repeatedly to avoid falling.
Why does he like small electric vehicles so much?
“The challenge of learning, exploring,” he said. “I like that I can continue to learn and have fun.”