Seattle's 'Barefoot Ted' on Why You Need to Invest in a Solowheel

“Barefoot Ted” pops a wheelie

“We’re from the future. Don’t worry, you’ll be here soon enough.” That’s what North Capitol Hill’s Ted McDonald, 49, tells mystified onlookers as he rides around town on his new passion, the Solowheel. Known best as “Barefoot Ted,” thanks to his evangelic embrace of the barefoot running craze (which includes his founding of minimalist footwear company Luna Sandals), McDonald believes this type of eco-friendly “urbanscape driving machine” is about to start a transportation revolution. Developed by Washington-based Inventist, the seatless, hands-free, electric Solowheel is a single wheel with foot rests on either side, which weighs about 25 pounds and doesn’t exceed 10 miles an hour (“no faster than a human can run”). McDonald isn’t affiliated with the company, but he is a huge fan, noting that, as with running, this “flow vehicle” allows riders to use their bodies as they are meant to be used, but it’s easier on the feet in the concrete jungle. He’s termed the Solowheel and its multiplying competitors “laptop vehicles,” referring to their small size and the ability to carry them onto a plane. While they require good posture and an active core, McDonald doesn’t consider them strictly for exercise or recreation. He thinks they will soon be used for commuting and errands. “This isn’t a toy, it’s a practical, joyful thing,” he says. “When you move well, you feel good.”

1/ The Solowheel is 100 percent electric, runs on a rechargeable battery (one-hour charge/10 miles) and is available on Amazon starting at about $1,700—a price Ted McDonald hopes will decrease as demand increases.

2/ Riding the device requires a combination of running and cycling skills. The user leans forward to go forward, angles the upper body to turn, leans back to slow down (braking also charges the battery).

3/ McDonald hopes laptop vehicles advance to include sidewalk censors for potential hazards, distance and location markers, a USB and phone jack, and the ability to gather environmental data such as weather and pollution levels.  

4/ For more information (and many cool videos), visit laptopvehicles.org.

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