They can be frustrating and even annoying to try to master as a novice, but above all else, they are exciting and terrific fun.
Electrikes are the brainchild of motorsport expert, Piers Sexton, and they are quickly grabbing the attention of like-minded thrill-seekers.
Powered by electric motors, these unique little machines are capable of travelling at 25mph, reproducing almost speedway-style drifting excitement on a variety of terrains.
They had their national launch recently at the Northampton Indoor Karting Centre, in St James, and the early signs are they could soon become a regular attraction at the venue in Harvey Reeves Road.
Piers, who has his own karting team, also has his own engineering company in Reading, Berkshire, and he has designed and built the Electrike himself, adapting it for competitions as necessary from a series of trial runs.
“We have a team of three, plus someone to help with the marketing, and we reckon we can turn out a batch of Electrikes – that’s 10 machines – in a week.
“We tried them at the Northampton Indoor Karting Centre and realised we needed to make a few little changes, such as adding colour coding to the handle bars; red for the brake and green for the throttle.
“Northampton was the first place we tried them, but there is already interest from several other karting tracks. They don’t have to be used only indoors though, as we have a version with a larger front tyre for use on grass.”
Being electric means the Electrike is quiet and it does not emit any fumes. They can also be set up electronically depending on the person using them; larger people may need more power to use them properly, for instance, while youngsters will probably have theirs limited to slower speeds.
Ahead of their official launch on Tuesday afternoon, I was given a sneak peak at these amazing little vehicles... and a chance to try one out.
As a regular visitor to the karting centre, I knew my way around the track, but that was of little help as I have zero experience of ‘drifting’, when you ‘slide’ your machine sideways round corners with the steering locked counter-intuitively in the wrong direction.
Not much bigger than a child’s tricycle, they have one wheel at the front and two which resemble – and behave like – supermarket trolley wheels at the rear. The result is that with even just a little power, the front wheel goes forward while the back tends to head off sideways.
Strangely, braking and logically correcting the handlebars often has the wrong effect and sends you into a spin; accelerating, however, can pull you straight. It can feel like patting your head while rubbing your tummy in a circular motion... really hard to coordinate.
It also helps if you swing you body from your waist into a corner while grappling with the steering to send you sideways around a corner, before twisting the throttle and launching yourself along the straight.
It took me at least half a dozen laps – and more than double that amount in spins – to achieve my first correct, high-speed (well, 15mph) corner and the feeling of achievement was amazing. I couldn’t wait to race off and try my newly-found skills at the next corner, only to pirouette and slam into the safety barrier.
Providing you keep your feet firmly in the wells below the saddle – you wear shin pads, just in case – you are well protected from the inevitable bumps and scrapes and addictedly set off on another bid to get it right. You end up laughing as much as you do spinning.
Piers eventually joined me on the track and I was gradually able to follow his line and his movements and soon built up speed and confidence, although it will still take a few more sessions before I can push him to the chequered flag. However, if I was judged on artistic merit, my Torville and Dean style riding might just earn me a podium finish.
Electrikes will return to the Northampton Indoor Karting Centre next month and manager Paul Scutchings said: “We’ve been really happy with the response so far, particularly as not many people know about them yet.
“It’s something new, something fresh, something different and we’d love it to become a regular feature here,”
The next event will take place on Tuesday, February 10 from 6.30pm-9.30pm and it costs £15 for 15 minutes. It is an arrive and drive event, although pre-bookings will be welcomed. For details, call 01604 591591.