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A suitcase you can ride

A suitcase you can ride

Why walk through the airport when you can ride your bag? Jonathan Beckman jumps onto the latest smart luggage

Why walk through the airport when you can ride your bag? Jonathan Beckman jumps onto the latest smart luggage

Jonathan Beckman | August/September 2018

Travel may broaden the mind but nothing has as transformative an effect on a person’s character as merely stepping into an airport. The most charmless goons will affect suavity and flatter the check-in staff to wheedle an upgrade that will entitle them to a higher grade of heat-blasted, vacuum-packed meal and the ability to lean back a few more degrees. Saints, who normally spend their days setting the limbs of injured field mice and knitting iPhone cases for orphans, become apoplectic with frustration at trolleys with the turning circle of a charabanc, passengers who find scanning a boarding card in the correct manner as difficult as doing a crossword in Korean, and forgotten vials of fluid that require a bored security officer to unpack their bags with all the delicacy of a glucose-doped five-year-old eyeing up his birthday presents.

Yet once one passes through passport control, everything changes. The best airport lounges are pools of calm, adult playgrounds, spaced-out non-places where time passes languidly and anything goes. They offer a mirage of capitalism’s bounty. The consumerism is guilt-free and the possible destinations are polymorphous. Fancy a pint of Carlsberg or a jagerbomb at six in the morning? Go right ahead. Want a full English breakfast and a burrito and maybe some oysters and a freight container of Skittles? Calories don’t count here. Anyway, we wouldn’t want you to go hungry on the flight.

And of course you should treat yourself to a diamante, multi-jurisdictional adapter plug or a gold-lamé posing pouch in the Prada sale. If God were beneficent, this is what purgatory would look like: fewer scourging fires, more branches of Jo Malone.

Into this idyll, like a Cossack at a cocktail party, charges the Modobag ($1,495) which declares itself to be the world’s first and only rideable luggage. (If we’re going to quibble, the Mongols probably got there first: they drank their horses’ milk, ate their flesh, used their dung for fuel, made shoes and armour from their hides and strung fiddles with their tails.) You sit on the Modobag and raise the handlebars from their retractable fitting at the top of the case. A small, thumb-operated tab controls the electric motor and a bicycle-style brake ought to prevent most crashes. In many ways, the Modobag is the natural culmination of the giddy feeling of regression that airports engender. Children are already promenaded on Trunkis, dragged by forbearing parents. It was only a matter of time before the grown-ups wanted a piece of the action.

A few caveats before you ride off into the sunset. Though the Modobag is chunky, there is relatively little room for your belongings since so much space is taken up by the motor and transmission. It is also extremely heavy: beware of putting your back out before you launch it into the overhead locker. Even without its battery it weighs over 9kg. Most European airlines max out their hand-luggage allowance at around 10kg, so you may be able to pack little more than your underwear. Despite there being two fold-out footrests, your thighs begin to seize up after even a short ride, though at least that’s preparation for the multiple stress positions your seat will inflict on you once on board the plane. The tolerance of Modobags by the airport authorities is also likely to plummet once numbers grow and boy racers saddle up. They may very well find themselves unwelcome after someone attempts to recreate “Fast and Furious” in departures, or the first pensioner is mowed down by the suitcase cavalry, charging along a travelator like Boudicca in battle.

Modobag is one of a number of companies selling smart luggage, in the belief that conventional bags are simple-minded and unreconstructed. Many of them are basically designed for people permanently anxious that their phone will run out of juice – the main benefit of these bags is that they include a battery and USB point (this should soothe the hyperventilations of someone with a layover in Schipol who has the irrepressible urge to refresh their Instagram feed every 40 seconds). A few have additional features. Travelmate, for example, has devised an “autonomous” suitcase that follows you around like an unflaggingly faithful gundog. I tried out the Barracuda carry-on too ($349), which can weigh itself and hold your coffee and laptop, and ping your phone if you lose it. But the zip came unstitched after a handful of uses. Sometimes manufacturers need to do dumber better. Now poop poop, Mr Toad has a plane to catch.