The Onewheel is a new product that falls into the category of what I like to call new age personal transport, but how does it stack up to its competitors?
Things have really evolved over the last few years as far as personal transport goes. I’ll still always see the occasional skateboard whizz past my office and bicycles are still as common as ever, but we’re seeing more development on electric-powered push bikes and transport options that offer more electric balance and speed support.
Right now, those looking to get about without a car have so much to choose from it’s understandably hard to make a decision. Does one pick up a longboard, a hoverboard, or perhaps even a boosted board? How about the Onewheel, with, you guessed it, a single wheel and a surprisingly shocking price tag of $1,499?
The Riding Experience
At a first look, the Onewheel seemed like a terrible proof of concept to me. One wheel – are you serious?
It’s not the first time such a creation has been invented. I immediately started to compare the Onewheel to a unicycle, which is far from the pedestrians’ number one transport of choice. Unicycles are reserved almost entirely for the circus or other acts of bravery and skill because they are hard to control.
Instantly my thoughts carried over to the Onewheel – how difficult could it be to balance the thing? What about the stability issues that may arise from having one wheel? Well, turns out I was shocked to find out the real truth behind it.
Despite its signature feature, the Onewheel has enough stability to make traversing flat ground easy – once you’ve gotten used to the new mode of transport, some off-ground terrain is a possibility too. The reason for this is simple – the single wheel on the gadget is thick, sturdy and large enough to support your weight without any strain.
It’s not just the exterior build quality that matters, either. In a similar fashion to the masses of ‘hoverboards’ to hit the world in 2016, the Onewheel uses a number of sensors to keep itself, and it’s rider balanced at all times. This bad boy is equipped with enough accelerometers and gyroscopes to keep you rolling until the battery runs dry – no pushing is needed.
It offers a similar motorized experience to something like a boosted board but fortunately, there is no additional remote control. Instead, you’re given the freedom to control the speed of the Onewheel by simply leaning further forward to go faster and further backward to slow down.
Getting used to the Onewheel is simpler than getting used to a skateboard or a snowboard. So, if you have any riding experience, you’ll get the basics of the Onewheel down in an afternoon. It may take a little longer to get comfortable with it to get going at fast speeds, though.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it took those with no riding experience a lot longer to master. The Onewheel has all the technology it needs to do a lot of the balancing work for you, but when it comes to basic balancing skills and overall confidence, that is something any Onewheel rider will have to build up over time.
If you’re new to riding, don’t expect to hop on the Onewheel and be riding off into paradise before the sun sets on the first day you pick it up. Give it a few days to a week of practice, and you’ll be feeling ready to go all over the place.
Speed and Battery Life
Because the Onewheel has a number of motors and sensors keeping you going forward and in balance, battery life is a concern. The amount of time you’ll get in each Onewheel session will depend on a few factors including the kind of terrain you’re on, the current tire pressure and the speed you’re riding it.
On a newly pumped up wheel, expect to see around 7-8 miles of usage on the advertised 15 miles per hour speed. You can go faster, especially on smooth terrain, but you’ll need a lot of confidence with it before you’ll feel comfortable with pushing those kinds of boundaries.
Go out away from the comfort of soft, smooth tarmac and the stats will start to change. Gravel, dirt, grass or anything away from the typical riding environments and the Onewheel not only won’t reach high speeds but the battery will die perhaps a mile or two short of its capabilities on a flat surface.
Fortunately, you can get back home and charge the Onewheel back up for another full session in under 30 minutes. Don’t worry, as long as you don’t stray too far away, you shouldn’t find yourself walking 10 miles back home whilst wondering why you ever bought the thing.
For transport that offers off-road capabilities, durability is a big thing. A lot of the two-wheel hoverboards we have seen being sold on the market are quite frankly flimsy and unable to withstand any tomfoolery.
One thing you don’t ever want from a board is a constant feeling in the back of your mind that your ride might break, or you might come flying off due to some strange digital malfunction. When confidence is important for riding at 15 miles per hour speeds, anybody expecting to ride a hoverboard product absolutely deserves peace of mind on the durability front.
Any potential buyer will be pleased to hear that the Onewheel is as tough and steady as it gets. Not only is the board going to hold up under any kind of terrain you throw at it, the riding experience is silky smooth in almost all instances. You’ll find yourself carving through streets as if you’re gliding through soft snow.
Many Onewheel users have mentioned how the experience is best compared to snowboarding, and whilst I’ve never used a snowboard myself, I can completely understand where they’re coming from.
Is It Portable?
With potential traffic incidents or groups of pedestrians to look out for, being able to get off of the Onewheel and pick it up out of the way quickly is going to be important. Despite the large wheel size, the OneWheel isn’t the heaviest transport device on the market, coming in at 25 lbs (11KG).
We’d say the Onewheel is lightweight enough to get it out of the way in any drastic situations but carry it around for an hour or two and you’ll start to feel the strain.
Unfortunately, there’s no dedicated handle for the Onewheel so you’re left clutching the most comfortable area your hands can find. If there were to be a new revision, I would love to see some kind of retractable handle on the side.
Price and Rating – 4.5/5
So, the price is a big thing for any potential buyer and this is where most dreams of owning the Onewheel fall flat.
The Onewheel is available for $1,499, making it one of the most costly digital transport options available. Of course, electric bikes can often go for a lot more and there are a number of boosted boards that go for a similar price range.
You really do get what you pay for, though – the Onewheel is sturdy, it’ll get you around quickly and it has all the technology inside it to create a smooth experience for all users on a variety of terrain types.
Our recommendation: $1,499 is a big commitment. If you are an experienced rider and have had fun with riding different types of boards, then the Onewheel will be an exceptional experience for you.
If you’re less experienced with riding boards, you may be much better off with something cheaper first. Master that, and you may then find the Onewheel as an enjoyable, regular addition to your lifestyle.
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