Welp, it’s been a while since I wrote about my decision to purchase the One Wheel as my first eskate, and seeing as my in-app odometer recently hit a major milestone, I guess I should check in with ya’ll with the…
One Wheel 300-Mile Review
It’s been a big year:
I had my motorcycle (and only method of transportation around the city of Boston) stolen.
(Looks good, don’t she? Some dirty thieves thought so too!)
My fair city of Boston received a paltry 43.8 inches of snow (with more expected on this balmy April weekend.
I adopted a lovely new workout routine focused on acrobatics,
and transitioned into the lovely world of eskate.
A big year has required a big wheel, and I am happy to say, that the One Wheel has been up to the task.
How hard is it to learn how to ride a One Wheel?
Short answer, pretty difficult for normies, significantly easier for life-long skaters.
Due to the unique nature of the One Wheel’s leaning controls, and the balance required to stay on the hecking thing, riders need to have VERY strong ankles and a great sense of balance. In my limited time trying to teach new riders the ins and outs of OW-ing, I have seen some people take to it like a fish to water, and others take to it like a fish to a volcano. If you are used to board sports like surfing or skating, you will be in much better shape than most.
Luckily, the OW is built like a tank, so any slams or falls that the board takes during the learning process will not impact the performance of the board.
Here is a video guide to how Future Motion recommends you learn to ride the One Wheel:
For new riders, I recommend learning to mount the board next to something, either a person or a table (for you lonely-ass riders), to use as an assist as you get a feel for how the board activates, and suddenly “grabs” you to find your balance point.
From there, practice rocking from front to back while holding on to your balance item (person or object) until you feel comfortable enough to roll away. One of the most common problems that I see newer riders facing is that they get scared and try to stop stock-still. This is a huge issue because, even among veteran riders, you need movement to balance correctly. Try to avoid the instinct to freeze as much as possible and just keep the flow going, riding back and forth until you get a good feel for the machine! The OW is all about flow; if you lose it, you are going to have a bad time.
The next step is to take that bad boy out on the sidewalk and get used to rolling over all manner of crazy obstacles, slanted surfaces, and divots. You will learn pretty quickly that, though the wheel dampens a lot of the harsher road vibes, your ankles will need to stay strong and malleable to keep you safe and on the board. It is here that the onboard lights can be super useful for spotting uneven pavement or obstacles in your path that you might not have noticed before.
It is also worth noting that keeping up speed and flow is essential when moving over obstacles as well. Generally, the squared sides of the tire are not suitable for mounting small bumps, so they should be approached at a perpendicular angle, much like on a skateboard. Also, the more speed you have when attempting to clear a bump, the better, as the speed will help carry you over an obstacle that might stop you in your tracks at a slow speed.
Is the One Wheel suitable as a commuter? As a man recently devoid of my primary commuting device, this was primary concern when purchasing the One Wheel.
I wouldn’t describe my commute as particularly difficult, 1.5 miles from my home to the train station, and then another mile and a half from the station to my work. My daily commute encompasses a few crappy Boston roads, covered in potholes (but with a few bike lanes), some sections on sidewalks and overexposed bricks, more than a couple of construction zones strewn with rocks, sand, and even the occasional wooden dock.
(Oh, and sometimes rain….a lot of rain.)
The One Wheel was very well suited for its task of navigating all of these hazards and more. Having a big inflatable wheel to roll over bumps and obstacles with impunity is an amazing tool for any Boston commuter, and the One Wheel’s ability to quickly turn and maneuver well at slow speeds made it easy to join with foot-traffic on sidewalks when needed. I would say that I feel comfortable piloting the One Wheel indoors, and have even gotten good enough to enter the train station, swipe through the ticket gate, and enter the platform without dismounting!
This leads me to my first minor problem: Sometimes the One Wheel’s method of dismounting is inconsistent, or too difficult to perform on the fly.
Future Motion states, “To safely dismount Onewheel, always slow to a stop and then remove your foot from the rider detect area.”
This sounds easy in theory, but can be quite difficult in practice. Sometimes I find myself lifting my heel off of the rider area, only to have the motor remain engaged and begin taking me in an unwanted direction. Other times, I have had the OW turn off while I was moving very slowly or stopped waiting for a light. These issues are not really a safety problem but have made me wary of doing quick dismounts without grabbing onto something nearby to ensure that I can dismount effectively.
I now also take steps to keep moving back and forth when waiting for a traffic light. This serves two purposes:
- There is less risk that the OW senses you are trying to dismount and deactivates
- It is much easier to keep your balance while “stopped” by maintaining a little back-and-forth dance
Unlike traditional eskates, it is not practical to dismount and remount at every light. The OW also weighs 25 pounds and is quite unwieldy, so I find myself riding it everywhere I go, even if only for a short distance. I am by no means a weak guy, but lugging this thing through a train station to make a connection, or up and down a flight of stairs, leaves me breathing pretty heavy and breaking a sweat. Luckily the OW is rideable in most situations, so I am not forced to carry it very often.
One of the biggest differences that I notice between riding an OW and a more traditional eskate like a boosted board is the mellow and “cushioned” nature of the ride. Not only does the OW put you on a large inflatable go-kart tire that is pretty good at absorbing bumps (though dealing with the bouncy recoil of the tire takes some time), but the forward/backward leaning nature of the controls also helps to mellow out any bumps or cracks you might hit on your travels.
Taking on speed is as easy as leaning forwards more, which can be dangerous for newer riders.. After a couple “nose-dives” from over-leaning and maxing out the torque on the motors, I learned that keeping your weight centered over the center of the wheel and pushing the nose and tail down with your feet is the optimal way to control the OW. I have not had a dreaded “nose-dive” happen in the last 4 months or so of adopting my new riding style, but I have had some close calls that I was able to recover.
Once you are comfortable on the board, it is possible to rip over all sorts of terrain as Slydogstroh demonstrates here:
Jumping on a skateboard after riding the OW exclusively for a couple of months was a very jarring experience. I kept expecting the skateboard to lean with my body, instead of with the pavement surface. I won’t lie, I looked pretty kooky struggling to stay on my Boosted V2+ as it bucked and bounced just like it always did…
I have been pretty happy with the range of the OW. My ~ 3-mile commute puts the batter somewhere around 40% in the colder winter months, which fits right in with Future Motion’s claimed 4-6 miles of range.
I did manage to perform one maximum range test and was able to ride the OW around 5.3 miles home after one particularly wild night. I did find myself desperately looking for outdoor outlets as I cruised home with >10% battery left at 1 am (I did manage to almost set the recycling room in a local supermarket on fire due to a charger issue, but that is a story for a different time.), but was surprised to see how long the board held on with even minimal charge. Around the last quarter mile, I began encountering MASSIVE pushback from the board, as it elevated the front to nearly unrideable levels (I felt like Captain goddamn Morgan) before finally shutting off and leaving me to lug it the last 100 yards to my house.
Still, I was very impressed with how Future Motion programmed the board to alert the rider of a low battery issue, and now ride without fear that I will forget to charge my battery and suddenly find myself eating asphalt when the battery unexpectedly goes dead.
Holy crap, have I really delved deep into testing this aspect of the OW. From pouring rain, and salty roads to 3 inches of snow, my poor OW has seen the worst of what New England has to offer.
(If you are from Future Motion and reading this, I am speaking entirely metaphorically and have been nothing but the perfect, caring owner to my OW, please don’t void my warranty)
The first time I took the ol’ gal in the rain, I did so without purchasing the (essential) fender for the board, and soon became intimately acquainted with the OW’s habit of picking up water with its tire and depositing it PRECISELY all over my inner front leg.
(It feels a lot like straddling a sprinkler head.)
Needless to say, I was a little peeved, and after purchasing an $85 “Fender Kit” from Future Motion, I found riding in the rain to be a, dare I say it, pleasurable experience!
The great thing about the OW’s design is that it keeps everything below decks, meaning that (with the addition of a fender) the pavement, pebbles, water, and snow are all separated from your tender, soft body by at least a few layers of ABS plastic. This means that, on rainy days, I found myself actually arriving at work DRIER than if I would have walked. Try finding a bike or skateboard that can make that claim! There is no better feeling in life than plunging through a puddle at full 18 mph clip and watching the water splash up and away to the sides of your feet, as though you are some sort of modern-day tech-Jesus. Just be careful not to splash any peds who might be walking near you, they are not very fond of being splashed.
Don’t believe me? Just watch Slydogstroh absolutely DESTROY a rainy day in Chicago:
I thought this thing was impressive in rain until I tried it in snow and icy conditions, and DEAR GOD does it enjoy playing around in snow and ice like a 1 year old husky. There is something about the design of the board, perhaps the fact that all of your weight is over one large contact patch, which allows the OW to retain traction and keep on rolling right through fresh snow. Looking back at my tracks, I was reminded of a Coast Guard Cutter in the way that the wheel shunted the snow to the sides as I forded my way through fresh, powdery snow.
Icey conditions is a slightly different story, with a similar ending. As long as you keep your weight over the wheel, taking care not to lean out far or change direction suddenly, you should find yourself slowly gliding over even the slipperiest of conditions. I actually found myself having an EASIER time riding the OW over some of the icier parts of my commute than I did walking them. This may be partly due to the sheer number of sharp rock chunks that I have embedded in my tire after 300 miles of riding. I think they may actually give me pretty good grip on ice…
(I do not advocate engaging in dangerous riding on ice and snow, the previous statements are made based on my experience as a trained professional on a closed course under controlled conditions, but seriously, it was rad AF)
This thing is built like a TANK. I am not someone who likes to baby their gear (read: I ruin my things), so anything that I use on the daily has to stand up to some pretty savage conditions, and the OW has done exactly that. As I write this article, my OW sits next to my desk absolutely CAKED in mud, dirt, and salt. I have taken it in the snow, pouring rain, through large puddles, and off-road at a local preservation, and it has taken everything in stride.
(Trigger warning if you like to baby your stuff…oops too late.)
I also like to make a point to let anyone who wants to try it out have a go, so it has had its fair share of pretty gnarly crashes and flips. Surprisingly, only the plastic nose and tail sections, the metal rails, and a few spots on the fender and wooden footpads show signs of damage, and that is purely cosmetic. Functionally, the OW is just like the day I got it, but that hasn’t always been the case. On to the…
This might work better as a list.
Here are the issues that I have encountered with my OW since I purchased it in October.
- Rear tail lights no longer turn on reliably, I have seen them work sporadically and very weakly.
- OW refused to charge, reporting over-charged/empty battery sporadically for 2 weeks, then went back to normal. OW was not usable during this time.
- OW would not turn on after spending the night in a cold car, worked later on that day after warming up.
- Occasionally OW will not sense my dismount foot position and will keep moving, causing some less-than-graceful panic-jumps.
- Ran into nosedives twice within the first month of riding. These dives were very dangerous and unexpected, but I have since learned how to handle the board a lot better and have not encountered any at-speed for the last 4 months or so.
- Occasionally the board will turn off while I am stationary or nearly stopped (balancing at a stop light). I believe that it is sensing a phantom dismount command due to the stopped board, and have not had this happen at speed, so it is not a safety issue.
Overall, I am quite pleased with the reliability of the OW, save for the 2 week period where it would not turn on due to a batter over/undercharge issue. I was in the process of contacting Future Motion for a replacement and even bought a Boosted Board to commute on during this time. The fact that the board can run into an issue where it is suddenly inoperable like this is a deal-breaker for someone who uses the board as a commuter. I was late to work because the method of travel that I had become dependant on wasn’t able to fulfill its primary function.
That being said, Future Motion was very helpful in troubleshooting the issue, even if the OW ended up just fixing itself when all was said and done.
(Sick Shredlights integration instructable coming soon!)
Is this where I gush? Alright, fine, I’ll gush a little bit.
As I sit here finishing this article, my odometer sits at 328 miles. Doing some quick napkin math, that means that I have spent roughly $4.57 per mile traveled ($1,500/328 miles). While this number isn’t that impressive yet, I am just getting started. If I am able to ride 750 miles on this OW, then I will have hit the golden number of $2 per mile traveled. “Why is this important?” you ask? Well, as a city commuter, I must compare every method of transportation to the gold standard, Uber. Uber claims an average cost of $2 per mile traveled, so if I am able to knock out 750 miles on my current OW, every mile after that is just gravy.
Add to that the fact that I am having a blast zooming around the city, when I would ordinarily be crammed into a car, and the fact that I am getting to my destinations a lot sooner and having conversations with people I would never ordinarily talk to, and you realize what a remarkable machine the OW is.
If I was able to log 328 miles between October and April in cold, snowy New England, I can not even imagine what a Spring and Summer season on the OW will be like. I anticipate a lot more riding in my immediate future, and have even delayed getting a replacement motorcycle because riding this little wheel is just too damned fun!
I am deeply saddened by the fact that traveling with the OW on a plane is a monumental task, requiring you bring laminated documents, legal knowledge, a disassembled board, and the knowledge that you might not be able to take your OW with you anyway. Otherwise, I would love to travel all over the world with this bad boy and ride every type of terrain there is.
I urge all eskaters who haven’t to try the OW at least once. The feeling of floating around, off and over things is intoxicating and addictive. I look forward to getting up from my desk at the end of every workday and taking the stupid thing back out on the city streets to hooligan my way home, day or night.
That’s all for this week folks! As always, feel free to post your comments below and email me at [email protected] if you have any ideas for what you would like to see in future content. Special thanks to Slydogstroh for letting me use some of his awesome video content and shoutout to his sponsors The Float Life, HoverHooligans, Craft&Ride, Flatland3D and BoulderDenim. If you liked his stuff you can follow him on Insta @slydogstroh.