Maybe you’ve seen one by now? It looks like a fat rubber wheel stuffed inside a balance board. Only the Onewheel has a lot more “kick your ass” than a balance board. And infinitely more torque. This franken-ride boasts bomber, metal construction, an extremely wide tire you could use as a spare for your go-kart and carries speeds up to 16 mph.
Sixteen-miles-per-hour may not sound fast but it isn’t slow, especially when you’re standing on steel footrests, essentially going zero. And the first time on it you find yourself stuck in an aggressive quasimoto stance. As you pick up speed you realize you’re not getting to your back foot. You bail, falling forward while trying to catch up with said speed, tripping across the concrete before laying flat out in the grass, which, by the hand of God, you just barely made (the soft grass, that is).
That happened. To me. But I don’t hold a grudge. That was pure user-error. Despite its bulbous look, as an aficionado of fun I must admit, the Onewheel is a pretty ingenious machine. But it takes getting used to—or humility (don’t go balls to the wall first time out). Even on the initial ride, you can see the potential. The tough rubber tire is by Vega, a maker of go-kart wheels, and is attached to a powerful little “brushless hub” motor powered by a rechargeable, lithium battery and controlled by sensors that read weight distribution in your stance. A slight weight transfer to the front foot is like hitting the gas, stomping on the tail slows you down, basic boardsports cornerstones.
But here’s where the Onewheel can get tricky—or more expert riders can get trickier—shift your weight the opposite direction and it carries as much speed the other way for those lucky enough to be less concerned with the right-foot/goofy-foot designation.
There’s a lot of places to have fun with this thing: sneaking on a golf course at night to ride smooth, grassy hillsides (just don’t let the LED lights get you busted), long, open beaches, single track dirt trails or, if you have to park a long way from your office, the perfect mini-commuter. And, bonus, since it looks nothing like a Segway you won’t have to wear panty hose over your head to hide your identity.
It does weigh about the same as a carry-on suitcase. Again, that’s because of the steal construction. The internal sensors really do make balancing the little package (fairly) intuitive. Verdict? We’re not sure if these will catch on and be everywhere (a cooler rollerblade?)—if we did know things like that we wouldn’t be working—but the Onewheel is definitely a smartly-built piece of gear worth having in the back of the truck or car for side missions while camping, a surf check or even just to cruise around the neighborhood running errands.