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Intro to the Onewheel Craze

Chances are youʼve seen a Onewheel float past you on the streets somewhere. Itʼs a new(ish) piece of technology with a passionate cult following quickly pacing to become a household name just about everywhere. As one a Onewheel super-fan I hear the same questions all the time: Is it motorized? How fast can it go? Is it difficult to ride? It it safe? How do you make it stop? How do you turn? How far can it go on a charge? Can you do a kick-flip? Well, Iʼm here to answer these questions for you.

Welcome to Shredd Labs. Iʼm Bradley Spence and Iʼm here to teach you everything Onewheel. I first discovered Onewheel as a Kickstarter backer but I was afraid to back the project as Iʼm not very board-sport inclined. Iʼve never been able to skate. I can barely wakeboard. Surfing is the only thing Iʼm decent at and I still would call myself a beginner. So I didnʼt back the project, a few years go by and I completely forgot about Onewheel until I stumbled across them at the Outdoor Retailer trade-show in Denver. They were doing demos in the parking lot and just like that I was riding. It was surprisingly intuitive and easy to learn. I quickly became obsessed and pre-ordered the Onewheel+ XR.

Months go by and my pre-order date keeps getting pushed back making me more and more obsessed. So I scoured the internet for every blog, Facebook group, video, review, and 3rd party accessory website out there. I had become more knowledgeable about the Onewheel than many people who actually had one. People in the Facebook groups thought I already owned one but I was still waiting. On March 15th 2018, I received my first ever Onewheel and little did I know that it would change my life forever. One year and 5500 kilometres later Iʼm still as obsessed as day one. So with that backstory, letʼs dive into everything Onewheel.

What is it?

A Onewheel is an electric motorized self-balancing personal recreational vehicle with a single go-cart tire in the centre. Many want to call it an electric skateboard but itʼs so much more than that especially since it only has one wheel. Itʼs assembled in San Jose, California and is built like a tank. Not only is the hardware superb quality but the firmware inside the Onewheel is what makes it like nothing else youʼve ever ridden or seen before. Itʼs rigged with two foot sensors, a gyroscope and an accelerometer which allows the board to become part of your body. Depending on the model, the advanced Lithium Nickel Manganese (NMC) battery will get you either around 24-30 km (XR model) or 8-13 km (Pint model) of riding. Onewheelʼs makers Future Motion actually utilize similar battery technology that you see in Tesla vehicles. Iʼve reached speeds of 40km/h but the advertised top speed is 30km/h. Once youʼve passed 25km/h it gets a lot more dangerous and is for experienced riders only.

Where can it ride?

Unlike electric skateboards, the Onewheel can ride just about anywhere. Iʼm talking mountain bike and single track trails, pump-tracks, beaches, up and down mountains, and the steep streets of San Francisco. You know the feeling of snowboarding down a mountain? Well, imagine getting that same thrill going up a mountain. Last summer I ripped up Mount Royal in Montreal going over 30km/h and it was one of the most thrilling experiences Iʼve had on the Onewheel to date. It can also eat cyclists for breakfast. In a city like NYC or Vancouver, the Onewheel is hands down the quickest way to commute through rush hour. Zipping in and out of traffic is a thrill of its own. You donʼt need to worry about carrying a remote in your hand, railroad tracks, pebbles, stopping on a dime, or making tight turns. It does all of those things. Something most electric skateboards just canʼt do.

Is it difficult to ride?

Yes and no. Anyone can get on a Onewheel and easily figure it out even without instruction. Itʼs very intuitive. Lean forward to go forward, lean back to reverse or brake, and lean on your heel side or toe side to turn like you would a surfboard or snowboard. Dismounting is the most challenging part but with the Pintʼs new Simplestop technology you simply lean back and the board will lower itself. To dismount the old fashioned way, you lift your heel on your front foot at 0km/h and the board will lower. Itʼs easier said than done when youʼre new but before you know it youʼll be dismounting effortlessly. There are also some really cool more advanced ways of dismounting once youʼve got some kilometres under your belt. Almost anyone (my Grandma included) can ride a Onewheel immediately.

Is it safe?

The Onewheel is just like any board sport. You risk hurting yourself on a skateboard and snowboard so wearing a helmet and other protective gear is recommended. However, if you respect the limits of the board and donʼt push the board past “pushback” you can ride endless kilometres without injuring yourself. But letʼs be honest, people like to push themselves and can get over-confident and that is when the Onewheel becomes less safe. The board is equipped with a safety feature called “pushback.” When you reach speeds of approximately 25km/h or more, the board will lift its nose up to warn you that itʼs reaching the boardʼs limits. Push it further and you risk the famous Onewheel “nosedive.” One of my next posts will be all about nosedives and how to prevent them. It is 100% possible to ride thousands of kilometres and never nosedive. I would know, Iʼve done it.

Can you do a kick-flip?

In case you didnʼt get it, this is a joke. Well, sorta. The Onewheel+ XR weights about 27 pounds so obviously a classic kick-flip is next to impossible. However, some of the more skilled riders have been able to perform a heel-flip of sorts by going off a ledge or drop, spinning the board mid-air and landing it. People have come up with some amazing Onewheel tricks from dark slide curb tricks to bonking massive air off the tiniest of bumps in the road. There is a whole community that gathers each year in Asheville, North Carolina where there are trick comps, races, and group rides and all-around fun. Last year over 300 people came out from across the globe to meet and share their Onewheel stoke. The community is growing quickly and riders are getting increasingly better. Iʼm personally very excited to see how big the Onewheel phenomenon can get.

Much more to come…

This is the first of many posts coming to Shredd Labs. Here are some articles coming soon:

  • Onewheels: Letʼs talk nosedives and how to prevent them.
  • Onewheel Riding 101: Riding tips for beginners.
  • Onewheel Tire Options. Weʼve tested them all and here are our thoughts.
  • Onewheel Fenders: 10 different fender options, tested and reviewed.
  • Onewheel Footpads: So many to choose from. We test them all. Which is best for your riding style?
  • Protecting Your Onewheel Investment: We give you the low-down on the best ways to protect your board from all the elements (yes, rain too!).
  • Onewheel Handle and Bags: The best ways to carry your board around.
  • Flight Fins: Ready to take your riding to the next level, literally? We go into detail on Flight Fins.
  • Best ways to travel with your Onewheel.

Canʼt wait for the next post? Ask a question below and Iʼll be happy to answer.

Happy Shreddinʼ!

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