Should You Buy a OneWheel or an Electric Unicycle?

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This is a question I had to ask myself earlier this year. Two years ago, I bought a Hover-1 XLS folding scooter, and it has actually been an awesome device. I can throw on my backpack and ride to the park. Maybe I’m riding to the park to fly some FPV miniquads, or maybe I’m going to take my laptop. Either way, the Hover-1 never let me down here.

The problem with the scooter is portability. It weighs a little over 50 pounds, which doesn’t sound too bad, but when you fold it up, it is terribly awkward to lift, and quite tricky to get loaded into the car. That means I never take it with me.

I wanted something I could easily throw into the car. My friend Alex has a OneWheel, and Brian has an electric skateboard. Both of these are quite nifty, and each has advantages over the other.

Brian’s Exway X1 costs less than half as much as a OneWheel XR, weighs half as much, and has a higher top speed.

The OneWheel XR rides much smoother, and I was really excited about how well it rides on grass, but the $1,800 price didn’t seem like a good value to me.

This is just one guy’s opinion!

This post is sprinkled with facts, opinions, and things that seem to be true. I’m just one guy that has stood on a OneWheel once and been riding EUCs for about 500 miles.

I’m just one guy, and I’m learning. Even the most experienced EUC riders are still learning. This class of vehicle is still in its infancy. Even so, there are plenty of people with orders of magnitude more riding experience than me!

I think you should trust what I’m saying because I’ve been putting a lot of thought and research into this stuff over the past six months. I also think you should do more research!

What about electric unicycles? (EUC)

I didn’t have any friends with electric unicycles, but I did once meet two nice gentlemen at the park that were riding EUCs sometime last summer. I’m pretty sure they were riding InMotion V10 unicycles, but I can’t be sure.

When we were done chatting, I watched them take off at quite a fast pace. They showed me that their unicycles had absolutely no trouble riding fast through the grass too.

I looked up the InMotion V10. It has two or three times the range of a OneWheel XR, a higher top speed, a much more powerful motor, and it costs $500 less. I was having trouble understanding why anyone would buy a OneWheel at this point.

If you can ride a skateboard, you can ride a OneWheel!

Maybe. Probably. The skills are pretty similar.

I’ve never ridden a skateboard, and I was able to stand on a OneWheel without falling down. I didn’t get far, but I was confident that I could get the hang of it.

EUCs have a steep learning curve!

This is the biggest downside to electric unicycles. No one is going to climb on one and ride down the street on their first attempt.

It took me two or three days just to figure out how to get on the thing and ride in a straight line. Once things click in your mind, though, the rest comes easily.

I tried to teach my wife how to ride, but she hasn’t figured it out yet.

Which single-wheeled personal electric vehicle is safer?

I’ve been riding for just over 500 miles now, and I just had my first real fall. While learning, all I ever had to do was step off and jog away. One time, on slippery ground, my little InMotion V5F slid out from under me, and I was able to hop off and just take a few steps.

This time, though, I really fell. I wasn’t moving fast at the time, I just goofed up. I scuffed up my wrist guards, got some minor brush burns on my elbow and knee, and I somehow bruised my second toe on my right foot.

This is only based on my own thoughts and experiences, and I’m not at all experienced with the OneWheel, so take this for what it is worth. When your feet are side by side on an EUC, it is easy to step off and start jogging when something goes wrong. I can’t imagine how I’d straighten my body out to do the same on a OneWheel.

What about speed warnings?

I am told there are no audible alerts on the OneWheel. It does tilt back a bit when you near its top speed, but I keep reading that this is not an easy thing to feel due to your stance on the OneWheel. Unicycles also tilt back as their final warning. I’ve not gone fast enough to reach tiltback on my Tesla, but the tiltback sensation on my InMotion V5F is very obvious.

As far as I know, all EUCs have at least one audible warning that kicks in before tiltback occurs. My little InMotion V5F starts beeping at just over 15 mph, and tiltback occurs just before 17 mph. I keep reading that tiltback on an EUC generally happens 2 or 3 mph before the wheel won’t be able to keep up with you, and I believe this, because I have hit 19 mph on my V5F.

I’ve read that the margin between feeling tiltback and landing flat on your face is significantly wider on most EUCs than it is on the OneWheels.

Most EUCs have a built-in trolley handle, just like your luggage. If you stop at a convenient store or need to cross the street, you can just extend the handle and push your unicycle along. The motor does all the work, you just have to guide it.

OneWheels are pretty awkward to carry.

If you go too fast on either machine, you will fall forward!

On these single-wheeled machines, you are in constantly falling forward, and the wheel is trying to catch up to stay under your feet. If the wheel runs out of available power, and you’re still trying to lean forward even harder, you’re going to tip over!

NOTE: This was my first real fall in 500 miles of riding.

If you reach this speed on a OneWheel, you’re going to go into a nose dive, and the front pedal is going to scrape the ground. If that front pedal gets caught on something, the machine is going to attempt to catapult you off.

If you’re near the top speed of my little InMotion V5F when this happens, you might be able to jog to safety. If you’re all the way up at the potential 37 mph top speed of my Gotway Tesla, you’re probably going down, and you better be wearing lots of protective gear!

Advantages of the OneWheel

On paper, just about any EUC you can buy matches or beats the OneWheel XR, but I’ve noticed after riding with OneWheels that they do have some significant advantages over my EUCs!

The sideways stance makes it so much easier to look behind yourself. You can see if a bike or car is going to try to pass you, or easily see out onto the road if you want to transition from the sidewalk onto the road. It is also easier to have a conversation with a friend that is following you!

The extreme width of the OneWheel’s gokart tire gives it another big advantage. It is easy to balance on a OneWheel while at a complete stop. You aren’t going to be doing this on an EUC!

I already mentioned that learning to ride a OneWheel is much easier. The higher sticker price of the OneWheel XR might be worth that savings in time to you!

Advantages of an EUC

Bang for the buck is the most obvious advantage EUCs have over OneWheels. I’m certain my thinking is a bit biased here, because I managed to get [a refurbished InMotion V5F][v5f] for only $399. They’re not in InMotion’s store at that price very often, and that’s less than half the price of a OneWheel Pint.

NOTE: Refurbished V5F wheels are rarely in stock in InMotion’s store, and it seems that the price listed in the store has gone up to $499 since I bought mine!

Even at full price, though, the V5F still costs less than a OneWheel Pint, but its range and speed are more comparable to the $1,800 OneWheel XR. I should mention at this point that I don’t recommend the InMotion V5F at full price. There are better EUCs available at that price point, but it is an absolute steal if you can snag one for $399!

Once you’re around the price of the $950 OneWheel Pint, EUCs start to have significant advantages over even the OneWheel XR: more range, more powerful motors, higher cruising and top speeds, and even Bluetooth speakers.

  OneWheel XR InMotion V5F Gotway Tesla
Weight 27 lbs 25 lbs 42 lbs
Motor 750 watt 550 watt 1900 watt
Speed 19 mph (top) 15 mph 30 mph (cruising)
33+ mph (top, maybe)
Range 12-18 miles 14-15 miles 40-50 miles
Price $1,799 $399 refurb $1,450

NOTE: Range and top speed of the InMotion V5F are based on my own experiences. I’m well above the recommended rider weight at about 205 pounds.

Even if you’re not riding fast, having a more powerful motor and higher top speed give you a bigger safety margin. When you’re riding fast, and you hit a hard bump, your self-balancing machine will need to call upon extra power to keep you upright. Riding closer to the edge means you’re more likely to fall!

Disadantages of the OneWheel

You don’t get a lot of range or speed for the price. At $1,800, you’re getting close to the price of the Gotway MSX Pro. That’s a machine with up to 100 miles of range, a 2,500-watt motor with insane torque, and a top speed of 37 mph. The MSX Pro significantly outclasses the OneWheel XR!

The weak motor in the OneWheel concerns me. My friend Alex has “fangs” installed on his OneWheel XR. These are meant to help save you if you overtilt your OneWheel by letting the front pedal roll along the ground. Alex enjoys stomping hard on the OneWheel to get it going and forcing the front pedal and fangs down onto the ground so the front end scrapes as he rides.

This might be fun, and it might be cool, but the fact that you can overpower the OneWheel XR’s motor like this terrifies me! There’s no way I could stomp on my 1,900-watt Tesla hard enough to make the front end tilt down anywhere near that far. I know which machine I’m going to trust to keep me upright.

OneWheels also appear difficult to carry. My friend Alex has a homemade paracord handle on his OneWheel, while all my unicycles have carry handles built right in.

Disadvantages of an electric unicycle

For starters, EUCs are perceived as looking uncool. Standing sideways on a skateboard or snowboard is cool, while facing forward while skiing or riding a unicycle isn’t.

I have a blind spot directly behind my head. My friend Tanner is younger, skinnier, and more flexible than I am. He seems to have an easier time turning his head farther than I can without making significant changes to his direction of travel on his unicycle. OneWheel and skateboard riders have no trouble at all looking directly behind.

The EUCs that significantly beat the OneWheel XR on range and performance are quite a bit heavier than a OneWheel. Sure, my little $399 InMotion V5F weighs about as much as a OneWheel, but it does lag behind a bit on performance. My Tesla weighs 42 pounds, and I sure don’t want to carry it far at all!

My own experience

I’ve bought two unicycles so far. One is nearly comparable to the OneWheel XR by most measures, and the other outperforms the OneWheel quite handily. In total, I’ve still spent less on these two wheels than the cost of the OneWheel XR.

If I had to spend $1,800, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into any of these single-wheel machines. I have no idea how to ride a skateboard. What on Earth would make me think I’d be able to learn to ride a OneWheel? How disappointed would I be if I spent that much money and realized that I couldn’t ride it?

The lack of portability is what pushed me down this road, but portability is the only thing the OneWheel XR beats my old Hover-1 XLS on. That scooter has comparable range, is only 1 mph short of the OneWheel XR’s top speed, but the OneWheel costs over three times as much. $1,800 felt like a lot to pay for such a lateral move.

When I saw the refurbished InMotion V5F in InMotion’s store for $399 shipped, I just couldn’t pass it up. I’m on the heavy side for such an underpowered wheel, but at that price, it sure seemed like a great way to see if these unicycles were for me.

I beat the crap out of that V5F during the first few weeks. Aside from the scrapes, it is holding up quite well. I’ve ridden it more than 14 miles on a single charge with a reasonable amount of capacity left in the tank. I hit its 15 mph warning beeps all the time, and I’ve reached more than 18 mph. I managed to put 357 miles on the little guy before his replacement arrived.

If I were riding alone, I wouldn’t have upgraded. My wife upgraded to an Aventon Pace 350 e-bike, so she can ride dozens of miles before running out of battery. My friend Tanner rides with us on his Gotway MSX Pro, so he has 70 or 80 miles of range. My 14-to-15 mile range was starting to hold us back, and they both regularly hit 20 mph, so I was often in the back playing catch-up.

I upgraded to a Gotway Tesla, and I’ve put about 100 miles on it so far. I haven’t run its battery down anywhere near empty yet, but it is looking like I will be seeing somewhere around 40 miles to a charge. It is supposed to be capable of cruising at 30 mph, but I have yet to break 25 mph. I’m just not that brave! I do regularly ride at 20 mph, though.

The Tesla is normally priced at $1,575, but it was on sale when I bought it for $1,350. I’m not sure if the Tesla would have been my choice if it wasn’t on sale, but I’m extremely happy with it so far!

NOTE: It is unfortunate that refurbished InMotion V5F unicycles are rarely in stock!

I wouldn’t buy a OneWheel

In my opinion, the offerings from OneWheel are overpriced, too slow, and lack range.

As you approach $2,000, you start finding electric unicycles with 80 miles of range, 2,500 watt motors, 40 mph top speeds, and even some brand new models with a proper suspension. Any of the unicycles in this price range from Gotway or King Song outclass OneWheel’s best offerings by miles.

There are even awesome little unicycles like the 84-volt version of the Gotway MTen3 that meet or beat all the specs of the OneWheel XR, while somehow managing to only cost $50 more than the OneWheel Pint.

Choice in electric unicycles is a blessing and a curse

OneWheel gives you two choices. That’s it. The XR or the Pint. Not much to think about.

I’m just looking at eWheels, and they have nearly 20 unicycles from three different manufacturers with prices ranging from $400 to $2,850. Outside of eWheels, you’ll find a handful of offering from Segway and Ninebot as well.

I think it is awesome that there are so many choices. There’s almost certainly an option that perfectly meets your needs, but I can totally see lots of people suffering from analysis paralysis!

You have to trust the machine

When you’re hurtling down the road at 20 mph with a single wheel, you have to rely on the machine’s brain, electric motor, and batteries to keep you from falling flat on your face. You need to ride a machine you can trust.

Don’t just trust the machine I tell you to trust. Put some serious thought into it and question everything you are told!

I am quite confident that my Gotway Tesla’s 1,900-watt motor will always have enough power to keep me upright, especially since I don’t plan on cruising at speeds anywhere near its 30 mph limit.

My little [InMotion V5F][v5f] never failed to keep me upright even though it only has a little 550-watt motor. Is that always going to be the case? Will I ever hit a rough enough bump at 14 mph where 550 watts just isn’t enough to keep the machine under my feet?

Its top speed is only 15 mph. Would I trust the OneWheel XR’s 700-watt motor to always keep me upright at 19 or 20 mph? I’m not so sure.

For what it is worth, I would also trust a OneWheel

Sure, most EUCs have several layers of warnings before you get into the danger zone, and that danger zone will be harder to reach than on a OneWheel.

Even so, I wouldn’t be afraid to own and ride a OneWheel. I wouldn’t have as much faith in it at 20 mph as I have in my Tesla, but I would still ride the OneWheel!

Let’s face it. You’re already contemplating buying one sort of machine or another where the only things separating your face from the pavement are a helmet and a computer. Your risk-to-reward math is already tilted towards the riskier side!

If you buy an EUC, you better be ready to practice and have patience!

If you buy a OneWheel, I imagine you’ll be up and riding in minutes, and you’ll quickly be on your way to proficiency.

If you buy an EUC, you’re going to work hard just to figure out how to get on the thing, and you’re going to work even harder to successfully ride 15 feet. You’ll be jumping off a lot. You’ll be failing a lot.

Riding an EUC just isn’t intuitive. So much of what your reflexes do to keep you balanced will knock you off balance. Many of the adjustments you need to make on a unicycle are the opposite of your instincts. Just keep trying, and something will click.

Once things click, you won’t be able to explain what you’re doing differently. You’ll just be able to ride.

Don’t practice too much in a single session. If you’re not making any progress, sleep on it, and try the next day. It took me 3 or 4 days before things clicked, but I didn’t put in a whole lot of time on any of those days!

I am most definitely on Team EUC

I tend to be a very practical guy. I have trouble spending more to get less. From that point of view, there is no way I could have brought myself to purchase a OneWheel.

I may have questioned my sanity once or twice during those first few days when I was trying to ride my InMotion V5F, but once I got over the hump, there was no looking back.

I would trade my speed, power, or range just to look cooler riding a OneWheel!

To be fair, I wouldn’t look cool no matter what I am riding!

Conclusion

Keep in mind that I am just one guy with opinions. Yours are probably different, and we’d like to hear about them. If your goal is to have fun and look cool, there’s no way I’m going to talk you out of riding a OneWheel. In fact, I don’t want to talk you out of it! OneWheels are fine! They just aren’t for me.

What do you think? Are you on Team OneWheel? Do you prefer the extra power, range, and top speed of being on Team EUC? Do you think I’m silly for buying a Gotway Tesla in 2020? Are you riding an EUC or OneWheel, or are you looking to become a rider? Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!

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