23/09/2020

Call them fanciful, or a faceplant waiting to happen. But one-wheeled vehicles are how we’ll roll into the future.

I could not have made a gas-powered Onewheel, says Kyle Doerksen, CEO of Future Motion and inventor of the Onewheel board. It just wouldn’t have been possible until, you know, we had certain building blocks available.
If you somehow havent seen one before, the Onewheel looks like a skateboard, but with one fat tire plunked directly in the middle of the board. You plant your feet on the deck on either side of the wheel and lean the direction you want to go. Internal sensors adjust your speed depending on how much of your weight shifts forward or backward.
Future Motion commercially launched the Onewheel in 2016. Doerksen declines to provide hard sales numbers, but he says that since launch the company has amassed many tens of thousands of people who ride Onewheels.
For Onewheel riders like Chris Romine, his devotion stems from the unique experience the rideable offers.
In an odd way, the single wheel is both the Onewheels best feature and biggest detraction, Romine says.
Romine lives in Petersburg, Alaska, where he routinely Onewheels himself around. He got into the device because he saw it as the closest way to replicate the experience of snowboarding. He says he rides between 300 and 400 miles per month on a Onewheel.
Once you get good with a Onewheel, you really never have to get off until youre walking in the door of wherever youre going, Romine says. Other devices dont have that degree of usability.
That usability comes with risks. Wrecking is seen as almost a rite of passage of Onewheel ownership. Take a look at the communitys subreddit and It feels like every third post is another newly humbled rider displaying the gory aftermath of their recent nosedive. Smooth riding comes with a learning curve. Adherents say thats to be expected, of course.
Why do we stand up on two legs? Doerksen says. That’s really hard and computationally intensive. You know, we’re not as fast as a cheetah, but there’s a lot of benefits to being up in a position that maybe has to fight physics a little bit, but has a bunch of upsides.
Adventurous riders like Romine approach this kind of device with the knowledge that things can get gnarly quick. But for single-wheels to reach a wider audience, they need to appeal to people who would rather just hop on and get moving than learn a whole sport. Namely, people just trying to get to work.
If cities are the future of humanity, then micromobility is the future of cities. Road infrastructure has largely failed to accommodate the influx of cars that swarm over them. Electric personal vehicle use has exploded as people search for ways to conquer that last mile of their commute. Cities looking to support their burgeoning populations are learning their streets need to be reconfigured to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and small electric vehiclessingle-wheelers included.
Electric unicycles, like the kinds made by InMotion and King Song, are designed for the commuter. The rider stands upright, facing forward as they zoom down the street (or, if theyre terrible people, the sidewalk), the single wheel spinning around between their ankles.
Jeff Wills is the experience director at Electric Unicycle Collective (EUCO), an organization of unicycle evangelists that aims to educate riders and advocate for the proliferation of the devices. (The organization also helps sell them.) Wills sees the electric unicycle as an antidote to the congestion that clogs city roads.
I think in the future, we’re going to look back at this time and it’s going to be one of those things thats hard to explain to our kids that we all spent so much time in our cars in traffic, Wills says. He adds, Life becomes so impersonal when you are going to work every day and not interacting with people. Once you start to experience life from your feet again it is profound. It is life changing.