What do you get when take a board, make it self-balancing , throw a motor in it, and add one 11-inch racing go-kart tire and motion-sensing technology found in your smartphone? Well, you’ve got yourself one rad ride.
Welcome to the Onewheel. This is not a skateboard; it doesn’t feel like one, and you don’t ride it like one. But if you’re jonesing for a comparison, think snowboarding on a powder day with a sprinkle of futuristic hoverboard thrown in.
To start the momentum of the Onewheel, you flip the switch to the “on” position and lean toward your front foot; light heel or toe pressure can help carve silky smooth turns on and off road, reaching speeds of up to 12 mph. As you begin to lean back, it will slowly decrease. Granted, the learning curve on this board can be tricky — and the price, at $1,499, might also make you feel a little cautious — but it’s quickly addicting.
However, as with anything electric, this board does have to be charged. You can zoom around on the Onewheel for roughly 6 to 8 miles, depending on the terrain, and recharging will take up to an hour. (Ultra chargers are available, though, making a full charge possible within 20 minutes.)It comes stock with a 500-W traverse flux hub motor as well as LED indicator lights (mostly for safety while cruising at night) that turn on when you step on the board and begin to move. White in the front and red in the back, the lights switch colors automatically if you reverse your direction on the board, making sure you can be seen by vehicles or other pedestrians no matter which way you’re cruising.
Onewheel also offers an app (currently on iOS, coming to Android) that enables riders to monitor battery levels, turn the LED lights on and off for nighttime adventures, track speed and distance traveled and, most importantly, switch what Onewheel calls Digital Shaping settings.
Inspired by how different surfboard shapes create different riding experiences, Digital Shaping enables riders to select from a range of profiles to suit personal style, ability level or riding terrain. Riders can use the Onewheel app to cruise in Classic, push the limits in Extreme or stay up in Elevated Shaping.
One of the coolest things about the app is that you can actually upgrade your board’s firmware when Onewheel has improved performance or added Digital Shaping settings, so your board evolves with you.
Unlike on a skateboard, you don’t feel every little crack and pebble in the street. It works great on pavement, dirt, sand, grass and gravel, as well as performing well in wet or damp environments. (Obviously, however, don’t fully submerge the thing.)It took a while for me to feel fully comfortable maneuvering the Onewheel around the first time I rode it, but by the time I had it down, all hell broke loose. My eyes gleamed at the trails and cobblestone streets of Vail, Colorado; I asked to borrow a helmet from a sweet 10-year-old girl and took off terrorizing the town. Needless to say, I became a little too ambitious riding down one less-than-ideal, bumpy trail and suffered a broken nose. But that’s why we do board sports, right? Ambition!
Kyle Doerksen, the creator of Onewheel, grew up in the Canadian Rockies and dreamed of bringing the feeling of snowboarding to the pavement. After spending eight years designing consumer and technical products at IDEO, a global design and innovation firm, his passion for electric vehicles grew, and Doerksen believes Onewheel is just a steppingstone in the development of advanced personal vehicles.