Onewheel+ review: Is one wheel enough?
Update: Future Motion just released a new onewheel called the pint that fixes a few of the issues I had with the +. Even though they discontinued the +, all of what I talked about relates to the XR except for the range. The extended range of the XR is great but the pint unfortunately has the same range as the + but a slightly less powerful motor. If the + was ever an option for you then I would not hesitate to buy the pint. It is smaller and cheaper but has the same range.
With the advancement of technology and a greater understand how our planet is trying to take revenge on us, the idea of a vehicle is changing. Where a large powerful gas guzzling car was the de facto for every person in a household now smaller, sometimes electric, vehicles, or for some, a combination of public transportation and a smaller portable forms of transportation are taking over. These portable forms, sometimes called “last mile” vehicles if supplementary to another form of transportation, range from bicycles to electric skateboards each with their advantages and disadvantages.
The Onewheel+, by Future Motion, is one of these “last mile” electric rideables. Spawned from the idea of creating a electric ridable that felt like snowboarding, this one wheeled device provides a unique riding style different from other electric rideables, but does it provide a reliable ride, is it a great alternative for last mile devices, and does it provide that powder feeling it yearns to give?
How it rides
To begin, I first need to explain how the Onewheel+ is far from what it seems. This device comprises of a wooden platform, one large go-kart wheel, the electric motor housed inside the wheel, and everything else all held together with a custom machined aluminum frame. The Onewheel+ is ridden by standing on the platform with the wheel directly under the rider so that the body faces perpendicular to the direction of motion, no different to a skateboard.
At first glance it seems that the rider must maintain an equilibrium to balance the board along its one wheel fulcrum. Initial reactions are that the Onewheel+ looks dangerous and difficult to ride. Both of these are not the case. This rideable is one of the most intuitive boards I have ever ridden. It is far from difficult to ride and it can even be said that it is one of the easiest electric skateboards to ride.
To begin, the board does all the balancing for you. Do not be intimidated by its one wheel. The electric motor housed inside the wheel helps maintain a balanced platform while the large width of the go-kart wheel helps maintain balance in the other direction. The motor and its complicated system of sensors remove all the jitters from balancing on the board to give a very smooth ride.
I would be lying if I didn't say it seemed magical in the way it works. The Onwheel+ has no remote but instead is controlled by shifting your weight. So how do you go forward? For first time riders I simply say “look where you want to go”, and like a mind reader the board moves in that direction. You see, our body naturally braces for the change in forces, like when accelerating in a car, riding a skateboard, or having your friends push you while standing on a cart, so as the person riding is expecting to move forward they brace themselves by shifting their body forwards. This motion puts weight on the pressure sensors of the Onewheel+ platform telling the board that you want to go forward. Within 15 seconds or less (not an exaggeration) of getting on the board every single person was able to command the Onewheel+ to go in the direction they wanted without knowing how they did it.
Controlling the board through simple and small weight shifts provide the rider with an intuitive and enjoyable ride. This type of control leaves the hands free to maintain balance or check ones smartphone. It also makes the device feel more like an extension of the body and therefor more connected to the rider. This sensation does not just make you feel like you are using something to get from point A to point B, but instead like you are getting to point B like your legs have just obtained the ability of wheel based locomotion. This experience is very satisfying.
I would be lying if I didn't say that there is a learning curve to riding the board and even a specific way one should ride so no injuries are suffered, but that can be said about all rideables, especially bicycles.
The biggest reason for having a specific way to ride the Onewheel+ is because it lacks a form of suspension. This lack of suspension causes the board to shake and sometimes oscillate in a frequency I will call the “death wobble”. During this wobble the board can achieve a great enough rotation that the board topsides and the rider is thrown off. The trick to prevent this is simple but requires you to put a great amount of trust into the board.
Since the board has no suspension to absorb vibrations the riders needs to use his/her legs, knees, and ankles to be its suspension through the bumps and terrain. This can be scary as your ankles bend loosely and legs wobble under you as the one wheel rides over potholes and shifts in the road, but the Onewheel+ maintains its stability surprisingly well.
The board has yet to fail on me in any unpredictable way. Off road, on gravel, during terrain changes, or even during tight turns the wide go-kart wheel has yet to give from under me. Even when going over potholes or off small jumps the Onewheel+ maintains its balance. Once you put your trust in the board, trust that took me 50km to build, you start to learn how reliable the board is against its appearance. Once you unlock the suspension the world transforms into your Onewheel park.
As a last mile device
What is the Onewheel+? Well it can be an overpriced toy or it can be a mode of transportation. As a mode of transportation this would be considered a last mile device for short distances. If you were to think of this as a last mile device there are a few things to consider. The first is its range.
This will not replace a car or train pass. This device is for getting to the bus stop, riding from to your distant parking garage, taking a ride to your local park, or If you are fortunate to live in the same town as you work then to your very own job. The Onewheel+ is limited to its range only achieving a range of 5-7 miles (8-11 km) and the more powerful Onewheel+XR a range of 12-18 miles (19-29 km).
Don't expect to travel 7 miles on a charge as hills will severally deteriorate the battery and dont forget you need to make it back on a charge unless you plan to charge at your destination. I have only had the Onewheel+ for a couple of months, but like any other lithium battery device, expect the battery to lose its ability to hold a charge over time. Unfortunately, the battery is not swappable and all battery maintenance has to be done by Future Motion themselves.
The Onewheel+ is advertised as having regenerative braking but because the motor is always working to balance the board it is not as effective as it sounds. I have only ever gained back a percent or two from regenerative braking so dont expect to gain much battery unless you plan on being toed or your commute is all down hill.
Fortunately, for the Onewheel+ charging is a strong point. Charging a Onewheel+ from empty to full only takes about 30 minutes. . This means the Onewheel+ can charge full while at lunch. Additionally, the charger does not over charge the board so you can keep it charged all night.
The charger is somewhat clunky but is required if you plan on doing any long distances. Future motion doesn't offer any battery extensions except for the more expensive XR model, but they do offer fast chargers that are sold separately. Without doing any warranty-voiding modifications, purchasing a quick charger over purchasing additional range is the compromise Future Motion wants us to make.
Important for a last mile device is its size and weight. Can I easily fit this into a bag or can I comfortably carry it in my hand? If it dies can I carry it home for that last mile? Unfortunately, this is where the Onewheel+ severely struggles.
The Onewheel+ is too bulbous to fit into any bag except one made specifically for the Onewheel+. You can expect to pay a premium for a Future Motion Onewheel+ bag. Its odd shape and large body make it a nightmare to put anywhere.
Fortunately, the Onewheel+ has a built in handle, but unfortunately, the thing weighs a ton. When I mean ton I actually mean 25 Lb or 11kg, but this is essentially a ton when you need to carry it any significant amount of distance.
On top of being heavy, the Onewheel’s long frame means it might scrap against the ground when you walk, the large wheel in the center makes it impossible to rest it on your shoulders as you walk, and its large shape in general causes the Onewheel+ to jab on the side of your leg when walking. The only good way to transport the Onewheel+ is to ride it.
Against the competition
Onewheel’s main competition are the electric skateboards. These four wheeled platforms offer... well, they offer the same thing, a mode of transportation. If anything, they offer less. Some of these electric skateboards offer small hard plastic wheels that are not suited for off-road riding. The Onewheel+, on the contrary, does not mind changing terrain, riding on sand, hitting some mud, or cruising on the street. For its lack of wheels, its surprising versatile.
The Onewheel+ does not offer you a way to check the battery through the board or give you an auditory warning when it is going to die which is a weird design decision. Future motion achieved these mandatory features in a different unique way.
The board comes with a very robust app that quickly connects to the board when its on or charging. Here you can find stats on your board such as battery life, odometer, or your max speed and can notify you when its charged, low on battery, or overcharging from regenerative breaking. You can also use this app to find local riders, trails riders have taken, create your own trail, or chat with other riders. If you like to be competitive you can see leader boards for distances rode. The app is responsive, connects quick, and is simple. This app is an absolute pleasure to use.
As for notifying you when a hill is too steep for the board to climb or the battery will die (if you forgot your phone) the board performs a “push back”. This haptic response of lifting the front up quickly is very noticeable when riding and an interesting response, but I feel there could have been more. It is difficult to tell the difference between a low battery push back, “cant go up this hill” push back, or even a overcharge pushback. After riding the Onewheel+ for a while you understand what push back is what depending on the situation.
On every ride I had my phone but I could imagine having so much anxiety if I didn't. Can I make it to my destination? Is the board going to die? What type of push back was that? Was that a push back or just a bump? I feel like there could have been more implemented into the Onewheel+ like a button to check the battery. I guess it doesn’t bug me too much since the app is so damn good and even comes as an apple watch app.
Price range of the Onewheel+ sits around other electric skateboards but it doesn’t seem to have the same range or speed that the others do. Other boards may double the range and even offer a swappable battery but the only thing the Onewheel+ can say as a response is that with a Hypercharger the + can charge in just 20 minutes.
It needs to be understood that the Onewheel+ is a different animal. Its not meant to race or travel long distances. If you need those long distances then you will need to buy the more expensive XR and maybe the Hypercharger. The Onewheel+ does offer something that in my opinion is above the competition.
The founder of Future Motion states he created the Onewheel+ so that he can feel like he's snowboarding down a mountain. The one wheel allows the board to preform sharp turns that make you feel like you are carving on a mountain. The turning radius far exceeds other electronic skateboard, but while its fun to carve on the Onewheel+ I wouldn't say it completely feels like snowboarding.
The Onewheel+ has what Future Motion calls digital shaping modes. By changing the digital shaping mode, through the app, you can change how the board feels and preforms. There is a beginner mode all the way to a mode that cuts into the boards safety factors and everything in between. Changing the modes is a great way to move up as you get better or to keep the board interesting over time. Currently I'm in the relaxed “cruise” mode and I plan to be in this mode for a while.
One advantage over other electric skateboards or scooters is the lack of remote. It is nice to be eating a sandwich or holding a vlogging camera when you are cruising down the busy street of New York. Like I said before, this intuitiveness makes the Onewheel+ an interesting mode of transportation.
The combination of all terrain capabilities, lack of remote, intuitive control, sharp turning radius make the onewheel+ a joy to ride. Being able to jump on the device and ride anywhere is advantage that most other electric skateboards dont have. The fun factor rating gets a high mark from me.
If its range fits your needs I feel that the Onewheel+ can be that last mile device as long as carrying the device is not an option. The Onewheel+ can get you places a few miles away from your home making it a viable last mile device but its lack of serious distant prevent this form of transportation from exceeding that last mile name. The short range and difficult carrying situation hinder over acceptance as a last mile device but its enjoyable and reliable, ride make this one of the most fun last mile devices you can buy.
This device feels like an extension of your body as you cruise down the street or a dirt trail, something that most electric skateboards or scooters can not say. I find myself using this device more and more just based on the sheer enjoyment I get from riding the device. Even if its not for a last mile device the Onewheel+ is a blast to ride and if you have the money and a place to ride the Onewheel+ is a great device to have.
Stay tuned for my begginers guide on riding a onewheel.
Hands free intuitive controls
Price per distance
No swappable battery
All maintenance needs to be done by Future Motion
Cant check battery level through board
Still seems like it can be more dangerous than an electric skateboard even though it proves me wrong every time I ride it