Design, DIY

Onewheel - A 2000 Mile Review

Back in 2016, I unexpectedly managed both of my fantasy baseball leagues to victories for a generous windfall of $1500. As a responsible mid-20's adult, I purchased the Onewheel V1 having never ridden the board before with all of my winnings. I took a huge financial gamble on a Santa Cruz, California-made electric motion device based on online reviews only. It changed my life.

During my Berzerkeley days, I was commuting from the Berkeley Hills all the way to Palo Alto. I use to drive to BART, BART to Lake Merritt, and then shuttle to Palo Alto. Yes, I agree - it was insane, but the Onewheel made it doable.

It never snows in the bay area, but riding the Onewheel down the Berkeley hills every weekday morning was honestly better than snowboarding. My daily ride was so damn predictable: I never "caught an edge", I never had any mechanical or electrical failures, I carved every surface imaginable down and up the hills, rain or shine. I transitioned from longboarding to Onewheeling within a month's time. Thankfully, in the first 100 miles of riding the board, I managed to escape any serious injury without wearing a helmet. Don't be like me, seriously, WEAR A HELMET!!!

Back in 2016, personal electric transports were not popular in the bay area; Lyft and Uber had only just started getting popularized! Those days, only Santa Monica had Scooter Fever.. Every day I rode the Onewheel, I was inundated with questions and comments from random strangers, coworkers, and kids: "Does it run on electricity?", "How fast does that thing go?", "What's the battery life like?", "How much did you pay for it?", "How do you balance on it?", "Did you build that yourself?", "DO A KICKFLIP!". Wow, I finally understood what it felt like to be a hot chick with headphones on... (Seriously, don't bother people with headphones on in public. SERIOUSLY!!111)

Fast forward to 2019...

The future of personal electric transports is now! Aside from the Onewheel, there are so many amazing battery-powered, electric transports ubiquitous today: Tesla's, Electric motorcycles, Electric rickshaws, Electric bikes, Lime/Bird scooters, Segways, Hoverboards, etc. These personal electric transports solve the last mile equation for commuting. Why travel in a 3000 pound gas-guzzling $12 Lyft/Uber ride, when you can enjoy the journey to your destination on a 25 pound electric transport for a fraction of the price?? The ELECTRIC REVOLUTION is here!!!

So.. How has my Onewheel held up after 2000 miles? Maintenance-wise, I carved the OEM Vega Tire to its core in under 500 miles. Future Motion replaced the BMS (battery module system) once - after riding through a massive puddle - to the tune of $460. My board's batteries still delivery a healthy 4-7 miles of range, so I don't find myself needing to upgrade anytime soon. These electric motors dramatically simplify the number of parts needed to function for thousands of miles - I look forward to celebrating my Onewheels' 3000 and 4000-mile marks soon! Finally, after 3 years of ownership, I no longer get asked daily questions about my Onewheel in the bay area; however, your experience may vary.

ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: I love the vertically-integrated experience of my Onewheel V1. It's an engineering marvel:

  • It regenerates energy when riding downhill by running its flywheel in reverse - just like an electric car! Make sure not to charge it to 100% before riding though, otherwise it will shut off mid-ride due to overcharge. The 4-8 mile battery life is perfect for riding to and from public transit across any terrain.
  • It houses 130Wh of Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) batteries underneath the foot pads. Compared to lithium ion batteries, this battery chemistry is resistant to overheating in exchange for energy density. Guess what?? There has never been a self-immolating Onewheel, and this specific Onewheel can be flown on planes.
  • Ultra-fast charging via a wall outlet. Only 20 minutes per charge, so you can get riding sooner.
  • Modern sensors. It uses two gyroscopes and weight sensors to give a self-balancing, predictable, carvy ride. It rides like a snowboard down hills, like a longboard on flats, like a surfboard in bowls, and like nothing else going up hill. As a longboarder who walked up most hills most of his life, carving up hills is a God-send.
  • Built-in LED lights for night-time riding. There are set of two lighting strips which give you a bright white light for visibility in front and red lights for traffic in the back.
  • Automatic slip and pushback detection. The board corrects itself via software to prevent over-acceleration by the rider and to prevent over-voltage or running out of charge on the board.
  • Weather resistant body construction. Thanks to the aluminum body and a solid plastic fender, none of the edges have rusted and none of the plywood has molded. In fact, I ride through the streets on light, rainy days without any issue.
  • It comes with a companion mobile app complete with leaderboards, accurate telemetries, debugging information, notifications, and a lifetime odometer. Best of all, the Onewheel connects via bluetooth so you can access all of the information deep in the mountains.

MODS: I love how modular the Onewheel's components are (None of that proprietary Apple non-sense), and I absolutely love how in-depth the Onewheel Community experiments with mods. They explore all sorts of go kart tire options (Hoosier and Burris), Grip tapes (Skate and Surf), and hobbyist renewable energy technology (DC-DC battery fast charging via a Solar MPTT). I highly recommend checking out the community-run products on Craft and Ride, FlightFins, and Float Life. Here's a list of all of the work I've put on my board:

  • Vicious Grip Tape - any skater will tell you the original grip tape sucks. By using a hair-dryer, you can easily swap the grip tape for something more coarse. Better for higher speeds and sharper turns.
  • OWArmor - perfect for increasing visibility at night time and giving your Onewheel a little more personality.
  • Hoosier 6.5" Treaded Tire - swapping the tire is the best thing you can do for your Onewheel. It rides completely differently and the treaded tires help immensely for going off-road. If you choose the 6.5" Hoosier, make sure not to pump it past 14 PSI, otherwise you'll experience rubbing.
  • Aluminum Handle - the Onewheel weighs 25 pounds without any mods; the stock handles are an insane forearm workout. These side handles make it much, much easier to carry your board around.
  • CarvePower DC Charging Kit - going on longer rides with no outlets? No problem, add this convenient on-the-go charging kit for the best trail experience.

If you've read this far, you've probably noticed that I absolutely adore my Onewheel (and my gf too!!). It's part of my everyday life now, and the best money I have ever spent on a consumer electronic. Don't go into debt to buy one, but if you start saving now, you will not regret it. Float on my friends.