The first time I used a Onewheel was just over a year ago. I was in Ojai, California, testing out the second of three existing models, the Onewheel+.
The Onewheel team hosted a weekend trip at the Caravan Outpost Hotel, set in the valley near the Topatopa Mountains to show a group of us the ropes, take us for a spin across a wide variety of terrain, and mainly, just to have a couple days of pure, uninhibited fun. The group included the likes of professional athletes like Todd Richards, Monyca Eleogram, and Darren Berrecloth, former Jackass member Dave England, and a handful of all-around outdoor enthusiasts who are keen on trying new toys, like myself.
Conceptually, I was intrigued by the thing – an electric powered self-balancing board that engages when foot pads are parallel to the ground, and moves in conjunction with the amount of pressure that's applied on the front foot. And yes, it has just one wheel that looks similar to a balloon beach wheel.
At first glance, the Onewheel certainly doesn't look capable of powering people across the terrains it's capable of covering. It was remarkably easy to learn how to use – a bit wobbly at first, but similar to the feeling of snowboarding once you got the hang of it. We rode it down trails littered with roots and rocks, across the beach, down gutters and across big cement slabs. I was amazed by the places that some of the more experienced Onewheelers were able to take it: Onewheeling across fallen tree trunks, off steep ledges, and skate parks.
Onewheel has been rapidly evolving since their start in 2014, with their initial prototype released after about eight years of designing and fine-tuning by founder Kyle Doerkson. Recently, I was able to get my hands on the latest of the three models – the Onewheel +XR – which works fundamentally the same as the last, but with a few immensely beneficial additions.
The Onewheel+XR can go 12-18 miles on a full battery, compared to its predecessor, which has a range of about 5-7 miles per charge. (It takes about 40 minutes to fully charge a drained battery.) This improvement was BIG: it not only cuts down on time necessary to charge for longer rides, but aids in the amount of power your Onewheel provides when going up hills and in colder weather, with no expense to your battery life. Additionally, the feel of the latest model is a tad more intuitive and smooth, and can go as fast as 19 miles-per-hour. Not to mention, it stops on a dime.
They've also created an incredibly useful app which not only provides you with a clear indication on what's going on with your Onewheel – battery life, speed, distance traveled – but it allows you to connect with other riders in the Onewheel community. Sort of like an AllTrails for Onewheelers, but instead of guides to hiking trails, you can search maps curated by other users.
Riding a Onewheel is not intended to take the place of riding a skateboard, and it's not trying to. It allows you to turn asphalt into powder; ride both urban and rural, in snow and in dirt. It's a great short distance commuter option, is used by numerous filmmakers as a tool to shoot action footage smoothly, and is just plain fun. At $1,799, the price tag is nothing to scoff at. But with its versatility and ability to take you anywhere (and just how addictive it is to ride) there's certainly a reason for the hype.
All photos by Jackson Van Kirk.
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