Electric Unicycles: Unique Commuting Weapon or Accident Waiting to Happen?
When it comes to how you’ll complete your daily commute, the options have really opened up over the last few years. While most people who use public transportation to get around still use buses and trains. The real change is happening with “last mile” transport. Where you would usually use something like a bicycle. There’s been a revolution in personal electric transports.
Electric balance boards, bicycles, skateboards, and variants of these vehicles are widely available. They can get you to large public transport services or directly to where you’re going. With each passing year, they get more range, faster charging and better prices.
Electric unicycles, on the other hand, are far more niche. They have a reputation for being hard to ride and even dangerous. Yet, there are plenty of good reasons
What is an Electric Unicycle?
As the name suggests, an electric unicycle is an electric transport with one wheel. Some unicycles actually have two wheels mounted closely together. Either way, their wheelbase is too narrow for them to stand without aid. That’s the defining feature.
You, as the rider, are responsible for balancing the unicycle from side-to-side. Just as with a bicycle. The unicycle balances itself from front to back. This makes it possible to stand still in a similar way to a hoverboard.
Advantages for Commuters
There are quite a few advantages to riding an electric unicycle compared to other personal electric transports.
To begin with, they are very compact and can easily be picked up and carried, usually via a built-in handle. This makes them one of the most convenient conveyances because you can take them into a bus or up over a curb with ease.
Due to the nature of unicycle design, the wheels are bigger than anything else other than a bicycle. Which means they handle small bumps and holes better than a skateboard or hoverboard. In fact, with perhaps the exception of the electric bicycle, electric unicycles have the best off-road abilities. We’re not talking motocross tracks here, but simply riding over grass, dirt paths or other less than perfect surfaces. Skilled riders can go over some quite large bumps, up curbs and even stairs!
Electric unicycles are also very fast and efficient. A large single wheel with ample space for a well-balanced battery makes for nice numbers on the specifications sheet.
Things To Consider
On the flipside, electric unicycles have the harshest learning curve and first-time riders can be discouraged by how tricky it is to mount them and learn to balance properly. Unlike a hoverboard or electric skateboard, you have to rewire your brain a little to ride one of these. While most people will be riding other electric transports within minutes, you have to be prepared to put in a significant amount of time to really master your new ride.
It’s almost certain that this learning curve is responsible for the relatively small market share these unicycles have at the moment. The good news is that companies are improving the technology all the time and it’s already much easier to ride the latest models.
Riding an Electric Unicycle
So let’s go over the basics of actually riding one of these. First of all, please always wear a helmet and, if you can, elbow and knee pads. This is especially important for unicycles because taking a tumble or two at first is expected.
Opinions vary on this, but it might be a good idea to practice mounting a unicycle on short, dry grass. Such as in a park or lawn. That sort of surface is no issue the unicycle itself, but is much friendlier should you go down while learning.
The hardest part is mounting the unicycle. It’s important to learn the single smooth motion required to get on the unicycle safely. The exact process will vary between individual models. Some unicycles come with training straps and even removable training wheels. In general, you’d do the following.
Turn on the unicycle, this is essential since the self-balancing mechanisms need to be engaged before you get on.
Beginners often learn how to mount while having some sort of support. So they’ll hold onto a tree branch, rail or wall. If you have a friend who can act as a support, that’s great too.
With the unicycle activated, you’ll put your dominant foot on the corresponding foot mount. Use it to keep the unicycle upright, with your other foot firmly on the ground.
Now you have to push off slightly with your foot as you step onto the unicycle. Stand up straight immediately, so that you can maintain your balance. The unicycle does not need to be going at speed, just focus on keeping the left-right balance with your body. Standing perfectly straight will keep you stationary. Leaning forward or backward will move the vehicle in that direction. Leaning left and right steers. It’s simple and intuitive, but will take some practice!