This all began with that pesky “2-5 mile” problem…
That’s how far I needed to commute to work. It was too far to walk, but was close enough that a car wasn’t that practical either. And the public transport isn’t where (or when) I need it, so I needed another option!
And that’s when I discovered the electric unicycle (thank you Google!).
I spent quite a bit of time exploring and researching the numerous car alternatives, and in the end it occurred to me that an electric unicycle (EUC) was actually the most viable solution for short commutes, or dealing with that “last mile” that everyone talks about.
Whether I want to simply ride for my entire journey, or use an EUC to get to/from the bus/train when the weather isn’t ideal – it works. And it works well!
An electric unicycle is small enough that I can take it wherever I go and on whatever I use to get there (excluding planes). I don’t have to worry about parking, petrol, traffic jams, et cetera.
It is the most versatile and robust lightweight electric vehicle out there today. Just take it and go!
Two years later, if you asked me for a summary about electric unicycles, I would say the following:
Yes, this is a viable solution! You need to be willing to spend the time to learn how to ride, but once you get it, riding / rolling / gliding (whatever you want to call it) is exhilarating and fun!
The “form factor” of the EUC definitely delivers – it is robust enough to take on the roughest road conditions (even off-road). And it’s compact enough to take on public transport and to store under your desk at work.
But they can be addictive! You may find yourself taking “the long way” to work or making excuses to just ride somewhere… So, consider yourself warned!
But starting off, you don’t know what you don’t know.
The most significant thing I learned as I threw myself down this rabbit hole is that it is a totally different world, and you don’t know what you don’t know!
So, if you are on the precipice and thinking of jumping, here are a few thoughts that might be useful:
SELECTING A WHEEL
What wheel size should I look for and does it matter?
Whether you are commuting on sidewalks or riding on mountain trails, the size of the wheel is important.
The tradeoff is between tackling road conditions vs maneuverability vs weight.
If the path is rough, a larger diameter wheel is best. But the larger the wheel, the heavier the electric unicycle. If there are a lot of obstacles such as in an urban environment and the road conditions are smooth, a smaller wheels will be more agile.
Battery size seems to determine range, so what do I need?
Range is going to vary significantly depending on the rider’s weight – more weight means less range, and vice versa.
Bigger batteries mean added weight, which is important if you expect to be carrying your wheel any significant distance.
It’s worth noting that some wheels have an extendable “trolley handle” (like on suitcases), which can make handling a heavier wheel much more practical.
Does power and top speed matter?
Definitely! Remember that no one buys a car that has a top speed of 65 miles an hour. Even if you don’t plan on going faster, you want that power available – and the same applies to EUC – more power is always a good option. It puts less stress on the wheel during normal acceleration and allows for some buffer between its maximum speed and a comfortable cruising speed.
To summarize, unless you’re worried about wheel weight, get the largest battery and most powerful motor that your budget will allow for. Wheel size though is more specific to where and how you want to ride.
LEARNING TO RIDE
I didn’t grow up in a circus, so will I be able to learn this?
The good news is that electric unicycles are no harder to learn than riding bicycles. It is different and will require some practice, but if you’ve learned to ride a bicycle, I have no doubt that you will be able to make an EUC work too. Just remember to be patient.
Where do I even begin with learning?
There are three main parts to riding – starting (or mounting), actual riding, and stopping (or dismounting).
The easiest of these is the riding, and the hardest is the starting.
Some people say that you should learn to mount first, but I can’t understand how that works – after all, once you are mounted, you need to know how to ride.
So start off with a solid fence, railing or wall, and use it to keep your balance. Then ride along the fence back and forth getting the feel of the wheel and how to control it. Try to find a softer surface to start off like grass, which helps make the inevitable tumbles no big deal.
However, if the surface is too bumpy it can be a challenge to get some momentum going.
Once you’re able to roll around, you’ll then be frustrated from having to find a place to start every time – and it is when you can learn how to mount.
As for dismounting… It is actual quite simple. Just stop, and as you start to tip to one side, put the foot from that side onto the ground – Mission accomplished.
Here’s a great YouTube tutorial with even more tips for learning how to ride!
Is that all there is to it?
Not by a long shot… After riding for many hours, you’ll still be learning and improving.
A hundred or so miles in, some riders feel they are in full control. But at 25 mph+, finding out that you’re never in total control will be painful. So always be aware that you are at the mercy of the world around you and ride within your limits!
OTHER IMPORTANT BITS
What else do I need to know?
One word: PROTECTION
Even if you are just rolling around the local park having some fun, remember that you are standing on an electric wheel – and if it should stop for any reason (be it a pothole or a flat battery) you will fall.
As you’re learning, you will definitely fall a lot. With a bit of practice, falls become way less frequent. But even veterans are not immune to tumbles once in a while!
So make sure you are wearing protection. Most important are wrist guards and a helmet, followed by elbow and knee pads. And make sure your gear is comfortable, so that you don’t get distracted.
And while you are learning you may also want to consider protection for your wheel… A bit of padding around the edges to keep it looking nice (even after a few tumbles).
Is there anything else useful that would help?
Some riders initially find that their ankles get a little sore, so it may be practical to wear some good strong shoes that are high enough to also provide some ankle padding.
Will the training accessories that came with my wheel help?
Some wheels come with training wheels – which can give you an idea of how to control the forward / back motion – but after you get that, they will just hinder your learning.
A training strap is also a fairly regular accessory. These can be good to stop your wheel if you step off during the learning phase. But never hold it tight to help your balance – again, it will only slow down your real learning.
Learn More At The Electric Unicycle Forum
If you want to know any more, or if you have any questions, I recommend that you check out the Electric Unicycle Forum. There is a wealth of EUC information available there, and the members will be more than happy to give you all of the answers you want.
I just want to say that an electric unicycle can be an awesome way to travel – as well as being efficient, economic and practical they can be really fun!
So take that leap, and enjoy the freedom…