‘Wow, what is that thing? How does it work?’
The technical term is a ‘mono wheel’ but most people call it an ‘Electric Unicycle’ or a ‘EUC’ for short. It’s a self-balancing scooter if you like, powered by a lithium-ion battery – the same type that goes into your phone and other common consumer items only bigger. It has an electric motor and a gyroscope that keeps it upright / self-balanced. You stand on the footplates and control it with your weight, by applying pressure to the front of the footplates when accelerating and the back when braking. It’s your job to balance sideways. It’s a fairly new piece of tech conceived over in the States by a Chinese man and built mainly in China. EUCs in their, give or take, rideable form have been around since 2015.
‘How fast is it?’
An average modern EUC would be faster than an average modern scooter. A higher-end EUC is also faster than an average bicycle. Electric Unicycles are able to accelerate at around 10km / 6.2 miles a second and with the latest releases the fastest EUCs go up to 50mph before cutting out.
‘How much did you pay for it..? How much?!’
Electric Unicycles are assembled by hand in a Chinese factory from expensive parts and it’s still considered a niche market so the production costs are very high. Then there are the logistical expenses of bringing them over to your door and the whole process takes months, not weeks, and certainly not days. Being a local distributor, we offer a warranty as well and deal with any issues you may have. After all the business expenses and local taxes the profit margin on those wheels, in spite of the relatively high price, is quite small. The market is growing however and with time if the factory ever starts mass producing them on an assembly line, we will be seeing the prices coming down for us.
‘Is it safe?’
It’s not safe if you ride it down a cliff or ride like a maniac. If you are sensible and have your gear on you generally have little to worry about. As for the technology itself, it has greatly improved over the years and the latest versions of wheels all have multiple safety mechanisms such as a battery management system (BMS), speed warning, overheat warning and over lean protection (aka a ‘cut out’) – both, front and back as well as sideways – i.e. when the wheel is fallings on its side, the system detects a fall and disables the motor so that the wheels stops spinning. Over the years that I’ve been riding and with over 20,000 miles on it, I have fallen off about eight times. Two of them were because of the wheels from 2015 that had weak motors in them and I overpowered them, two were due to the wheel’s oscillation after I went through a pothole, while others were because of either rain (slippery ground) or I just clipped the pedal against something like a wall or a side of a car. After a few hundred miles you tend to learn your wheel’s limitations inside out and you become one with it. Modern wheels are farily unlikely to fail on you.
‘How long is your delivery?’
We usually deliver to the UK within three working days from the time of your payment and 5 working days within the EU if the item is in stock. If it’s not in stock, it depends on when we are placing our next order as well as when the factory is shipping their next batch.
‘Which one is good for me?’
This depends on your weight and the type of riding you will be doing – distance, speed, riding style. Do you live in a flat area or a mountainous one? You have to ask yourself about the purpose of this purchase and also how much you are willing to spend on it. Something else to keep in mind is the better the range of a wheel the heavier it is – as a rule of thumb, you can expect a wheel to weigh a minimum of around 20kg. As of 2020, we have wheels with suspension that are generally great all-arounders. You could also go the route of getting a basic wheel to learn to ride on and then getting yourself a more powerful one later. The advantage here is that it’ll be a cheaper wheel that you can do some drop tests with while you’re learning and decide whether riding is for you altogether (is that even a question?). Now is a great time to start as there are plenty of amazing wheels out there to choose from!
‘How far can it go and how long does it take to charge?’
It varies greatly. An average budget EUC can do about 30 miles while average mid-tier and high end about double that at double the speeds. So ranges primarily depend on the size as well as the type of battery it has. Other factors are your weight, air resistance (wind), angle of attack (ascend/descend), and travel speed. There is also regenerative braking, meaning that you recuperate a portion of your charge when going down a hill or when braking. We find the most optimal ‘regen’ speed to be in the region of 16km / 10 miles per hour. It charges anywhere from a couple of hours to well over ten, depending on the size of the battery and how fast your charger is. Some unicycles have double charge ports, effectively halfing the time it takes to charge. Modern wheels have also started coming out with faster chargers as standard.
‘Are they easy to ride?’
EUCs are easy to ride once you get used to them. It’s like walking, only 5 times faster! We’ve seen people leaning to ride in anywhere from minutes to days! Children tend to pick it up quicker. A word of warning as well, as there is a high risk of it taking over your life once you learn to ride! There’s nothing else like it. It’s more fun than driving, cycling, and riding a scooter! They’re extremely maneuverable and unbelievably practical in everyday use. I’ll never forget when I taught a friend to ride and he told me that riding my EUC was the most fun he’s ever had, and he was driving supercars at the time! I also know people with small planes and one runs a paraglider business and they’re riders! Bike riders, including professional ones, like this hobby too. It’s highly attractive to adrenaline seekers. Aside from that, this hobby can also open a lot of new doors and opportunities for you because of the people you start meeting. Some of those people I mentioned are customers while others I met throughout my trips.
‘Can you ride in the rain?’
Generally speaking yes, however, you do so at your own risk. Modern wheels are water-resistant and can withstand torrential rains while older wheels can fail after a small drizzle. Manufacturers are generally also receptive to any water-induced damage and we can probably help you out under the warranty.
‘Is it legal?’
Every country has its own laws towards electric vehicles. Some welcome the change and try and govern us while others outright ban personal electric vehicles (PEVs) altogether. We consider this to be a grey area in the UK. The laws that were written for moving vehicles are so old in this country that they were written mainly for horse carriages at the time and because PEVs aren’t part of the mainstream mode of transportation yet politicians didn’t get around to creating them. That, as well as the fact that the UK is a conservative country and any new changes take an awful lot of discussion and time. The law is being misinterpreted by some officials too and as a result, the currently suggested guidance is that you are only allowed to ride on private land and as such if you are found riding on public roads or pavements you can be fined and dabbed a criminal by the police. As such, when we choose to ride on public pathways, we are doing so at our own risk.
‘Do I need a helmet?’
That would be sensible. We advise riding in full gear; full-face helmet, elbow and knee pads, and wrist guards as a minimum. There are also shin guards, side guards, shoulder guards, and back protection. A lot of people ride in motorcycle gear. It adds a couple of minutes to your ride in preparation time however you get used to it and it definitely saves you when you fall.