How to choose your first electric unicycle
If you’ve never ridden an electric unicycle and are trying to decide if you could, or if you should – this article is for you.
Disclaimer: Excuse me if I ramble. I’m an electric unicycle enthusiast. As a fellow rider once said, “THERE ARE NO CASUAL EUC RIDERS.” Wonder why?
Because it is fun. OMG. So much fun.
First off, just choosing an electric unicycle is fun. Endlessly researching the trusted posters of Youtube videos, comparing specs from one manufacturer to another, eventually firmly deciding which wheel to buy then changing our mind because of a comment from some guy online on the other side of the planet, who we’ve never met. Yes. We, the riders of the mysterious and awe-inspiring electric unicycle, all read this and nod knowingly. If not applicable to ourselves, then this is for sure applicable to someone we know.
But buying your FIRST electric unicycle? Well, that’s a completely different kettle of fish. What to do? What to do? We don’t know what we don’t know. But at least we know THAT.
After all, many of us, when we first buy a EUC (Electric Uni Cycle), are probably not completely sure if we can actually learn to ride the thing. Unless you have a friend who is willing to lend you a wheel, or you happen to have a local rental opportunity (thank you, yegwheels.com), it’s difficult to know if you can actually make a go of it. Some people are cautious, some assume it’s easy (it is not), and some just go for it and boldly buy a wheel they cannot yet ride. But to get to the level where you can step on the wheel and ride off with studied casualness, where you can turn when you want to turn and stop when you want to stop, for most of us mortals, well, that takes a little time.
And, on top of whatever issues we have with becoming a competent rider, we have the issue of price. At first, when considering the purchaser of a EUC, they can seem shockingly expensive. It’s hard to buy a good wheel for anywhere near $1000, and it’s more likely going to cost you closer to $2k or perhaps $3K here in Canada. But for me, now that I can ride and have logged about 2000 km in a couple of months, they seem like a bargain. Seriously. When I consider how many kilometers I’ve ridden, the people I’ve met, and generally just the satisfaction I’ve gotten from steadily improving. Well, to be honest, I’ve enjoyed this more than any sportbike I’ve ridden or any recreational pastime I’ve pursued. Who would have imagined that?
Looking back now, I think that there is really only one requirement to be able to ride one of these wonderful gizmos. Simply put – you gotta wanna. End of story. It takes a bit of work for most of us, but if you have some patience, anyone with reasonable health can become a member of this somewhat elite club. You just have to work your way up the learning curve.
After all, most of us can think back and remember what learning to ride a bicycle was like. I remember that for sure. I wobbled around with training wheels briefly, but I was dissatisfied with this experience. After all, none of the cool kids had training wheels. And while I dimly recall a couple of crashes, what I vividly remember is the excitement of exploring my new freedom on two wheels.
Can you imagine what it would be like if you were an adult who had never ridden a bicycle in your life and tried to learn in, let’s say, your 50’s? Could there be a crash or two in there while you figure it out? Is it intuitive that if you’re tipping over, you have to turn in the direction you’re falling? Or do you think you might have an exciting moment or two when you learn how a bike handles curbs, for instance? Or what traction limits a bicycle tire has on a muddy off-camber trail? Could you do it? For sure. Would it take effort? I think in most cases – yes. So why would riding a EUC be any different? But almost anyone can ride a bike, and almost anyone can ride a EUC.
So the question as I see it, is not so much can you learn to ride a EUC, because you can. The question you really need to answer is – do you want to? That’s up to you. But the rewards are great for those who persevere. Let me describe for you my experience after riding for half a season…
In the first place, if I haven’t yet made this clear – I love these things. O.M.G. Now that I’m a confident rider with some degree of skill, I can’t imagine EVER not owning one.
At my age, gone are the days (if they ever existed) where, with my feet flat on the ground, I could stand at the bottom of a steep hill and feel happy and excited about the prospect of climbing it. Slogging up a steep incline, pausing for rests and sucking air, is a completely different experience when compared to flying up the same hill, dodging determined but sluggish bikers, and gleefully carving turns as I roll from one edge of the tire to the other. In my life, I’ve done lots of stuff. I’ve logged close to a thousand skydives. I’ve spent many hours running a sportbike on a racetrack. I’ve flown aircraft upside down. But I like this the best.
So if you do decide that riding a EUC is something you want to do, then we finally come to the subject of this article – how to choose a wheel. Sorry. I warned you I ramble.
And here, I think there are generally two ways to approach this.
1) You can be a rider who steps immediately onto the wheel they intend to keep. Or…
2) You can decide to go for a starter wheel and take it from there.
Btw, as a point of clarity, when I say “starter wheel” I don’t mean a shitty wheel. I mean a wheel that is less expensive than your dream wheel and a wheel that you are not going to mind subjecting to some abuse.
Both of these ways have their merits, but I want to point out what I came to understand after learning to ride. It’s perhaps a little counter-intuitive.
The thing is that generally speaking, I would advise the rider with a tighter budget to buy the more expensive wheel.
The reason for this piece of advice is this…
It’s simply more expensive to buy a starter wheel then, after bashing it around and taking it to its limits, retiring it and buying a better wheel. If you can afford to take this approach, I think it’s the best, as will shortly be explained. But I do think that generally, it’s the more expensive of the two options.
There are several advantages to this approach as, in the first place, you don’t suffer the angst of scuffing up a fancy wheel while you are trying to get the hang of it all. Many people will hesitate to try a new skill on a wheel they really don’t want to drop. After all, who learns to parallel park in a Ferrari? Additionally, it’s really nice to keep that first wheel when you move on to something better. Wheels can die of course, and you can break them. If you only have one and it dies, it might take you a little while to get it fixed. If no one has the part you need, then you might have to wait while it comes over from China. It’s a drag not having a wheel to ride when the trails are beckoning.
But for me, there was and is a better reason to keep that first wheel. The best thing about having a backup wheel is that when you inevitably want to share your new pursuit with someone, you have a wheel, you can lend them. It’s sort of the play-it-forward kind of thing. And then you aren’t faced with lending your buddy your beloved dream wheel and gritting your teeth while he or she bashes it repeatedly onto the pavement. Ouch.
If, on the other hand, you are a prospective rider who doesn’t have the deep pockets to invest in 2 wheels. Then, in my opinion, you really need to consider much more carefully what you want to do with that wheel when you can ride it properly.
For instance, you should perhaps consider how far you expect to ride on an outing? 40 or 50 kilometers seems like a long way at first when you make it around the block for the first time and wipe the sweat from your satisfied brow. But actually, 50 km is only the range my intermediate Kingsong 16S has if running at cruising speed for a couple of hours. Do you imagine riding your wheel to work? If so, how far away is that? Do you expect to ride a lot of off-road single track trails? Maybe a suspension wheel is worth considering. Do you have friends who ride? If so, what wheels are they on? If you ride with them, you want to be able to keep up. It’s not really easy to predict what you will want to do in the future, but often I think it’s pretty obvious. You’re a speed demon? Well, perhaps that InMotion V8F won’t really cut it over the long haul? Like to ride your mountain bike on twisty technical trails? Maybe the Veteran Sherman, all 77 lbs of it, is not the best choice.
For me, I rented a wheel for a week, then bought my Kingsong 16S on the day I had to return the rental. I rode that wheel until I outgrew it in about 3 months. Then I moved to the Veteran Sherman for its huge range and a Kingsong S18 because… well, because it’s a Kingsong S18. But with buying those 3 wheels (I kept the 16S), together with the purchase of a new helmet, wrist guards, elbow, and knee guards, I still spent way less than I would have spent on that new motorcycle I was considering. Jus’ sayin’.
Anyway, all this is just my opinion, of course. But I’m hoping to make things just a little easier for new riders and, we invite you to join our unkempt hoard.
Up next …
You can’t ride if you can’t walk
You can buy safety gear BEFORE or AFTER you need it.
Bonus – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtJKfHeDD4g&t=300s