A couple years ago, at CES 2015, I was lucky enough to get a demo of a device known as the Onewheel. At the time, it was a rare breed — a personal transportation device that wasn’t an ebike, scooter, or electric skateboard. It was utterly unlike anything I had ever seen or ridden.
Fast forward two years, and the world is now full of these oddball ridable technologies. We have self-balancing unicycles, electric skates, and even hoverboards that may or may not burn down your house while you sleep. The category has exploded both literally and figuratively, so to keep pace with the rest of the pack, Future Motion went back to the drawing board. Now, after two years of intensive development and testing, the Onewheel Plus is finally out in the wild, and we got our hands on one for an extended test. Here’s how it went!
I got a chance to demo the Plus at CES 2017, so between that and my harrowing introduction to the first generation, I already had a bit of riding experience under my belt that I could fall back on for this review — so my “first impressions” were a little tainted for this extended test.
Even for people with no prior riding experience, the Plus is pretty damn easy to pick up
Still, even for people with no prior riding experience, the Plus is pretty damn easy to pick up. I let nearly a dozen different friends and coworkers take it for a spin, and even the ones with no surfing, snowboarding, or skateboarding experience managed to figure it out in 10 minutes or less.
It definitely helps if you have other board sport skills to fall back on (snowboarders and skaters were almost immediately proficient, despite being a little wobbly at first) but it’s certainly not a requirement. The learning curve on this thing is about the same as the first generation Onewheel — somewhere between outrageously mild to nearly nonexistent.
In the new generation, Future Motion basically just improved all the fundamental tech inside the original Onewheel. It has a bigger battery that charges faster, a more powerful hub motor, and a handful of little design improvements that boost overall rideability.
For example, whereas the original board featured a flat standing platform, the new board’s wooden deck features a slight upturn in the tip and tail, which makes standing with a wide stance a bit more comfortable. On top of that, the board’s front foot sensor pad now covers the entire platform, which makes mounting and dismounting less of a chore.
Furthermore, in addition to new state-of-the-art lithium iron phosphate batteries, the Plus also ships with a redesigned “supercharger” that allows the batteries to fully recharge — from empty to 100 percent — in just 20 minutes. Each full charge will get you about 6-8 miles of range.
The biggest feature though is, without a doubt, the Onewheel Plus’s new Hypercore brushless motor. It’s a dramatic improvement over the original — it’s more efficient (extends range), has more torque (goes faster, climbs hills better), and it’s ridiculously smooth. Whereas the first-gen Onewheel would kick and groan a little bit under your feet, the Hypercore-equipped Plus rides smoother than Barry White’s greatest hits on vinyl. Acceleration and deceleration aren’t jarring in the least, and the motor makes barely any noise while you ride.
On the outside, it might not look like much has changed, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Plus is a huge improvement over the original — so much so that I’d recommend resisting the temptation to buy the original, which now sells for $200 less than the Plus. Trust me, if you’re going to spring for a Onewheel, you want the new one.
Fun? Hell yes — but is it practical?
There’s no two ways about it: this thing is an absolute riot to whip around town. I dare say it’s my favorite ridable yet. In terms of feel, the Onewheel Plus is a near perfect hybrid of snowboarding and longboarding — with just a pinch of jet-ski thrown into the mix (because you need throttle to turn). If riding it doesn’t unlock the chest where you keep your joy, you might need to lube up the dial a little bit.
There’s no two ways about it: this thing is an absolute riot to whip around town
But let’s be real here — there was never really any doubt that the Onewheel Plus would be fun to ride. Before I even set foot on the thing in Vegas, I knew it was going to be a blast. Riding it around at CES confirmed those suspicions, but after a couple hours of zipping it around the smooth, level sidewalks of the Las Vegas strip, I couldn’t help but wonder how the Plus would hold up in less-than-ideal conditions. So when Future Motion shipped one to Digital Trends HQ in Portland, I finally got a chance to give it a true test.
Portland (and the Pacific Northwest in general) is a rough place for rideable tech — particularly electric skateboards. We’ve got big hills, light rail tracks that crisscross downtown, gravelly uneven pavement, and a ridiculous amount of rain — which means puddles and slippery sidewalks. Most boards can’t handle that stuff very well, which is why you don’t see a lot of people riding skateboards to work around here. Sure, they’re great for sunny summer days, but commuting on a drizzly October morning? I’ll take my bike.
To put the Onewheel Plus to the test, I decided to use it as my main means of transportation for a week. No car, no bike, no skateboard. If I needed to go somewhere, I would rely on the Onewheel and public transportation, rain or shine. If it could handle that, it could handle anything.
So, how’d it go? On the whole, it was a great experience. Traveling via Onewheel definitely injected a high dose of fun into my morning and evening commutes. But it was also quite practical in many situations.
The first thing I discovered was that the Onewheel Plus has absolutely no problem with rougher terrain. Its big go-kart wheel allows it to tromp over just about anything — gravel driveways, small potholes, and even muddy patches of grass. This makes it far more free and dynamic than a traditional longboard, since you don’t have to hop off and hoof it when the going gets tough — you can just bend your knees and charge through.
It also handles moisture quite well. Five of the seven days I rode it were rainy ones, but wet pavement isn’t an issue for the Onewheel. Its fat tire provides plenty of traction on even the most drenched sidewalks, and the machine’s relatively high clearance means shallow puddles aren’t a problem either. Just make sure you put a fender on top — otherwise you’ll show up to work with a wet crotch.
It’s a dramatic improvement over the original — it’s more efficient, goes faster, climbs hills better, and it’s ridiculously smooth
The machine’s speed, size, and controls are also well suited for urban environments. You can zip around quickly when sidewalks are clear, or slow down and travel at pedestrian speeds when you get caught in a crowd. When you need to go further than just a mile or two, Onewheel is small enough to pick up and carry onto a bus or train. I found it to be much more convenient than a bicycle in that respect, since I didn’t have to worry about putting it on a rack wherever I went.
After a week of riding the OneWheel Plus around Portland, I’m convinced: This thing isn’t just a fun toy, it’s a legit commuter vehicle that can handle any kind of terrain. In terms of practicality, I’d put Onewheel Plus right up there with ebikes and scooters.
The fact that it’s also way more fun is just a bonus.
- Mild learning curve
- Highly intuitive controls
- Powerful motor
- All terrain
- Quick charging
- Somewhat heavy to carry