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How easy are electric unicycles to ride? They're becoming increasingly popular, but not having ridden a traditional unicycle before, I'm curious to find out how difficult they are to use and how long it takes to ride it proficiently.
After some online research into popular electric unicycles and considering my budget (£1000), I chose the InMotion V8 Electric Unicycle. Coming in at £995, I was under budget, delivery was quick and after a short charge, it was good to go.
First off, make sure the tyres are running at the correct pressure! After a friend pointed out that the tyre pressure looked a bit low, I pumped it up using a standard bicycle pump and it made the world of difference! Especially when it came to cornering.
Use a wall or rail to help establish your balance. Then just rock forward and backwards to get a feel for how acceleration and braking feel.
Once you've plucked up the confidence to leave your trusted balancing post, go go go! I found that it's a lot easier to maintain balance when you're going faster than it is going slow, just like when riding a bike.
Once you've mastered this, you can then move on to getting on the unicycle without assistance. I found it best to plant your dominant foot on the unicycle, then with one kick, push off with your weaker foot and hop on. Trying to just stand still and get your balance without moving forward feels almost impossible!
When turning, keep some pressure on your toes to keep forward momentum, if not, you're effectively braking while turning which can easily throw your balance off. Also, I often felt like I was going to scrape the bottom of the platforms on the floor when turning but I'm yet to actually do this so and looking back at photos of me taking sharp corners, I still have plenty of ground clearance so don't be scared to really lean into your turns!
I would definitely recommend wearing safety gear such as a helmet, gloves, knee pads and elbow pads, at least for your first few attempts as these will be your most rocky.
The fold out platforms that you stand on have a texture similar to that of sand paper which is great for grip and keeping your feet firmly planted. If you didn't have those I think you'd have a lot of trouble keeping your feet in the correct position when riding along any surface that isn't completely smooth.
The front facing headlight does a great job at illuminating the ground up to about 2 meters away. This is not only useful for navigating your way around ground level obstacles at night but also so that people can see you too whether you're on the pavement or cycle lane. What this particular model does lack in is a rear brake light. It has an illuminated red InMotion logo, but that's more of a stylistic touch rather than for safety.
There's a kill switch... well actually it's a button. To immediately cut power to the motor, there is a button on the under side of the handle which is handy for when you have to bail or pick the unicycle up without the wheel spinning out of control.
InMotion has developed an app (free for iOS and android devices), which is cross compatible across their whole range and allows you to wirelessly adjust your settings and view your stats. I found this is good to limit your speed while learning then you can ramp it up as you progress.
I haven't taken it across any extreme terrains but I have put it through it's paces on dirt tracks, grassy fields and up a variety of inclines. It holds up pretty well! You don't actually have to adjust your riding style much, it's more the case of ensuring your reaction times are good enough and making your body adapt quick enough to maintain balance.
Although claiming an ambitious range of 45km with its 480Wh battery, being a 6ft 4", 85kg guy, I know I won't be able to reach that claim. So with that in mind, how do I know how far I can get? Having the illuminated battery indicator on top of the unicycle helps you to monitor the battery level and gauge how far you have left until you next need to charge.
When you're not riding the unicycle, you can walk it by using the built in, telescopic handle that extends to hip height. Having used this feature a bunch of times, I could not now get an electric unicycle without an extending handle. It's just too heavy to pick up and carry any distance. When powered on, you hardly feel the weight of the wheel at all as it effortlessly glides along while self stabilising itself.
Only having one wheel means storing the unicycle upright is near impossible but thanks to the flat edge on the back of the wheel housing, you can actually lean it on it's back when powered off.
At first, I often found my calves aching but I soon realised this was because I was needlessly tensing them. Once I was aware of this and made the conscious effort to relax them, It became a lot more comfortable and was able to travel greater distances with no problems at all.
I feel like this particular model would be helped if it had some sponge on the sides of the wheel to provide padding for your legs but this is only really an issue if you're trying adventurous off road routes.
At first I really struggled and I found it quite daunting but as they say 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again'. After about 15 minutes though there was certainly a light bulb moment when it just clicked with me and I was able to start navigating my way around without flailing my limbs around and jumping off every 3 seconds.
Once you get past that teething stage, it becomes a lot more enjoyable and there is a lot of fun to be had on taking adventurous routes without breaking a sweat!
I'd check the tire pressure straight out of the box as cornering became a lot easier once it was fully pumped up. Outside of that, everyone has their own ways of learning new skills but I think persistence is the key.
After speaking with another fellow electric unicycle rider, I was told that in general, the bigger and heavier the wheel, the easier and less twitchy it is which helps for a smoother and more graceful ride. But seeing as the size and weight increase often sees an increase in price, this wouldn't have been an option for me anyway considering the budget.