My first true boarding experience occurred in the Cascade mountains near Seattle more than 20 years ago. I had moved west after college, leaving the flatlands of Illinois for the majestic topography of the Pacific Northwest. I experimented with hiking and mountain biking and enjoyed both. When winter arrived, I strapped a board to my feet and permitted gravity to pull me down a snow-capped peak. Technically, it was more a bunny hill than a peak, but let’s not worry too much about details.
Snowboarding introduced me to a new kind of rush. So much fun. So much freedom. It can feel like flying, like floating, especially with fresh powder. The world rushes past, and all you hear is a muted cacophony of otherworldliness interrupted occasionally by the carving of your board against snow. Later I would try wakeboarding, but being pulled by a boat, while fun, is a different sensation than being pulled by gravity.
When my daughter was born a few years later, I moved back to Illinois. In Illinois, we have exactly zero mountain ranges. Some people would argue we don’t even have hills. And so my snowboarding days were numbered.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I hadn’t ridden on any type of board in ten years. During that decade, I’d experienced most of my waking hours from behind computer screens while building a few technology companies. As a result, my weight had increased, my muscle mass had decreased, and my aging body was soft, inflexible, and prone to achiness. Could I handle a OneWheel? Would I be too unsteady? Too afraid of injury? Would it collect dust in my closet? Would I look like an idiot with a helmet above my graying beard?
After riding the OneWheel for a week, I can answer most of those questions. I’m not too old, and I don’t anticipate this thing collecting dust. I may, however, look like an idiot, but I don’t care. It’s too much fun.
Purchase, Shipping, Arrival
Ordering the OneWheel is about as easy as it gets. You’ll need to settle on a model and a bundle. I went with the OneWheel+XR. I figured I’d ride on gravel and dirt paths more often than urban streets, so the fat tire won out over the Pint’s smaller, more nimble tire. I also wanted the range.
Shipping was frustrating. The OneWheel itself was manufactured and shipped on schedule. It arrived three days earlier than originally anticipated. Awesome!
The rest of my order, however, including my helmet, wouldn’t arrive until 10 days after the OneWheel. As you can see in my video, I experimented a bit without a helmet, but I didn’t love it. It seems to me if my order includes a motor vehicle and the helmet recommended to wear with it, both should arrive together. I understand the complexities of logistics, but this one hurt. Instead of waiting, I ordered another helmet from Amazon that arrived the next day. Overall, almost three weeks passed between when I ordered and when I received all the contents of the bundle. This is the most negative aspect of the experience, and I only mention it because of the helmet. The other gear was not essential.
My first week of riding went something like this:
Day 1: Scared. Hesitant. Off balance. Thinking I need a helmet.
Day 2: More comfortable. Riding on sidewalk and grass.
Day 3: Helmet arrived! No riding, though.
Day 4: Much more comfortable. Ventured onto street/pavement. Hit 15 mph safely. Rode 3.5 miles. Still shaky and slow on turns. Nervous when cars and people pass.
Day 5: Calves are sore. Walking up and down stairs hurts. I’m reminded that I’m old and out of shape.
Day 6: No riding.
Day 7: Out on a trail in a public Forest Preserve. Gravel. People. Solid. No worries. At this point I’ve added pads and wrist guards to my gear. Board has been in Mission mode the entire week. I’m still awaiting a nosedive. I just hope it doesn’t come when people are watching.
And that’s it. It’s simple to learn. It’s fun. It’s a bit scary knowing people are watching you, but they seem curious more than anything else. By day seven, I was a 43-year-old dude in a helmet and pads on an electronic skateboard-like device with a gopro camera on my helmet and a drone following in my wake. Who wouldn’t be curious?!
Here’s a list of my current gear. Nothing fancy. I chose most of the equipment after reading lots of reviews on OneWheel forums. Happy with it all to this point.
OneWheel+ XR, obviously. Stock fender and bright orange bumpers, neither of which I’ve attached. Triple8 writstguards. G-Form Pro X2 Elbow and Knee pads. I ordered the OneWheel helmet, but it wasn’t scheduled to arrive until a week after my OneWheel, so I grabbed a Triple8 Gotham from Amazon that arrived a day or two later. Sadly, I have a huge head, and the Gotham isn’t quite big enough. I’ve since orded a Triple8 Sweatsaver (unfortunately, without Mips) because it’s a bit larger. It arrived a few days ago. Fits better, but I haven’t worn it to ride yet.
I also ordered the G-Form Pro-X compression shorts with hip and tailbone pads.
At the moment, when i’m all geared up, I feel invincible. That feeling will last until I take my first serious dive, but i certainly feel more comfortable wearing the gear than not. It’s all unobtrusive, and I don’t feel silly wearing it.
Half the excitement of getting the OneWheel, for me, is the opportunity to experiment with various camera gear while riding it.
For the video above, I’ve got a GoPro Hero 7 shooting in video and hyperlapse mode. I captured the hyperlapse footage accidentally. I thought I was in video mode, but no. A quick check of the mobile app could have fixed the issue, but oh well.
Drone footage is from a DJI Mavic 2 Pro on Active Track mode. Most of the footage is overexposed and soft. I wanted to test the active tracking ability, and I spent zero time prepping for the shot. I also wanted to capture it as quickly as possible with as few people watching as possible. Crappy settings aside, I’m happy with the result.
To quote Inigo Montaya, “Let me explain. No no. There is too much. Let me sum up.” I love this thing. I’m still a bit scared of it. Dismounting is tricky (see the end of the video). Turning in close quarters is tricky. And I’m preparing for the inevitable spill. Otherwise, it’s great.
Wherever I go, people are intrigued. A few people ask, “What is it?” Others get to the important questions: “How long does the battery last?” One kid on a bicycle stopped and waved to me, a huge grin splattered across his face.
The OneWheel is something most people have never seen. It’s different but familiar enough to make sense. It’s a little bit dangerous, a little bit exciting, and a lotta bit fun.
And while it’s not exactly snowboarding, it’s closer than my other immediate options and offers some adventure in this flat midwestern world. I anticipate a long, exciting relationship, and I’m thoroughly satisfied with my purchase.