25th - 26th SEPTEMBER 2019  |  OLYMPIA

Review: Onewheel's Pint Is Pocket-Sized Fun

Wired 09 Aug 2019 01:00

A certain person chooses a Onewheel over, say, a nice, safe electric scooter. I imagine this person to be a lot like my spouse who, within hours of the Onewheel Pint arriving at our house, was Onewheeling my kids in a stroller down the street.

Founder Kyle Doerkson invented the Onewheel in 2014 to mimic the sensation of snowboarding on powder. The Onewheel+ XR, which came out last year, was a bigger and more powerful version of the original board. The Pint is this year's fun-sized version.

It’s shorter, smaller, and lighter than the XR, and has an integrated handle in the wheel; you can practically sling it over your shoulder, like a Continental soldier. It also has more safety features, like Simplestop technology. On the XR, you had to lift your heel off the side of the front panel to stop. On the Pint, you can enable Simplestop on the app to make the board stop if you simply lean backwards.

I have 20 years of experience on boards—skate, surf, and snow. The feeling of carving in deep powder is addictive, but I also know what it feels like to tip the nose of your board down a steep slope, and, just for a split second, think “Oh, man … I hope this works out.”

Even with the addition of new safety features, I get this feeling every time I step on a Onewheel. I understand why so many people love them—I really do! I'm married to someone who does!—but I'll stick to skateboards for now.

Ramble On

At 23 pounds, the Pint is only three pounds lighter than the XR. Overall, though, it feels much more manageable to carry. It's a few inches shorter, with a smaller, thinner wheel. Instead of holding it by the end, you can carry it by your side with the handle integrated in the wheel. I never felt like I was going to drop it on my foot.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that with a full charge, the Pint has a range of 6 to 8 miles, compared with the XR’s 12 to 18. Over a week of aimless, hour-long joyrides through my neighborhood, and through gravel paths and grassy parks, the Pint ran out of battery every other day. If I used it to commute, I would keep a charger at work.

Onewheel

As with the XR, you can also pick different ride profiles with Future Motion’s digital shaping—from beginner to advanced. The least aggressive and least responsive profile is Redwood, which has a top speed of 12 mph; Skyline has a top speed of 16 mph and is better suited for hills and trails. I liked the mellow setting, Pacific, and my spouse preferred Elevated, both of which had top speeds of 16 mph.

To start the board, you have to engage the sensor pad on both halves of the front panel. Sometimes, the front panel didn't sense my heels and the board didn't start, but my spouse, who is heavier than I am, never had a problem. Overall, the Pint’s shorter size, smaller wheel, and slimmer width made it much more responsive once you do get moving. On my first ride, I wobbled significantly more than I had with the XR. Letting a little air out of the tire seemed to make it a little less squiggly, but not much.

If you have crowded commutes or navigate city streets, you’ll probably appreciate the increased maneuverability. It’s small and fast enough that you can even chase small children while riding it around your kitchen table, although I don't recommend doing this if you would regret damaging your kitchen table.

It also has a new light on the front panel which shows how much battery power you have left, and a red rear light to make the board much easier to see at night.

Safety First

Admirably, Future Motion has made a lot of steps to ensure that their boards are as safe as possible. Both the website and the app are riddled with warnings, advice, and disclaimers. One of the changes that Future Motion has made was introducing Simplestop technology.

Getting off a Onewheel has always been one of the hardest parts. Before, you had to lift your heel off one side of the front pad. If you didn’t clear one of the pads, pffft—you flew off, and the board kept going. (This is how I sprained my knee the last time I reviewed one.) Riding the Pint, I breathed a silent sigh of relief every time the board stopped when I leaned backward.

Another new safety feature is pushback. If you go too fast, on too steep a slope, or try to ride with too little battery, the nose of the board lifts and forces you to slow down or stop. When I asked Jack Mudd, Onewheel's chief evangelist, if it was possible to disable pushback the way you can disable Simplestop, he reminded me that it's important to keep riders from pushing the board past its capabilities.

In theory, I appreciate this feature. The Pint did gently remind me to recharge before I got too far from my house. And the last time I reviewed a Onewheel, I catapulted off a hill that I was probably not supposed to be on. This time, it was hard not to picture Future Motion’s engineers cackling whenever the board nosed up on a gentle slope and I had to get off and walk.

But boards, electric or otherwise, are not supposed to stop abruptly for no immediately apparent reason. I recruited my spouse to test the Pint’s top speed and when he did, the board reared back. This is terrifying to both experience and witness at 16 mph.

He jumped off and was able to land on his feet, skid down the street, and walk away with just a burn on his ankle. But I recommend buying the bundle with the wheel fender and wearing skate shoes when you ride it.

Carry On

Even with its limited range, the Pint is a much more useful and versatile Onewheel than the XR. It’s much easier to carry and stow. Holding it while walking into a diner for lunch with a friend is just like carrying a smallish suitcase.

And if you’ve been waiting to be able to afford a Onewheel—who am I kidding, there’s no way you’re still reading this. You bought the board as soon as you saw the picture. At $950, this is by far the most accessible price tag that Onewheel has been able to offer for a board that might be even more fun, and is definitely more convenient, than the XR.

But the Onewheel isn't for anyone who isn't quick on their feet or afraid of falling. It has a learning curve, which to my mind, makes it more of a toy—an addictive, cult-favorite toy!—than a commuter vehicle. Future Motion may have replicated the sensation of snowboarding, but when they can also recreate the sensation of face-planting on cool, fluffy powder instead of hot asphalt, I might be more inclined to pick one up.


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