I went snowboarding the winter of 2006 and then moved to Florida late summer of the following year. I knew Orlando was far from mountains I could ride, but I figured I’d get out to those places soon enough. I was wrong. I went once in the next decade and I thought I’d never get to ride regularly again until I moved elsewhere.
When I hopped on the first time, after only a few minutes, I was riding around on that thing like I’d been doing it for days. After a few days, weeks. After weeks, it felt like old hat—on sidewalk, wood-chip path, sand, street, grass, you name it. But something crazy happened when I stumbled upon a rare speciality that is scattered around Orlando: a resort. At that resort, I rode by an empty pitch-and-putt green. 2+ acres of empty rolling, cut lawns.
It was without a doubt, so much like snowboarding that it was uncanny. And it was unbelievably fun—carving up and down hills. Truly unreal.
Understanding the Snowboard Parallel
In snowboarding, you ride on the rails, a sharp edge that digs into the snow and gives you control of direction and speed. The OneWheel, predictably, has you ride on a single wheel, which acts as a central fulcrum by which you balance and carve
It’s a little like the pogo balls of the ‘80s from my childhood. It’s really pretty ingenious, because it still allows you to carve. Very similar to snowboarding (and to surfing, as well), once you’re balanced, as you press down on your toe or heel, it responds. If you press down on your left toe and your right heel, you’ll turn to the right. And the same is true in the opposite direction. The slower you’re going, the sharper the turn.
To turn it on, the button is on the side. You see a nice, pleasing blue ring around the button (showing you both that it's on and charged). On the opposite side, there’s a port for an A/V cord that’s attached to a converter that plugs into the wall.
To get on, the OneWheel is naturally weighted in the back so you always know which way to get on it to get going. As you stand on it, you try to balance it in the middle (as if you were on an Indo Board). When you hit that equilibrium, you’ll feel a little pick up. That denotes that it’s ready to ride.
Lighting Your Way
There are two rows of LED lights, one in the front and one in the back. When you turn it on, the lights on the front will glow white and the lights in the back will glow red.
When you’re going forward, the lights remain that way. But when you push your back foot further down than your front foot, you slow your momentum and then begin to go backwards. As soon as you start going backwards a little bit, the lights shift colors, with the back now glowing white (as that’s your new “forward”) and vice versa.
What's Under the Hood
It’s made in America and quite sturdy. It’s really strong and has a lot of torque. The board I rode was the first iteration, the OneWheel. Since then, they have two new styles—again the OneWheel+ and the OneWheel+ XCR. They are significantly more badass than the first. The motor is redesigned so the ride is smoother, quieter, and has more torque. The OneWheel+ has 2 horsepower. Because of this, it goes up hill really well; it’s surprisingly clean. It also goes downhill very slowly, if you so desire, which is nice. It tops out at 19 mph, though my reported he's taken it 24 mph.
How’d he know that? There’s a corresponding app that lets you check battery life, choose riding modes, and know your speed. The skateboard now goes between 5–7 miles on one charge, and with the new Ultrachanger, that takes only 20 minutes. The battery should last for years without depreciation.
Yet all the details aside, the carving is like hitting fresh powder on the mountain—whether in Orlando or literally anywhere else. It makes city travel incredibly fun.