Is the Onewheel Safe?

Whatever your status, those interested in the Onewheel know the buzz around this state-of-the-art, exhilarating, and multi-dimensional electric skateboard - and the reviews are pretty glowing. Sure, it looks awesome and there’s no doubt it’ll be fun... but the question is, is it safe?

Is the Onewheel Safe?
Dec. 13, 2018

Is Onewheel safe?


When you mix motor-powered high speeds with digital electric technology, both newbies and board sport pros alike will want some guarantee that this self-balancing electric skateboard is just as safe as it is ingenious.


Is Onewheel safe?


Maybe you’re a first timer to the Onewheel scene or you were a skateboarder in the 90s, since trading in your wheels for those of a family car. Whatever your status, those interested in the Onewheel know the buzz around this state-of-the-art, exhilarating, and multidimensional electric skateboard, and the reviews are pretty glowing. Sure, it looks awesome and there’s no doubt it’ll be fun... but the question is, is it safe?


How is it made?

You may not always think about where the board you’re buying is made, who makes it, and whether it is going through the appropriate safety checks, but when you’re paying big bucks for a new device, finding out its story could make the difference between handing over your hard earned cash, or sticking it back in your wallet.


Photo Credit: photoplastika


Every new boosted/electric skateboard/hoverboard will be tested before it goes to market in the country where its manufactured. Onewheel is quite unique in that it’s hand-assembled in a factory setting at Future Motion.Inc San Jose, California - close to the technologically renowned Silicon Valley. That means the team behind Onewheel can overlook the process in person - be hands on, and involved. The controller, battery module, and motor are installed and tested throughout the assembly process with data digitally loaded by the technician at each stage. Data entry means the serial numbers, batch codes etc are stored on a database, so if there is a problem in the future, a diagnosis can be reached quickly and recalls can be made. Even the plywood on the Onewheel has been sourced from a Southern Californian surfer for that authentic board sport stamp of approval. On-site testing, quality-control, and regular riding take part in the facility ensuring the Onewheel passes all of the necessary safety checks. The board is then packaged up, ready for market.


There’s no denying, it’s pretty thorough stuff. And that’s good to know when you’re dealing with speeds exceeding 19 MPH, safety can’t be just an afterthought.


Who designed the Onewheel?

Onewheel’s story isn’t a revolutionary one and the product hasn’t even been around long. However, it’s a product that has been a labor of love for Stanford University alumni, board sport lover, and electromechanical engineer Kyle Doerksen for more than five years. Starting off as a child intrigued by design, Doerksen went on to achieve both a bachelors in Neuroengineering and a masters in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. He then began his career working for IDEO as a Project Leader and Design Engineer, a time during which the eureka moment happened and Onewheel designs began to hit paper. Onewheel was consequently launched in 2014 via Future Motion Inc. (2013) of which Doerksen was the founder. The prototypes were met with great enthusiasm by the the Kickstarter community who backed Onewheel to and past its $100,000 asking sum to reach a staggering $630,862. With confident consumer and business backing and a solid background in design, Kyle Doerksen, Future Motions Inc., and Onewheel seem to have it covered in terms of credibility.


What are the inbuilt safety features of Onewheel?

Inbuilt safety features or safety mechanisms (otherwise known as hindrances to those who love pushing board boundaries) are present for exactly that - safety. The way the Onewheel has been programmed is to work in harmony with the rider, though many riders will try to manually override this dance. A recent online poll on a Reddit Onewheel thread of more than 400 Onewheel riders found that user error was the main reason serious injuries occurring when riding the board, rather than the board itself.


Screen grab of Reddit Poll


Can a Onewheel rider be seen at night?

When the rider mounts the Onewheel and the motor turns on, the intelligent LED system of headlights and taillights automatically on, day or night. Both emit a strong light so the rider can be seen. The headlights illuminate the road/terrain ahead with a strip of clear light LEDs and the back with a strip of red LEDs. That means night time rides needn’t be dangerous rides.


I’ve heard about pushback, what is it?

Pushback is one of the safety features of Onewheel. It is a speed modulation feature that causes the nose of the board to lift up when the rider is coming close to the limit and top speed the board can do (per digital shaping settings on the App). As the nose lifts, it is a signal for the rider to lean back and slow down. Some riders try to overpower the board and override pushback, but by doing so they are ignoring the mechanism that ensures rider safety. The consequence? Whilst they may be able to reach some adrenaline-buzzing top speeds, they are also just as likely to take a sudden, hard nosedive! It’s a topic much discussed in the Onewheel community and one to consider getting in touch with when you feel pushback either during a Onewheel rental or after purchasing online.


The modes where pushback is most commonly felt are: Sequoia and Mission on OW+, and Delirium on OW+ XR (If you’re one of the very few with an OW, it’s Classic mode). Some riders prefer riding with limitations, so choosing a mode where pushback can be felt clearly is the safest way to ride. One of the rules many riders follow is that it’s best not to exceed 15 MPH in general.


The other variations that affect pushback are: tire pressure, rider weight, wind direction, battery level, rider stance and the incline or decline of the terrain. All these things need to be considered for safety before stepping on that board.


Photo Credit: 99230112@N04


Can riders go off road and on different inclines straight away?

The Onewheel is safe to ride off road straight away but the rider probably isn’t. It’s simply a case of those famous words: practice, practice, practice! Everyone who steps on a Onewheel for the first time is a beginner. Even highly experienced surfers and snowboarders start off on flat grass or pavement.They build up their repertoire through practising starting, stopping, and of course bailing. It’s best to really get to know your board so that you can be all-terrain and all-speed ready when you bust your board out for a long ride.


How responsible are riders for their safety?

The answer is pretty much entirely! If your board is working fine then it’s down to the rider. Going for a fitted helmet with a chin strap is sensible and you can read all over the internet that Onewheel owners advise wearing thin soled shoes so their feet feel in touch with the board. Some riders wear additional safety gear, an approach definitely recommended for beginners.


All in all, the Onewheel is a solid motor-powered electric board that holds its own on your everyday smooth commute and on some gnarly off road terrains. It’s built to be bashed, scuffed, and wiped out. With the inbuilt safety features acting as a warning for the rider to react, much of the safe riding of this board is down to the riders themselves. It’s a dynamic action sport board that encounters the dangers of any board sport. So, rent a Onewheel or buy, prepare and practice, it’s probably going to be the best ride of your life!


Pre Ride Checklist:

  • Is the battery sufficiently charged? It only takes 20 minutes to charge so if your charger light is red, leave it plugged in until it changes to green and you’re good to go.

  • Is the tire pressure up to 20 PSI? If it’s less, pump it up.

  • What is the weather like? If there’s a storm brewing with strong headon winds, think about leaving your Onewheel at home.

  • Do you have suitable footwear? Have you got your helmet clipped securely on? How about safety pads on your wrists and knees?

  • Is you’re board set on a mode that allows pushback to be felt easily? Classic Mode(OW) Sequoia and Mission(OW+) or Delirium (OW +XR).

  • Keep under 15 MPH during your rides. Be safe, not sorry!

  • Go carve up your new playground!

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