Advantages over Other Transport Types
If you’ve been interested in purchasing an electric unicycle you have probably also considered a few alternatives. The closest direct comparison can probably be made to another type of self-balancing scooter, known as the hoverboard. Hoverboards are great for more casual use. Their main drawback, though, is the type of terrain they’re limited to. Most hoverboards use a fairly small wheel which means they have trouble navigating over any sizeable bumps or elevation. Electric unicycles, on the other hand, are fitted with wheels upwards to 18” in size, allowing them to transverse over rough ground, hills, and even stairs.
These unicycles also offer longer range and substantially higher speeds. This makes them a much more suitable and serious replacement for one common mode of transportation, riding a bike. You’ll arrive at your destination without being drenched in sweat too, perfect for that work commute, not to mention being more portable than a bicycle. And let’s face it, they just look a lot more unique than even the most pimped out bike ever could.
While electric unicycles do make a very attractive choice for those who want to try something different to meet their mobility needs, there are a few drawbacks. Those larger wheels come at a cost, heavier weight, up to over 30 pounds for the bigger 18” models. They’re trickier to learn too. Although the gyro mechanism will balance your forward and backward movement, you still need to remain steady from side to side. Some find riding for long distances can be tiring too. Unlike a traditional bicycle there’s nothing to sit on to support your weight.
For those who want to get in shape this is not necessarily a bad thing, however. After prolonged use you can expect to have a stronger set of core muscles and nervous system, both of which are required to keep your balance.
Electric unicycles come in a wide variety of speeds, ranges, and wheel sizes, and of course price ranges. Which one you get depends on how you want to ride and to some extent your ability to control the device.
Larger wheels, such as the 18” models, will let you comfortably maneuver over uneven ground, scale hills and stairs, and generally allow unimpeded transportation to almost anywhere you want to go. The downside to having a unicycle with a larger wheel-size is a reduced turning radius. If you want to perform more nimble stunts then something with an 18” wheel is probably not your best bet.
Smaller sized wheels, such as 12”, will offer much tighter turning and overall maneuverability, yet lack the ability to cover as varied terrain as their larger counterparts. Somewhere in the middle is what we’d usually recommend for most first time buyers to look at, namely unicycles with 14” or 16” sized wheels.
These strike a balance between ease of use and motility. Unless you have a very specific reason to go higher or lower we suggest checking out models within this range.
The next factor to consider is how far your unicycle will take you, governed by the size of the onboard battery. You’ll normally see the capacity of the battery expressed as ‘Wh’ also known as watt-hours.Smaller units might provide less than 150Wh, while larger sized models can reach beyond 800Wh.
The tricky part is that there is really no exact figure for how far you can ride on a unicycle despite knowing the battery’s capacity. This is due to the factors such as the rider’s weight, speed and type of ground covered. For instance, if you travel up hills this will seriously reduce the maximum distance you can achieve since the unit has to work much harder. Manufacturers will usually quote the best case scenario, but it’s wise to estimate more conservative figures. Otherwise, you risk buying a unit that doesn’t quite reach the distances you hoped. Just how off are the typical figures you’ll find listed in the specs section for a particular unicycle?
It’s not uncommon to experience less than half the official range shown for these devices. For instance a 340Wh unit might promise up to to 40km (25 miles) range, yet many people will find they can only safely travel 10 miles before the battery runs dry. That’s less than half! To be on the safe side you should overestimate the size of the battery you need. Anything less than the 260Wh models will only provide very short travel times of just a few of miles.
If you plan to use one of these gadgets to get to and from work then be realistic about their stated capabilities. Otherwise, you might find yourself stranded halfway to your destination and forced to walk the rest of the way.
What Else to Look For?
Once you’ve decided on the basic feature set you require, it’s then time to start thinking about other factors that set each of these devices apart.
For one, electric unicycles are designed in one of three different types of overall shape. Originally most units were boxy or square on the top. The upside to this design is more control, since you have more to grab on to (with your shins). The downside is, well, tired and sore shins. Aesthetically these types of unicycles don’t look quite as stylish as the next type, either. Rounded style electric unicycles offer probably the nicest styling of the three, but with a caveat.
Although these look great, they lack some of the control that the square unicycles do, which takes us to the next type. Somewhere in the middle of those two designs lies the ‘hybrid’ style. They combine the smooth look of the round shape but offers something to grip your legs to. This results in more control available without the uncomfortable bruises associated with sharper boxy shapes, and they’re more fashionable to boot.
You should also keep in mind a few final aspects including dependability, construction, safety features, and addons (such as lights, radios, etc…). The reputation of the brand is important too. Considering the danger of riding a product with inferior build quality that could put you at risk for injury, it’s vital you go with a company that can be trusted. Luckily for you, we only cover the best brands here.
In fact, let’s now look at the top electric unicycles available in 2016.
AirWheel is a brand that’s well known within the electric unicycle scene and for a good reason. They produce well built, sturdy ‘wheels’ that offer great value and come in a variety of specifications to suit almost anyone’s needs.
The X3 is one of their entry-level devices and is perfect to get you started, being especially suited for children. It’s got a 14” wheel, large enough to be stable across most spaces, yet still retaining good maneuverabilityThe X3’s biggest weakness owes to the smaller battery capacity available, either 130Wh or 170Wh.
We highly recommend getting the 170Wh model, otherwise the realistic range for this unit will be only a couple of miles, at best. Then again, the shorter range can be a plus to keep smaller children closer to home.
For the price, however, it’s still a good buy. Check out our full review here for more information.
IPS is another notable manufacturer of electric unicycles who have proved to be popular with enthusiasts across the world. Both the 121 and 122 are identical except for their energy storage capacity. The 121 incorporates a 340Wh battery, while the 122 is slightly less at 260Wh. These both produce decent ranges, up to around 10 miles on the 340Wh version.
Their overall design is extremely sturdy and they feature a powerful motor with torque to spare. The 16” wheel also allows movement across even rough ground and steep hills. Looks wise they won’t impress everyone with their boxy shape, other IPS models feature a hybrid design, though. If you can afford more than the AirWheel X3, the IPS121 or 122 are a safe bet and put you into the upper middle range of electric unicycles.
This is another product we’ve reviewed on the site, find out more here.
Want more mileage and speed out of your unicycle? King Song is one brand that’s been making waves with their hybrid shaped designs that pack a ton of features and superb performance. The 14C is a 14” wheel unicycle that supports up to a massive 840Wh battery powering an 800W motor.
Realistic ranges of up to 30-35 miles are possible with speeds reaching close to 20mph. The 14C is so fast that you really need to be careful at the pace it’s capable of! For those who want the ultimate in performance the 14C should be on the top of their list. Just be prepared to pay for that luxury, though. The 840Wh version of the 14C will run you almost $15000, that’s double the price of the closest competitor here (IPS121 at $750). Other impressive features of the 14C include an app for tuning performance, robust safety features, speakers and lights for nighttime use.
As you can see, there’s something for everyone when it comes to purchasing an electric unicycle. It ultimately comes down to how much you want to spend, your skill-level, and needs. If we had to choose one model out of all of these picks the IPS121 would be the best all-arounder.
It’s got respectable distance, speed, and handling specs while still coming in well under $1000.