Based on the number of times people stop our Fat Unicyclist while he is riding, there are questions that people have. So let's answer some of them...
Electric Unicycle Questions
Electric unicycles (EUC) are quite different to scooters, and come with more questions (probably because they are more unique);
What is it and how does it work?
An EUC is similar to a "manual" unicycle, but also a little different. There is (usually) no seat, just a wheel with a foot plate on either side for the rider to stand on. And there is no pedalling either. The EUC also self-balances (forward and backward) - balancing side to side is done by the rider, just as is done on a normal bicycle.
As the EUC wants to stay balanced, when the rider changes the centre of gravity (CoG) by leaning forward, rather than tilt in that direction the wheel will maintain an upright orientation by moving toward the CoG. And that is what makes it work - when the rider leans slightly forward the wheel will accelerate to maintain the orientation and when the rider leans slightly backward the wheel will decelerate in the same way. Combine that with side-to-side balance and you are riding an EUC.
Can I try one?
I am often asked by people if they can try it out, and depending on the situation I try to oblige when possible. But one thing to remember is that this is a learned skill, and does take a bit of practice - so you should expect to need a bit of support.
If you are keen to try, please contact us and we can see what can be arranged. We are primarily Wellington based at this time, but plan to be in other regions fairly regularly. So hopefully we can work something out.
Is it difficult to learn to ride?
Riding an EUC is no more difficult than riding a bicycle - but it is different and does need practice. If you can ride a bike (or used to be able to) then this is definitely achievable. There are a number of training videos available on YouTube that can help and we have a page here that should provide a bit of guidance too. We are also happy to provide coaching where possible, and our experience is that with that bit of help and feedback, riders should have the basics covered off within an hour or two.
It does take longer to become a master rider - having personally ridden over a thousand kilometres our Fat Unicyclist is still realising and learning new things, but he will get there one day.
Am I too old to do this?
Hell no! In fact, as it is more passive than "normal" cycling it may actually provide older riders with more mobility than they would otherwise have.
How healthy is it?
Now we won't suggest that this is a true form of exercise, but depending on your riding style there can be benefits... Our Fat Unicyclist used to suffer from back problems, but since starting riding the continual "core workouts" have helped significantly. And though he doesn't look it, he feels about 10 years younger for it.
How safe is it?
Like a lot of things, it comes down to the rider... Operated properly and with a good quality wheel it should be quite safe. Accidents do happen though, so the use of safety gear is always recommended.
How fast are they and how far can you travel?
EUC are like cars - there are many different models with very different specifications. In general most "serious" EUC will have a maximum speed of between 30 and 50 km/h. Though this can be limited by using smartphone apps. So if you want to only go up to 20 km/h, then it can be easily enforced.
Range is a little different - An EUC uses power to move itself (and the weight on it), and more weight requires more power to move it. The amount of power a wheel has available is also determined by the size of the battery. So the bigger the battery and the lighter the rider, the more range you will get. The riding speed and style will have an impact as well.
But as an example, our Fat Unicyclist (who weighs in at over 100 kg) can get 60+ km on wheels with larger battery capacity.
Do they cost much to run?
Not at all... As with range (see the question above) there are a number of factors that determine the amount of power you consume. But from our most recent tests (with a fairly heavy load and a "full on" riding style) the cost was still approximately ¾c per kilometre. That's right, less than one cent per kilometre.
Will they work on hills?
Yes. It is all about the physics - moving a certain mass from point a to point b will use a certain amount of power. And provided there is enough charge in the battery to provide that power requirement, it will get up that hill.
Different wheels have different power specifications, and different battery capacities - but the right wheel should get you where you want to go. And if you would like any input to work out which wheel that might be for your situation, please feel free to contact us so we can discuss in more detail.
Note: If you live at the top of Baldwin Street in Dunedin, then it may be a bit more challenging. We haven't had the chance to try an EUC up that particular street yet, but we will be when we are in town.
Can you ride them off-road?
Most definitely - in fact The Fat Unicyclist tells us that off-road is his favourite place to ride. But it should be pointed out that (like cars) different EUC have different specifications and some are better suited for off-roading than others.
Where am I allowed to ride them?
We are just working on a "legality" page, but until that is done... In New Zealand it is currently not legal to ride an EUC on public roads. This is being looked into by the NZTA, but until things change you need to stick to footpaths and other trails. And while riding on that, please be considerate of pedestrians and other users.