Fun with a Onewheel

Riding the Onewheel

My neighbor got a Onewheel Pint for Christmas.1Looks like I’m no longer the “cool parent of the neighborhood” with just downhill longboarding… What a *great* Christmas present! :-) I’ve been looking at Onewheels for years, wishing I could try one out. Yesterday was my lucky day.

She’d set up some orange cones to create a practice slalom course. Back and forth I went, alternating between heel-side and toe-side U-turns at the ends. I zoomed down to the end of the street a couple of times to see what it felt like.

With a little experimentation, I found the tricks that work for longboarding also work for the Onewheel:

  • Keep the board moving to maintain balance; a stationary board wants to squirt out from under you.
  • Relax your entire body to “flow,” filtering out the high-frequency movements that make the board feel twitchy and tire the ankles.2Music would have helped with this.
  • Have fun!

What a blast!

I remember learning to longboard, not that long ago. Before I started, I wondered what provided fore-aft stability, as there’s little resistance in that axis. Keeping your center of gravity positioned between the front and rear axles is the secret as you can shift your weight between your feet.3This makes longboards more stable Also important is moving your arms for dynamic balance and to counter the effect of the weight transfer and rotational inertia from the leg that’s pushing.

With the Onewheel, fore-aft balance4Balance in general, for that matter. is a more interesting question: shifting your weight changes both your speed and direction, but the footpads don’t provide an independent, static opposing force.5Putting more weight on one footpad will drive that footpad to the ground unless the forces (ok, *moments*) are equalized

A Onewheel is “stable” only in motion. Pushing a footpad down tells the Onewheel to accelerate in that direction. Rolling the Onewheel left or right causes it turn in that direction.6I have no idea why. Somehow, the brain is able to intuitively balance, that is, keep the Onewheel “under” the rider’s body, through unconscious changes in weight distribution and ankle movements.7“Under” is within quotes, as accelerations acting only on the Onewheel require the rider’s body to be off-center. As a Onewheel is powered, changes in both speed and direction require positioning the body *not* directly over the Onewheel so the body, when “falling” can accelerate along with the Onewheel as it accelerates back under the body. A downhill longboard, being “powered” by gravity (which also accelerates the rider by the same amount), doesn’t require the rider to get ahead of the longboard for changes in speed, only to one side or the other for changes in direction.

By Brent Logan

Engineer. Lawyer. WordPress geek. Longboarder. Blood donor. Photographer. More about Brent.

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