Looking to buy an electric unicycle? So was I. Being the insufferable nerd I am, I did some thorough research, before even starting with my new hobby. Here’s what you need to know before buying an electric unicycle (EUC, aka self-balance monowheel). At the end of this guide I’ll share with you which EUC I’m ordering. And why.
Things to consider when buying an electric unicycle
An electric unicycle (EUC) can be a big investment but it doesn’t have to. Prices vary from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $2500. Specifications vary a lot between brands. Here’s what to consider if you’re thinking of buying a self-balancing unicycle.
How to pick your first EUC: Step 1.
Determine your intended use
Why do you want to buy an EUC? Will you be cruising around the block and taking the dog out for a walk? Or do you plan on commuting on your electric monowheel? (which is just a synonym for EUC)
Is portability essential to you because you want to carry it with you in stores, on stairs, in public transportation? Or is being able to go off road what ticks the box for you?
Do you plan on riding cobblestone roads on hills in old city centers such as that of Lisbon? Or do you simply want to bridge the distance on flat surfaces between the suburbs and your job downtown? These personal situations matter a lot regarding picking the right EUC for you.
Decide what you will be using your EUC mainly for and look at weight, wheel size, portability, and range.
Primary criteria for choosing an electric unicycle
1. Wheel size
The standard wheel sizes are 14”, 16”, and 18”, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each size.
Generally, large wheels are heavier and more comfortable to ride, whereas smaller wheels are more agile.
On a 14″ wheel you will be able to maneuver among slow moving pedestrians on a crowded sidewalk, easily take it in and out of buildings, and find a place to store it. They’re also best for doing tricks and are the most portable but they’re harder for inexperienced riders to use.
The extra weight of a larger wheel (i.e. 16″ or 18″) makes the EUC feel more stable and thus comfortable which makes them great for commutes, especially if you encounter potholes, uneven pavement and other bumps on your way. Their weight and size also makes them less easy to carry around and put away.
Large wheels such as the 18″ King Song and Gotway MSuper are the easiest to learn on. They are placed higher between your legs which reduces the “newbie shaking a lot of people experience when first learning”. Because of their high top speed they can also be the most dangerous EUCs to learn on. Check if your desired wheel has the ability to reduce max speed (i.e. app-regulated speed limiter).
All wheel sizes are up to most general tasks but you can experience differences in riding comfort. 14″ is very nimble. 18″ is very comfortable but unwieldy.
The range given by manufacturers is often much higher than distance you can travel in normal conditions. Manufacturers test their cycles on smooth, flat, uninterrupted tracks: the testers don’t have to ride over uneven pavements, or brake suddenly to avoid another rider. Most models have a real-life range of 12-18 miles.
Range can be affected by your weight, your driving style, uneven road conditions, even cold weather. If you’re close to the maximum weight recommended for your self-balancing scooter (typically around 250lbs) then you’ll find the range is much lower than what’s indicated by the manufacturer.
It seems logical to go for the highest range you can afford, but that’s not the best option for everyone. Extra range comes from extra battery power, which makes the cycle heavier and more expensive.
If you only take short trips, or if you’re able to recharge your battery regularly (for example, you plug it in at work before riding home), then you can save a lot of money by choosing a model with a smaller range.
For many people, portability is the key concern when they’re looking for a self-balancing scooter. They want to be able to carry it on trains and buses so they can use it for part of a longer journey.
For obvious reasons, 14-inch wheels are much more portable than 18-inch ones. Make sure you get an EUC with pedals which fold inwards, for easy transportation when not in use.
Some electric unicycles have a carry handle on top, although this isn’t as practical as you might expect since even the lightest EUCs on the market weigh around 25lbs. A handle is useful when carrying the cycle for short distances, but the machine is too heavy to hold it one-handed for a long time.
More useful is an extendable trolley handle, which allows you to roll the EUC along the ground like a wheely suitcase. You can also get backpacks which are specially designed to hold an EUC, with space for your other items too.
The wheels keep spinning gently for a while after you’ve stepped off your unicycle, which can be a problem – if you’re picking up to hop onto a bus with it, your fellow commuters won’t appreciate being speckled with road dirt. Some models have a killswitch which will lock the wheels if you need to pick it up quickly.
4. Battery capacity and features
The battery is by far the most expensive part of your unicycle scooter, and the cost increases dramatically with battery power. Most models use lithium polymer batteries, a few use lithium ion. Cheap polymer batteries can explode or catch fire while in use, so it pays to buy the best you can afford. Reputed brands include Samsung and Panasonic.
Consider the physical size of your battery. Unless you’re planning to regularly use your EUC for long trips, the extra weight and bulk of a super-powerful battery may outweigh the advantages of having a greater range.
However, you may find that you’ll be riding more than you thought up front. A little detour here. A quick additional run to the store there, they all add up. As one long-term rider joked: nobody ever wished they had less battery capacity.
Here’s a few examples of the expected range on a quality brand EUC at a certain body weight. Measured under ideal circumstances so no inclines, no irregular terrain, no wind.
- Just about any basic wheel with a 132Wh battery will go up to 5 miles.
- The max range of a 200Wh battery is about 10km max.
- At about 200 lbs body weight you’ll get max 20 miles on a 680wh (King Song 14)
- Which, at the same body weight, comes down to just over 13 miles at a 460wh battery (InMotion V8).
- The 850Wh Gotway 779Wh Firewheel are said to go over 80km for most riders.
When choosing battery size also keep this in mind. It’s often recommended to avoid entering the sub-20% range of the battery. In other words, going deep into low battery region will dramatically reduce your battery’s lifespan and you may risk cut-offs. (This has been taken into account in the aforementioned examples).
Is the battery removable? Even with the best care in the world, batteries have a shorter lifespan than the rest of your self-balancing unicycle. Make sure it’s possible to replace your battery with a new one if it dies, otherwise an electricity surge during charging could render your EUC useless.
A swappable battery means you can buy a spare one and swap them over, instead of having to leave your cycle plugged in to charge for hours. Although it’s initially more expensive to buy a second battery pack, it may save your money in the long run.
Recharging a battery when it’s only been partly emptied (say 50%) makes it last far longer than if you keep running it until completely empty.
Some EUCs also have space for you to attach a second battery pack, providing you with a power boost for long journeys.
Some high-end models offer regenerative braking, which recharges the batteries every time you brake by turning the motor into a generator. This helps to eke out your battery power in between charges.
- If you live in a hilly area, though, you should probably avoid this feature: it can lead to overload and a safety cut-out if you try to descend a hill with a battery that’s already fully charged.
5. Pedal size, height, and angle
Don’t underestimate the importance of pedal size in particular and pedal quality in genera.. Often, electric unicycle manufacturers pour all their ingenuity into the motor and gyroscope, and then stick on uncomfortable pedals as an afterthought. Too-small pedals (less than 70% of foot size) are uncomfortable to ride for long periods, and can be dangerous at high speeds.
Pedals should be wide enough to support the entire feet width and long enough to support at least 70% of feet length.
The more often you anticipate riding your EUC, the more you need to make sure the pedals are comfortable: a bit of discomfort is no problem if you’re just riding around the block for fun at weekends, but if you’re riding your EUC for a ten-mile commute each day then bad pedals can really hurt your feet.
Think about pedal height, too. Low pedals might feel more secure, as you’re closer to the ground, but they’re actually riskier than high pedals – you’re much more likely to scrape along the ground while turning. Some experienced wheelers talk about 13 cm and lower becoming a safety hazard.
The angle to which the pedals are mounted to the wheel varies per model. Some pedals are flat while others are angled which contributes to stability.
Other things to consider when buying an electric unicycle
Top speed is usually around 8-10mph for a starter model, or 15mph for a more powerful one. The fastest EUCs can go up to 30mph under a skilled rider. As you can see in this video, going that fast can be dangerous, even with protective gear.
There’s some debate about what the term “top speed” even means. Self-balancing scooters are usually capable of going faster than their top speed indicated by the manufacturers, at least for short bursts; the official top speed is usually the greatest speed that you can sustain without damaging the motor in the long term.
Some EUCs have a safety feature which makes the battery shut off if you try to exceed the top speed by too much.
When a high top speed is less important..
If you’re planning to ride your unicycle scooter in the city, top speed isn’t much of a concern. You’re unlikely to go above 10mph (the speed of a cyclist) because of all the obstacles in the way, and at high speeds it’s hard to stop quickly or steer away from hazards.
Instead of paying top dollar for a super-fast model, you’ll probably prefer to invest in a model which is highly reliable and easily portable. For inner city transportation you’ll probably want a wheel that can be carried or pulled and maneuvers effortlessly.
When you will really want a fast EUC..
High speed unicycle scooters are more useful if you’re going to ride along quiet roads (such as little-used cycle paths), where you’ll be able to accelerate without worrying about pedestrians. Fast cycles are also better for doing tricks.
Some unicycles allow you to set maximum speed with an app. The feature was designed for kids, but it’s also great for learners – there’s no fear that you’ll lean forward too far and shoot off like the DeLorean.
Battery power is usually measured in watt-hours (Wh), confusingly shortened into just watts (W). The higher your watt-hours, the more energy the battery will store and the further you can go.
The smallest EUCs generally have batteries around 130W. These are best for kids, absolute beginners, or very short distances – in real-world conditions, you’ll probably only get 5-6 miles out of it. High-powered ones go up to 800W and beyond.
Confusingly, power isn’t the only factor which affects how long your battery lasts. The voltage of your motor also makes a difference. Voltage is a measure of how fast power flows out of the battery: a higher voltage means you can hit greater speeds but your battery will wear down faster.
Some unicycle scooters have inflatable tyres, others have solid rubber. Inflatable tyres have a greater surface area in contact with the road, which makes balancing easier and reduces that bone-shaking feeling when you ride on uneven ground, but there’s always a risk that you’ll burst them by running over something sharp.
A few models have a dual wheel. Although more stable, you may soon find these less exiting than single wheel EUCs.
Don’t lie, you know you want to look cool on your electric unicycle. Self-balancing scooters vary from functional-but-dull black boxes to neon-lit space-age wonders.
Some models can be fitted with custom skins or a brightly-colored shell. Many come with inbuilt Bluetooth speakers, so you can blast music as you ride. Some models have programmable LED’s that let you customize the amount of bling you’re emitting while you glide the streets.
Many self-balancing unicycles come with apps which allow you to change the settings. This can be aesthetic things like changing the colors of the lights on the frame or programming the speakers, or it can be safety features like limiting the maximum speed or setting the comfort level.
Read reviews of the app: a badly-designed app can turn a decent unicycle into a frustrating experience. To me, being able to limit the max speed while I’m learning is a must.
Charge time is usually around ninety minutes, but can be up to four hours. If your self-balancing scooter has a relatively short range, then a quick charge time is much more convenient. But it isn’t a factor for everyone – for example, if you usually charge your electric vehicle by plugging it in overnight, then it doesn’t matter whether the battery fills in one hour or 10.
Seated or standing
Most electric unicycles are standing models, with two static footrests either side of the central wheel. There are some seated models, which and are shaped more like a traditional pedal unicycle with a bicycle seat on top.
On an incline, you will ride more slowly and use more power. Some models claim to work on up to a 30o incline, but this is fairly rare. Generally, if the manufacturer doesn’t specify a maximum incline, assume you can only use your EUCs on slopes of less than 15o.
A new self-balancing unicycle will cost around $500 for a good-quality basic model, and high-end models range from $800 to $2000 or more. There are some dirt-cheap no-name brands available, sometimes costing as low as $150, but anything so cheap is probably either a toy or a safety hazard.
Second-hand models usually cost around half the price of a new one. All EUCs are made in the electronics factories of the Far East, and cheap ones are shipped directly from there without going through a local seller. Note that the cost of shipping and import taxes can push up the price on a model which seems cheap at first glance.
There’s no single factor which makes an EUC more agile. The most nimble models tend to have small wheels and a powerful motor.
As a beginner, you may actually prefer an EUC which is less agile. With a clunkier and less responsive model, it’s harder to zip around sudden obstacles but it’s much easier to go in a straight line. That means there’s less risk that your ‘beginner wobbles’ will steer you into a hedge.
Safety and damage control
Self-balancing unicycles are pretty safe for riders. Even when you technically fall off, it’s usually more like an inelegant stagger as you hop off the cycle. Since (on most models) you’re standing up while you ride, if you feel yourself going over it’s easy to put a foot down and stop yourself.
Still, there are risks with an EUC as with any motorized vehicle, and the risks get greater the faster you’re going. A good rule is to never go faster than the speed you’re prepared to fall at.
Some cheap EUCs stop abruptly when the battery dies, which can fling you to the ground if you’re going fast. Look for a model with sudden stop prevention (so it will slowly glide to a halt instead of a sudden low battery shutoff) and a low battery indicator to warn you to recharge.
Good-quality EUCs should have a variety of safety features. Some allow you to program max speed with an app, which is ideal for beginners.
There are also tilt limitation features, which will gently tug you back into a safe position if you lean too far forwards while accelerating. Many models have integrated lights for visibility at night.
Support and repairs
Unless you’re lucky enough to live near a showroom where you can test-drive different electric unicycles, you’ll need to seek out a company with good consumer support. Ideally, you want to be able to talk through your options with an expert, and you need to be able to get advice after purchase if there are technical problems. Most sellers offer training lessons, either online or in person.
Self-balancing scooters are a very new technology. Your average body shop won’t know how to fix one, and neither will your average electrician. Before you buy an EUC, ask about repairs: will the seller fix issues for a price? Can you send it off to the manufacturer? Is it under warranty? If you’ve bought a cheaper imported EUC, you may find that there’s no way to fix it without sending it halfway across the world.
Of all the various types of electric personal transportation devices such as skateboards and hoverboards learning to ride an EUC is probably the hardest. Kids will pick up riding an electric unicycle pretty fast. If you’re older prepare to spend some hours for various days to get the hang of it. Start where you can hold a rail or something similar to keep your balance.
Before you buy: check your local laws
Be careful: the laws covering self-balancing scooters vary from country to country. They’re often in a legal grey area, because the technology is so new that EUCs aren’t mentioned in any existing laws: that means unicycle scooters aren’t officially permitted, but they aren’t actively banned either.
Switzerland allows self-balancing unicycles, but they impose a maximum speed limit. Queensland in Australia allows them, as long as their motor is smaller than 200W.
You can ride them on the sidewalk in California, but you can’t take one on a Los Angeles train. They’re illegal in all public places in Hong Kong, New York, and the United Kingdom. Dubai has banned them in all shopping malls, but the law doesn’t say anything about whether you can ride them on the sidewalk.
Confused? Don’t worry – the cops are too. Most police officers have never even seen an EUC, let alone researched the laws on them. Stories abound of officers’ confusion about self-balancing scooters. Talk to other riders in your area to get an idea of what the laws are in your area, and whether they’re enforced.
And then there’s this dilemma many first-time electric unicycle buyers will struggle with..
Should beginners get a cheap starter EUC first?
Should first-time buyers initially purchase a cheap EUC to learn on?Every experienced rider has a different opinion on this. Basically you’ve got three options.
Option 1: get a cheap training electric unicycle
It’s tempting to start with a lower-priced ‘training’ self-balancing scooter since it’s going to get bashed and battered while you’re learning. And there’s always the fear that you’ll ride for a month and then lose interest, in which case your top-of-the-line $1500 EUC would be money wasted. Moreover, your ‘training wheel’ can always be used by family members or friends, or by you to practice tricks after you upgraded to a higher-end model.
But it can be counterproductive to buy the cheapest model you can get. The cheapest ones are often plagued by mechanical problems. And by mechanical problems, we aren’t talking about broken tail lights; we’re talking about a battery which dies with no warning, catapulting you face-first into the road.
Also, since they have less power, a bump in the road may cause the unicycle to cut off causing you to fall.
Remember all those news stories about hoverboards exploding or catching fire? Well, an EUC is based on the same technology and uses the same type of lithium polymer batteries. Plenty of cheap EUCs are perfectly safe, but fried motherboards do seem to occur. Make sure you do your research thoroughly before you buy.
Cheap EUCs are not powerful and can be unreliable.
Option 2: get your ideal electric unicycle from the get go
You’re likely to outgrow a cheap low-powered import, so although it feels crazy to spend so much money on a brand-new hobby, it’s cheaper to buy an expensive self-balancing unicycle now instead of getting a low-quality one and then upgrading it six months later.
However careful you are with safety, your EUC will probably take a battering while you’re learning to ride but there’s a way to keep this damage at a minimum. Also, you will scratch your wheel probably anyway, even if you know how to ride.
Think about protection by padding your ride up to keep it looking good. (You might be able to use the foam padding your new EUC was packaged in.) You can buy stick-on padded protection for the wheels, protective vinyl skin decals (i.e. Airwheel X3), and some models (i.e. Inmotion V3 and V5) have replaceable covers so you can switch them out when they get damaged.
One poll found that around 50% of EUC riders bought another model within a year of getting their first.
If you choose to take the plunge and go for a top-of-the-range model, you’ll probably be buying from a company with a solid reputation and high-quality customer support. Most sellers organize lessons or give you access to online support networks.
Option 3: buy a decent second-hand model
This which will cost you roughly the same as a cheaper new one. (Resale value is usually around half the original price.) Your second-hand EUC will probably be a little scuffed, so you won’t have the heartsinking feeling of scratching up a pristine new exterior.
The previous owner can tell you about any issues with the motor, and a good-quality used EUC is usually easier to modify or repair than a cheap new one.
Think of it like buying a car. You might not want a super-powerful engine, you might not need something fancy looking. But you’d still want to get something safe and reliable, not a kids’ toy which will break down in three months. It’s the same idea with electric unicycles.
Finally, here are some of the most popular EUCs
These are basic no-frills models which are a common choice for learners.
Despite its kinda outdated looks, the Airwheel is one of the most popular choices for first-time buyers. Top speed is just 11mph (18 km/h), but it’s reliable and sturdy with broad tyres for stability.
Nervous first-time riders will be pleased to know that the X3 also comes with removable training wheels. Quite a few accessories such as bumper strips and a carrying backpack are available. Be aware that it tends to stop abruptly when the battery runs out, so make sure you step off and recharge as soon as the low-battery light goes on. Now on Amazon with carrying backpack included.
- Weight: 10 kg
- Price: around $400
- Charge time: 90 min.
InMotion SCV V3 PRO
Whisper it: the V3 Pro isn’t technically an EUC at all. It actually has two narrow wheels, placed close together. This means it’s a nice stable ride, despite the 14” diameter. It comes in a variety of bright colors, and has built-in Bluetooth speakers as well as app connectivity to let you set speed limits. Most rides in this price bracket offer around under 200W of battery power, but the SCV packs a whopping 450W.
- Price: around $500
- Head and tail light (switch along with your direction)
Go to eWheels.com and click on Shop in the top menu to order or compare.
Monorover R3 Unicycle
Price: around $500
The Monorover offers a similar range and top speed to other models in its price bracket. The outstanding thing about this model is that it’s packed with safety features, making it ideal for learners or kids. It has sudden stop protection and the gyroscope will gently push the pedals backwards if you try to accelerate too aggressively. If you lean over 45o to the side, the tilt protection will cut off the motor automatically to prevent injury.
If you’re confident with your riding skills, or don’t want to upgrade after a few months, try these more powerful models.
Ninebot One S2
Price: around $1000
The Ninebot S2 is made by Segway, one of the pioneers in self-balancing vehicles. It has a range of up to 18 miles, and top speeds of up to 15mph. It has space for two batteries but can operate with just one: you can add an extra battery when you want more power, or leave one at home to charge.
It sports big pedals and padded sides for comfortable wheeling. The S2 comes with an app which allows you to check vehicle diagnostics, compare your stats to other users, and even remotely disable the motor if it’s stolen.
There are other similar vehicles under the Ninebot brand, all offering sleek sci-fi looks and a variety of different skins. The Ninebot One E+ (around $800) is another favorite, with a super-powerful motor that makes it great for tricks and slopes.
With a little practice, it’s possible to hop up curbs or shallow steps on an E+. It’s also designed to be modular, so if it gets damaged while you’re learning you can easily switch out parts without having to send the whole thing off for repair.
Compared to the Airwheel X8, the Ninebot S2 has higher plates which increase ease of turning and comfort during longer rides.
A disadvantage due to its pedal height: pedals rubbing the ground during sharp turns. It also has flat pedals which may be a con if you prefer angled pedals.
SBU V3 seated electric unicycle
The V3 is packed with sensors and is programmed to learn from your movements, helping you to steer more effectively. It also uses regenerative braking, helping to stretch out the battery life by recharging every time you slow down.
As a seated electric unicycle, it is larger and heavier than a standard EUC, which makes it easier to ride but also less portable. The 18-inch wheels and ergonomic bicycle seat make for a comfortable and stable journey.
- Price: around $1000
- Special feature: seated
- Top speed: 12.5 mph
Gotway MCM4 / MSuper V3
The MCM4 has a huge 680W battery, allowing you to ride up to 60km on a single four-hour charge. It’s aimed at experienced riders, offering a top speed of 18mph and no tilt-back or sudden stop protection. App control allows you to fine-tune the comfort level of the ride to hard, medium, or soft.
If you want even greater range, its sister model the Gotway MSuper V3 (around $2000) offers up to 1600W battery. Not for the faint hearted, this 18” beast feels like an entire motorbike compressed into a single wheel.
Just like the InMotions, the Gotway MSuper3 pedal height is approx. 6″ and sport a minor V-angling.
- Price: around $1000
King Song 14 / 16 / 18
King Song makes a range of similarly powerful EUCs in different sizes – the KS-14, KS-16, and KS-18. All come with a battery of around 600-800W, and the option to add a second battery for an even greater range of up to 50 miles.
Despite their high power these EUCs are highly portable, with inbuilt telescopic handles which allow you to roll it like a suitcase when not in use. They have automatic head and tail lights (if you go in the other direction the head light will turn into tail light and vice versa).
King Song 16S
- Price: $900-$1200
- Battery: 840Wh
- Weight: 39 lbs
- Charge time: 3 hours to 80%
- Cruising speed: 21.7 mph
A bit about my first electric unicycle buying decision process
To finalize this guide, here’s how I decided which EUC to buy.
My intended use. I live in Europe where many city centers have irregularly paved streets. I travel a lot and often stay close to the beach which means I will be riding a lot of rough road surfaces, trails and doing quite a bit off-road in general.
Wheel size. This led me to decide to go for a 16″ wheel, even though I really appreciate the lighter weight and portability of a 14″ wheel. Which is why I don’t want an 18″.
Start with a cheap wheel? I ‘d hate feeling I’ve outgrown my first wheel after a few weeks and prefer to get a great wheel that I will use for years to come without upgrading. Finding the balance between capabilities and portability is my goal while not spending a fortune.
I will be padding up my new high-end wheel since I still have to learn how to ride. I considered three highly popular wheels; the InMotion V8, the King Song 16″, and the Gotway MSuper V3.
Which features are a must for me? I absolutely want a head and tail light for cruising in the dark without having to fiddle with head-mounted lights. Another must, a well-designed telescopic handle. I’m not going to carry a wheel with me. Lugging it behind me with a trolley handle sounds much better. So these requirements also led me to opt for the King Song.
Battery size. I’m going to order the KS 16S which has a 840Wh battery, which is about the best you can currently get.
Concluding. Based on my research this device will be about right for me, although various other models come close to my requirements (Ninebot, VF3, VF5, MSuper).
I found a wealth of information on ElectricUnicycleForum.org as well as other sites. I just put it all together in an easy to read summarized version. Check out this great source if you have any specific questions.
Range affected by outside temperature. Technology Review.
Featured image: Youtube user sales ewheel.