We can’t help but be impressed by the latest self-balancing unicycle (SBEU) designs – they not only look cool and given their obvious portability advantages, we ask – will this be the beginning of a trend as a cost-effective way to get around?
What is a self balancing electric unicycle (SBEU)?
We define a self balancing electric unicycle as a personal transport vehicle on one wheel which runs on electricity and uses gyro-stabilisation to balance the rider. They come with different features (e.g. sitting or standing, with or without handlebars, brake assist etc) so we decided it’s time for an overview! Here’s an example of a real one (a SBU V3) in action:
SBEUs available now
There are 3 SBEUs that you can buy today:
1. The Mobbo by Mobbo – For only $999, the Mobbo is the most affordable SBEU we could find, offering everything you need (but no fancy features). It’s very compact and easy to carry, and you ride it standing upright on its pedals.
2. The SBU V3 by Focus Designs – This is the only currently available SBEU with a seat, so if comfort is important to you it might be your best option. It also offers some smart features like turn assist and push back when you go too fast.
3. The Solowheel by Inventist – Looks pretty similar to the Mobbo, but for twice the price it only takes half the time to charge, comes with a more powerful motor and a 1 year warranty.
Hot tip: Using TripGo with your SBEU is easy – just follow our cycling or walking directions!
SBEUs to hit the market soon
Some promising SBEUs currently in development:
1. The RYNO Micro-Cycle by RYNO Motors – Features an adjustable seat, handlebars to hold onto, shock absorbers, a stop assist and more. Talk about a luxury ride! For a full range of features click here. If comfort (or looking like you’re coming from the future) is important to you, this might be your ride once they start shipping them in late 2014.
2. The eniCycle by Aleksander Polutnik – Might not have the sleekest design, but it’ll give you a great hands free SBEU experience similar to the SBU V3. Unfortunately this one is currently a prototype only and not available to buy to the general public. Watch one guy trying to learn how to ride the eniCycle here. (Sorry, we weren’t allowed to embed this video.)
3. The Uno III by BPG Werks – This one’s technically a dicycle as it uses 2 wheels instead of one. It’s also faster and not as portable as most of our other SBEUs, but we just had to include it in this list as it’s pretty cool! Similar to the RYNO it offers futuristic design, a comfortable seat and handlebars to hold onto; but once you increase the speed it changes – Transformer style – into a scooter with 3 wheels! We’re not sure when it will come out but we hope we won’t have to wait too long.
4. The U3-X by Honda – If you design is more important to you than power, this one’s for you! We think it looks very sleek, it has great maneuverability and it’s the lightest SBEU in our list. Drawbacks are low speed and distance per charge, and – according to Focus Designs (makers of competitor SBU V3) – noise. No word on when this beauty will be available for purchase yet.
5. The Embrio by BRP – There’s not much information out there yet about this one; it is currently scheduled to come out in 2025. Have a read of this GizMag article for more info too. Interestingly, opposite to the Uno III’s tranformation, the Embrio’s “landing gear” (the little wheels in front) is used for low speeds and retracts when it hits 20kmh.
Advantages – Why would I want a SBEU?
Apart from the fact that it’s an incredibly awesome ride, there is a variety of advantages that can make using your SBEU to commute a smart choice:
- It’s fun! When was the last time you had so much fun getting to work? No traffic jams, no road rage, just cruise along and enjoy the landscape (and the attention).
- It’s quicker & easier than walking, and most can be driven in pedestrianised areas and inside buildings (check the legislation in your area for more information).
- No parking space required: If your SBEU is portable you can take it with you (like a skateboard or scooter); otherwise just lock it up at the next street lamp like a bicycle. It is also much easier to take into trains during rush hour than a bicycle.
- The environmental impact is smaller than for cars or motorbikes, as SBEUs are smaller and lighter and need much less energy to move (plus they also usually use smart technologies like regenerative braking, i.e. capturing your kinetic energy and putting it back into the batter for later use when slowing down or going downhill).
There are a few things you might want to think about before getting your own SBEU:
- Road safety: Braking is a problem for most SBEUs. See the table below for more detail on how to brake on each one, but obviously if you cannot hit the brakes (or fly off your vehicle if you do) this is not safe in traffic! You might also consider wearing (at least) a helmet. We recommend only using SBEUs in pedestrian friendly areas, and please watch out for pedestrians there.
- Price: Quite a bit more expensive than your average skateboard or scooter, but then again many are comparable to an electric bicycle.
- Energy: As these SBEUs are electric, so they need to be recharged regularly. This limits the distance you can travel with them, and you will need to find a plug (easier than finding a fuel station though!).
- Learning curve: It takes the average person about half an hour to pick up how to use any of these, similar to learning how to ride a bicycle or Segway.
- Comfort: Depending on the SBEU you are considering, it might not be as comfortable as some other transport options. You do have the option to decide between sitting and standing though (see table below for more info).
To make things easier, here’s a quick tabular overview over the main specs for each of our SBEUs (click to enjoy in full size): We would like your thoughts on SBEUs! Would you consider buying one? Which one? Or do you have one already? How do you like it? Let us know in the comments below!