CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech-focused
website
 in the world. Subscribe today!


Clean Transport Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 9.13.48 AM

Published on July 29th, 2014 | by Mike Barnard

30

Who Makes The Best Electric, Self-Balancing Unicycle?

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

July 29th, 2014 by  

While Tesla cars get a lot of attention because of little things like air conditioning, speed, luxury and being able to drive across the United States for free, most of us are concerned with a more important question.

Which electric, self-balancing unicycle is the best, the Solowheel, SBU v3 or the RYNO?

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 9.13.48 AMSolowheel, SBU V3, and RYNO with their typical riders.
Note that Adam is riding an early-model SBU, not the V3.

This has been a question I’ve been asked a lot, of course. But first, there are some people who must be brought up to speed, perhaps because they have been on an extended sojourn in the Antarctic or Ibiza.

What exactly is an electric, self-balancing unicycle?

It has one wheel. It has an electric motor. It has built-in sensors that determine whether it is leaning backward or forward along the disk-plane of the wheel. If the sensors determine that the centre-of-gravity is forward of the axle of the wheel, it speeds up the motor to try to keep the device balanced. That makes you speed up. If the sensors determine that the centre-of-gravity is behind the axle of the wheel, it slows down the motor to try to maintain balance. That makes you slow down. Lean forward to accelerate and lean back to brake. Simple.

This doesn’t do a thing for falling over to the side, but in cycling, motorcycling and the world of electric, self-balancing unicycles, we refer to falling over to the side as controlled carving of turns, and consider it an exhilarating and delightful part of getting around.

Where do they come from?

The Pacific Northwest of the United States, of course. The Solowheel and SBU V3 were both invented in the state of Washington while the RYNO was born across the mighty Willamette River in Portland, Oregon. The Pacific Northwest is the source of all great things these days after all, including giant redwoods, Microsoft and hipster baristas.

So how do they compare wheel to wheel?

Well, every good comparative test requires a spec-off. This one is no different.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.42.57 AM

What are the performance characteristics like?

There is literally nothing like apex cornering and skid recovery on a single wheel with massive torque. These people who depend on two wheels or four are pretenders to excitement. Most of these devices will hit their top speed in under five seconds. How many cars can claim that? Breaking seems a bit more leisurely, but there’s also the option of just stepping off.

Okay, if speed is your thing, none of these are particularly fast, but the SBU V3 is rated as fastest. That said, 16 kph is four times faster than average walking speed.

What are some factors in the decision making process?

Well, not to put to fine a point on it, the RYNO is about the price of a Segway, while the Solowheel and SBU are much more reasonably priced, only two to three times the price of a decent electric bicycle or six or seven times the price of an electric scooter. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound quite as good when I put it that way. None of these are the cheapest forms of electric vehicles around, so if budget is your biggest concern, perhaps consider something with fewer electronic components and more wheels.

Advantage: Solowheel and SBU V3.

Bulk matters. The SBU gets smaller by taking it apart, but it’s just awkward compared to the Solowheel and you have the bits to deal with. With the Solowheel, step off, pick it up by the handle on top and walk away. The RYNO is just so bulky and heavy that no one will realistically throw it in the trunk of a car or carry it onto a bus.

Advantage: Solowheel.

Range is likely more important than speed on these devices. The speed difference really means that if you are going five kilometres you’ll get there in 15 to 20 minutes on the SVU v3 versus 19 to 23 minutes on the others. They are all four to five times faster than walking.

Advantage: SBU V3.

Cool factor vs nerd factor is a matter of perspective. The Solowheel manages to not have much nerd factor at all, while the SBU V3 and RYNO reek of it. The SBU V3 is favoured by Adam of Mythbusters which gives it a massive leg up when playing Who’s the Nerdiest. The Solowheel is favoured by people who look more like this.

Despite the Mythbusters-cred, however, the RYNO is at least as nerdy as the Segway.

Cool Advantage: Solowheel.

Nerd Advantage: tie between SBU V3 and RYNO.

Hands free vs hands on controls is likely a matter of some dispute. But at these speeds and distances, hands free wins hands down.

Advantage: Solowheel and SBU V3.

You can put luggage racks and panniers on a RYNO, although you can’t carry as much weight overall as with the SBU V3. Football players should consider the SBU V3, but at 95 KG and 185 cm, the Solowheel is fine for me.

images-6

Advantage: RYNO.

Hill climbing is important. You don’t want to have to carry or roll any of these devices up steep hills. That said, the rated safe grade for the Solowheel is 15%, which usually equates to this picture in real life and there are pictures of people vastly exceeding 15% slopes on it. Nonetheless, if you live at the top of a steep hill in for example San Francisco, the SBU V3’s rating of 30% has a lot of appeal.

Advantage: SBU V3

Handling bumps is pretty important. All of these devices need more attention and care when riding across bumps than bicycles or cars. There are three factors that are important when dealing with bumps: comfort, terrain adaptation and wheel diameter. Starting with the last one, the bigger wheel diameter on the RYNO gives it an advantage; it will roll over bumps that the other two will have to consciously work at getting over. But for terrain adaptation, none of these devices have shock absorbers other than the inflated tires. As a result, all require you to stand up to deal with bumps. The Solowheel is the only one where you are always standing, so you are more likely to adapt to the bumps. But the Solowheel also doesn’t let you take your weight off, and on longer trips your feet can get tired and sore. Overall, the Solowheel wins on this.

Advantage: Solowheel

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 9.43.46 AM

None of these will keep you dry in the rain, although the Solowheel and SBU V3 do allow you to carry an umbrella. However, will one of them keep your clothes cleaner as you ride through puddles? In that case, the Solowheel’s almost fully enclosed wheel is a big plus. After market seat post clip-on bicycle fenders are available for the SBU V3, but that’s a poor second best and many people will end up with stripes up their backs and soaked pants. The RYNO’s fairly massive seat will keep the upper clothes clean, but shoes and pants won’t be as protected.

Advantage: Solowheel

So which one is best?

If you are doing a daily commute of five kilometres one way solely by unicycle, the SBU V3 gives you up to ten minutes extra per day when you aren’t commuting. And if you live in or ride into really hilly places like much of San Francisco, the SBU V3 gives you much greater comfort that you won’t be sweating the last  hundred meters.

solowheel_homepicIf you need the SUV of electric, self-balancing unicycles, with saddle bags capable of carrying groceries for a family of five, the only choice is the RYNO. This is the one for suburban soccer moms, at least the ones who live pretty close to the grocery stores where there are good sidewalks. And who have bigger bank accounts.

Personally, I made my choice months ago. I picked the Solowheel and I’ve been very happy with it. For sheer minimalist awesome, the Solowheel wins hands down. Fold down the pedals, step on and glide away. No hands, no seat, just magic carpet. It’s also the lightest and is the most convenient to carry around.

No one questions me carrying the Solowheel onto subways, into grocery stores or into the backseat of taxis. It’s the size of a round briefcase and has a handle on top. I buy groceries, pick up sushi and ride to the office. I was expecting to be nerdy on the Solowheel, but the most frequent comment I get in Singapore is “Cool!”, and that is from every age group, both sexes and every degree of dressed up and down.

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.



Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

Tags: , , , , , , ,


About the Author

is Senior Fellow -- Wind, with the Energy and Policy Institute. He has been a deeply interested observer of energy systems for three decades. His work as a business and technical architect on large initiatives in a variety of domains gives him the systems thinking perspective and stakeholder analysis skills to engage effectively with an area as complex as the grid. He’s regularly asked to peer-review academic and non-academic publications related to wind energy by journals, organizations and individuals. Through the Energy & Policy Institute, CleanTechnica.com, his blog barnardonwind.com and other venues, he focuses on bringing data-centric reality to bear in policy, siting and social license discussions related to wind around the world.



  • Waxil Davidson

    To SoloWheel, thank you, but pioneers wind up with arrows in their backs. Sad but true. You should have accounted for this.

  • Waxil Davidson

    SoloWheel is a patent troll and not an innovator. If they were better, they’d make something better. AirWheel is just as good, and AirWheel sucks, while RockWheel and FireWheel give you the best offroad and onroad XP respectively. SoloWheel is nowhere near either because of their own hubris and possibly by being located in the U.S. but using Chinese manufacturing (of course it will leak stupid).

  • Waxil Davidson

    FireWheel is the best by far. NineBot One is 2nd.

  • Neale Gray

    A couple of images of ESWAY X3 Extreme and Q3 Commuter (Mars Rover)

  • Neale Gray

    Hi Mike, Just thought I would send you an update on the evolution of self balance unicycles. I rode the new dual wheel version today and they are fantastic, I had a high school student ride with only 2 minutes practice. I still say ESWAY are the best, they are dedicated to high quality manufacture. 2 years warranty and rated for greater than 35000 km.

  • Neale Gray

    Hi mike, Yes I am the distributer for ESWAY brand X3, just seemed that there was no actual feedback from anyone that has ridden any of the brands, I can tell you that I have done factory technical training on these unicycles and a modification I offered as a result of our harsh testing has been incorporated into the ESWAY brand as a result and I continue to work very closely with the manufacturer.
    If you don’t skate or ride a surf board then it will take 2 to 3 weeks to get rid of the trainers, during this time you will build both the ankle strength and the brain connections that are required to control the new human movements you will develop, it is really obsessive when learning and it will the best thing you ever did for yourself. If 2 wheels are freedom then one wheel is euphoric haha. my YouTube channel is MilbayAus if you want to see self balance electric unicycle in action. I post new videos regularly.
    Self Balance Unicycle 10/10 for unconventional approach, 10/10 for functionality, 10/10 for versatility.
    I will post some feedback of the new 2 wheel unicycle in the next week or two.

  • Neale Gray

    This is what my X3 looks like after I have been riding

  • Neale Gray

    I guess my opinion should count if only because I actually ride these things every day.

  • Neale Gray

    And Mike, the ESWAY is not a knock off of Solowheel just a better developed unicycle. It is hard to knock off open source.

  • Neale Gray

    Hi I am at the Gold Coast Australia and ride a ESWAY X3 self balancing unicycle. I have looked at heaps of brands and the ESWAY X3 is the toughest by far, I have crashed it off cliffs and even onto rocks as part of durability tests. I have tested and looked at the components and they seem to have the best quality. I have ridden my X3 more than 1500 km using the ESWAY X3 as an EV and I am super impressed, I have ridden downhill dirt, up the steepest hills on the coast I have even ridden for km on the hard sand many times. no doubts ESWAY has the best Self Balance unicycle.

  • Joel Johanneson

    oh, also what new products are expected in the next few months?

    • eWheel

      Guys, it’s like saying: There is a Ford and everything else is a cheap knock off! But in reality, aside from Solowheel, there are at least 2 dozens of other brands started in the same factory and now a stand alone companies all in one district. Companies like: Airwheel, IPS, Frewel, Free-man, Legway, eWheel.net, Pinwheel, Pukka as well as Rockwheel – like a Ferrari, or a Lambo among cars. Variety in prices, safety, quality, features range from 12″-16″ tire sizes, speeds 10-25 mph, range 5-40 miles. Some lighter than others, more compact, some have swappable/removable batteries with USB ports to charge gadgets, some have speedometers, some come with a smartphone applications to control the unit, or use slightly different technology like brushless motor (200w -1,500w) vs gear motor (300w-500w), or Lithium Ion vs Polymer Ion batteries all with different battery capacity ranging from 88Wh to 500Wh. As with any moving vehicle there is risk of tech failure, or stupid moves that lead to accidents, but don’t need to point fingers to any particular brand, as there is market for each and every brand out there. Don’t get me starting on smartphone brands ))

    • eWheel

      Solowheel is getting ready to introduce 5 new models ranging from $999 for Hovertrax to $2,500 Xtreme. The only Xtreme is the price ))

  • Joel Johanneson

    Good article. I am just researching the market Mike. Not sure about IPS, but there seems to be a LOT of these coming out of China that are very similar and half the price of solo wheel. Amazon has quite a few right now ie. BINGS. Then all the AirWheel stuff out there. Is that IPS?

    • http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/ Mike Barnard

      My research leads me to trust Solowheel and SBU, but not the knockoffs. If you are going to buy a cheap toy and not ride it around other people or ride it that much, the knockoffs might be worth it.

      If you actually want a dependable form of transportation that is safe to ride around pedestrians, I’d go with the primary brands.

      As for new products, the Solowheel was updated a bit but not radically earlier this year. SBU v3 is the most recent one, and I think that was last year’s model. I don’t know if Ryno is actually actively developing their product or selling many.

      New products in this space all appear to be cheap knockoffs of the Solowheel.

  • Poirot’s Shadow

    For the electric Unicycles, there’s a good comparison here: http://www.wheelgo.com/pages/compare

    Some of the new SoloWheel products look stunning, but won’t be available to purchase for another couple months.

    • http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/ Mike Barnard

      Based on my conversations with Inventist, the company which makes the Solowheel, all of the products on this page except Solowheel are unlicensed knockoffs of the Solowheel.

      There are several videos available online regarding failures of the IPS knockoffs and knockoffs which caught fire from battery faults. They don’t have the same quality or reliability. Personally, I’ve seen cheap variants here in Singapore and I’m unimpressed with them too. Please also note that there are limits on maximum battery size that can be carried onto planes, if that is a concern.

      My recommendation is to buy the original Solowheel for a bit more money if you want that form factor. When rolling on a single wheel, it provides the greatest assurance of safe operation and batteries that don’t catch fire.

      • Poirot’s Shadow

        There’s usually more than one side to every story. Are there any links to those stories of battery fires you mentioned?

        The logic of SoloWheel were the first, therefore all other manufactures of similar devices are therefore ‘crappy knockoffs’ doesn’t really hold water. According to sources, IPS have recently worked out a patent agreement with SoloWheel. Have you actually tried any of the other products, such as the new 111?

        It seems a bit ridiculous to insist that consumers be faced with only one choice. What if they have range requirements greater than the actual 6-8 miles that this version is capable of delivering? Not everyone can afford the nearly $2,000 retail price of the SoloWheel, which rather limits the market.

        Under capitalist systems, the great advantage of competition is it rapidly increases the rate of innovation & change that otherwise would not be encouraged with a single right’s holder.

        • http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/ Mike Barnard

          Regarding IPS not being an unlicensed knockoff, if they had an agreement, it’s unlikely that Solowheel would still be calling out IPS specifically as an unsafe, unlicensed knockoff on their website and clearly stating that they do not license their designs. That a maker of cheap knockoffs lies about having licensed the design doesn’t mean that they are telling the truth, just that they are adding bullshit to their venal behaviour. The Inventist specifically doesn’t license, says so and strongly defends their designs.

          “Solowheel VS IPS 101

          As you can see from the chart, the most important differences between the Solowheel and the IPS 101 is that the IPS 101 cannot handle the power requirements needed for acceleration and maneuvering. The IPS wheel is unsafe: theirs spins freely when off the ground while the Solowheel motor turns off immediately. The IPS comes in 3 distance ranges, and the one tested against the Solowheel in the chart above is a class 3, the highest “most-powerful” IPS available. It also contains a 324 watt-hour battery that makes it illegal to take onto airplanes.

          Inventist does not license the Solowheel trademark or design for use on any other similar products.

          If you’re ever uncertain about the authenticity of a unit, you can ask us at (360) 833-2357 or customerservice@inventist.com.”

          ” As for the fire, have a look at this:

          NEW UPDATE: BEWARE buying cheaply made Solowheel knockoffs! The lithium polymer battery used in the knockoffs are extremely dangerous and have started home fires. Below is an example of an IPS (a common knockoff) that caught fire. The fire and police departments in China investigated the incident and determined that the IPS is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS and caught on fire while it was charging. You can see the IPS logo in the top photo.”

          http://inventist.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&layout=edit&id=34

          Once again, I made a conscious choice not to include cheap knockoffs in the comparison.

          • Poirot’s Shadow

            1) The IPS 101 is a 2 year old product & has not been in production for quite some time.

            2) In Asia, IPS is currently selling more than 5,000 units a month. Surely if there was a credible fire hazard, there would be more evidence than an iPhone photo.

            3) A couple months ago, I asked IPS about these fire claims. They reported that the picture you show was a case of someone attempting to carryout repair work on their unit, shorting out the battery (hardly not the devices fault)

            4) Each Airline has their own maximum WH restrictions for Li-Ion batteries. A bit baffling to denigrate a product for possessing ‘too much’ battery power.

            5) Both IPS & SoloWheel are adopting the same battery technology, Sony’s US18650V3 high drain cells.

            6) Have you bothered to ask SoloWheel if IPS has come to some sort of patent arrangement with them? I’ve contacted the Inventist founder, Mr. Chen, who does not deny it.

            Look Mike, it’s a good article, there’s probably no denying SoloWheel have from the beginning & still have the best quality product out there, but why not try to be a little less dogmatic in preconceived notions of other options.

          • http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/ Mike Barnard

            Once again, this is current material quoted from the Solowheel website. I have spoken to them via email several times in the past few months, and point out cheap knockoffs whenever they arise. If they had been licensed, IPS would have had Solowheel remove the IPS denigration from their website.

            IPS makes cheap, unlicensed knockoffs. They are more of a risk to use than the Solowheel. Please watch this video from April 2013 of the IPS behaving very dangerously under very moderate inputs.

            I will certainly be sharing with the Solowheel folks that IPS is claiming to be licensed.

          • Poirot’s Shadow

            Yup, the old 101 casing hitting the pavement under artificial conditions, posted by the reseller of the SoloWheel in France, proving what exactly.

            It’s quite evident you’re going to stick to your position regardless of what facts are thrown your way. It’s a pity because potential consumers are not being given an objective assessment of all their options, being ladled out a serving of prejudice & glib generalities on alternatives of what is inevitably going to be an extremely popular form of transportation of the near future.

            I suppose there is nothing else to be said, but let consumers vote with their wallets.

          • http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/ Mike Barnard

            Wow. You really are in deep with this dishonest company who shills cheap, unlicensed and less safe knock offs. No idea why, but you refuse to accept the evidence regarding licensing and are dismissive of year old back to back tests showing IPS makes less safe products.

            Do you have some skin in the game? I’m just a guy who did due diligence before buying and spent money wisely. What’s your story?

          • http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/ Mike Barnard

            By the way, I’ve been chatting with the SBU folks who license their drve train to Solowheel. They explicitly do not license their drivetrain to IPS. I won’t repeat what else they said about IPS but suffice it to say that the only people who believe IPS is safe are people like you who failed to check what you were buying before you bought it.

          • eWheel

            Guys, it’s like saying: There is a Ford and everything else is a cheap
            knock off! But in reality, aside from Solowheel, there are at least 2
            dozens of other brands started in the same factory and now a stand alone
            companies all in one district. Companies like: Airwheel, IPS, Frewel,
            Free-man, Legway, eWheel,
            Pinwheel, Pukka as well as Rockwheel – like a Ferrari, or a Lambo among
            cars. Variety in prices, safety, quality, features range from 12″-16″
            tire sizes, speeds 10-25 mph, range 5-40 miles. Some lighter than
            others, more compact, some have swappable/removable batteries with USB
            ports to charge gadgets, some have speedometers, some come with a
            smartphone applications to control the unit, or use slightly different
            technology like brushless motor (200w -1,500w) vs gear motor
            (300w-500w), or Lithium Ion vs Polymer Ion batteries all with different
            battery capacity ranging from 88Wh to 500Wh. As with any moving vehicle
            there is risk of tech failure, or stupid moves that lead to accidents,
            but don’t need to point fingers to any particular brand, as there is
            market for each and every brand out there. Don’t get me starting on
            smartphone brands ))

          • http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/ Mike Barnard

            Sure. If you have no interest in preserving intellectual capital law and low regard for your safety, go ahead. Buy cheap, get cheap.

  • viaimages

    i think your opinion will change when OneWheel comes out later this/next year :)

    • http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/ Mike Barnard

      LOL. Maybe, maybe not. Speaking as a long-time board sports guy who used to do 20 km circuits of Stanley Wall in Vancouver on his long-board and drop into bowls at Whistler on my snowboard, I can safely say the idea has some appeal. But the compact and enclosed cleanliness of the Solowheel will probably still give it the edge for me personally.

      I think the OneWheel would be fun to play with, but not to commute through puddles with. YMMV of course.

      And for anyone who is wondering what we are talking about, open the image or click on this link.

      http://rideonewheel.com

      • NullVote

        Wide wheelbase on the onewheel equals poor traction control, same issue ryno has on any form of slightly dusty roads… You know, because no roads have dust dirt and sand on them.

        That, and no mud-guards, and eats shoelaces, and skids on the ground too much. (Footings are too low and poorly compensated for.) Also, poor stance like skateboarders have, leads to common “use” bodily damage that is permanent.)

        Conclusion: OneWheel and Ryno are pure novelty, as they simply fail in function, at the moment. Unicycle is partly novelty, but mostly just poor design having a seat. Solowheel-style devices (which solowheel was not even the inventor of the “idea” just the “looks of the design”. This invention has been in china for two years prior to his “invention” patents, which he stole from them. Which is also why he can’t sue them and win.) However, that is the novelty-turned-practical for efficient individual people-movers of the future.

        Unfortunately, all fall short on “desired ranges”… However, the solowheels discomfort levels are matched to the range. If it lasted longer, your feet would be dead, due to the undersized and unpadded pedals and lack of any form of shock-system. Mostly it is just foot stress from awkward standing from the narrow pedals. A seat would just transfer discomfort to your crotch, which is less desirable… You can walk-off foot-pains with style, you can’t walk-off crotch pain, and every jolt goes right into your groin on a unicycle. Plus, you look like a clown riding it.

Back to Top ↑