Published on June 12th, 2018 | by Kyle Field0
InMotion’s Solowheel Glide 3 Is The Ultimate Urban People Mover (CleanTechnica Exclusive)
June 12th, 2018 by Kyle Field
InMotion’s Solowheel is an innovative Electric Unicycle (EUC) that comes to the market with a very respectable balance of price, performance and range for riders looking for a portable, electrified Last Mile solution. The folks at InMotion sent us the Solowheel Glide 3 to run through the paces and suffice it to say that we were very impressed with the functionality, portability and compact size of the Solowheel.
What is Solowheel?
Solowheel is a self-balancing electric unicycle (EUC) that packs an impressive 31 miles | 50 kilometers of range with a max speed of 19 miles per hour | 31 kilometers per hour. That’s a lot of range for a little motorized creation that’s not much bigger than one wheel of a small bike.
The downside of packing so much into a small package is that it’s not something you would want to carry around with you all day at 30.4 pounds | 13.8 kilograms. Thankfully, the Solowheel Glide 3 has an integrated retractable handle that makes it much more manageable to wheel around than it would be to carry.
Take a look at the tale of the tape below to see what the Solowheel Glide 3 is made of:
- Battery Range: 28-31 miles max
- Motor Power: 800 watts
- Battery Capacity: 480Wh
- Charging time: 4 hours
- Top Speed: 19 mph
- Wheel Size: 16 inch wheel with inflatable tire
- Hill Climbing: rated for 25 degrees slope sustained
- Weight Limit: 260 lb max load.
- Weatherproof: IP55 rating means you can ride in wet weather
These specs make it clear that the Solowheel Glide 3 is a serious competitor in the space with an excellent range to weight ratio, a large tire to carry heavier loads (like my 205-pound frame) and absorb bigger bumps. On top of that, it packs plenty of power to get up those stubborn slopes and again, to carry larger frames around town safely. It’s an impressive build that is sure to suit many commuters and adventurers alike.
The Learning Curve
Let’s be honest, when you first see the Solowheel, you probably think ‘that’s cool but it must be hard to learn how to ride,’ right? Well, the InMotion team has your back because they understand better than anyone what it takes to learn how to ride Solowheel. In order to cut down the learning curve, the team at InMotion developed the Solowheel Brush.
Out of the box, the Solowheel balances itself from rolling front to back but that leaves it to the rider to balance from side to side. That leaves it to the rider to learn to balance on Solowheel’s side to side lean while also learning how to control it. The Solowheel Brush comes into play here big time by providing just enough resistance to falling over sideways to give new riders some support while also allowing for enough freedom of movement to allow riders to lean into turns.
To test out just how effective the brushes were, we let a handful of riders try Solowheel with and without the brushes and the results were impressive. Riders on Solowheel with the brushes were able to get up and cruising around a parking lot comfortably within 15 minutes. On the flipside, the Solowheel without brushes resulted in a longer learning curve of 1-2 hours before riders were able to ride around the parking lot comfortably.
The brushes help riders get comfortable controlling Solowheel without having to worry so much about balance. Not having to worry about the side to side balance as much makes it that much easier to focus on learning how to make Solowheel move forward, turn and stop. After a few days or weeks of riding with the brushes (depending on the aptitude of the rider), popping the brushes off is a simple matter of a few bolts and you’re off and zooming around without them.
InMotion just ran a Kickstarter campaign for its Solowheel brushes which was unfortunately not funded, but expect to hear more about the brushes from InMotion soon.
Public Safety Announcement: Wear your protective gear when riding Solowheel. This is a motorized thing that you are probably not familiar with and as such, protect yourself. Helmets, knee pads and wrist guards are all great investments when riding…anything. I thankfully didn’t find myself in need of them but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Solowheel doesn’t use a controller, so no need to hold something in your hand or pay attention to anything else. Instead, your body is the controller. To move forward, all it takes is a slight lean to the front. I found myself essentially bowing to the front to compensate but it reacts best with full body leans and it’s actually easier that way.
Similarly, for turning, a light press of the foot eases it into a turn. It takes a bit of playing around with but after a few days, I realize just how intuitive it is when I find myself leaning forward in the car to go faster and leaning into turns (seriously).
Within three days of casual parking lot action with Solowheel, I was comfortable enough to take it out on the town for legitimate errand running. It’s important to mentally decide before you get out on city streets that you’re more like a bike than a pedestrian on the Solowheel, so be prepared to act and ride accordingly beforehand.
Riding Solowheel, there were a handful of things I had to either consciously stop doing or that I wanted to consciously remember to do. Being 6’2″ / 188 centimeters tall, standing on the Solowheel makes me noticeably taller than that pair of high heels I tried on back in college. That makes me a prime target for trees and other overhead obstacles. Depending on your vertical status, this may or may not be an issue but the view is noticeably different being up a few inches higher.
Turning also took a conscious shifting of gears for me. Having spent so much time on longboard skateboards where turning is all about heel and toe pressure paired with pushing into turns with the legs, Solowheel’s desire to have me turn with my upper body by looking into the turn took a mental gear shift. It’s not difficult, I just had an old habit that I had to tame. Once I switched gears, turning started feeling natural and carving around made things a bit more interesting.
Foot placement on the foot pads is key. Start off with your dominant foot on Solowheel nice and centered on the pad then pull up the non-dominant foot. It’s easier to get the second foot adjusted after the fact, if needed. Starting off with bad foot placement resulted in fails for me or tense rides. Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds.
The Fun Bits
The Solowheel Glide 3 also comes with an app that, after a quick setup, lets riders go in and recalibrate the unit, update firmware and all the normal bits and bytes. The Glide 3 also sports some fantastic LED lights on the side panels that functionally increase visibility at night, which is extremely helpful as its electric motor is all but silent. It also sports a headlight and tail light, but while functional, they’re not nearly as much fun as the side lights.
I admittedly haven’t had as much fun with the lights because I’ve had the training cover that the Solowheel Glide 3 intelligently comes with installed in order to minimize scratches from the myriad of tests we’re running on it.
The app also allows you to select from a variety of LED light patterns and color choices to keep things interesting or you can go in and create your own.
The Solowheel Glide 3 isn’t cheap at $899 USD, but there are more affordable options like the Solowheel Glide 2 which can be had for $549 USD. Glide 2’s specs are not as impressive as Glide 3 but it is still an extremely impressive looking device. On the upper end, there’s the InMotion V10 and V10F which tip the scales at $1,299 and $1,599 respectively. These bad boys take things to the next level with more than twice the power of the Solowheel Glide 3, more power and more range (V10=43 miles, V10F=55-62 miles).
To learn more about these electric unicycles, check out InMotion’s official ‘learn to ride’ video below to get an idea of what it takes to learn to ride a Solowheel or head over to the Solowheel Glide 3’s homepage for all the juicy details.