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Anh-Minh Le | Photo: Courtesy Onewheel | March 15, 2017
An engineer aims to bring the thrill of snowboarding to the streets.
With the invention of Onewheel, Kyle Doerksen has merged his professional and personal passions: engineering and snowboarding. The self-balancing transport device purports to deliver a sensation similar to his beloved pastime, that can be enjoyed without icy conditions. “Riding a single-track trail or carving the beach on Onewheel is the closest experience to snowboarding on powder,” says the Stanford-educated Doerksen, who grew up in the Canadian Rockies and previously worked at Faraday Bicycles and IDEO.
While snowboarding was a major inspiration for Doerksen, Onewheel’s growing legion of riders isn’t limited to fellow board-sports enthusiasts. According to Doerksen, his flagship product “lives at the intersection of transportation and recreation. Onewheel is a great last-mile solution for commuters and urbanites.” Additionally, he says, its ability to “ride off-road on any terrain has attracted the active, outdoor lifestyle community.”
In 2014, Doerksen’s company, Santa Cruz-based Future Motion, debuted a prototype of Onewheel. The invention, comprised of a single wheel that housed an engine and was flanked by wood-and-metal surfaces for your feet, raised $630,000 through a Kickstarter campaign. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, a premier model, Onewheel+, which is built in San Jose, was unveiled. It features a newly designed hub motor that allows for a smoother, quieter ride than its predecessor. The latest version also offers improved hill-climbing and can reach speeds of up to 19 mph (bumped up from 15 mph). Movement is simple enough, courtesy of motion-sensing technology: Shift forward for acceleration; lean back to slow down; and apply pressure with your toes or heels to turn the board (yes, it’s controlled much like a snowboard).
“Our riders love its insane maneuverability, its quick charge time and how the giant tire can easily roll over bumps and cracks in the pavement,” says Doerksen. The Onewheel+ and the Ultracharger—which recharges the batteries in 20 minutes for a range of 5 to 7 miles—retail for $1,499 and recently started shipping.
Originally published in the March/April issue of Silicon Valley