We needed to blend portability with range
Inner city congestion, rising parking charges, pedestrian-only zones and other measures to persuade folks to leave the car at home can seem a little at odds with the increasing pace of our busy working lives. Getting the train to work is all well and good but if the office is quite a distance from the station, then workers are faced with hopping on more public transport or taking along a portable personal vehicle like a folding bicycle, mini scooter or unicycle. If you want to avoid having to hit the showers before sitting at your desk, then motorized versions of most are now available. Regular readers will already know that we’re quite fond of the electric unicycle, particularly when it’s combined with self-balancing mechanisms. One of the first to be featured was the SBU from Focus Designs, the third version of which has just been released.
Unlike pedal-powered unicycles, the SBU (self-balancing unicycle) doesn’t take many, many hours of dedicated practice before users can confidently zoom past friends and family without looking like an arm-flapping, unstable idiot. The training time for the original was said to be around a couple of hours for the average user, but this was reduced further with the second version to about 20 minutes – although some folks might take to it in as little as five minutes. This short learning curve continues through to V3, with the option of attaching Noob Wheels (at US$85 for a set of two) under each of the foot wedges to help with balance.
There have been quite a few changes and improvements brought to the new model, beyond the funky new wheel design. The first is an increase of top speed at the expense of range. Focus Designs – the electronics designer behind the Solowheel – has gone for higher voltage 53V/2.5Ah Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery packs for a range of at least 7.5 miles (12km), but the rider may be able to stretch that up to 10 miles (16 km). The SBU V3 manages a top speed of 15 mph (25 km/h) and zero to 10 mph (16 km/h) in three seconds from its 1000-Watt BLDC electric motor.
This is claimed to be enough for a sprint ride of about an hour or two hours around the city at a more leisurely pace. The multi-color LED status indicator in the center of the power button will keep you posted on the remaining charge and, when the juice does run out, the SBU won’t just come to an abrupt halt and throw you off to the amusement of onlookers. It will gently slow the unit down while maintaining balance. There’s a power override key lock, too, for the prevention of accidental activation during storage.
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