It's a skateboard! It's a hoverboard! It's the Onewheel?
Chattanooga residents may have seen L2 Outside's owner Dirk Unkle and others cruising around on what looks like a balance board with a tire in the middle and been confused. It's a fair reaction, and one Unkle expects.
"When I ride downtown, it definitely turns heads," he says with a laugh. "People look at it like it's some kind of voodoo magic."
There is no sorcery involved in the electric board, though. Just good old-fashioned physics. Gyroscopes help keep the board balanced, and sensitive plates at both ends of the board detect pressure. Lean forward to accelerate, lean backward to slow down.
L2 Outside is currently Chattanooga's only licensed dealer for the Onewheel and the faster, more agile Onewheel+. Designed as a new, fun method of transportation in urban or trail settings, Unkle says the real fun of the Onewheel isn't riding around town, it's taking it off-road.
Unkle has ridden the Onewheel on Lookout Mountain's Guild Hardy Trail and the trails atop Stringer's Ridge. The thick tire in the middle of the board navigates roots and rocks well, he says — even when riding uphill.
"When I was a kid, I'd love to skateboard and ride down hills, but I hated having to pick the board up and walk back up the hill each time," Unkle says. "I think everyone that's ever done board sports has thought, 'Man, I sure would love to go up that hill.'"
The Onewheel doesn't go uphill slowly, either. It has variable settings related to speed and balance, and the most daring setting can allow speeds of over 20 mph. The board comes with a smartphone app that can connect and track your speed and post it to an online leaderboard, and Unkle says he's seen posted speeds of 27 mph.
"I've never even gotten to 20. I pushed it to 15 or 16 once as an experiment, but I knew I would not feel comfortable falling off at that kind of speed," Unkle says. "I tend to hang around 10 mph, which is really doable."
L2 Outside offers gear trials every Friday at their warehouse just over the Tennessee-Georgia state line near Flintstone. While most come to try out the selection of paddleboards, Unkle says, he’s also had people come to give the Onewheel a go. For more information about a trial, contact L2 Outside at 423-531-7873.
The board can look intimidating to newcomers, but Unkle says it's surprisingly easy to get the hang of. Balancing isn't difficult given the thick, several-inch-wide wheel and the self-balancing electronics. Moreover, controlling its speed is as simple as leaning further forward or back.
Those concerned about the board dying while out on the trail needn't worry either, he says. Boasting a seven-hour battery life and charging in around 30 minutes, the Onewheel will last for even the longest trail outing.
"Out of all the people we've had jump on it, if they were willing to get on, they got the hang of it quickly," Unkle says. "It's really minimal and intuitive, and there's something that's really satisfying about it."