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Faster SBU V3 Self Balancing Unicycle is ready to roll


March 5, 2012

Version 3 of the Self-Balancing Unicycle from Focus Designs has a faster top speed but a shorter range, and it's available now

Version 3 of the Self-Balancing Unicycle from Focus Designs has a faster top speed but a shorter range, and it's available now

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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.

"For 95 percent of previous customers polled as well as a sampling of random people questioned this falls within an adequate range for both their commute and just plain zipping along town," the company's David Martschinske told us. "We've debated a bigger and longer range version but when it came down to it we needed to blend portability with range. It would be much more expensive and bulkier to effectively increase the range while still maintaining the performance boost of a higher-voltage battery. A lot of thought went into the decision of a higher voltage pack and users love the performance boost on SBU V3."

As before, the forward and backward axis self-balancing aspect is taken care of by onboard sensors with 1,000 balance calculations being made per second for rapid correction. Left and right leaning action is left to the user. A user leans forward to move, back to brake, left and right to turn. The SBU V3 also features some clever technology that will automatically slow down (Push Back) the vehicle if it detects that the rider is trying to push it beyond its capabilities.

Braking is undertaken by the hub motor, while regenerative braking technology also features, and there's variable speed control. Turn assist algorithms are said to provide stability throughout a turn, and the vehicle is able to climb a 30 percent grade hill.

Other obvious design changes can be seen in the new three-piece frame that's constructed from 6061 aluminum alloy with black semigloss powdercoating, and Version 3 is now shipped fully assembled instead of requiring partial assembly by the user.

"The look of the old frame was a little too boxy for us," said Martschinske. "We've completely gone back to the drawing board with the design and made this new SBU smaller and a lot sexier (at least in my option). We also removed the cheap looking stickers for labels and upgraded to laser marking."

"The old frame would get dinged up corners upon any crash," continued Martschinske. "This new frame is actually protected by the seat. In the event of any crash no part of the frame (except for the foot wedges) will hit the ground, resulting in a clean frame after any crash. The foot wedge would occasionally twist on impact and would require re-tightening quite often. It was rather annoying for customers (as well as us). The new foot wedge is much sturdier and designed to prevent any twisting. It is also capable of laying completely flat upon storage."

The design tweaks also result in Version 3 being a little lighter than the previous version at 27 pounds (12.2 kg), and the inclusion of a standard one-inch diameter seat post means that if you don't like, or are too short/too tall for the seat provided, you can slide in your own.

The SBU V3 is available now for US$1,795.

To help you judge whether the self-balancing unicycle is for you, have a look at the following promo video from Focus Designs.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

Haha, we don't sell them but the seat post allows for attaching of the conventional fenders.

David Martschinske

You're gonna need a fender or you'll end up with a dark stain on all of your clothes... Remember the rooster tail that your old BMX would throw up?


While going downhill, does this know it, or start breaking. If going downhill, does this take advantage and start generating energy. Another option could be to design its backpack.

Dawar Saify

I just don't get it. Bicycles work great, don't need charged (think fruit fuel), are MUCH faster, weigh less, have unlimited range, and you can get a pretty damn sweet bike for less than $1k, this just seems silly, looks silly and is plain lazy...


Get this, thewaldron. If you work in a office, you need to be at least semi-fresh and need the space for your bike as well, right? And what if you need to (can/want) go to a party afterwards. Where are you gona store your bike if it's in a dark neighborhood? These devices will offer a modern alternative to cars and motorcycles and their triumph is their compactness.

P.s. - I cycle as well.))

Renārs Grebežs

Is it possible to attach a small motor and battery pack to run at low speed?.

Sinnadurai Sripadmanaban

I love these things - but, I always laugh when I see it because it reminds me of the guy from the 'BC' cartoons... :o)


Get what, Renārs Grebežs?

You really expect to drag this into somebody else's home for a party, or expect it to be welcome in a bar or a store? You know what's even more compact? Folding electric stand-up scooters. Yet even though those can be bought for a lot less than this, and you look much less dumb on one, those haven't set the world on fire.

I'm all for green transportation. I've bought, tried and sold more gadgets than probably everyone else here. Where 99.999% of the population is concerned, this will always be a toy.


But it is cool! Looks a little scary, though. And how do you get down from it in a hurry?


I'm also all for green transportation. But the SBU V3 looks a little heavy with the seat on it. I read it weights around 13 Kg, with an autonomy of 12 Km. I think the best alternative of Self Balancing Unicycle is the moCycl One, their SBU weights 9 Kg and has 20 Km autonomy.

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