One of the perks of working for Electrek is that I get to review all sorts of electric bicycles, e-scooters, e-skateboards and other micromobility e-devices. While many share similarities, every now and again one comes along that is unlike anything I’ve ridden before. Case in point: the carbon fiber Kiwano KO1+ one-wheel self-balancing electric scooter.
This thing was incredibly fun to learn to ride, though the process wasn’t a piece of cake. Read on to learn more about this unique vehicle that goes on sale today, and to watch me make a fool of myself learning to ride it.
Kiwano KO1+ self-balancing electric scooter
The basic idea of the Kiwano KO1+ is that it has a single wide wheel, a single stem and non-pivoting handlebars. That’s about it.
There’s no throttle.
There’s no brake.
You control everything with your body.
And it’s awesome. It’s like that WideWheel electric scooter we reviewed a few weeks ago, but if it only had one wheel. This thing is seriously a hoot to ride. After you learn to ride it, that is. More on that in a moment. First, let’s check out the tech specs.
Kiwano KO1+ tech specs
- Motor: 1000 Watts
- Battery: 52 V 320 Wh (non removable)
- Top speed: 12 mph (20 km/h)
- Range: 25 miles (40 km)
- Weight: 35 lb (16 kg)
- Frame: Carbon fiber
- Load capacity: 264 lb (120 kg)
- Brakes: Motor braking
- Tires: 8.5″ airless
- Suspension: Yes
- Climbing angle: up to 30%
- Extras: kickstand, headlight and taillight, LED speedometer and battery meter, iOS/Android app for calibration and settings adjustments, ability to be controlled remotely with app
This is actually the second version of the Kiwano self-balancing electric scooter. The previous KO1 version (sans plus) was actually a bit faster, though its range was lower. This version drops the speed a tad (probably a good idea as this isn’t really something you want to race on) but provides much more range, helping make this a better suited commuter. If you want the faster version though, you can find it for $500 here.
Check out the video below to see how I learned to ride the KO1+ electric scooter.
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Operating the KO1+ electric scooter
When you turn the scooter on it will start up in idle mode. It just sort of stands there, balancing itself. It’s kind of freaky, to be honest. It’s so good at balancing itself that it almost doesn’t even move. It just makes minute motor adjustments to keep itself balanced. I didn’t really believe that it could balance that well at first so I started by just kind of pushing the thing around and watching it correct itself. It was pretty impressive.
Once I was done slapping the scooter around and sufficiently convinced that it knew how to right itself, I was ready to give it a shot.
To ride the scooter, you click the power button once more and it switches from idle mode to ‘normal’ mode. This causes the scooter to tilt forward 12º (the exact amount is customizable) so that you can hop on. There’s also an ‘advanced’ mode, but you should probably start in normal. From what I gather, normal has a lower top speed and is a bit smoother.
When it comes to riding the scooter, I have two main tips for you:
- When you ride the scooter, the key is to become one with it. Don’t think about it as standing on top of something, think about it like the scooter replaces your feet. When you lean, lean with the scooter, not on the scooter.
- Look off into the distance. Do not look down. You’ll start going in the direction you look, so always look off towards the horizon. When you want to turn, look towards where you intend to go.
Other than that, learning to ride it is really just a matter of trial and error. Don’t expect to just be able to hop onto this thing and ride around like a circus clown. It took me around 60-90 minutes of riding before I could go both in a straight line and turn on command.
In the beginning, it’s probably best to start in an open area to ensure that you don’t have any obstacles to run into. However, don’t spend too long in an open area. Once you have figured out how to basically stay on the thing, move to somewhere with a confined path. I know that sounds weird, but trust me. You want something confining you that forces your brain to want to follow the path.
The reason for this is that you’ll soon learn that you aren’t going to be consciously controlling the KO1+. It’s not like a bicycle where you think “I want to go left” so you turn the handlebars to the left. This thing doesn’t work that way. Instead you think “I want to go left” and then you look left and then just mentally check out. Your body and that caveman part of your brain that functions without you will figure it out together. If you try to control the thing too much, you’re just going to end up fighting it. You’ve got to relax and just go with it. I know that sounds weird, but trust me. Let your inner neanderthal brain take the wheel on this one.
Once I got the hang of the KO1+ I could actually start appreciating it for what it was – a really well-built machine. Despite having a 1,000 W motor and 320 Wh battery, it was surprisingly lightweight at just 35 lb (16 kg). If that sounds heavy to you, consider that a lot of 250 W e-bikes with smaller batteries weigh much more than that.
The suspension works well, the carbon fiber frame looks great, the screen is easy to read and the slip-resistant zinc alloy foot pegs are quite comfortable. There’s also a nifty kickstand that tucks completely away when you’re not using it. They even include an action camera mount on the front so you can film your adventures. The whole scooter is just really well-built.
The accompanying smartphone app is also a nice addition. You can use it to adjust the scooter’s calibration and riding angle as well as control the scooter remotely. Strap a platter onto the top and you’ve got a little robot butler that you can use to deliver drinks!
Honestly, the KO1+ self balancing electric scooter is awesome. It’s a hoot to ride, though it does take a little while to get the hang of it.
Is this the most utilitarian vehicle for your daily commute? Probably not. It’s not going to be replacing my electric bicycle any time soon for hardcore commutes. But I can definitely see this as much more than a toy. If I was a college student then this would be my go-to campus commuter. It’s fun, quirky and sure to turn heads. I can also see these being popular in the hallways of Google headquarters or for scooting around industrial parks. Basically, these could be good for anywhere you need a personal electric vehicle for moving around and aren’t worried about looking a bit… different?
If you want to get your own KO1+ electric scooter, then you’re in luck. They go on sale on March 13th and you can have one on the way to you for a cool $1,299.
What do you think about the Kiwano KO1+ self balancing electric scooter? Let us know in the comments below!
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