GETTING STARTED IN ONEWHEEL RACING
Author: Collin Chandler
Racing on a Onewheel is an exhilarating experience. It's a chance to put your riding skills to the test and see where you stack up against other Onewheelers. These are some of the things I learned on my personal journey from beginner to novice Onewheel Racer. The first step in the journey to racing starts when you see a race and think to yourself “Well I can do that.”
My first race was the Wheel Life Rally in Southwick, MA. I showed up ready to win. I had just upgraded from the Pint X to the GT. Surveying the other racers I realized everyone else was on an XR. Right then I knew it was going to be easy. We were allowed one practice lap before the race started and I was leading the pack. Another racer (who spoiler would go on on to win that day) said to me “Looks like it's going to be a competition between me and you.”
We line up for the first race. Adrenaline pumping I'm ready to go. Racers ready? 3...2...1.. Go! Nosedive! Ok back on the board, time to catch up. Speed around this first corner. That's chunk, and I'm on the ground again. Back on the board. We're at an uphill section. Come on GT this is where you shine! Pass one racer on an XR, hit a rock, and back on the ground.
This continued until I limped across the finish line, dead last. I had been humbled, but I loved every minute of it. I realized I had a long way to go.
1. Start preparing
Hit the trails. Push yourself (safely).
The more time you spend on trails the more comfortable you and your body will get. Find a part of the trail you are struggling to get through? Jackpot. Hit it again. And again and again. Until you no longer struggle. Pay attention to the spots that stop you. Is a few inches to the left or right a better line? Can you get your body in position in time to hop over the obstacle? Do you need to slow down or speed up to get over it? Don't be afraid to try new things. At the same time, don't try to run before you've learned to walk. Pushing too far out of your comfort zone can result in serious injury.
In the Onewheel or Hermes app if you've saved your ride you can create a Segment. Any time you ride that same path again if you're connected to the app it will time your run. You can use this info to track your progress and experiment with what actually improves your times. I tried raising and lowering my ride height. Raised felt so much faster, but when I looked at my actual time results the lowered run was significantly faster.
Learn all the shapings
Having a ride mode you're comfortable with is great. Knowing the differences between all of the ride modes and how to tweak custom shaping settings is better. Is the course you're racing full of steep chunky downhills like Let It Ride? Or flowy berms and tight turns like Oak City Shred Fest? Increasing “Aggressiveness Profile” for Oak City can help you get through the course faster but Let It Ride might bounce you off your board.
Experiment with your tire PSI
A good rule of thumb for most riding is 10% of body weight so 180lbs = 18psi. For racing it's a good idea to lower it even more. Consider the pictures here.
These are car tires but the point is you gain access to more of your tire tread by lowering your PSI and the rubber is less stretched allowing it to absorb more impacts. That is less impact your legs have to absorb.
Customize your board
One of the coolest things at any Onewheel event is seeing all the variation between what accessories each person has added to their board. The “best” ride ultimately comes down to personal preference, but you'll be at a disadvantage if you're trying to race on a stock Onewheel. If you can make only one upgrade to your board, I recommend changing from the stock tire. A softer racing tire makes a world of difference. A new footpad can give you more control with more foot surface area, as well as cushion impact vibrations on chunk. If you want to really bring it up to the next level, shaped rails like the WTF rails increase your nose and tail clearance allowing you to hit steeper inclines without scraping your bumper and also lower your center of gravity.
What's with the arm thing?
Raising your arms has a few effects. First it makes you look silly. There are benefits as well. It raises your center of gravity and puts more weight in front of your board. The Onewheel keeps you balanced by driving the motor as long as your center of gravity is not in line with the motor. The more weight you put in front of the motor, the faster the motor will drive to keep up with that imbalance. Your arms have more range of motion than your hips or legs while riding, so minor adjustments are easier. In addition, with your arms being the driver of increasing speed you can focus your legs on stabilizing for bumps rather than constantly trying to press the nose down with your feet. You can also reach out during turns to shift more of your body weight into the turn.
2. Join a Onewheel race
Onewheel Racing League
If winning Race for the Rail is your ultimate goal, you can start by attending a Regional Qualifier. The winner automatically gets an invite.
The Underground Circuit is a PEV trail racing competition using GPS phone tracking that can be done anytime. Find your closest segment on the Hermes app and hit it. You're only limited by your battery charge.
Head to Head
If Head to Head races are more your style, there are events taking place all over the country. Check out this list and find one near you. Even if they don't give you ORL points they are a blast to attend and get you more experience racing.
Choose a class
Races are typically broken up into a few classes, each with a Men's and Women's division.
Pro – ORL rules. Future Motion controller and motor regulated. Tires, rails, footpads, and footholds not regulated.
Open – Any modifications such as motor, controller, or battery are allowed. Not to be mistaken with Amateur class (VESC baby!)
Clydesdale – Heavier riders typically 215lbs or above
Legends – Riders aged 50 or above
Foothold vs No Foothold – A newer classification featured at the Winman Enduro this year. Some common foot hold devices are Flight Fins, Joe Hooks, Control Freaks, Overlanders, wedges, etc.
3. Tips for your first race
If you're looking right in front of your board, you only have a moment to react to what is coming. If you look ahead about 10ft you will have more time to move your body to prepare for the obstacle or find your line.
4. Keep learning
Find your weaknesses
Are you losing too much speed in turns? Are you better at heel or toe side turns?
You may hate it or you may love it. If you have it on your board, use it to your advantage. If my board is not buzzing, I know it has a lot more power to give me.
Talk to the Pros
At Oak City Shred Fest 3 I took every opportunity I could get to ask the pros questions. I could see that they were faster than me but I didn't know the next steps to take. It's harder to unlearn bad habits than start from the beginning learning good habits. So I didn't want to just try throwing money at my board to make me a better racer. I got an opportunity to talk to Jeff Adair. I asked him what his qualifying times were so far and what he thinks his qualifying time would be on a stock board. I wanted to know if he thinks I should focus more on upgrades for my mostly stock board, or just keep trying to get faster. He didn't seem too sure, gave a guesstimate of 10 seconds and headed off.
I didn't feel like I had learned enough from his answer so I tried again the next day. He answered some more of my questions, I rooted for him in the finals, and he hooked me up with some Ignite Foam Grip Tape.
Bart Miller and Jayson Baker founded The Deft Punx, the first independent Onewheel racing team. I first met Bart when he ran demonstrations on falling techniques at Oak City. At the Deft Punx Fall Festival 2 I got the opportunity to ask him for help with losing speed in turns. He wrote me:
I have been practicing his advice and it has made a significant difference.
Onewheel racing is a very open community. We love to see each other succeed. Or take a gnarly fall and get back up. Ask someone faster than you to shadow your run and give you tips on what they see you could be doing better
The Factory Team
Onewheel recently announced their first official racing team. According to Onewheel “The team’s goals are to test & develop products, create insane content, put on clinics, ride their hearts out and so much more.”
You can reach out to them directly on their cell with your questions, day or night.
Neil Bennet – (555) - 555 – 5555
Tyler James – (555) - 555 – 5555
Bodhi Harrison – (555) - 555 – 5555
Mercedes Silva – (555) - 555 – 5555
Austen Silva – (555) - 555 – 5555
(Guest Author's note, I don't actually have their numbers. If someone from TFL can fill those in please)