Onewheel safety


Onewheel sales skyrocketed during the pandemic. With an effort to avoid public transit, and a little extra cash on hand from the stimulus checks, many people were looking for new ways to get around. Motorcycles are too expensive, and are seen as too dangerous by many people. Regular bikes require a lot of pedaling which can be a big turn off for some. For many people the perfect option to mix up their travel methods was an Onewheel. It's fast, sleek, and affordable. Once they started to gain attention they took off and haven’t looked back. Now they are projected to be a $42 billion dollar industry by 2030. 


In fact, they took off so fast that there is still some confusion as to how to handle them. Should they be used on the sidewalk, the bike lane, or the car lane? How old should you be to ride one? Do you need a license? One of the biggest questions surrounding Onewheels is “Do I need to wear a helmet?” The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes of course. These scooters travel at very fast speeds and no matter how careful you are, an accident is always possible. 


However, it's easy to see why there is confusion on this subject. No one is advertising Onewheel helmets. There are ad’s for bike helmets, but they don’t tell you if they are compatible with Onewheels. So that poses a new question: What kind of helmet should I wear if I’m riding an Onewheel? Well, that answer isn’t quite as simple. For the most part, riders have to choose between a bike helmet and a motorcycle helmet, and neither one is a great option. 


Standard bike helmets in the US follow the CPSC safety standard, which requires helmets to protect riders going up to 15mph. The typical Onewheel is going closer to 30 mph, with most cities requiring a speed limit of 28 mph. A CPSC helmet really isn’t going to help you out if you are going twice as fast as the helmet can handle. 


The other obvious option is a motorcycle helmet. It's built to protect people at speeds far faster than an Onewheel can go, so it must be the better option right? Not really. Motorcycle helmets offer too much protection. Often, they weigh up to 3-5 pounds. A necessary component when you are traveling down the freeway at 60mph. Not so much when you are going for a nice Sunday ride by the water at 25 mph. Not only that, but there is very little ventilation-which can ruin a nice summer ride. 

 

But there is another type of helmet that is slowly creeping into the market.  The Dutch have a safety standard intended for e-Vehicles, called NTA-8776. It's the standard created for Class 3 e-Vehicles (e-bikes, Onewheels, etc). It certifies that helmets at that standard are protective up to 28 mph (45 k/h).  It requires a thicker layer of foam and more overall coverage of the head to ensure that riders’ heads are more protected for the higher speeds of their new vehicles. It has been the standard in the Netherlands for a couple of years now but it has just started to break into the US market, and not many people know about it nor do they understand its significance. 

 

Another safety component that has been creeping into the helmet world is integrated lights. With modern technology allowing battery powered lights to not only be lightweight, but also able to sustain long battery life, having integrated lights drastically increases riders safety at night. Lights on the back are much more effective than a reflector is, and lights on the front make it easier to see obstacles and hazards in your path when riding at night. So far, the NTA-8776 standard is hard to find in the US, and trying to find one with integrated lights is even harder. Most helmets advertised for Onewheels do so because they have MIPS technology, and other companies have helmets that meet the NTA standard but are only available in Europe. When you try to order one in the US, it redirects you to their CPSC version. 


Lumos is the helmet brand that is leading the way with integrated lights. They have several helmets with remarkable lights that will make you far more visible to cars, and drastically increase your visibility. The Lumos Kickstart has the brightest lights but also the highest price listing at $199 from their website. Bern, a brand most people who bike, ski or need any sort of helmet for a recreational activity have probably heard of, has an NTA standard helmet available in the US, and it comes with an integrated rear light. The only problem is that it is small, and not very powerful, registering at 6.6 lumens. It is being sold at $140. The only other helmet I was able to find that is both NTA certified and has integrated lights is from a company called XNITO, a San Francisco based startup. Their helmet launched in February and is currently available on their website xnito.com. They are selling the helmet for $150, so a spec higher than Bern, but it comes with front and rear LED lights that are significantly stronger than Bern’s, coming in at 90 lumens.

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