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Test driving the Onewheel+ XR on the streets of New York

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Sarah Tew/CNET

There are a lot of ways to get from point A to point B, but it’s not always about just getting there. Sometimes it’s about enjoying the ride. The Onewheel+ XR is a self-balancing one-wheeled motorized scooter that had me running extra errands as an excuse to ride.

When stationary, it looks like a workout balance board. In motion, it resembles a skateboard but handles more like a snow or surfboard. The Onewheel+ XR is the third version of this device and adds more range and torque to the previous models.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Onewheel+ XR costs $1,799 in the US which is more than last year’s Onewheel+ (a relative bargain at $1,399), but the XR can take you 12-18 miles versus the 5-7 miles on the older model.  Internationally you’ll pay a higher price at £1,949 or AU$3,000 because it’s an import-only item. 

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In my feet-on testing, the Onewheel+ felt sturdy (it’s rated for up to 300 pounds) and ran smooth and silent. But if you aren’t careful, you can easily fall and potentially get knocked around by the spinning wheel. That’s because mounting and dismounting the board can be tricky, and there’s an art to how you get on and off.

Here’s how I got used to it: The board is weighted on one side. You start by placing your foot on that side, which should be resting on the ground. Next place the other foot on the raised side of the board.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

There’s a horizontal blue line across the raised portion of the board. That line visually separates two sensors under the pad. When a foot is placed across both parts of the line the board can be rocked to a level position where it will self-balance. From that point, you shift your weight to your left or right foot, and from heel to toe, to steer the Onewheel.

One potential danger: If you dismount by taking the wrong foot off first, the wheel may spinout, sending you flying. Try it on a soft surface, like grass, first until you get the hang of it. Another suggestion: You should probably wear a helmet and possibly wrist guards.

Once you’re familiar with the board and its moves, you can take to the streets, trails and anywhere else your heart desires. If you don’t want to ride alone, there’s a small but engaged community of Onewheelers throughout the country. They do trail rides and get together for city rides. Onewheel friends can be found through the iOS or Android apps, which also display battery level, distance traveled and speed. The performance can also be tweaked in the app — there’s a climbing mode with the nose slightly raised, and high-speed mode that can hit 20mph.

One final feature in the app is a global leaderboard, where you can see who’s put in the most miles or longest riding streak. I’m currently at 457 miles, but that’s only good enough to rank as #508. I chatted with the current number-six milage rider, who goes by @Stevie_Wondaa, and he summed up the experience by saying something I completely agree with: “The Onewheel is easy to learn, but hard to master.”

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