fbpx

Onewheel GT Issues Fuel Safety Concerns

by Mar 18, 2022Newsletter, Spring 20220 comments

New boards are shipping, but Onewheel GT issues abound. Experts weigh in to help separate fact from fiction.

It was the best of boards. It was the worst of boards.

The Onewheel GT is new, but is it improved? That depends who you ask.

Future Motion overhauled both the hardware and the software to upgrade from the discontinued Onewheel XR, resulting in some great new features but also some substantial Onewheel GT issues. Riders who received working boards seem overall happy with the new board, with a few growing pains and adjustments to be made such as preferences in footpad and tire shape. But some sources estimated as many as 25% of all new GT boards shipped with serious safety and functionality issues on warrantied components.

We asked third party service expert Jon Stock to put things in perspective for us. Stock owns and operates The MOB Shop, a Denver-based onewheel service center, and along with Bob Nicholson, is one of the principal owners of Stokelife Service (SLS), a network of vetted third-party onewheel repair shops and an official IOWA partner.

Future Motion did not respond to repeated requests for comments on this article.

Dead On Arrival

What's happening?

The first batch of Onewheel GTs started shipping in early March. Soon after, social media exploded with complaints of boards showing up dead on arrival, or “DOA.” Some customers who had ordered multiple units were unlucky enough to receive two or more GTs that would not turn on.

While the spate of DOA boards was a real problem, Stock suspects it was blown out of proportion. Panicked customers were likely quick to post about the $2,200 brick they had received after months of anxious waiting, he said, but less likely to post an update if the “dead” board later turned on and functioned normally, which many of them did.

Why is it happening?

There’s a running theory that boards shipped on cold trucks need to warm up before turning on, but Stock doesn’t think that explains it. Many boards, including his own, arrived after days in the back of a cold truck and started up just fine.

Instead, Stock points to variation in battery cells. Three to four different brands of cells are being used in Onewheel GT units; this was confirmed by the Future Motion support team in response to a customer inquiry. The representative told the customer, “We qualify multiple suppliers to allow us to continue producing if one supplier is interrupted… all suppliers of the batteries have been thoroughly tested for the GT specifically.”

However, Stock said, variations in quality and cold tolerance across battery types could definitely explain the discrepancies we’ve seen.

What can you do about it?

Keep calm and listen to some Rage Against the Machine, I guess.

The first batches of Onewheel Pints and Frontier Edition XRs also included several units that were DOA or bricked within the first 100 miles. More recently, there were power button issues on XRs with hardware version 4212. That’s just the way it is with a new product, and early adopters pay the highest price.

The trend, according to Stock, is simple: The system increases in complexity every time Future Motion implements a new safety or security feature. The more complex the system, the more opportunities it presents for something to go wrong. While some of these features are necessary for rider safety, Stock feels that others compromise functionality in the company’s perpetual efforts to ensure third parties cannot modify their products.

“Unreasonable security measures overcomplicate the system and don’t add anything for the rider,” Stock said. In his opinion, “These features are not about making the good stuff work. They’re trying to make sure we [the community] can’t see what’s inside.”

Ghosting

What's happening?

The most prevalent of the Onewheel GT issues is ghosting, which happens when a rider has stepped or fallen off the board but the front sensor stays engaged and continues to drive the board forward. Without the weight of a rider, a ghosting onewheel can reach dangerous speeds, launching itself into nearby traffic, rivers, or pedestrians, potentially causing property damage or injury. The GT’s additional 9 pounds of weight significantly increases the amount of damage or injury that can occur.

Why is it happening?

The new concave front footpad, which houses the sensor, is the most likely culprit for false readings that can cause the GT to accelerate when no rider is present. Sensitivity is an inherent challenge when integrating the sensor with a curved surface. Most aftermarket concave solutions for the Onewheel XR have had similar problems.

Race for the Rail champions Tyler James and Zoe Thomas had a chance to put the GT prototype through its paces, and both said that ghosting did not seem to be an issue at that time. This tracks with speculation that the sensor design changed between GT prototyping and production, and could explain why Future Motion may have overlooked new sensor design flaws until customers started having issues.

And boy, are they having issues. Here is a non-exhaustive list compiled by Louis Rossman, a right to repair activist who has done not one but TWO YouTube episodes about Future Motion in the few short weeks since GTs started to ship.

What can you do about it?

Future Motion has been quietly replacing faulty footpads free of charge. For some, this seems to have solved the problem, but not for everyone. It is unclear whether Future Motion actually adjusted the design to reduce the likelihood of ghosting, or simply replaced “bad” footpads with “good” ones from the same stock shelf without actually revisiting the design flaws behind the issue.

High Temperature Shutoff

What's happening?

Gnarly trails, steep inclines, and even bonks or accidental wheelslip threaten to overheat the Onewheel GT motor and cause the board to shut off. “Madd Max” Hsia (Mexichinoguy on Instagram) did a side-by-side comparison of the Onewheel GT and his CBXR and was less than inspired after taking multiple breaks to let his board sit and cool off.

“This is a major concern,” Hsia said in his official product review. “The GT is not living up to the ‘built like a tank’ slogan. You have to baby it. It’s not good for peace of mind.”

Why is it happening?

The Onewheel GT is Future Motion’s first 3 horsepower board, and that power increase has been a major selling point for the new model. Riders can feel the difference in acceleration, nosedive recovery, and climbing. Increased power and torque are also attractive to bigger riders who may find the XR has “mushy” engagement or just doesn’t quite cut it on hills.

However, more power generates more heat within the motor, and the heat dissipation design of the GT doesn’t seem up to the task. Stock observed that all the additional power—twice as much as the XR—is being pushed through the same stator as on the less powerful XR.

As cooler spring weather gives way to summer heat, Stokelife Service predicts high temperature shutoffs will become one of the most significant issues with the Onewheel GT.

What can you do about it?

Some of the community’s “mad scientists” have implemented temporary fixes, such as shimming the motor cover and re-installing it with longer screws or milling the hub to create additional avenues for heat dissipation.

These McGuyvers provided proof of concept. Now, in collaboration with Tech Rails, Bob Nicholson (Bob’s Stoke Shop, SLS) is developing a replacement motor cover with cooling fins on the outside. Nicholson says this new plug-and-play cover will be backwards compatible with the smaller XR hub, enabling users to swap in a hub sized for their favorite aftermarket tire.

A more robust axle block would address this issue at its root, but it could take months for the manufacturer to roll out a design change. Nicholson’s covers will likely be available this month from StokeLife Service centers—check out the directory to see which one is closest to you!

“Corrupted Memory” Battery Error

What's happening?

Disconnecting the battery from the battery management system (BMS) produces an error message stating “corrupted memory.”

Congratulations: You’re now the owner of a $2,200 brick that must be sent back to the manufacturer for a factory reset!

Why is it happening?

Every hardware update has made it harder for onewheel owners to add the modifications they want or simply to perform repairs on their board, with the Onewheel XR controller eventually getting locked to the battery and BMS so that owners could not swap in aftermarket products even for wear components.

Is it possible that this apparent GT battery booby trap is actually just a bug? It would be nice to think so, but in the context of Future Motion’s rich history of blocking third party service providers and innovators from working on their products (including direct statements that FM will do everything in its power to shut them down), it is very hard to draw a charitable conclusion here.

What can you do about it?

Onewheel owners and riders are at a crossroads. They can choose to accept that this is just how the maker of their favorite product does business. They can play by the rules, purchase OEM parts only, and ship their board to California for every tire change and battery swap.

Or, they can make a stink about it by reporting Future Motion to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for unlawful repair restrictions in hopes of forcing them to push an update that removes all pairing locks from Onewheel products.

But what is the risk undertaken by doing so? For some, the possibility of seeing Future Motion fined, sued, or shut down by the FTC could be a price too high to pay.

GT vs. XR: A Rider’s Perspective

Tl;dr: “If you’ve already built your perfect XR, stick with what you’ve got,” recommended Madd Max Hsia. “The GT is not significantly better than a fully decked out XR board.”

Don’t just take his word for it. At Wheel Fun Weekend, XRs dominated in all but one competition. Oak City Shred Fest (the first major race of the season) is planning to lump old and new models into the same category, as they’ve tested both on the race courses and found the GT did not provide the drastic advantage they’d expected. And it looks like DirtSurferz will be doing the same, with a separate, dedicated long-distance course tailored to the GT but open to all.

5 reasons riders who push the limits will prefer XR

1. CLEARANCE: The XR has better nose and tail clearance any way you cut it, regardless of rail shape and bumper type. The loss of clearance on the GT combined with an additional 9 pounds of weight make the board more likely to tail drag on steep downhills or after bonks and drops. The bumpers extrude and exacerbate the issue. Stock adds that the pushback, which Hsia said felt safe and secure at high speeds on pavement, becomes problematic and even preventative on trails, with regenerative braking pushing the nose up even further on steep declines.

2. RANGE: An XR modified with an aftermarket extended range battery still gets better range on gnarly terrain. The GT is marketed to get 20-32 miles per charge, while Chi Batteries advertises “double” the range of a stock XR (24-36 miles per charge). In reality, the difference seems to be even greater than that. Of course, some riders may consider the GT’s superior power and torque to be more important than range.

3. TIRE: Unlike aftermarket trail tires available for the XR, the OEM treaded tire on the GT offers little to no additional traction on trails and mud, with a hard compound that seems more ideal for slides and other tricks. “It feels like a slick tire with aesthetic treads built in,” Hsia observed.

4. STATIONARY MOTOR RESISTANCE: Hsia observed that the GT has “significantly” less resistance at rest than the XR. If you crash or bail, the board will continue to roll in the direction you were traveling—which could spell disaster if you had to hop off at the edge of a cliff, river, or narrow mountain trail.

5. TEMPERATURE TOLERANCE: And then, of course, there’s that pesky overheating issue, common on the GT but only ever seen on the XR in the most extreme conditions. On the flip side, many customers have reported issues with essential board functionality below 50 degrees, including more instances of ghosting—so if you live outside of Southern California or Florida and want to hit the trails in the off-season, the GT won’t be much fun.

Onewheel GT Has Its Place (Just Not on the Trails)

Hsia concluded the GT is the best onewheel model for new riders, mellow cruisers, and those who primarily ride on pavement—this despite being billed as a “trail board” complete with optional treaded tire.

2021 Race for the Rail women’s champ Zoe Thomas agreed that new riders will love the Onewheel GT. “It’s a good upgrade,” she said. “If someone were to ask what onewheel to buy I’d suggest it.”

Hsia highlighted the slick bumpers, faster acceleration, stability at high speeds, climbing power, and safe pushback as reasons to love the GT. And that so-called trail tire is actually great for tricks like reverts and slides.

“It’s a really nice out-of-the-box experience,” Hsia said. “It gives you a great sense of security and safety. This is the board to go to if you’re just being a chill cruiser.”

Onewheel GT with treaded tire