Older models of electric unicycles usually did not have any headlights to help them ride after dusk. As manufacturers extended the range and robustness of their devices, they added lights that allowed them to be used safely in the twilight. Today, virtually every unicycle has the typical bike lighting – a red position lamp and a front headlamp to illuminate the road. Does this mean that these lights work just as well as they do on a bicycle?
In the latest wheels, the manufacturers have used really high performance lights. Strong LEDs and the appropriate design of reflectors and lenses allow you to illuminate the road ahead very well. Inmotion V10/V10F, King Song KS-18L/XL or Ninebot Z6/Z8/Z10 monocycles have front lights that are perfect for the night.
Unfortunately, despite this, unicycle users often complain that their wheel illuminates the road poorly. It blinds people going from the opposite direction or vice versa, illuminates two meters in front of them, and then on? Darkness! Attempts to calibrate don’t give any results, more desperate people trying to manipulate the light suffer defeat. The front unicycle light as blinded others, so blinding still. Or it lights up all the time under the wheel instead of in front of it.
All these problems and complaints come from the fundamental principle of the electric unicycle, which is self-levelling. All self-levelling vehicles are equipped with sensors, called accelerometers and gyros. These sensors behave like a bricklaying plumb line, thanks to which it is possible to build a house on any type of ground, both flat and sloping. In the same way, the monocycle tries to maintain the so-called local perpendicular, regardless of the slope of the terrain on which it is located. And here we come to the heart of the matter – the monocycle always holds the vertical, and consequently the light always lights up horizontally. This is completely different than in a bicycle or car, which, supported by wheels, will always adapt to the gradient of the road on which they travel.
Everything is fine if the road you are riding on is horizontal. In this case, the front light plays its role perfectly. Adequately illuminates the long enough road ahead without blinding anyone.
Going uphill it is much worse. You still don’t blind anyone, but you don’t see anything but a spot of light directly in front of your unicycle. Then there is the darkness, and possible obstacles emerge unexpectedly, with no time to react. Very uncomfortable ride, not to mention its dubious safety.
When you ride downhill it is not better at all. The light illuminates the road somewhere far ahead of you, but what is directly in front of you is completely invisible. On the other hand, you effectively blind all those going or driving from the opposite direction. It’s neither safe, it’s neither pleasant, nor it’s polite.
In my practice I usually turn off the front light when I move after dusk. Gdańsk with its moraine hills is a city where you go down or up every now and then. Definitely more functional is the flashlight. It can be a headlamp, it can also be an ordinary hand-held flashlight. I prefer the latter solution.
Headlamp is the comfort of having free hands, but every movement of the head is automatically accompanied by the movement of light. Conversely, if you want to illuminate an area, you have to turn your head towards it. It’s easy to blind someone by involuntarily pointing your head towards them. It is also more difficult to operate with such light. To sum up, this solution plays its role in bicycle riding. There usually both hands lie on the steering wheel and it is hard to imagine operating a hand torch. However, a unicycle has the advantage that you don’t need your hands to ride it. And if they’re free, it won’t be a problem if you have a comfortable hand torch in one of your hands.
I personally use the Mactronic Sniper 3.3 torch and like it. It is small, solidly made and has a very rich functionality for equipment below 75 euros. Small, made of aircraft aluminium, it offers a light output of 1000 lm. I don’t know to what extent the manufacturer’s declarations are reliable, but it is certainly very bright. The “zoom” function allows to obtain both a wide beam and a very focused beam able to illuminate distant objects very well. Built-in 18650 format rechargeable battery can be charged via the “micro USB” socket. In addition, the flashlight can be used as a powerbank – the waterproof sleeve in the back of the flashlight hides not only a charging socket, but also a USB socket from which we can recharge the phone. The torch has four brightness levels and an additional strobe mode, activated by a longer press of the switch. This one, located at the back of the flashlight works lightly and quietly. The torch itself lies well in the hand and can be operated with ski gloves. It is small enough to grasp a handrail or traffic light pole while keeping it in hand.
However, this is just an example. Any flashlight with similar parameters will be a good choice and will certainly affect the safety and comfort of riding.