Anyone who rides an electric unicycle (EUC) knows that safety is the most important thing. Protecting yourself from falls, crashes, and other accidents is one of the best ways to stay safe on your EUC. There are a number of pieces of protective gear you can use while riding an EUC to reduce your risk for injury. What is the basic electric unicycle protective gear you need?
In this article, I share with you my recommendations for what safety equipment and gear you’ll want when riding your EUC. Although some may argue that not all pieces of equipment are necessary all the time, I would always venture toward the saying that “it is better to be safe than sorry”.
Key Points: Best EUC Protective Gear
- The first piece of safety equipment that everyone recommends is a helmet. Whether it is a full-face helmet or a simple biking helmet, this will protect you from serious head injuries should you fall off or crash into something at high speeds or if there’s unexpected terrain in your path (e.g., roots).
- Other protective gear would be wrist guards which help prevent sprains, strains, and other injuries to your wrist joints, which are vulnerable in a fall. Knee pads, elbow guards, and back and chest protectors are also highly recommended safety gear for anyone who rides at high speeds or off road.
- Remember that no piece of safety equipment can replace common sense. Always keep your eyes on the road (or path) with your electric unicycle.
Why Injury Prevention? I Ride with More Confidence
Do you ride EUCs? Electric unicycles are amazing machines, and modern EUCs are powerful enough to take a rider up to speeds that will match or exceed city vehicle traffic. If you’re concerned about how to protect yourself when riding an EUC, then you’re wise. I’ve seen some gnarly crashes and injuries that kept people off their wheel for weeks. And that sucks especially when great ride seasons are so short.
As someone who enjoys the thrill of speed on an EUC, I’ve experienced injuries in other sports. I know the lousy feeling of laying up in bed recovering while all your friends are enjoying their freedom.
Well, other than mothballing your electric rideable devices, the best way to protect yourself is to gear up with protective equipment. Of course, not all gear is the same, and none to date have been designed with the EUC rider in mind.
But, for the most part, there are some key safety gear that you’ll want to wear. Much of this information was gathered from personal experience riding EUCs for several years as well as from community input.
Basic Electric Unicycle (EUC) Safety Gear for General Riding
Here are the basic protective gear pieces you should consider for general EUC riding. You can certainly ride your electric unicycle with less, but the risk for injury even in a minor fall may not be worth it!
- Full Face Helmet
- Armored motorcycle jacket (preferably with back protection insert) or upper torso armor
- Wrist guards
- Knee guard and shin protection
- Decently protective shoes (ankle protection, preferred)
The importance of safety gear and how it can protect you from injury
Any safety gear you use is only as good as how well you wear it. This means making sure whatever safety equipment you’re putting on before an electric unicycle ride should fit you with straps and clips that don’t bind, or are too loose. Protective gear and safety equipment should feel snug without being uncomfortable.
For those in warm, hot weather climates, safety gear may feel like a burden and you may want to avoid wearing most of it. In cold weather, safety equipment may feel bulky or unwieldy under (or over) winter jackets and other clothing.
But, the risk of hurting yourself in an accident remains no matter the weather. Below you’ll find an overview of the most important safety equipment you should wear while riding your electric unicycle at any speed, and over any terrain.
At the end of the day, although some safety equipment you use may be optional, it’s important to have a full understanding of what the risks are when riding an electric unicycle. With this information in hand, and practical knowledge about how to stay safe while on your self-balancing device (and not feeling weighed down), you can enjoy stress free rides for miles at a time.
Two types of guards and pads: Hard plastic or soft impact pads
There are 2 types of materials that form the impact zone of safety gear. With the exceptions of helmets, which are always constructed with an exterior hard shell, e.g., plastic, carbon fiber, or other composites, you can find safety gear impact zones made of either:
In all cases, when available, the best impact protection for riding an electric unicycle should have the impact resistant hard-plastic or polymer material. Cloth or soft padding, e.g., sponge material, is better than nothing, but will fail to provide sufficient protection against common impacts, falls, and crashes on an electric unicycle, especially over pavement or asphalt.
When you fall, a hard plastic exterior shell on your elbow or knee guards, for example, will provide a buffer and protection from scrapes, abrasions, or deep cuts. The plastic or hard material will “slide” rather than bind up and catch on the ground as your momentum carries you along.
The slide type motion will also prevent the force of the impact from directly projecting through your body and will dissipate through the sliding movement.
If you were wondering, protective safety equipment with the plastic material is not necessarily more expensive than cloth or sponge type safety equipment. If you are able find safety equipment for riding your electric unicycle with hard plastic as your “sliding” gear, then by all means do so. Again, remember to find safety gear that feels comfortable and fits your body properly.
Suggestion for what pieces of safety equipment you’ll need when riding an electric unicycle
A helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment you can wear while riding an EUC. It protects your head from injury during a crash or accident, such as a fall. A helmet should always be worn as protection gear when riding an electric unicycle, whether you’re going on shorter trips around the block or if you’re riding at higher speeds and going off-road. Yes, always wear a helmet!
There are full-face helmets (high-recommended), and regular bike or skateboard helmets. For riding an electric unicycle, the full-face helmet, e.g., mountain bike, motocross, motorcycle type helmets, are the best kind of protection you’ll find for your head, face, and chin. In a forward moving fall, the front facing portions of your head are likely vulnerable to impact against the ground or other obstacle.
A non-full face helmet, though better than nothing, will not protect you from damaging your chin, jaw, and other parts of your face. Not to be forgotten, another huge advantage of a full-face helmet while riding an electric unicycle is that they often come with visors or face shields that cover your eyes. This protects your vision from wind, dust, and other debris flying at you while riding your electric unicycle.
Helmets come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and styles to suit everyone’s tastes. There are mountain bike and motor sports helmets that will keep you comfortable while riding an EUC for hours at a time because they’re designed specifically for cruising at any of the more common speeds of an electric unicycle (15-30mph).
Of course, for higher speeds or more challenging riding conditions off-road, you’ll want to make sure you have the best, lightweight helmet you can afford for aerodynamic, lightweight comfort.
2.) Wrist guard
A wrist guard does exactly what it means, it protects your wrists from hyperextension (bending backwards) when you reach out to brace yourself from falling to the ground. When you fall from an electric unicycle, the impact onto your hands could result in a broken wrist, which will end your day’s experience of riding an EUC. In the event of a fall, protect both wrists by covering them with a wrist guard.
There are several types of wrist guards. The most protective are the D30 Flexmeter wrist guards, as judged by many in the electric unicycle community. But, for normal riding around town at lower speeds, a simple wrist guard with sliders (hard plastic) that you may see in-line skaters use may be sufficient. Again, the more you can afford, the more options in safety equipment you’ll find.
3.) Elbow guards
Elbow guards are important for riding an electric unicycle because they limit the amount of skin on your elbows that is available to be scraped up from falls and bumps. They are also great at protecting you from getting hit in the elbow with a tree branch or other object while riding.
Although it is rare to have a hard tissue injury with an elbow impact (as compared with your wrist, for example), a serious elbow injury will take a very long time to heal and could require surgery to repair. Wearing elbow pads to reduce serious injury to your elbow joint and prevent skin abrasion in a fall will go a long way to making sure your electric unicycle rides remain fun and frequent.
4.) Knee pads
Knee guards are important for riding an electric unicycle for the same reason as for in-line skating, e-skateboards, e-scooters, downhill mountain biking, or motocross. Knee guards provide protection against impacts against your knees. They also help prevent scrapes and bruises. There are many types of knee guards. Some protect just the kneecap area, while others protect the lower leg with shin guards, too.
On an electric unicycle, knee guards generally don’t interfere with riding, and stay out of the way (unlike some biking where knee guards may interfere with pedaling). In this case, if you want more protection for the knees, you could also look at wearing knee braces. Knee braces offer more impact and joint protecting than simple knee guards (which only protect against impact).
A proper knee brace will reduce the risk of twisting or torsion injury to the knee joint. A knee is a vulnerable joint on your body with vital ligaments joining your upper and lower leg. Spraining a knee joint is painful. Tearing a ligament is a disability. Though fairly expensive, depending on your budget and style of EUC riding, a knee brace may be an important investment.
5.) Hip/buttocks padded shorts
Have you ever fallen on your butt? It hurts. Have you ever falling backwards from any height above standing onto pavement or concrete? Falling from an electric unicycle from any direction, except frontwards, often means your hips or buttocks will hit the ground first. Depending on the speed or type of crash, this could either mean road rash, cuts, and bruises, or a broken hip bone, pelvis, or tailbone.
Padded hip/butt shorts that you can wear underneath your clothing will protect you from some of the most common impacts you’ll experience with an electric unicycle. It is fair to say that this piece of safety equipment isn’t as popular or worn as much as it should while riding an EUC. This is in part due to the fact that you generally have to wear this under clothing and it bulks out a part of your body that you’d prefer not to show off while riding an already attention-grabbing electric mobility device.
Nonetheless, protecting your hips and buttocks from falls while riding an electric unicycle is important. Hip/buttock pads are a key piece of safety gear that prevents injuries to your pelvis or tailbone from a fall.
6.) Shoulder pads
Let’s face it. In a serious crash where your upper body meets the ground, your shoulders will likely be first point of impact. Shoulder pads, though limited in coverage size, may soften and absorb hard impacts against the joints of the upper arm, collarbone, head and neck.
In a sliding or rolling type crash at higher speeds from an electric unicycle, shoulder guards or pads will also offer protection against scratches, gouges, scrapes and abrasions to the surface tissues of the rider.
Given how they fit over your body, shoulder guards are the least cumbersome pieces of safety equipment you can wear while riding an electric unicycle. In fact, most body armor type safety equipment (see below) already have should guards built-in.
7.) Chest guards and armor
There is one situation when you need to think about protection, and that’s if you’re going at speeds of more than 10-15 miles per hour. At these speeds, you will not be able to easily jump or run off your electric unicycle in the event of a crash or collision.
For example, while you can hop off the EUC when heading toward an incoming object going slowly, even swerving away; at higher speeds, things like street signs, poles, or trees, become dangerous if you lose control.
If your chest doesn’t have the protection it needs, then it will not be able to withstand the collision. The result of this could be injuries that may prevent you from riding your electric unicycle for a long time or ever again. Things like broken ribs hurt, but will heal. But internal injuries, like punctured lungs or organ lacerations can be very serious and lead to fatality.
With a little bit of investment into some protective gear for your chest, you can ensure that it remains protected while riding your electric unicycle at faster speeds.
8.) Back and spine protection
Hitting the ground and sliding on your back is a very common event in most electric unicycle crashes. Your lumbar and upper back muscles are vulnerable to strain and damage with any kind of hard impact from behind. More serious, are hard hits to your spine or vertebrae (bones of your spine) which can lead to life-changing injury and disability.
With the body acting as a little cage, the spine prevents your upper torso from bending too much in different directions. It is very important to protect this area just as one would their heart or liver. If you are riding an EUC or any motorized vehicle at higher speeds this, becomes more of a necessity to protect how your spine twists and moves during impact.
Although not perfect (no safety equipment will be 100% protective), wearing back armor will reduce the risk for serious injury to your spine and back. Make sure that your back armor fits properly for your body size and type. Most back and spine protection should run the length of your back from the upper shoulder blades down to your lower back, e.g., lumbar area, right above your tailbone or upper pelvis.
Bonus Protective Gear: Neck brace
A neck brace is something you should consider wearing if you ride an EUC at higher speeds or when stunt riding, e.g., jumping. The neck is part of your spinal column, connecting your head with the rest of your body. When your head whips back, e.g., whiplash, in a collision, your neck takes most of that force and bends. Bend too much and something breaks or stretches.
A neck brace will reduce the risk for injury to your neck and lower back vertebrae. While I don’t think a neck brace is necessary for most EUC riders, it is that final piece of protective equipment that can reduce serious injury.
I hope this article has helped you to decide which protective riding gear is best for riding your electric unicycle. As with any sport or motorized hobby, every safety equipment choice may not be the right option for everyone.
To decide what equipment to wear, make sure you understand what type of riding you’ll be doing, where you ride, and the extent of your abilities along with the risk for falling or crashing on your EUC. For most, I recommend following the guide before your next EUC ride on what safety gear to wear–All The Gear, All The Time (ATGATT).
How much safety equipment do you wear while riding on your electric unicycle? Are there any pieces of safety gear that you recommend over all the others? Let me know with a comment!