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Austin Marhold

The Firewheel

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The Firewheel.
Soooo much potential, soooo much fail.

I rank Firewheel is unfortunately one of the worst i've seen. Normally I try to avoid talking about the bad wheels. I will cover this one because I had previously said it was good. The reason I said this was because someone who I had trusted told me it was. I'm not sure how the person could have made such a mistake but I trusted them none the less. So this post is to right a wrong.

(See my Gotway 14" review for what I use as a benchmark wheel)

This is a classic cheaper is better fail.

What the Firewheel supposed to be: Fast, quiet, powerful, comfortable, reliable, and with good manufacturing ethics.

What it actually is:
Unstable at high speed, weak motor and battery, uncomfortable, very unreliable, multiple serious speciation lies. Although it is quiet.

Yesterday I was going to say that you could use this is you had the right riding style and were OK with a few problems, but today the Firewheel committed the cardinal sin of euc's; it made me walk.

I was riding with about 40% battery remaining at half speed on flat ground and it just cuts out. All forward power is lost and it wouldn't turn back on until I plugged in the charger (I first had to locate a power outlet). This is the most dangerous thing that this type of tech can do. This indicates BMC failure (the circuit board that controls the battery voltage). (Read my post on Unstable Wheels for more info on this type of cut-out)

It also cut out when slowly climbing a >15° slope after only a few feet but in a different way. Same total loss of power, but this time it was caused by the main control board. This same type of cut-out also happens if you lean forward to fast.

If you hit even a small bump, the whole unit shakes alarmingly. It takes a massive amount of user control to land a curb drop. Most users won't be able to.

The firmware is super soft during acceleration and acceptably hard during breaking. It verbally tells you to be careful at top speed (this gets really annoying) which is about 18km/h. It has slight tilt back at top speed. The motor has almost no power at top speed and makes you concerned that you will fall.

The low battery shutdown can be triggered even with a totally full battery. This makes you have to stop, get off, turn off the unit, turn it back on, and get back on. This happens constantly once you get below 35% battery remaining. The whole unit shakes during shutdown procedure and this is very alarming to the rider even if you know what's going to happen.

I get less than half the rated range that is listed in the specs (maybe >8km from 132wh). You can expect about 14wh/km in energy consumption for most wheels. The Firewheel motor consumes more power than other motors or the batteries are really low quality (or both). Amusingly, if the batteries are a low quality local Chinese brand, it could actually catch on fire. Maybe that's why they call it the Firewheel ;)

The LCD that tells you how much battery remaining would be nice if you could actually read it while you are riding. It's at the wrong angle, too small, and reflects light causing a glare.

The leg pads are actually worse than normal ones. At the top, they actually increase the pain of riding due to the sharper edge.

The shell is a poorly fitting, easily damaged, painted cheap plastic.

The headlight is really miserable but the tail light it's OK.

The pedals are too short causing additional fatigue (a big problem this design was supposed to solve) and constantly fall down making carrying the unit cumbersome. Plus they look unfinished on the bottom and hurt when they bump into your leg when you carry it. They are also to close to the ground and scrape. The Gotway 10" is the only design with long enough pedals to avoid fatigue.

It's not waterproof contrary to what they say in the specs.

 

What most disappoints me is the potential that this design had. It could have been the best on the market had they not made all the wrong design choices... The most disconcerting point is if they lie about the specs, what else are they lying about ?

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I take this review very seriously and would like to learn more about 1) the version control details of firewheel design in particular the shutdown safety and 2) the supplier as I want to be sure I'm riding the same firewheel as you (since my experience was entirely different). Firstly when did you buy this and secondly where did you buy it? Please supply company details on sales invoice

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I was told by Austin that he believes he may have tested either a very early model or a "fake" one.  Hope he updates us here if and when he gets to test a more recent version.

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I have an "early" model and I agree with Austin. It is absolutely unrideable - it only works well on absolutely flat surfaces, as soon as there is a bump, it will lean forward before the motor catches up with you - so you cannot go up a sidewalk.

 

Waterproofing is non existent. I received 3 new boards from Firewheel (their customer service is very friendly!), but that didn't solve the problem. Ok the first two boards short circuited straight away and wouldn't work. The third at least allowed me to ride the wheel.

 

Now it seems there is a new version with different modes, similar to the Gotway, where you can set up the aggressiveness of the acceleration. They have also redesigned the internals. For this reason, Firewheel will no longer send me new parts as they would not work with my 1st Gen Firewheel.

 

I feel a bit like a guinea pig, spending money on products which are not yet finished, giving feedback via email to help them make a product which is better than what I got, but not receiving that product myself. 

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@vee: good for you that it works. Mine works too just not to the extent that I feel I can use it safely out on the streets.

@Paul: yeah tell me about it. Wish there were finally a company that made a unicycle which justified their price and just plain works in every condition

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I'm guessing the Firewheel F778 wouldn't suffer from these issues then,...provided I can find a seller with the real deal. I'm still leaning heavily towards a a Gotway GW18 with a huge battery. I need reliability. I just wish these baby's used normal bike inner tubes. The strange air valve makes it a PITA to replace.

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As a firewheel owner I would tell you to get a gotway. I have heard only the best about them, no matter if you get the 14 inch with the huge battery (something with 600Wh I think) or the 18 inch. I will be getting one of those two when my Rockwheel dies, which is soon.

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Is Rockwheel that bad in reliability? When you say when it dies, you meant motor or something that can not be replaced?

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The Rockwheel has many issues that turn up over time. In my case, the cogs in the drive are starting to show wear, which means that they no longer mesh as well. After a while this can lead to a "stuttering" where the wheel can no longer be ridden.

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I have been riding a Fireweel F260 for the past few months and am happy with it

I cruise happily at 25kmph anc can push it up to close to 30

Would be nice to have a bit more traction feeling on the wheel- the comfort mode is completely useless in terms of this and I am not sure why it is even on there, because it decreases the traction between rider and wheel which I find very uncomfortable.

If travelling fast, keep an eye on road surface, as a dip or a bump can lead to loss of control and needs to be slowed down for and an increase in knee bend to absorb the bump.. I did ride regular unicycles for several years and am into extreme sports, so probably have more control than the average rider. If you are sporty and happy with a wheel that is a little more challenging to ride, but still smooth and fast, I think this is a good option. I hope it is reliable and that I am still saying the same thing in a years' time!

PS if you ride fast all the time, tape up the speaker vent, so it muffels the warning sounds : )

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Hey Austin, 

Thanks for the review.

 

Im encountering similar issues with mine:

I bought an electric unicycle. ive had to take out the battery and bring the unit over and assemble the battery myself here. I'd taken a lot of pictures to make sure i've assembled it correctly. The batteries are healthy.

but for some reason after a crash it wont start back up(also if i go back and forth really fast, it shuts off and wont turn back on), if i let it sit for a while the start up sound will go on longer but still wont turn it on, the only way i can turn on the machine is by plugging in the charger after that its good to go again.

 

Is this unit complete trash now? Should i get a new BMC? 

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Jack Frost, that sounds a lot like the battery management system cutout problem that hobby16 has discussed elsewhere here and in the French forum. If the BMS sees too high of a draw it shuts off the battery to protect it from being overloaded. Connecting the charger resets the BMS and it is fine. It seems to happen more often when the battery is low and/or cold. Here is a link to the French forum discussion.

Edited by dmethvin

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As a new potential buyer this sort of thing isn't exactly reassuring. Are testing/early generation firewheels still shipping? It's a toss up between the F528 and Ninebot One E+ for me (even if one is £650 and the other is £900 with a smaller battery) so major reliability issues could throw it. I have to at a minimum get 15km across Manchester and am 98kg hence the battery capacity choices.

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I think both the Firewheel and the Ninebot have had their problems reported here. To be honest, my no-name 14-inch wheel has been a much more trouble-free experience. But of course it's just a typical boxy ugly wheel compared to the sexy FW and NB designs. 

 

So far the FW manufacturer has been cooperating in getting things fixed, and  I am trying to speed things up by volunteering to make repairs myself rather than shipping the whole thing back. A lot of users aren't going to feel comfortable disassembling the wheel and replacing parts.

 

Before my Firewheel died I did a total of 18km in two trips on a single charge of the F260, and it was still okay. I was surprised it did so well on battery compared to my 14-inch which has a 132 battery but seems to get much less than half that range. But I can't recommend FW until I get it working and see if it has better long-term reliability.

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Jack Frost, that sounds a lot like the battery management system cutout problem that hobby16 has discussed elsewhere here and in the French forum. If the BMS sees too high of a draw it shuts off the battery to protect it from being overloaded. Connecting the charger resets the BMS and it is fine. It seems to happen more often when the battery is low and/or cold. Here is a link to the French forum discussion.

Thanks dmethvin for the reply. 

I did put a higher miliamp than what came with the original however its the same model. 

What do you suggest i do? do i just replace the BMC or do i need another version of it?

 

Thanks

Jack

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I have a firewheel f779 (Gen 3) I've probably rode somewhere in the region of 700-900 miles cumulatively, it's cut out once, but this was when I was running it past the 3rd alert - 30kmph. (which was my fault)

 

I'm currently testing other wheels but so far firewheel has the performance and reliability I'm looking for.

 

Paul

 

I think both the Firewheel and the Ninebot have had their problems reported here. To be honest, my no-name 14-inch wheel has been a much more trouble-free experience. But of course it's just a typical boxy ugly wheel compared to the sexy FW and NB designs. 

 

So far the FW manufacturer has been cooperating in getting things fixed, and  I am trying to speed things up by volunteering to make repairs myself rather than shipping the whole thing back. A lot of users aren't going to feel comfortable disassembling the wheel and replacing parts.

 

Before my Firewheel died I did a total of 18km in two trips on a single charge of the F260, and it was still okay. I was surprised it did so well on battery compared to my 14-inch which has a 132 battery but seems to get much less than half that range. But I can't recommend FW until I get it working and see if it has better long-term reliability.

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I did put a higher miliamp than what came with the original however its the same model. 

Hi Jack, can you elaborate please, I don't understand what you are meaning.

 

 

What do you suggest i do? do i just replace the BMC or do i need another version of it?

Your BMS (not "BMC") is perfectly fine AFAIK. It's just that it includes this stupid discharge protection that should never have been there and that must be shunted.

To have a safe FW, you can do it this way : http://trottinetteselectriques.heberg-forum.fr/sutra15992_solution-probleme-bms.html#15992

or as in the picture I showed to vee before, something easy for you.

 

If this mod is made (+ a lot of caulking to water-proof the electronics), the FW is a real pleasure to drive, I use it everyday to commute to work. It has a solid housing, best pedals that exist, good batteries, it is speedy, powerfull safe & stable, a sea change from my X3 clone. I love this wheel and I would recommand it to every ... hobbyist (ie a handyman knowing how to fix things).

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As a new potential buyer this sort of thing isn't exactly reassuring. Are testing/early generation firewheels still shipping? It's a toss up between the F528 and Ninebot One E+ for me (even if one is £650 and the other is £900 with a smaller battery) so major reliability issues could throw it. I have to at a minimum get 15km across Manchester and am 98kg hence the battery capacity choices.

With 15km travels, speed is becoming a factor.

Ninebot One top speed is 20km/h unfortunately, whereas with Firewheel, you can cruise safely at 25km/h with top speeds flirting 30km/h  (I frequently make a 13km trip in less than 40 minutes). And NB1's range is limited compare to FW.

But if you don't know how to fix things, avoid FW, it is definitively not humidity & dust proof and must be preventively caulked and shunted at the BMS otherwise, reliability problems will pop out with revenge. Opt for a Gotway instead (so bad they don't have 16" wheels).

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As far as I have seen, the battery cells are usually put together with the controller and shrink wrapped to make a battery pack. Did you build your own battery pack by putting together a controller and cells? Maybe there needs to be some change made to the controller to tell it the capacity of the cells? This is definitely beyond what I know but would be interested in finding out.

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The firewheel is not a bad one, but there could be improvements in the manufacturing process/ the design:

The cons:

  • The battery cases are inside the wheel area and are not waterproof
  • the batteries themself are not fixed in V1 or V2 (sport mode button)
  • there could be issues with the cables routed out of the motor to the PCB (can be damaged by the case/ the iron cable guard it self

The pros:

  • The motor is very powerful and the PCB has voice messages on all conditions and also in a  case of a fault.
  • the pedals are very comfortable and non slippery
  • the battery capacity of the stated 779 Wh (around 680 Wh depending how the capacity is meassured) has a very high milage.
  • front/ back lights, brake light - ready to use by night
  • no noise power supply, fanless (compared to eg IPS)

In case of sudden power off I would check the cables routed out of the motor to be sure there's no damage/ harness cut.

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