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I've recently taken delivery of an Airwheel S8 to replace my Focus Designs SBU for medical reasons. The device assembles in a matter of moments, easily and intuitively. The overall quality appears good, although a cap for the seat post through which the post passes appears to have been over-tightened and the screws have cracked it. Replacement is pending, due to Chinese holiday until the end of the week!

The battery had a storage charge, so it was left overnight to top off. The charger has a red (charging) and green combo LED which is dim and challenging to view in bright light, but indoors or dim lighting presents little trouble. I've found that two hours or less will complete a charge from a fifty percent discharge.

There's an app for the device, connecting by Bluetooth, of course. The auto-connect fails every time, but the manual selection is faster and connects quickly enough. The outer ring shows current state of charge, which varies depending on instantaneous load. It drops a few percent when accelerating and climbs back when idle. A convenient digital presentation of the speed is centered in the ring, along with distance traveled in kilometers to two decimal places. It's amusing to see the purported accuracy to be ten meters with such a display, but there's no reason to disbelieve it, either. I have no problem with metric, but prefer US miles for distances, especially as all my previous trips with the SBU were based on miles.

The secondary menu provides additional information such as duration of operation, but there's no logging feature. The data vanishes when the device is turned off. Curiously, one can close the app and later re-open it to retrieve the operational data for that session as long as the scooter hasn't been powered off or locked. I'd like to have a logging feature of some sort, as it gives me an idea when a pack is getting weak.

A feature for which I have little use other than entertainment is the remote control option. It defaults to minimum speed and presents a target circle with a touch center. Drag the center circle in any direction and the S8 will turn and travel in that direction. Lag time is severe, which explains the minimum speed default.

I had little problem changing from a single wheel to two, although the inability to tilt the vehicle into the turn took some getting used to. The seat and foot-pad combination wants to throw one's upper body to the outside of the turn and it doesn't have a particularly wide track. I learned to bend like a reed in the wind for the turns and especially for the jiggle-bumps one encounters on the sidewalks or road surface. If one wheel is lifted when the other is not, one will experience an un-commanded turn if one is too stiff. Upper body flexing easily compensates for that. Sometimes the bumps are severe enough to require flailing arms like an auto dealer's air-filled puppet display, but it's tolerable.

Turning is effected by applying rotational pressure to the seat. There's very little travel in the z-axis, but bumps can move one's body enough to cause a bump-steer of sorts. The sensor is not an on-off type, but rather pressure relative. Push gently, the scooter turns slowly. Push more firmly and it will spin enough to toss you off. I don't plan to test that aspect.

A characteristic of this particular device is the ability to remain seated at a stop. With the SBU, it was always necessary to place one foot on the ground or perform an Arte Johnson. It manages quite well to remain stable at the balance point. I've stepped off the S8 and used the remote fob to power it off (on carpet) and was surprised to see it remain upright. Oh, yeah. Two fobs are included and are required to go from power on to drive-away status. The bluetooth will not engage until the fob is used, preventing operation if one misplaces the fob.

Top speed is about 15 kph (~9 mph) at which point a very faint beeping emanates from the base. If the app is running, the phone vibrates as a warning. A bit faster results in a horizontal pogo, which I'd experienced with the SBU as well. I'm hopeful that there is a few kph safety margin built into the warning and I'm not keen on testing that feature either. I'd managed to over-accelerate my SBU in the past and found that I cannot run 15 mph very easily.

Range hasn't been fully tested and I don't think I want to walk home too far if the battery goes flat. The battery indicator on the phone app doesn't show expected range remaining, but if one can manage a bit of math, it's not too difficult to determine. All of the online information seems to be missing any range figures. The one video I found suggested a 13 mile range (about 20km) and my own use suggests something close to that, if one cares to run the battery to the near-zero point.

Ten inch wheels means the bumps are not handled too badly. I was surprised how well it manages bumps that required me to slow while riding the SBU. I haven't determined yet if the tires are airless or if there's a hidden tire valve somewhere.

Due to knee and hip problems, a stand-up version wasn't in the works for me. The seat on this one is reasonably wide, although hard as plastic. I'll be modding it with Temperfoam (firm) in the future, to provide a bit more than the bleacher-board numb-butt I now experience on extended errands.

A fellow makerspace member desperately wants something of this nature, but his bulk precludes all of the existing devices on the market. I think this device has a 250 pound max weight (not certain) and I'd hate to be that heavy on this scooter. Response time and safety margins are both a concern when one operates at the edge of weight limits.

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Very interesting, especially that it handles bumps ok.  Do you stand when you see a bump coming?  I imagine that would be more comfortable.  I'd strongly recommend you investigate the tyres as soon as you can, and ensure that they are adequately inflated (if they need it).

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There's more of a gap between sitting and standing on this device than there was on my SBU, as the seat post has limited travel. It makes things more jittery when transitioning, especially as there is nothing to clamp my thighs and/or knees onto as support while transitioning. I've managed a couple times to stand but not while traveling.

A quick search shows minimal information regarding tire service, although I did find a Canadian online retailer which purports to sell S8 tires for nearly CA$40, rather pricey, but admittedly a niche product. When I unpacked the scooter, I noted no exposed tire valves, and checked the pressure with the TLAR method and my thumb. They don't deflect much under load, which is a good start. I'll have to investigate on my own if the wheel covers remove easily enough to access a valve. The online retailer describes the tire as tubeless which implies conventional automobile tire mounting practice and inflation.

I don't stand when approaching known obstacles and the rocking motion for a single wheel lift tends to mitigate the impact a good bit. I do slow for the severe ones, but the S8 reacts less severely than the SBU did.

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The tire appears to be secured on a split rim, held together by what I thought were socket head screws holding on a wheel cover. After releasing the first one, I realized it passed through to the inside, holding the rims. A quick glance shows this to be true, along with a reasonably accessible tire valve. I used a valve extension to enable easier filling. The tires might have had about 20 psi (~1.4 bar) when I started, although some escaped during the attachment. The sidewall photo shows the tire size to be 10 x 2.50-6.5 with maximum pressure of 36 psi (2.4 bar), which is where I stopped filling.

Aliexpress carries the tires at a price ten dollars less than Airwheel lists them, along with free shipping. I think I'll pick up a couple, especially considering the shipping time involved. There are a few other sources, but most of them show tube-type and a different tread design. I'd rather not experiment when the price of failure is meeting the ground at a rate of deceleration outside of my comfort zone.

S8tiresize (Medium).JPG

S8airvalve (Medium).JPG

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Posted (edited)
35 minutes ago, fred_dot_u said:

 I'd rather not experiment when the price of failure is meeting the ground at a rate of deceleration outside of my comfort zone.

Fred, there is a compromise inherent in all the personal transporter tyres - a compromise between safety and mileage. A medium size tyre like the 10x2.7-6.5 is not as soft as a larger diameter tyre or a larger circumference tyre. This is why many of us have abandoned the 70/65-6.5 factory tyres on the Ninebot MiniPRO for larger diameter 90/65-6.5 "off-road" tyres. These have a larger cushion of air in them, and are less affected by stones and minor barriers in your path, and the ones with a decent tread on them can also 'climb' over stones and minor barriers (potholes) more safely. If safety is your priority, as it is with me, you will find the larger tyres are safer. But when you deflate them to a reasonable pressure (usually below 25psi) they eat more battery and offer a less smooth ride along bitumen. I have many tyres here which I have tried and discarded in favor of larger tyres with a safer ride. The only common factor is that the smaller and tighter factory tires offer the least predictable behavior. IMO the stiff walls of the Ninebot standard tyres are intended to help people who forget to inflate their tyres, but they make the tyres harder to handle when smaller pebbles are present. I was riding last week and suddenly the ride became unexpectedly bumpy - not from pebbles, but from acorn-like nuts which had fallen from a grove of trees. Safety tends to be a moving target :)

 

Edited by trevmar

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On 10/7/2018 at 12:32 PM, trevmar said:

I have many tyres here which I have tried and discarded in favor of larger tyres with a safer ride.

I admire anyone who changes the tires once, let alone multiple times!

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6 minutes ago, Ozpeter said:

I admire anyone who changes the tires once, let alone multiple times!

Sadly, the sellers of tyres these days can't give you any specifications, you just have to buy and inspect the damn things... I sometimes wonder whether even the manufacturers of these small tyres know what they are doing.. They don't put the 2-Ply or 4-Ply rating in their ads anymore, and Heaven help you if you are trying to figure out an optimum inflation pressure! We were taught all the theory on pneumatic tires at Uni (many years ago) and so it is harder for me to accept second-rate 'solutions' to this most important part of a transporter's design :)

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On 10/6/2018 at 9:32 PM, trevmar said:

Fred, there is a compromise inherent in all the personal transporter tyres - a compromise between safety and mileage. A medium size tyre like the 10x2.7-6.5 is not as soft as a larger diameter tyre or a larger circumference tyre. This is why many of us have abandoned the 70/65-6.5 factory tyres on the Ninebot MiniPRO for larger diameter 90/65-6.5 "off-road" tyres. These have a larger cushion of air in them, and are less affected by stones and minor barriers in your path, and the ones with a decent tread on them can also 'climb' over stones and minor barriers (potholes) more safely. If safety is your priority, as it is with me, you will find the larger tyres are safer. But when you deflate them to a reasonable pressure (usually below 25psi) they eat more battery and offer a less smooth ride along bitumen. I have many tyres here which I have tried and discarded in favor of larger tyres with a safer ride. The only common factor is that the smaller and tighter factory tires offer the least predictable behavior. IMO the stiff walls of the Ninebot standard tyres are intended to help people who forget to inflate their tyres, but they make the tyres harder to handle when smaller pebbles are present. I was riding last week and suddenly the ride became unexpectedly bumpy - not from pebbles, but from acorn-like nuts which had fallen from a grove of trees. Safety tends to be a moving target :)

 

Would you be suggesting that this particular scooter can have the tyres swapped out for the 90/65-6.5 versions? I've been pleasantly surprised at how well these tiny wheels handle obstacles that were unsettling when contacted with my Focus Designs SBU. I have my usual travels memorized for risky spots but occasionally catch one squarely and escape without  even a missed heartbeat.

If putting larger rubber on the rims means an even safer ride, sign me up!

I apologize for the long delay. I don't think I have had my notification settings correct and am hopeful that they are now.

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1 hour ago, fred_dot_u said:

If putting larger rubber on the rims means an even safer ride, sign me up!

We are currently using these 85/65-9.5 'offroad' tires which are wide, soft and smooth-riding (eg https://www.ebay.com/itm/143001010710 ). About the same diameter as OEM tires, you can use the original mudguards. We also use the larger 90/65 knobblies, but they are best off-road, they don't ride smoothly on bitumen (but they are OK). They are great for the dirt in our local park, however.

Tyre safety comes from the way the tyre cushions any impacts, such as when running over stones, branches or just cracks in the road. This is a wide tyre (which is therefore not that easy to get on the rims), and it provides a nice cushion of air. I use them tubeless between 15 and 25psi (15 smooth and safe, 25 for less drag on smooth surfaces). When you deflate the OEM tires you will see that the sides of the tire are pretty rigid, and this limits their ability to smoothly compress to absorb an impact. However, if you forget to check the pressure (like most owners) I guess it may give a slight additional support. I just don't understand Ninebot's rationale (I was trained as an engineer, not a marketer).

tyres.jpg

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