Kingsong KS16S Electric Unicycle Review
Currently electric unicycle manufacturers are fighting to produce the ultimate all-rounder. A light weight wheel with great range. One that is powerful enough to propel heavier riders to high speeds but gentle enough to ride as to inspire confidence in beginners. Kingsong’s answer to this challenge is the KS16S. In this review we decide whether they have succeeded in building the king of unicycles, whilst revealing any compromises made.
Kingsong's KS16S at a glance
- Incredible 28mph (45km/h) top speed
- 50 mile (80km) maximum range
- 1200w motor capable of tackling 30° inclines
- Huge 840 Watt Hour battery charged from flat in 6.5 hours
- Compact 16inch wheel
- Lightweight at just 17.4kg
- 50cm tall, 46cm deep and 20cm wide
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Matte black symmetrical design
Kingsong designs follow a ‘less is more’ approach. Whilst the KS16S lacks the refined minimalist aesthetic of say Braun or Apple, it’s symmetrical form gives it a pleasing if basic appearance. The wheel body mixes soft-touch matte finish plastic with high-gloss radial strips, textured leatherette on the pads is then contrasted by light grey gloss paint on the footpeg backs.
We opted to test this ‘rubber black’ variant, devoid of the ugly multicoloured Kingsong branding on the side pads, leaving only the subtle embossing of the manufacturers logo on the underside of the footpegs that is naturally obscured in use. Only the ugly (yet removable) silver information/safety stickers upon the footplates and under the trolley handle interrupt the refined design.
Our testing suggested this matte finish stands up to the rigours and general abuse of everyday riding a lot better than the gloss finish of the expensive InMotion wheels; however greasy fingerprints will still stand out.
The unicycles’ curved top surface features the only physical controls and ports on the device. At the leading edge is the three-pin power socket capped by a rubber cover. The charger plug features a nut that secures to the threaded plug body ensuring it cannot be accidentally knocked loose. Using the included charger with its 2amp output, the KS16S will take around six and a half hours to charge from flat, the LED on the power brick swapping from red to green when complete. The power brick is compact enough to carry in a backpack for topping up at your destination.
Battery capacity is indicated by the LED lights in the curved band on the side of the unit. When stationary, the LED’s on the sides of the unit will indicate the current battery capacity. Shown in 9 green segments, the LED’s will extinguish as the battery is depleted, the final LED flashing when nearing empty. You should avoid completely draining the battery but the wheel will limit your speed and beep an alarm at you well before this occurs.
Two chrome buttons sit behind the charge port, the larger domed button is a simple single-push on/off power switch, short to power up and a longer press to power down. Smaller and flatter, the auxiliary button controls the lights and bluetooth module. With the unicycle powered up, short presses will turn the headlight/taillights on/off whilst a longer press will enable/disable both the bluetooth connection and the lighting. The small plastic window behind the buttons is a light sensor.
Getting a grip
Inline with other manufacturers, Kingsong have named the unicycle after the fitted wheel size. The 16 x 2.125 tyre and tube are rated from 35 to 45 psi and will arrive only partially inflated. The test rider shown is on the lighter side thus we inflated it to 40psi, access the valve by rotating the wheel until it appears below the folded pedals.
We tested the tyre on dry concrete, tarmac, hard dirt and gravel paths. Whilst the tread suggests it is best suited for tarmac, we found it coped well on the fire roads of our local forest. Opting for a tyre with a wide smooth central ridge will doubtless appeal to the majority of us who spend most of our time riding on hard paths.
Measuring just 200mm long, the footplates feel compact under size 10 shoes. Two (replaceable) grip-tape patches keep your feet in place but we would have preferred to see these paired with the rubber strips employed by both InMotion and Gotway for a little more security. When box-fresh deploying and returning the footplates takes more force than the competition due to some particularly stiff pedal springs. Whilst they do soften over time, levering them back up each time leaves you thankful for the pads Kingsong fitted to stop them marking the body. Optional larger 250mm pedals are available for those with larger feet.
Sound and light
Once enabled through the app, you can play audio through the four speakers mounted aside of the pads, streamed from your smartphone over the bluetooth connection. Whilst surprisingly loud, the sound quality is only average and we can think of few times where this would be useful (say a picnic, critical mass ride or even a protest) but it is a novel inclusion nonetheless.
The KS16S features four curved bands of 9 RGB LED’s, sat in a translucent black band on each side of the unicycle. It is probably our favourite implementation of accessory lighting on a wheel so far, a lot more subtle than those found on the Gotway wheels. As mentioned, when powered up but stationary, the battery capacity is indicated by these LED’s coloured green. When riding, these LED’s cycle through a rainbow of colours. This can be disabled in the app for a more stealthy riding appearance whilst retaining the green battery indicator lights when stationary.
Bright white/red LEDs are mounted in windows at the front and rear of the unicycle to act as headlights and taillights. The symmetry goes beyond appearance, with its flat footpeg platform the Kingsong unicycle can be ridden in either direction, the controller switching the brake and headlight positions to suit.
Range and power versus weight
Finding a wheel to use everyday is a fine balance between size, weight and range. At 17.4kg the KS16S sits in a sweet spot, lighter than other unicycles offering a genuinely useful range.
Its 1200w motor is rated for 3000w peak and will power the unicycle up to a top speed of 28mph (45km/h), whilst also allowing it to climb 30 degree inclines. With its 840Wh battery the manufacturer claims it has a maximum range of 80km although as ever, to match this figure will require some slow riding by a light passenger. Speaking of payloads, its maximum passenger weight of 120kg will be welcome for larger riders.
Getting a handle on it
Bridging diagonally across the top, from face to face, is the matte plastic carry handle. The angle of the handle makes carrying the unicycle slightly awkward, requiring you to twist your wrist outward to avoid the wheel hitting your legs whilst walking.
Thankfully the handle doubles up as the trolley handle. Depress the central button to extend the telescopic handle up to a comfortable waist height. When powered, using this trolley handle makes dollying the unicycle around a breeze. If you find yourself carrying the scooter regularly we recommend enabling the lift/stop switch in the smartphone application to avoid any accidents. As standard, the motor will cut off when the wheel tilts over 45° side to side.
Kingsong's smartphone application
Kingsong’s companion app for its unicycles (available on both iOS and Android) is one of the prettier ones available but it isn’t perfect. Designed for all of their transport products, it includes some settings not relevant to the KS16S alongside its fair share of translation errors and confusing labels. The home screen contains an analogue style gauge displaying your direction, current speed, estimated range, battery capacity and the temperature of the unicycle. Swiping right will give you a more detailed breakdown of the unicycle’s status with riding mode, fan status, CPU usage, max power and much more.
A neat feature found in this (and the segway-ninebot application) is the ‘HUD’ mode. Double tapping the screen and the app will swap its background for a live rear camera feed, allowing you to check the unicycles’ live speed/battery/heading/temp values whilst also watching where you are going.
From the factory the wheel arrives in learner mode with acceleration and braking forces engaging ‘softly’. You can switch the riding mode to standard or even ‘experiment’ for a ‘stronger’, faster reaction, ideal for more aggressive ‘sporty’ riding.
Further to this, as standard the wheel is limited to 12mph and will bleep and tilt-back when you hit this speed. You will need to alter these settings and adjust the (annoying) alarm threshold rates under the ‘speed setting’ page of the app. The app also allows you to alter the behaviour of the LED lighting (the colours, animation, etc) or the performance and behaviour of the headlight.
Riding the unicycle
Stepping aboard those compact pedals, the wheel immediately feels familiar to anyone who has spent time on InMotion’s V8. The compact frame wrapped around a 16inch wheel is the favoured format for all of ‘riding’ staff. The wheel feels responsive even in the beginner mode, quickly earning and building trust with its predictable motion.
Those thick vinyl covered pads on the side appear soft and inviting, yet in practice they have little-to-no give and take some conditioning/getting used to. They also limit how close you can get your legs up against the side of the unit, resulting in a wide-feeling stance when riding.
That relatively small wheel size feels agile between your legs and the responsive ESC allows you to confidently make tight turns. With 120mm of ground clearance you are unlikely to ground out the footpegs even in extreme turns at full tilt.
We sell few unicycles that are quicker than the KS16S. With the limiters removed, it is quick to accelerate up to its top speed and will prompt you to decelerate (complete with tiltback) should you attempt to push it further. Considering the diminutive overall size it offers the rider great confidence even at speed with none of the wobbles you’d expect from a wheel of these dimensions.
Once comfortable with the way it responded, we pushed the wheel out of its comfort zone on some light off road trails. The included tyre isn’t suitable for anything too soft or loose but it performs admirably on harder dirt paths. The wheel tucked ‘underneath’ the shell, protects relatively well against water/stone spray even without a mudguard. You will however get some rattles from stones kicked up inside the housing, yet we never experienced any that interrupted the drive.
Compared to the competition
Performance-wise, a powerful motor in a small (relatively) lightweight body is difficult to beat. The KS16S has become our 'steed of choice' when tackling handling tests in our warehouse. The pedals aren’t as grippy as those on Gotway’s MSuperX, but the flat riding profile is relaxed. Comparing it further to the MSuperX, it is a little louder in use, projecting that low hum/whine that electric scooter riders will be familiar with. At 17.4kg its the second lightest wheel we have tested to date, something that we are grateful for when carrying it upstairs or loading it into a car.
Subjectively the wheel is one of the classier-looking models on the market and with the lights extinguished its stealthy, relatively basic appearance gained favourable comments from staff, friends and family in comparison to the ‘christmas decoration’ criticisms received when riding InMotion’s models. That offset handle position takes some getting used to when carrying the unit upstairs, but the trolley handle has proved resilient throughout our testing.
Should I buy a KS16S?
Having landed on this review, it’s likely that you are in the market for a premium unicycle and the KS16S certainly fits the bill. These 'new generation' Kingsong unicycles are built tough, happily taking a beating and getting right back up for more. The balance of size and power makes it suitable for the final-mile of a commute or a few miles to a coffee shop on the weekends with the battery capacity removing concerns about making it back home. The KS16S isn’t cheap, but it is a fair price for a wheel offering this quality, reliability and performance.