The Pint X Project
Attempting to transform my Onewheel Pint X into the perfect pint-size street ride.
Oct 20, 2023
This is not a review or a tutorial, but a write-up of my efforts to transform the Pint X into the perfect street board. If you are looking for inspiration to improve how your own Pint X feels, you might learn something! If you are deciding whether or not to buy a Pint X vs another Onewheel model, this will also likely provide some unique insight compared to a traditional review.
A little bit about me: I've been riding skateboards and any other board I can get under my feet for nearly 20 years, with 3 years and several thousand miles on Onewheels. I am coming at the Onewheel from a very demanding perspective – I have loads of experience riding downhill longboards and street skateboards, so in order for me to have fun on a Onewheel it needs to be able to carve smoothly, ride aggressively, and ride fast (within reason!). I've spent an inordinate amount of time tuning my Onewheels to ride exactly how I want them to, and hopefully this write-up helps some of you take a few shortcuts towards your perfect setup.
Pint X Get!
I obtained this Pint X through someone close to me who nosedived out of the activity. As I already had a Onewheel GT and a heavily modded Growler XR, I felt the need to do something new with this board to be able to justify keeping it. After a few rides, I became enamored with the Pint X's size and short stance – I sensed potential. I decided to do what I could to make this the best short-trip street board, with a fender for all weather riding and a small form factor for stowing discreetly under a cart or in a coffee shop. This is, after all, what the Pint models excel at.
Right away, I knew that getting past the pushback barrier would be the toughest hurdle. As you may know, the Pint X has pushback at around 16mph. For experienced riders, this quickly becomes a major buzzkill. I cruise on my other boards at around 17mph, which means I was constantly getting reprimanded by the Pint X to slow down just when I was about to reach my comfortable cruising speed. Pushback on the Pint X is also extreme. It forces your entire center of gravity backwards, much unlike the gentle nose raise of the XR. At speed, this harsh pushback throws you off balance and completely ruins the fun of the ride until pushback is over. Of course, this is probably the intended experience, but I knew I could do better than that and I didn't need someone to slap my hand with a soup ladle every time I squeak over 16mph.
The Pint X is capable of so much more than what Future Motion has limited it to out of the box. With similar internals, it is more than capable of keeping up with stock XR behavior, with gentle pushback around 19mph without significantly increased risk of nosedives (as we will soon see). It's endlessly frustrating to me that Future Motion was so close to making such a great board out of the box, but ruined its potential by limiting what it can do through software.
I already had a dialed in street board in my Growler, but I figured that maybe the Pint X would give me an edge with the stock fender and form factor for the frequent trips to the grocery store, coffee shop, or what-have-you. With Onewheels being so expensive, I felt that this new board would need to carve out a niche for itself in my quiver of boards – so I set about trying to help it do that, mostly just out of curiosity. Could the Pint X, a controversial board by Future Motion since its inception, be turned into a street rider as dank as the Growler, which is often considered the peak street ride setup?
Low Hanging Fruit
First things first, I added concavity to the front and back footpads. I prefer concave footpads on all my boards – it feels right under my feet after all the years of skateboarding. After installing a TFL Kush Lo back footpad and 3D Printed Fakebones on the front, I had a board that at was starting to feel right under my feet. One of the major benefits of the Pint models is the short stance you have over the wheel, which gives you a significant edge on maneuverability and a very comfortable riding position. It's because of this short stance that I will keep comparing the Pint X to a street skateboard setup, as it feels similar enough to activate that region of my brain when riding it.
Pint X with Fakebones installed on the front footpad. At this point I also had furniture pads on the sensor to help me consistently activate the sensor, but I eventually removed the extra layer of plastic on the sensor when I replaced the grip tape which solved that issue entirely. Also, the furniture pads reduced my grip to the board, which was annoying.
At this point, I started riding the board pretty aggressively as I became more comfortable on it. I was frustrated with the performance of the board during curb nudges (a method of climbing a curb while staying on the board), so I ordered some Mini Flight Fins to solve the problem. "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if I could jump with these?", I thought. It turns out, the board is still really heavy at over 28 pounds, so just straight-up jumping with the board remains a pipe dream, at least until I stop skipping leg day at the gym. The rear fin did help with my curb nudge issue, allowing me to kind of force the board up onto a high curb even at low speeds.
Since one of my criteria for this setup was to have a fender, I decided to mount the Flight Fins directly to the stock fender. I couldn't find any examples of this being done, so I can verify that it can, in fact, be done. I simply drilled holes in the fender after measuring, and then attached the Flight Fins with the included hardware. I used some hot glue on the locknut on the inside of the fender just to ensure that nothing was going to shift around or fall off while riding. This probably shouldn't be done, because the stance you need to take to get both fins with your feet is so narrow it feels borderline unsafe, but it is technically possible and probably more comfortable for smaller riders.
The Mini Flight Fins are the upgrade that provided the least amount of return, so if you are following this as a sort of deranged guide, just skip the fins entirely and just
git gud at curb nudges the regular way.
The single biggest and easiest improvement I made to the Pint X was swapping tires. This is true with every Future Motion Onewheel I've owned, and while the Pint tires aren't the worst of the bunch, they're no exception. I ditched the wobbly stock tire for the HellaRad Tire made by TFL and saw an immediate improvement in stability and smoothness with no loss in range or carveability.
Working on a Pint X is noticeably less frustrating than working on an XR. There are fewer screw sizes to worry about getting mixed up, and tolerances are generally better on every component. During the tire swap however, I had a very annoying issue with a stuck axle bolt. After shearing a Torx bit clean in half, the head of one of my axle bolts stripped, and I had to use an extractor to remove it. I then had to order replacement bolts (made of a stronger steel this time!), which derailed the project for a week or so.
The bolt was so stuck it sheared my Torx head clean in half. The replacement Torx head I used stripped the bolt.
I eventually was able to remove the bolt with an extractor. It made a horrendous noise when it finally came unstuck.
Let's talk about the most glaring issue with my Pint X setup: clearance. The Pint X has thick bumpers on both the back and (unnecessarily) the front. Curb nudges and trail riding will obviously be harder with less clearance, but the primary issue here in my experience is with emergency braking.
Due to the construction of the battery box, any even mildly aggressive rider will probably want Float Plates on at least the rear bumper of their Pint X so as not to damage the battery box or destroy their back bumper after a dozen quick stops. Since there aren't any Bang Bumpers for the Pint X (yet... please make them, TFL!) which would give more protection with better clearance, the Float Plate is pretty much the only option and it reduces clearance to such a degree that a quick brake on a hill will drag the tail, reducing the effectiveness of the brake. In an emergency stop situation this Onewheel is by far my least safe because I just can't stop as quickly without risking sliding out.
To work around this issue, I developed a braking technique that mimics the way you would stop on a snowboard. Carve to the side, then sharp carve to the other side while braking, and that change in direction will assist in slowing you down enough to avoid a tail drag. The only issue with this technique is that you need to plan ahead to use it, so in the event of an emergency it is not always possible. Riders should not have to choose between protecting their battery and being able to emergency brake!
Fixing the Battery Box
At some point around this time, I became aware of the Pint X battery box flaw and decided to fix it since I was already deep into the project. Sure enough, after cracking open the battery box (and voiding my warranty, lol) I found damaged wires as described. I wrapped the affected wires in electrical tape and used pliers and sandpaper to remove and dull out the sharp edges of plastic that were cutting into the battery wires. If you own a Pint X, you should absolutely check your battery cables for damage! Future Motion has reportedly fixed this issue with newer Pint X models but you should still check yours just to be safe. This is a surprise you want to find in your garage, not in the middle of a busy intersection while riding.
Crimped battery wires from the poorly designed battery box. Fortunately none of the wires had sheared, but this board only had <400 miles on it at this point.
Even though the Pint X construction is generally pretty good, there are still some annoyances during re-assembly. The controller and battery boxes have a waterproof gasket that, once removed, is very fiddly to get back in properly. I ended up using dabs of grease to keep the gasket in place while I tried to fit everything back together. It's a long game of whack-a-mole to get every part of the gasket to fit right without another part popping out of alignment.
(Mis)adventures in Rewheel
All this work so far, and the board was still just too dang slow. So let's talk about the elephant in the room: Rewheel. Rewheel is a firmware patching tool that allows you to modify the ride characteristics of your board by directly modifying values in the firmware you provide. Rewheel has been (temporarily?) shut down by Future Motion, and the version you might still find floating around on the net is not compatible with the Pint X, so unfortunately this part will be very difficult to replicate without serious developer chops and a direct line of contact with someone who has much more experience with Rewheel. Since the Pint X was my project board, I decided to blaze a path and risk bricking it to see if I couldn't unlock its hidden potential. Spoiler: I bricked the board... many times.
To reiterate: This is not a guide nor recommendation.
I bricked my board right off the bat using Rewheel, since it was not explicitly compatible with the Pint X – but I expected as much. I then proceeded to get into a hardware recovery via STLink, which involves soldering 3 wires to the Onewheel's control board and completely wiping the firmware clean directly off the chip, then writing firmware to the board by wire. During this recovery process, the first time I un-bricked my board I accidentally activated it while it was deconstructed on the floor, and it charged off into the wall ripping out the footpad and power button connectors! Lesson learned: always work on Onewheels with a milk crate so the wheel isn't touching anything.
Half the footpad connector and all 5 pins were ripped clean off when I activated the board by mistake.
At this point, I strongly considered abandoning the project and just selling the board for parts, but I decided to keep pressing forward – at the very least it would be a learning experience. After some helpful community members showed me what to order from Digikey, some tinkering, and a few weeks later, I was able to repair everything and continue the project.
But there was still a big problem: Rewheel still wasn't compatible with the Pint X, even by wire. After a lot of manual tinkering and a long call with another developer who was more familiar with Rewheel, we were able to load my board with a Pint bootloader and Pint X firmware, with Rewheel patches applied on top of it. We adjusted the bootloader to expect a Pint X BMS instead of a Pint BMS and I was able to patch in my original mileage and serial number. My board was ready to go with XR style pushback that kicks in at just under 19mph! At long last, the Pint X rode like the XR-killer it should have always been.
And oh, was it worth it. This was an awesome improvement to this board! It keeps up no problem on faster group rides, and when pushback does engage, it's nice and gentle.
I can safely say that Future Motion severely kneecapped this board's potential. I have so far shredded hundreds of miles without incident with these settings on a stock Pint X battery. This board should have always been designed to ride like this and it's a huge shame that most people will never get to ride their Pint X anywhere near its full potential.
List of Modifications
So, to recap, here's a full list of modifications:
- Kush Hi back footpad
- Fakebones on front footpad
- Removed layer of plastic from the front sensor to increase sensitivity
- Mini Flight Fins, mounted directly to the stock fender
- Back Float Plate reinforced with hot glue for adhesion
- HellaRad tire
- Rewheel patches:
- XR style pushback
- Pushback engages just under 19mph
Better than the Growler?
After all this (even accounting for my sunk cost bias) I still prefer riding my WTF Growler street board. The two boards get about the same range, but the Growler has larger footpads and a similar length-ways stance. Due to the Growler's larger footpads, the board is wider which gives you more leverage for extremely deep carves and a feeling of being completely locked in. On the narrower Pint X, you can use the edge of the footpads to gain maneuverability, but ultimately with rough riding your feet are much more likely to end up halfway off the board and the feeling of lock-in is pretty nonexistent. The Pint X feels a little zippier but ultimately it's not a big difference when out riding.
The Growler is still my favorite street board even after all the effort to make the Pint X live up to its full potential. It also just looks really cool.
This is not an entirely fair comparison, as I haven't tried WTF rails on the Pint X. This is likely the key reason why I still prefer the WTF Growler, but at this point in time I don't want to upgrade to WTF rails on the Pint X because I would lose access to a fender. I might upgrade in the future if TFL makes Bang Bumpers and a Drop Top Fender for the Pint X, but at this point I think I found the answer I was looking for – the Pint X struggles to outshine an XR Growler street setup even after unreasonable modifications and under the best circumstances.