One of the deadliest – albeit coolest – looking devices stemming out of the 19th century’s vision of the future was the monowheel; a motorized, sometimes electrified, unicycle, bearing an uncanny resemblance to something straight out of science-fiction. Between the 1860s and 1930s, dozens of iterations rolled out of one or another hobbyist’s garage before it was finally decided that a single wheel can never provide the force needed to simultaneously control speed and steer.
The principles governing the monowheel are simple. An engine powers a single wheel that’s responsible for controlling both direction and speed; steering is accomplished by shifting body weigh in the chosen direction, much like a motorcycle. Over the years, monowheels have incorporated all manner of power sources including gas and electrical motors, as well as good’ol fashioned Flintstone foot power (via pedals).
The majority of monowheels ─ who am I kidding ─ all monowheels are deadly due to narrow points of balance, and depending on the model, require that the rider actually push their feet against the asphalt to counter the tilt of the wheel and stop themselves from falling. Worse yet, is the fact that riders are adverse to the gerbling effect if they brake or accelerate too abruptly; if the force applied surpasses the force of the gravity keeping the rider at the bottom of the wheel, he or she will be sent spinning around the inside of the wheel like a gerbil who has run too quickly inside its wheel.
It is difficult to track who the forefather of the Monowheel was; photos of the device include names of inventors that don’t necessarily correspond to the rider photographed. Ads for these things did exist, suggesting that folks actually bought these things. Fortunately, the monowheel’s popularity eventually climaxed during late 20’s and 30’s with the invention of the Motoruota, pictured above, created by Messrs Cislagi and Goventosa of Italy.