One of the bits of technology from the Stainless Steel Rat books which always sticks in my head is the ‘monocycle’ which made an appearance in the original 1957 story:
To someone of little imagination I suppose it would have been an awe-inspiring sight. At least five armed guards standing around the entrance, two more inside the truck as well as the driver and his assistant. As an added precaution there were three monocycles purring next to the curb, they would go with the truck as protection on the road. Oh, very impressive. I had to stifle a grin behind my cigarette when I thought about what was going to happen to those elaborate precautions.
They always sounded pretty cool to me, and Carlos Ezquerra drew them in the 2000ad comic adaptation which made them look even cooler.
Back in November 2003 Forbes.com posted a story about a concept for a monocycle, created by Quebec-based Bombardier Recreational Products, makers of ATVs, skidoos, and such. This was a concept for the kind of vehicle we might be riding in 2025.
Not much else to say about this apart from the obvious: I want one!
There is a computer-generated video of how the Embrio works here on the BrainBucket website, along with the technical details of the vehicle.
The concept and its associated press release, unfortunately, seems to have disappeared from Bombardier’s website.
A similar vehicle, and one that appears to be closer to reality, is Ben Gulak’s Uno, which Treehugger carried a story on in May 2008.
If you look closely at the image above, you’ll see that the Uno actually has two wheels side-by-side, but it still looks pretty close to what I saw in my head when I first read the Stainless Steel Rat. In the image below you can see more clearly the set-up of the wheels.
Ben appeared on the TV show Dragon’s Den to pitch his idea, and the video of that – including a clip of the bike in motion – is featured on the official Uno website.
Honda also created a one-wheeled bike concept, the Falcon 750cc, which there’s a YouTube video of.
And for something a little more… er… low-tech, check out The Riot Wheel, which is more the Mad Max Road Warrior version. YouTube video of it in action here and here. The man behind this project is, I think, Jake Lyall, and he’s presumably the guy in the picture.
Last summer I did have a go at riding unicycle: the less said about my attempt the better. I’m sure powered versions can be ridden with much more dignity than pedal ones. Thanks to John Harral who brought along his unicycle to prove to me that, yes, it is as difficult as it looks… 🙂