Two things are certain in this crazy world – unicycles are cool and unicycles are seriously hard to ride. Well no longer. Now anybody can clown about on a unicycle and what’s more, you don’t even have to pedal. Thanks to Focus Designs and several years of development the learning curve required to master the unicycle has been reduced from several weeks to an average of 20 minutes, making it a viable and incredibly cheap-to-run personal transport.
Most people can learn to ride a bike without much problem. Humans are adept at balancing laterally left to right and the gyroscopic effect of the wheels makes it easy to stay up once on the move. Remove one of the wheels to make it a unicycle and the tendency to topple backwards or forwards around the single axle is almost impossible to avoid. Seasoned unicyclists manage it by using the directly connected pedals to constantly adjusting the wheel backwards and forwards underneath them.
Focus designs have done away with all that in the Self Balancing Unicycle(SBU) by utilizing the principles – though not the implementation of course – of the Segway personal transport. Seven sensors, gyros, accelerometers etc., monitor the orientation of the unicycle and via a processor, and a bunch of clever algorithms, a hub-mounted motor either speeds up or down to maintain axial forwards/backwards balance. Just like the Segway you lean slightly forward to go forward and back to brake. Unlike the Segway however, accidents are much less likely since you can just quickly put your feet down to stop! The other advantage over a Segway is that you don’t look like a dork.
The 1000 watt motor is driven by an advanced lithium-iron nano-phosphate battery that provides a top speed of 10 mph (16 km/h) for a range of 12 miles (20 km). The estimated average cost of a recharge, which takes two hours, is 2 US cents and the SBU weighs 29 lbs (13 kg), which makes it luggable onto public transport and into car trunks. For those that know the area it will come as no surprise that the SBU was developed in Camas, just across the way from Portland, home of all things alternative, green and lovely.
The latest and greatest 2.0 version of the Self Balancing Unicycle is now available direct from Focus Designs for $1,499 (€1144 – £1000) and if you still aren’t quite getting how it works see the video below.