How the Solowheel Works

Reinventing the Wheel

The people at Inventist, Inc., like to say that they've "reinvented the wheel," which isn't entirely true. Like every wheel ever made, the Solowheel is round and it rotates, allowing it to roll. There's nothing new about that. What Inventist has done differently is more in the way that the wheel is used than in the way it works. The Solowheel has a 1,000-watt electric motor that rotates the wheel, a lithium-ion battery that powers the electric motor and a gyroscope that helps the user stay balanced while moving. It also uses a power regeneration system that can recharge the battery using the kinetic energy of braking or gliding. This doesn't turn it into a perpetual motion machine, capable of recharging itself fully while it moves, but it can extend the life of the battery if you spend a lot of time riding it downhill or stopping at lights.

The Solowheel doesn't have much in the way of controls. In fact, it doesn't really have any at all. You start it by putting your feet on the small platforms extending to each side of the wheel, standing up, and leaning forward. You brake it by leaning backward. And you steer it by leaning sideways in the direction that you want to go. That's about as simple as walking and you barely have to move your legs (though Solowheel users say that balancing on it and steering for an hour can still give you an exhausting workout). When you're done with it, you can fold the foot platforms into the case surrounding the upper portion of the wheel and grab the handle on top to pick it up. The Solowheel recharges off normal current and a full charge takes about 45 minutes, so if you want to ride it the full 12 miles to work in the morning, you can have it charged and ready by afternoon to take you home again.

Is it easy to use? The people at Inventist say it is and they have videos of people happily gliding along on a Solowheel without falling down and breaking any delicate body parts. But the reviewers at Engadget say they had a little trouble getting balanced on it in the first place and have videos that show them not quite managing to get on board. Apparently, balancing on a wheel is a skill that takes time and practice to master, though the result could be worth it if you need a quick way to catch your commuter train. It's also fairly inexpensive, if not the cheapest form of transportation on the block -- that would be your feet, followed by a bicycle. And, it's convenient, cheap to run, easy to store and will get you lots of curious looks from bystanders.

And somewhere a cartoon caveman will be smiling at you while you ride.