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Monowheel: Facts and Historical Photos of the Bizarre Vehicle

Monowheel (also known as a monocycle) was often proposed as a new mode of transportation between the 1860s and the 1930s. They were different from unicycles because the rider sits inside the wheel’s circumference, rather than on top of it or outside it, and they function as a giant ball bearing. The engine propels the outer loop while the driver anchors the inner wheel. It stays upright by using the same principles as a gyroscope. A vehicle will remain in motion as long as an external force generates motion, in this case, an engine (although some monowheels are pedal-powered). Taking a turn was very tricky in Monowheels because they were difficult to handle due to the lack of other wheels and their awkward stance. To avoid tipping over, a rider should keep their feet close to the ground. Monowheel riders also had to rely on gravity to maintain an upright position, so if the machine accelerates or brakes too quickly, they spin inside it like a pet gerbil inside a wheel.

Several inventors created their monowheels, some driven by a human, some electric, some with gas motors. Still, all used the same basic principle: a smaller inner wheel presses against a giant outer wheel, allowing the vehicle to roll forward with the driver remaining level. Monowheels were considered difficult to use even at that time, and their use was described as “impractical for ordinary mortals.” Additionally, if it has a powerful engine, it’s unlikely that all of its power can be utilized. The lack of stability makes braking particularly difficult when forward motion is removed.

Monowheels models and inventors throughout the history

An inventor from France created the first known monowheel in 1869, but it had two wheels. The wheel had a seat inside. Beneath the seat was another, smaller wheel. To move the larger wheel, the rider pedaled the smaller wheel.

In the early 20th century, inventors began experimenting with monowheels powered by engines. Some inventors also incorporated airplane propellers in front of monowheels to help with steering. However, none of these designs have ever been manufactured. Science magazines began publishing designs for a car-like monowheel enclosed with metal and glass and could seat up to three passengers in the 1930s.

In 1932, Dr. J.H. Purves created a strange vehicle that is easily the most famous. It is believed that the Dynasphere reached speeds of up to 25 or 30 MPH.

Dr. Purves considered the monowheel the most simplified form of motorized transportation. His creation was never as successful as he had hoped. The vehicle was not very stable, could only carry one additional passenger, and had several other insurmountable design problems.

The monowheel failed to get the public’s attention. However, people still attempt to build and ride these machines, even if it is usually just for entertainment. Below are some historical photos that show different monowheels from the past.

#1 Davide Chislagi, the Italian inventor, testing his single-wheel engine, 1933.

Davide Chislagi, the Italian inventor, testing his single-wheel engine, 1933.

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#2 One wheel motorcycle (invented by Italian M. Goventosa de Udine). Maximum speed: 150 kilometers per hour ( 93 Mph).

One wheel motorcycle (invented by Italian M. Goventosa de Udine). Maximum speed: 150 kilometers per hour ( 93 Mph).

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#3 J. A. Purves drives a Dynasphere spherical car, an automobile shaped like a giant radial tire. Mr. Purves was the vehicle’s inventor, 1932.

J. A. Purves drives a Dynasphere spherical car, an automobile shaped like a giant radial tire. Mr. Purves was the vehicle’s inventor, 1932.

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#4

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#5 Cover of Popular Science Monthly, 1932.

Cover of Popular Science Monthly, 1932.

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#6 Electronically driven wheels which revolve while the drivers remain stationary are tested at Bream Sands, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, 1932.

Electronically driven wheels which revolve while the drivers remain stationary are tested at Bream Sands, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, 1932.

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#7 Dynasphere wheels being driven on Beans Sands near Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England.

Dynasphere wheels being driven on Beans Sands near Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England.

The petrol driven model is on the right and the smaller, electric model is on the left. The inventor Dr J. A. Purves of Taunton hoped to revolutionize modern transport with them, 1932.

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#8 A Dynasphere being demonstrated at Brooklands race track, Surrey, England, 1932.

A Dynasphere being demonstrated at Brooklands race track, Surrey, England, 1932.

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#9 The Dynasphere was capable of speeds of 30mph, 1932.

The Dynasphere was capable of speeds of 30mph, 1932.

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#10 Weybridge, Surrey, England, UK -The Dynasphere is demonstrated, 1932.

Weybridge, Surrey, England, UK -The Dynasphere is demonstrated, 1932.

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#11 A man on a penny-farthing bicycle alongside Walter Nilsson aboard the Nilsson monowheel, 1935.

A man on a penny-farthing bicycle alongside Walter Nilsson aboard the Nilsson monowheel, 1935.

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#12

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#13 An illustration from an article about a single wheeled tank.

An illustration from an article about a single wheeled tank.

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#14

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#15

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#16 The Motoruota as it appeared in a 1927 issue of Motorcycling magazine.

The Motoruota as it appeared in a 1927 issue of Motorcycling magazine.

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#17

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#18 Hemming’s Unicycle, or “Flying Yankee Velocipede”, was a hand-powered monowheel patented in 1869 by Richard C. Hemming.

Hemming’s Unicycle, or “Flying Yankee Velocipede”, was a hand-powered monowheel patented in 1869 by Richard C. Hemming.

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#19 A one-horse monowheel design. Date unknown, but probably 1870-1890.

A one-horse monowheel design. Date unknown, but probably 1870-1890.

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#20 Signor Davide Cislaghi with his one wheel motorcycle called the “Monowheel” which was capable of speeds up to 40 mph, 1923.

Signor Davide Cislaghi with his one wheel motorcycle called the “Monowheel” which was capable of speeds up to 40 mph, 1923.

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#21 The D’Harlingue Monowheel with its inventor in 1917.

The D’Harlingue Monowheel with its inventor in 1917.

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#22 Professor E.J. Christie atop a version of his 14 foot monster monowheel in 1923, which may or may not have been tested.

Professor E.J. Christie atop a version of his 14 foot monster monowheel in 1923, which may or may not have been tested.

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#23

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#24

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#25 Alfred D’Harling’s “Aero-unicycle”.

Alfred D’Harling’s “Aero-unicycle”.

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#26 Treffaswagen on trials.

Treffaswagen on trials.

This vehicle is the only spherical tank armed with weapons that reached the trials stage.

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#27 Hugo Gernsback’s trench destroyer.

Hugo Gernsback’s trench destroyer.

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#28 The Edison-Puton monowheel on display at the technical museum in Sinsheim, Germany.

The Edison-Puton monowheel on display at the technical museum in Sinsheim, Germany.

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#29

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Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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