BikeParts Wiki

Keith Dufrane rides his monowheel in the 2005 Doodah Parade in Columbus, Ohio.

A monowheel is a one-wheeled vehicle similar to a unicycle. However, instead of sitting above the wheel, the rider sits either within it or next to it. The wheel is a ring, usually driven by smaller wheels pressing against its inner rim. Most are single-passenger vehicles, though multi-passenger models have been built.

Pedal-powered monowheels were built in the late 19th century; most built in the 20th century have been motorized. Some modern builders refer to these vehicles as monocycles, though that term is also sometimes used to describe motorized unicycles.

Today, monowheels are generally built and used for fun and entertainment purposes, though from the 1860s through to the 1930s, they were proposed for use as serious transportation.


In a bi-wheel mode of transportation, two systems (wheels) affect motion. Typically one wheel provides the force to control speed, while the other handles changes in direction - steering. For a monowheel, both direction and speed are controlled through the same physical apparatus. As such one usually suffers for the other, but in this case steering is usually more difficult. In the majority of systems, change in direction is affected by the rider shifting its weight, or in the sudden movement creating a shearing force between a handhold and the axis that the driver is settled on. Better control can usually be achieved at slower speeds. As expected, monowheels have never caught on as a widely accepted mode of transportation.

Possible Steering Options[]

Because of the unique method of steering this type of vehicle, there are many used and theoretical ways to effect a change in direction. Several methods are as follows:

  • Leaning. The most common steering solution is that the rider must lean towards his intended direction of travel to turn, and then centralize his weight again once the turn is complete.
  • Turning a gyroscope to provide turning force.
  • Outboard skids to provide friction drag on one side.
  • At speeds faster than a walk, lightly dragging a foot on the ground will cause the wheel to lean to the opposite side. Drag the other foot to bring it back upright. Do not dab your foot as this will cause you to topple over.
  • Small wheels used for steering, either one to each side or a single unit either in front of or behind the vehicle. It is a matter of debate as to whether such a vehicle would still properly be called a monowheel.
  • Steerable propellers, which could provide both steering and power to move the vehicle. It has been noted that having a propeller operating near pedestrians would likely be quite unsafe.
  • Steerable tail surfaces, similar to those on airplanes. This solution would not work at low speeds.

Other issues[]

  • Limited horizontal stability. A single wheel can fall over, unless it is quite wide or has some form of active stabilization, such as a gyroscope. Some designs have used outrigger skids or small wheels to address this. In many one-person designs, being at a stop requires the driver to put their feet on the ground, the same way as on a motorcycle.
  • Limited capacity. Monowheels tend to be larger than a car of similar carrying capacity. Most have been kept small by being built to carry only one rider and with little or no space for baggage.
  • Risk of "gerbiling". In most designs, if the driver accelerates or brakes too hard, it is possible that the force applied overcomes the force of gravity keeping the rider at the bottom of the wheel, sending the rider spinning around the inside of the wheel. This is known as gerbiling, because it has some similarity to the situation of a gerbil running too quickly inside of a hamster wheel.
  • Visibility issues. In driver-inside designs, the rider is always facing the inner rim of the wheel, which can obstruct oncoming hazards.

Variants and related vehicles[]

There have been many proposals for variants or uses, such as a horse-drawn monowheel or a monowheel tank. A variant was proposed that placed two riders outside of the wheel itself, with one person on each side to provide for balance.

One interesting variant called a RIOT wheel was presented at Burning Man in 2003. It involves the passengers sitting in front of the wheel and being balanced by a heavy counterweight inside the wheel. Rather than the typical ring drive, this vehicle is powered through a sprocket attached to the spokes.

A related vehicle is the diwheel or the dicycle, in which the rider is suspended between or inside of a pair of large wheels placed side by side. An example of this would be the character Axel from the Twisted Metal series of video games published by Sony.

Appearances in media[]


  • Iain M. Banks' book Against a Dark Background contains a rare instance of a monowheel as an important feature of a fictional work.
  • Stanislav Lem's novel Eden features motorized variants of the monowheel.
  • In South Park episode "The Entity" Mr Garrison makes a gyroscope-stabilized, turbine-engine-propelled device resembling the monowheel, called "IT" (pronounced the word "it", a play on early hype for the Segway), with a rather uncomfortable user interface.
  • In the French animated television series Code Lyoko, the character Ulrich Stern uses a monowheel called a "monocycle" (basically a motorized unicycle) as his vehicle of choice on Lyoko. Ulrich's, in particular, is capable of flight and land travel, and he refers to it as the "Overbike".
  • In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, General Grievous uses a wheel bike similar to a monowheel.
  • In the animated series Star Wars: Droids the young miner Jann Tosh owns a similar wheel bike
  • In the animated series and action figure line Spiral Zone, Colonel Dirk Courage rode the Rimfire, a large monowheel with an attached cannon.
  • The Mowercycle of Chaotic is a monowheel with gripping teeth that also act as sawteeth.
  • The War Wheel is a huge, armored battle tank that first appeared in DC's Blackhawk comic. War wheels were also used in the Justice League (TV series). [1]
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, the character Jack Atlus uses a monowheel D-Wheel in riding duels.
  • In Kirby Super Star, the helper from the wheelie powerup is a monowheel.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward, a futuristic version of the monowheel is shown in a few episodes.
  • The fourth edition of the roleplaying game Shadowrun features a monowheel called the Horizon-Doble Revolution.
  • In the videogame Wild Arms 5 the main character Dean obtains a monowheel for faster transportation around world map areas.

They are noticeably more common in Japanese anime and manga.

  • In the OVA series Dirty Pair Flash Mission 3, a young female assassin called Monica drives a Red Futuristic Monowheel.
  • In Hiroya Oku's manga series Gantz, the players are provided with a very fast motorized monowheel (called the Gantz Bike) to evade their alien opponents during a mission later in the story.
  • In the first episode of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, a protagonist uses one in a rescue of the eponymous character.
  • In Katsuhiro Otomo's 2004 film Steamboy, Ray Steam, the protagonist of the story, uses a steam-powered monowheel early in the movie.
  • In the animated adaptation of Venus Wars, one-wheeled motorcycles are used both in bloodsport and combat.
  • Mobile Suit Victory Gundam features the Einrad, a colossal monowheel used as a transport vehicle for the Zanscare Empire's mobile suits.


  • In an episode of the British television show Scrapheap Challenge, two teams competed to build and race monowheels.
  • In the Australian Reality TV show Push the Limit a monowheel challenge ended when contestant Kate Siopis fractured her wrist.
  • Many monowheels were used in the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Advertising media[]

  • In a 2007 television commercial produced for the drink brand Capri Sun, a boy and a girl are both riding in variants which appear to be manufactured vehicles made of metal and fiberglass (up to the point where they are levitated into the air by a CGI effect).

See also[]


External links[]

nl:Monowiel pl:Jednokołowiec ru:Моноцикл