The world's least elegant, toughest to drive, and most pointless vehicle is indisputably the monowheel. The monowheel also has an equally pointless synonym: motorwheel. The monowheel is a close cousin of an almost equally pointless human-powered vehicle, the unicycle.

Picture, if you will, a thin wheel (or ring shape) roughly as tall as a man, but with a motor and driver inside the circumference of the wheel. No axels, no outer frame, no chassis. No balancing struts, no supporting wheels. Just one big damned wheel. The monowheel is similar in behavior to a much less pointless mode of transportation, a motorcycle, except without the sharp handling, quick acceleration, and clear sight of the road. Some variations exist on the monowheel, most notably the diwheel, which consists of two tall wheels connected between the wheel centers.

Luckily, very few of these excruciatingly pointless devices have ever been made, as every attempt to market the monowheel in the commercial market has been a dismal failure.

Here is a pointless history of the monowheel:

1884

In the middle of the Victorian quest to develop numerous pointless vehicles and devices, someone stumbles upon the idea to make a variation of a unicycle with a pedaling driver contained within the center of a large wheel. Luckily this early monowheel was likely never constructed.

1904

A gasoline engine-powered monowheel is demonstrated by the pointless House of Garavaglia at the Milan Exposition on April 23.

1923

A pointless former electrician by name of Davide Cislaghi shows off a new monowheel design. His adds better brakes and a steering wheel, though the source claims that he accomplished turning by leaning to either side.

1926

A step forward and a step backward: Parisian M. Trual creates a pointless new form of monowheel called a gyrocycle. It consists of a driver seated at equilibrium at the center; however, it is a pedal-powered machine.

1931

A Swiss engineer named Gerdes attempts to drive his monowheel from Arles, France to Spain. You'll have to make your own assumptions as to the fate of this pointless man as there was no follow-up on the results of his journey.

1932

One of the more pointless monowheel variations is the Weston-super-Mare Dynosphere. Interestingly, Wilson Sports has introduced a shoe claiming to utilize "DynoSphereTM" technology for sole cushioning, though pointlessly the shoe incorporates no obvious elements of the Dynosphere.

1936

Nilsson Wilson utterly pointless copycat monowheel is published in the 1936 book The Spirit of the Motorcycle.

1937

The U.S. Patent Office pointlessly grants Julius Rose a patent on his monowheel variant. Rose's ingeniously pointless design adds front and rear wheels to prevent what is known as gerbiling (the tendency of the driver to rotate inside of the monowheel by acceleration or braking).

1970s

Mercifully, the pointless contraption sees little attention until now, when in 1971 some people decide to take pointless old monowheels out for a test drive. Also in the early 70s, Jumpin' Joe Gerlach creates his only monowheel and fades quickly and appropriately into oblivion. More disturbingly, a pointless man named Kerry McLean becomes interested in monowheels and begins attempts to make one (more on this later).

1996

The monowheel makes a sudden, pointless comeback in the late 1990s. Jackie Chabanais, a Frenchman who enjoys building and performing stunts with odd, pointless machines, decides to build a monowheel using an old tractor wheel. He has since performed in his so-called "Tractorwheel" and other machines every year at the Tour de France. Apparently he also built a pedal-powered traditional monowheel for the 2001 Tour de France. Avoid this man at all costs.

1998

Unfathomably, Dr. Geraint Owen of Bath University in the United Kingdom decides that that history has been unkind to the monowheel and sets out to build his own. His pointless attempt is a success, but suffers balance and control deficiencies. Pointlessly, to make up for this slight disappointment he and his father created a diwheel theoretically capable of reaching speeds of up to 70mph, though the fact that he is not dead proves that he has not in reality tested out this speed.

1999

Students at Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg pointlessly create a diwheel that fittingly takes part in many equally pointless parades.

2001

A man going trough a mid-life crisis exacerbates his feelings of pointlessness by creating several monowheels. Kerry McLean, 47, of Walled Lake, Michigan, constructed the fastest monowheel on record, which is able to travel faster than 50 mph. This, however, is quite a pointless record, as his monowheel is really the only monowheel able to safely travel above 20 mph. McLean has since made several pointless new monowheels, including two V8 models. He hand builds and sells clones of his original monowheel for around $8500 each.

2002

The television show Scrapheap Challenge (aka Junkyard Wars), which features two teams of four competing to build a better machine than the other, films a pointless episode with one Dr. Geraint Owen wherein the teams must build a pointless monowheel. Pointlessly, the machines can only safely travel at walking speeds.

The McLean monowheel has been featured on the extremely pointless Ripley's Believe it or Not! television show. Also, a monowheel was featured in South Park Episode 511, "The Entity." To mock the hype surrounding the then-unrevealed Segway, Mr. Garrison invents a monowheel operated by, well, orifices. This was to be the least pointless monowheel appearance.


Sources and Related Pointless Information

http://www.dself.demon.co.uk/motorwhl/motorwhl.htm

Julius Rose's Patent:

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?patentnumber=2107766

To view the patent, click on the Images link. You'll need to download AlternaTIFF from http://www.alternatiff.com to view the images in your browser.

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