Jake Lyall thinks the idea for a new kind of motorized one-wheeled vehicle came to him in a dream. Which makes sense, given that the 37-year-old part-time programmer and Renaissance Fair jouster had never worked for a garage, studied engineering, or even held a welder before he built the RIOT Wheel.
Lyall’s 1,100-pound monowheel monster (whose name stands for Reinvention of the Wheel) works on the hamster-in-a-wheel principle: Move a wheel’s center of gravity forward and the wheel turns. Lyall’s hamster is a lead-weighted engine, which hangs by bearings off a stationary center shaft and uses its torque to move from 0 degrees vertical when stationary to 90 degrees forward at full blast, continually pulling itself forward around a sprocket bolted to the outer spokes. An independent counterweight system keeps the driver floating gently above ground out front, instead of inside the wheel, where most monowheel designs sequester him. Steering is handled by a gyro system and the driver’s shifting weight.
So far Lyall has no commercial designs on the project, which debuted at last year’s Burning Man Festival. But he hopes that a refined electric version will break the monowheel land-speed record of 57 mph this summer (the first RIOT topped out at half that). Follow Lyall’s progress and see the RIOT in action at theriotwheel.com.