After a significant hiatus from Commute by Bike, I considered reintroducing myself to the wonderful world of bike blogging by composing a fluffy, friendly piece about the joys of traveling by bicycle, the amazing feeling of having fresh, crisp air flowing through your lungs as you take the clean, green way to work… and then I learned about the electric, self-balancing commuter unicycle.
Commute Connect, based in Highland Park, Illinois, has caught the attention of some reputable news outlets recently as the company president, Tim Goebel, has been making his way up and down the streets of Chicago on his single-wheeled machine. According to Commute Connect’s website, this commuter unicycle is “built for the athletic commuter,” and “multiple three-axis accelerometers and gyros provide superior inertial measurement enabling for a ride like no other [sic erat scriptum].” The Smart Sense ™ feature helps the rider balance on the unicycle, and turning and braking are accomplished by shifting your weight. So, that’s how an electric self-balancing unicycle works, folks.
There are certainly positive attributes that deserve attention: it has a compact design, so you can carry it on public transportation during rush hour and proudly store it next to your desk inside of your office. There is no drive train, so you don’t have to worry about getting grease on your fancy work attire. And, it will undoubtedly prove to be a conversation starter. “[It’s] even better than a puppy,” Goebel told the Chicago Tribune.
Unfortunately, there are some potential drawbacks as well. With a price tag of $1,795, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, the unicycle is significantly more expensive than many folding bikes on the market that are also easily transported and stored (but, to be fair, are not self-balancing). Also, it may not be as simple to operate as the website proclaims. In a twelve-second video on the company’s homepage, Goebel is shown weaving his way down a vacant sidewalk and appears to be engaging in some sort of reserved hula dance to maintain his balance (he is also not smiling, not even a little). Finally, none of these images or videos depict a person carrying anything, which may prove to be problematic for a commuter.
Not having ridden a Commute Connect unicycle myself, it may be unfair for me to make the assessment that this is an overpriced and/or oddly marketed toy and not a legitimate alternative for urban commuters. It’s a nice idea, but in reality, I think that we’re not likely to see city streets littered with unicyclists zipping along at 12.5 miles per hour (max speed) in the near future. If you’re an avid one-wheel fanatic and disagree with me, I’d love to hear from you (or better yet, see a video of you in action), but I think that I’ll stick to two wheels and human propulsion for now.
Full disclosure: although I’ve successfully ridden bicycles for almost as long as I’ve been able to walk, any attempt at riding a unicycle has ended in bruises and a bruised ego for me. Maybe that’s why I’m resistant to the idea of a world in which commuting by unicycle is the norm.