Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on February 2nd, 2010 at 4:33 pm
The eBike Store in North Portland has become the first dealer in the country to stock the Self-Balancing Unicycle — a.k.a. SBU. The SBU is an electric-assisted unicycle with “advanced angle sensing electronics and software” that allows it to balance and “pedal” for you.
The SBU was invented by engineer Daniel Wood of Camas, Washington-based Focus Designs. I met Wood last week for an up-close look at his amazing invention.
Wood, 31, was laid off a year ago from his job at U.S. Digital in Vancouver and has spent the last two years developing the SBU. A classic tinkerer, Wood had previously invented a remote-controlled Segway-like device he called, “Gimpy.”
“I wanted to take the guts out of Gimpy and put it on a unicycle to see if it would work. I was the guy out in the parking lot on my lunch hour on a unicycle with 40 pounds of lead-acid batteries in my backpack… I was fumbling around, then all of the sudden I was riding. It was awesome!”
The SBU has come a long way since then and Wood is now looking for investors and dealers. He says it’s a simple, lightweight, and compact way to get around. The ideal users, according to Wood, are public transit riders, college students, carfree urbanites, truck drivers, tourists, and so on.
Unlike a standard unicycle, the SBU is easy to get the hang of. I’ve never been able to ride a unicycle, but in a few minutes, I was whizzing around on the SBU, feeling all futuristic and cool. It’s a strange sensation — you just sit on the seat, lean forward, and the SBU zips you around. Want to stop? Just roll your hips back and it stops. You don’t even pedal (there are no crank arms), you just sit and glide.
Wood took the SBU to the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas last year and said it was a huge hit. He’s also gained his share of notoriety thanks to an appearance on the Mythbusters TV show back in December. He’s sold about 26 of them so far. The current price is $1,499. Here are a few other specs and features:
- Weighs 24 lbs.
- Custom lithium-ion nano-phosphate battery rated for more than 1000 cycles.
- Automatic fall detection shutoff switch.
- Goes 10 mph and has a range of 10 miles.
- Folded size is 13″x20″x35″.
As our transit network expands, SBUs might appeal to the many people who will live a long walk from their transit stop. Will these things be the hot ticket in Portland? What do you think?
You can try one out at The eBike Store at 201 N. Alberta Street (on N. Vancouver Ave.). Check out the video clip below from Mythbusters to see it in action: