22 October 2009

Honda's bumskate

We get to test 'drive' Honda's new unicycle contraption

Honda might be doing its bit for the planet’s environment with all the fuel cells and hybrids, but it’s also contributing to the world’s obesity epidemic with the U3-X. You’ll never have to shuffle round your office again with this.
 
The U3-X, a glorified electric unicycle, is a development concept from Honda that’s trying to solve urban mobility problems, and might one day be used to make motorbikes safer because they won’t tip over.
 
Very worthy stuff, but frankly what’s more important is that it’s great to ride.
 
As you approach it - warily - it’s standing upright all of its own accord courtesy of the internal gyroscope. It twitches slightly as the gyroscope constantly adjusts, but the movement makes it almost life-like.
 
Stand with your back to it, and simply sit down. Then pick your feet up and put them on the pegs - which takes a leap of faith as it feels like you might topple over. But once you’ve made it, the U3-X is surprisingly easy to ride: you just lean the way you want it to go.
 
The trick is to make only very slight movements – an imperceptible lean will make it move really smoothly, and it’s amazing how accurately you can place it, either side-to-side or front to back.
 
At the moment, you can’t carve a curve round a corner like on a motorbike – the U3-X only crabs in a straight line – but a simple software change will fix that on future versions.
 
Yet the wheel is still really very clever. There’s a large one that takes care of the forward and back movement, like on a regular unicycle, created from a ring of smaller wheels that do the strafing sideways stuff. Imagine threading lots of donuts around a plastic hula-hoop and… oh, just watch the video…
 
Don’t think you’ll look cool on this though. Not a single person who’s ridden it has looked natural or stylish.
 
But well done Honda nonetheless. It’s created yet another device to save us time and effort - fat camps the world over will be disappointed.

Piers Ward

Now share it...

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear's code of conduct (link below) before posting.