John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
A Portland company is betting that urban trend-setters will love this one-wheeled wonder.
When confronted with a person on a unicycle, the appropriate response is usually to point and laugh. But what if that person was riding a unicycle kitted out to resemble a Japanese crotch rocket, and wearing a bad-ass black helmet and full-on leather biker gear?
OK, pointing and laughing would still be the way to go. However, some onlookers might be secretly jealous of this one-wheeled daredevil doodling freely in between gridlocked cars like he got lost on the way to Burning Man. For those folks, visiting the RYNO Motors investment page may be the best way to push this bizarre concept vehicle into an urban-commuting reality.
The RYNO is a custom-built electric unicycle from Portland, Oregon, that travels at 12.5 m.p.h. in the city and 25 m.p.h. off-road. The way it works is you stick a key in near the wheel to activate a balancing system, kind of like a Segway, and then duckwalk it out into the street with your feet. At full battery life, the unicycle can whir around for 30 miles before exhausting itself. It weighs 125 pounds and can handle hills with up to a 30 percent incline, so no taking it to Baden Street in San Francisco unless you're ready to do some pushing.
Chris Hoffmann, RYNO's CEO and senior mechanical engineer, believes his unipod will be embraced by young, tech-savvy fashionistas living in big cities. The moto-wheel will allow riders to slip "in between the cracks of urban transportation," he says. What's that mean? Well, according to the vehicle's website:
Like a secret footpath though the woods, there exists a travel landscape that only RYNO riders can see. With a product like RYNO, a rider can slip behind a wall, cut up the alley, around behind the big oak tree, down though the park and emerge at a destination long before anyone driving a car could ever get there. Plus a RYNO can be parked anywhere a bike can be parked, free of charge....
RYNO is poised to create real fundamental change. Since you can take it on the train in the suburbs, get off downtown and quietly ride it all around, city planners will finally have a product that will allow urban centers to clear out automobile free zones and get people out of their cars and back to meeting face to face.
While I'm not convinced that adding motor-powered, teetering unicycle riders to sidewalk pedestrian traffic is the smartest thing ever, I could see the advantages of taking this gizmo to the bike trails or the skate park for a few laughs with friends. Hoffmann has a prototype in the works that he's ridden around Portland; if he attracts enough investors, his company promises to debut a consumer model that costs around $3,500.
Here's footage that RYNO actually works...
Although it's certainly not the first motorized unicycle to lift the hearts of world-weary YouTube denizens. Honda is also working on a model, and then there's this guy: