DIY electric personal vehicles are a field where even hobbyists can meaningfully innovate, and that’s demonstrated by the Mega-Wheelie, a self-balancing one-wheeled skateboard constructed as an experiment in traversing off-road conditions.
[John Dingley] and [Nick Thatcher] have been building and testing self-balancing electric vehicles since 2008, with a beach being a common testing ground. They suspected that a larger wheel was the key to working better on rough ground and dry sand and tested this idea by creating a skateboard with a single wheel. A very big, very wide wheel, in fact.
The Mega-Wheelie houses a 24V LiFePO4 battery pack, 450 W gearmotor with chain and sprocket drive, SyRen motor controller from Dimension Engineering, Arduino microcontroller, and an inertial measurement unit to enable the self-balancing function. Steering is done by leaning, and the handheld controller is just a dead man’s switch that disables the vehicle if the person piloting it lets go.
Design-wise, a device like this has a few challenging constraints. A big wheel is essential for performance but takes up space that could otherwise be used for things like batteries. Also, the platform upon which the pilot stands needs to be as low to the ground as possible for maximum stability. Otherwise, it’s too easy to fall sideways. On the other hand, one must balance this against the need for sufficient ground clearance.
In the end, how well did it work? Well enough to warrant a future version, says [John]. We can’t wait to see what that looks like, considering their past 3000 W unicycle’s only limitation was “personal courage” and featured a slick mechanism that shifted the pilot’s weight subtly to aid steering. A video of the Mega-Wheelie (and a more recent unicycle design) is embedded just below the page break.
Such a job is not merely a simple case of rewiring with some longer cables, as a first challenge the IMU communicates via I2C which isn’t suitable for longer distances. This is solved by a chipset which places the I2C on a differential pair, but even then it’s not quite a case of stepping on and zipping about. The PID parameters of the balancing algorithm on a stock machine are tuned for the extra weight of the battery on top, and these needed to be modified. Fortunately there have been enough people hacking the STM microcontroller and firmware involved for this task to be achievable, but we’d rate it as still something not for the faint-hearted.
The final result can be seen in the video below, and the quality of the physical work shows as very high. The former battery box is repurposed into a stylish backpack, and though the newly minimalist foot pedals and wheel are a little less easy to get going he zips around with ease.
There will always be those of us who yearn for an iron steed and the wind through your hair. (Or over your helmet, if you value the contents of your skull.) If having fun and turning heads is more important to you than speed or practicality, [Make it Extreme] has just the bike for you. Using mostly scrapyard parts, they built a monotrack motorcycle — no wheels, just a single rubber track.
[Make it Extreme] are definitely not newcomers to building crazy contraptions, and as usual the entire design and build is a series of ingenious hacks complimented by some impressive fabrication skills. The track is simply a car tyre with the sidewalls cut away. It fits over a steel frame that can be adjusted to tension the track over a drive wheel and a series of rollers which are all part of the suspension system.
Power is provided by a 2-stroke 100cc scooter engine, and transmitted to the track through a drive wheel made from an old scuba tank. What puts this build over the top is that all of this is neatly located inside the circumference of the track. Only the seat, handlebars and fuel tank are on the outside of the track. The foot pegs are as far forward as possible, which helps keep your center of gravity when stopping. It’s not nearly as bad as those self-balancing electric monocycles, but planning stops well in advance is advisable.
While it’s by no means the fastest bike out there it definitely looks like a ton of fun. Build plans are available to patrons of [Make it Extreme], but good luck licensing one as your daily driver. If that’s your goal, you might want to consider adding a cover over the track between the seat and handlebars to prevent your khakis from getting caught on your way to the cubicle farm.
Being able to coast on a bicycle is a feature that is often taken for granted. The use of a freewheel was an improvement made early in the bicycle’s history, for obvious reasons. This also unlocked the ability to build bikes with multiple gears, allowing higher speeds to be easily reached. On a unicycle, however, there’s no chain and the pedals are permanently fixed to the wheel’s axle, meaning that there is (usually) no freewheel and no gearing. [johnybondo] wanted to get some more speed out of his unicycle, though, and realized he could do this with his own homemade internal geared hub for his unicycle.
The internal hub gear was machined and welded by hand as a one-off prototype. There are commercial offerings, but at $1700 it’s almost best to fund your own machine shop. It uses a planet gearset which is more compact than a standard gear, allowing it to fit in the axle. Once all the machining was done, it was time to assemble all of the gears into the hub, lace it to the wheel with spokes, and start pedaling away. Since it was so successful, he plans to build another and lace it to a larger wheel which will allow him to reach even higher speeds. If this isn’t fast enough for you, personally, there are other options available for ludicrous speed.
Now, this gear is still “fixed” in the sense that it’s a permanent gear ratio for his unicycle and it doesn’t allow him to shift gears or coast. There’s no freewheel mechanism so the unicycle can still be pedaled forward and backwards like a traditional unicycle. The advantage of this setup is that the wheel spins 1.5 times for every one revolution of the pedals, allowing him to more easily reach higher speeds.
Electric vehicles are fertile ground for innovation because the availability of suitable motors, controllers, and power sources makes experimentation accessible even to hobbyists. Even so, [John Dingley] has been working on such vehicles since about 2009, and his latest self-balancing electric unicycle really raises the bar by multiple notches. It sports a monstrous 3000 Watt brushless hub motor intended for an electric motorcycle, and [John] was able to add numerous touches such as voice feedback and 1950’s styling using surplus aircraft and motorcycle parts. To steer, the frame changes shape slightly with help of the handlebars to allow the driver’s center of gravity to shift towards one or the other outer rims of the wheel. In a test drive at a deserted beach, [John] tells us that the bike never went above 20% power; the device’s limitations are entirely by personal courage. Watch the video of the test, embedded below.
Actually riding around at 30 km/h on a 3D printed means of transportation is pretty gnarly, if not foolhardy. So we were actually pleased when we dug deeper and discovered that [E-Mat]’s unicycle build is actually just a very nice cover and battery holder.
We say “just”, but a 3D-printed design takes a couple of cheap parts (the wheel and pedals) from the Far East and turns them into a very finished-looking finished product. Custom bits like this fulfill the 3D printing dream — nobody’s making it, so you make it yourself. And make it look pro.
It turns out that other people have noticed this motor/controller/pedal combo as well. Here’s some documentation to get you started.
It’s funny. Just four years ago, self-balancing powered unicycles were the realm of the insane hacker. Then came some hacker improvements, and now we’re at the point where you can mail-order all the parts and 3D print yourself a fancy enclosure.
Oh [Rodger Cleye]! You had us at “unicycle, duct tape, styrofoam, and tie wraps”. But watching the horse-bike in action (video below) is just about enough for us to go out and make one ourselves. (For our child, naturally. We’re far too dignified.)
If you trawl around [Rodger]’s YouTube channel, you’ll see no end of odd motorized vehicles. Like last year’s motorized horse project, or this stormtrooper speeder. But there’s just something about the way that the horse’s legs move along with the rider that is slightly more enchanting. (That’s the “unicycle” part of the build.) And, we assume, the rider gets a little bit more exercise to boot.