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One-Wheel Motorcycle Looks Crazy, Runs Great
"Like flying a plane," is how Kerry McLean, Walled Lake, Michigan describes riding his motorized "monowheel," which has been his passion for the past 30 years. He says it's the funnest ride out there.
"When you accelerate, you ride up the front of the wheel and when you brake you roll up the back," says McLean about the back and forth rocking motion. "Steering is just a matter of leaning into the curve."
The Rocket Roadster weighs in at 720 lbs. and consists of a 72-in. wheel powered by a 225 hp Olds V-8. The Roadster is capable of speeds in excess of 100 mph though McLean hasn't driven it much past 50.
A smaller production model has a 50-in. wheel powered by a 50 hp, water-cooled, 2-cylinder snowmobile engine. It can be ordered for $8,900, including riding lessons. He has driven it at up to 37 mph.
Regardless of size, the operating principle is the same - wheels within wheels.
"The wheels are actually big gyroscopes and have to be in perfect condition," explains McLean. "If the wheel doesn't run true, you are in for real trouble."
In the past three decades, he has built 14 monowheels and sold six. He compares riding one to sitting on the inside race of a ball bearing with the outside race going around you. The inside chassis ring is operated from the outside ring by rollers. Everything - engine, brakes, seat, etc. - mounts on the inside chassis.
"Think of the rollers as the bearings between two ball bearing races," explains McLean.
A friction drive wheel attached to the inner chassis ring runs against the outer tire ring. It transfers power from the engine through a centrifugal clutch to the outer wheel.
The driver sits astride the engine. Feet ride on a set of pegs mounted at the bottom of the engine, while a set of pegs atop the engine serve as stationary handlebars, throttle and braking control.
McLean licenses his 50-in. model as mopeds and the Roadster as a car, but he doesn't sell them as transportation. "They're fun toys," he says. "Everyone loves to look at them."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Kerry McLean, 2300 Ventura, Walled Lake, Mich. 48390 (ph 248 624-8274; website: americanroadshop.com).

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2003 - Volume #27, Issue #5