Pen­ny­far­things for the selfie gen­er­a­tion

The Witness - Wheels - - CYCLING - BEN COXWORTH

AT first glance, it’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble to think that the Hun­gar­ian-made Gauswheel Spirit is sort of a low-rider uni­cy­cle, or that it has a mo­tor.

In fact, though, it’s an in­line twowheeler that’s en­tirely hu­man-pow­ered.

It’s also a unique al­ter­na­tive to a skate­board, scooter or roller blades (or per­haps a com­bi­na­tion of all three), that’ll def­i­nitely get you no­ticed.

We re­cently had a chance to try it out for our­selves.

The Spirit has a sturdy ABS body with a 51 cm bi­cy­cle-style wheel in the back, and a swiv­el­ling 15 cm polyurethane roller blade-like wheel in front. There are tape-cov­ered foot plat­forms to either side of the main wheel, and a car­ry­ing han­dle above it. On some higher mod­els, a hy­draulic disc brake can be ac­ti­vated via a lever in that han­dle. The base model Spirit Stage 1+ that we re­ceived, how­ever, was brake­less.

Users start out with their right foot on its plat­form, brac­ing the in­side of their calf against a high-den­sity foam pad on that side of the Gauswheel. As would be the case with a skate­board or scooter, they then kick along with their left foot, bring­ing that foot up onto its plat­form once they’ve gained suf­fi­cient mo­men­tum.

From there, it’s a mat­ter of main­tain­ing one’s bal­ance while swoop­ing and carv­ing along the pave­ment.

In or­der to give the Spirit a fight­ing chance in this re­view, we re­cruited an ex- pe­ri­enced 12-year-old skate­boarder by the name of Robin to try it out.

First of all, it should be noted that the Gauswheel has a steeper learn­ing curve than scoot­ers or skate­boards. When you try it for the first time, it’s pretty hard to keep the thing bal­anced and go­ing in a straight line — es­pe­cially given the facts that you’re stand­ing off-cen­tre, and the front wheel spins to either side very eas­ily.

Af­ter less than half-an-hour, how­ever, Robin was get­ting the hang of keep­ing his bal­ance cen­tred over the main wheel, and was suc­cess­fully rid­ing down the side­walk with both feet up. There’s lit­tle doubt that if we’d been able to leave it with him for a few days, he’d have been shred­ding it like the mod­els in the demo video.

One thing that we did no­tice, how­ever, was that the smaller front wheel had a ten­dency to get caught on cracks in the side­walk. An ear­lier ver­sion of the Gauswheel put that wheel in the back, but that de­sign was ev­i­dently deemed to have draw­backs of its own.

Ad­di­tion­ally, with the main wheel sit­ting up be­tween your calves, the Spirit is harder to step off from than a skate­board or scooter.

Not a big deal on con­trolled stops, but it could be prob­lem­atic in un­ex­pected bailouts, pos­si­bly even push­ing the rider down to one side. For that rea­son, we think the brake should be stan­dard on all mod­els. If noth­ing else, Robin sug­gested that a skid plate in the rear would be handy for mak­ing quick stops.

We should also point out that while it is pos­si­ble to carry the Gauswheel around for short dis­tances, its weight of about seven kilo­grams makes it rather awk­ward to schlep along with you for long hauls.

All in all, though, it def­i­nitely is a unique way of get­ting around, and one that turned a lot of heads while we were con­duct­ing our re­view. Robin also thought that it felt “hardier” than a skate­board, and that it would thus be bet­ter than a board for com­mut­ing.

The en­try-level Gauswheel Spirit Stage 1+ now sells for $289 (R3 900), with the top spec re­tail­ing for $659. At th­ese prices, don’t ex­pect it on the shelves in SA in a hurry. — Giz­mag.com.

PHOTO: YOUTUBE SCREEN GRAB

A Hun­gar­ian model slides the elec­tric-driven Gauswheel to a stop af­ter many hours of prac­tice.

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