Sometimes, “reinventing the wheel” isn’t a bad idea at all. Is it always useful? Well, that’s up for debate. Regardless, since its invention in ancient Mesopotamia no other invention has had the profound influence on humanity that the wheel has, and as such, it’s no surprise that it has been featured in countless inventions since then – some of them genius, some of them just plain bizarre.
The Conference Bike
Are you someone who adores tricycles but wished you could bring friends along for the ride? Inventor Eric Staller souped up the classic trike design by adding six additional seats. One person steers, and everyone can pedal (or not), cruising along at a leisurely pace. Though conference bikes are rare, they can be spotted at tourist destinations, conferences, and theme parks. Or, if you’ve got a spare $12,000 on hand, you can purchase one of your own. Maybe you'd like to see some Weird and Odd Bicycles too?
Boeing 727 Limousine
In 2004, the Guadalajara, Mexico-based Limousines de Guadalajara Vaca Meters converted a Boeing 727 jet into a luxury limousine. For approximately $1000 US, you and up to 40 of your closets friends can take a three-hour ride, reaching speeds of up to 124 miles per hour. Inside the limo is as unique as outside – it comes equipped with a dance floor with strobe lights, a television, and even a private corner in the back for couples to get romantic.
At some point, someone apparently decided that they wanted to leave home without leaving the couch. The result was the first couch car, and since its inception dozens more have shown up, many of them street legal. These are seen at “art car” shows more often than on the street, but more exist than you’d think, as a cursory YouTube search will prove.
The monowheel (sometimes called a uniwheel) is a vehicle in which the rider sits inside one massive wheel. While modern versions resemble machines straight out of science fiction, pedal-powered models were showing up as early as the 19th century, and for a brief time it seemed they might become serious modes of transportation as opposed to the novelty they are now. As might be expected, there are some serious safety issues resulting from traveling unprotected at high speeds inside a giant wheel, the most entertaining being “gerbiling”: the tendency of riders to be sent spinning wildly on the inside of the wheel from braking or accelerating too hard.
The Monster Motorbike From Hell
The cleverly named “Monster Motorbike From Hell” was designed by stuntman Ray Baumman, and weighs in at 13 tons, about 9 times heavier than an average family car. To prove just how much bigger than a can the bike was, its first task was to casually flatten one. It performed admirably.
The “Duck” Bus
Duck busses (usually simply called “Ducks”) are amphibious tour busses that are becoming increasingly more common in waterfront cities. Novelty aside, they’re a way for tour companies to combine both riverboat tours and city-street tours – when it’s time to hit the river, the bus simply drives off of the road and into the water. There are as many variations on the design as there are tour companies operating Ducks, but they all have the name in common.
The Bar Stool Racer
Bar Stool Racers are a cult phenomenon with a simple idea at their core: that a bar stool mounted on a minimal frame with a small engine is enough to get you where you need to go. Entire internet communities and real-world clubs are devoted to constructing them, often using a lawn mower as a base.
Flying cars, like the monowheel, are another science fiction cliché that has actually seen the light of day. Flying cars aren’t as uncommon as you might assume, even though none are practical enough for mass use (yet). For years, manufacturers and private individuals have built prototype flying cars (or “roadable aircraft”), from outlandish attempts at UFO clones to vertically-landing jets with wheels.
Robotic Body Scooper
Robokiyu the Rescue Robot was initially designed by the Japanese to remove rubble and help extract trapped victim during earthquakes and other natural disasters. The Robokiyu design proved to be little help in that department, but it did prove to have an exceptional talent in one morbid task: removing corpses from disaster zones. Robokiyu’s primary purpose shifted from rescue to salvage, and now it quite literally eats corpses, drawing them up a chute and in through the hole in its front.
The Krupp Earth Mover
That’s right, this monster has wheels. Crawlers, but wheels nonetheless. When German engineers at Krupp constructed this miraculously huge excavation device, they decided it would be more practical to make it mobile than to deal with the problem of transporting it. It weighs over 45,500 tons and cost $100 million to construct.