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 two-wheeler 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 20-inch bicycle-style wheel in the back, and a swiveling 6-inch polyurethane roller blade-like wheel in front. There are grip 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.
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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 experienced local 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-center, 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 centered 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 folks in the video at the bottom of the page.
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 of than a skateboard or scooter. Not a big deal on controlled stops, but it could be problematic in unexpected bail-outs, 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 15-lb (6.8-kg)-plus weight makes it rather awkward to schlep along with you for long hauls. This is made worse by the fact that the edge of its foot platform cuts into the side of your leg as you're carrying it.
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 Gauswheel Spirit Stage 1+ made its North American debut last month, and is available now for US$289. Prices range up to $659 for better-endowed models.
Product page: Gauswheel