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"I've taken some stick for passages in Altered Carbon which people complained had sickened them, but then violence should be sickening."
- Richard Morgan

Tumblebug  
  A monocycle; a motorcycle that balances on a single wheel.  

In this excerpt, the unthinkable has happened; the rolling roads have been sabotaged. Chief Engineer Gaines assembles his maintenance cadets and sets out to inspect and repair the damage.

Gaines and Harvey mounted tumblebugs, and kept abreast of the Cadet Captain, some twenty-five yards behind the leading wave. It had been a long time since the Chief Engineer had ridden one of these silly-looking little vehicles, and he felt awkward. A tumblebug does not give a man dignity, since it is about the size and shape of a kitchen stool, gyro-stabilized on a single wheel. But it is perfectly adapted to patrolling the maze of machinery 'down inside', since it can go through an opening the width of a man's shoulders, is easily controlled and will stand patiently upright, waiting, should its rider dismount.
From The Roads Must Roll, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1940
Additional resources -

Here's what they thought it would look like in 1940:


(Heinlein tumblebug from Astounding SF June 1940)

The oddest thing about a tumblebug is that it relies on "gyro-stabilization" the way we normally rely on two wheels. The Segway, a two-wheeled conveyance, similarly relies on gyro-stabilization.

Here's another illustration, and a quote (they don't write them like this anymore):


(('The Roads Must Roll' by Robert Heinlein)

“Hie! Hie! Hee! The rotor men are we — Check off your sectors loud and strong! ONE! TWO! THREE! Anywhere you go You are bound to know That your roadways go rolling along!”

Be sure to see how a modern company has created a monocycle concept vehicle similar to the tumblebug: read EMBRIO Embodies the Tumblebug. Closer yet, read about the Eunicycle Gyro-Stabilized Single Wheel Scooter.

Compare to the gyrocar from Two Boys in a Gyrocar the story of a New York to Paris motor race (1911) by Kenneth Brown, the Gyro-Hat from An Experiment in Gyro-Hats (1926) by Ellis Parker Butler, the Two-Wheeled Ground Car from First Lensman (1950) by E.E. 'Doc' Smith, the Gyro Two-Wheeled Truck from The Sign of the Tiger (1958) by Alan Nourse (w/Meyer), the Gyrocar (Gyro) from The Ring (1969) by Piers Anthony (w/R. Margroff) and the smart bike from Distraction (1998) by Bruce Sterling.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Roads Must Roll
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to The Roads Must Roll
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

Tumblebug-related news articles:
  - EMBRIO Embodies The Tumblebug
  - Eunicycle Single-Wheel Gyro-Stabilized Scooter
  - Segway Robotic Mobility Platform Looks Like A Tumblebug
  - Tango Motorcycle Monocycle Like Heinlein's Tumblebug
  - Self-Balancing Unicycle - Heinlein's Tumblebug
  - eniCycle Self-Balancing Tumblebug
  - Honda U3-X Self-Balancing Unicycle Video
  - Self-Balancing Unicycle Mythbuster Video
  - SBU Self Balancing Unicycle Perfected In V2.0
  - Solowheel Self-Balancing Unicycle
  - Self-Balancing Electric Unicycle By MIT Student
  - Honda's Tumblebug - The UNI-CUB beta
  - RYNO To Heinlein - Your Tumblebug Is Ready!
  - Pinwheel Battery-Powered Unicycle Is Segway In Your Price Range
  - Ninebot One Self-Balancing Wheel
  - Solowheel Xtreme Heinlein Tumblebug Video
  - Hi-Yo Modobag! Away!
  - InMotion Glide 3 Electric Unicycle For The Last Mile
  - Electric Unicycle Is A Tumblebug
  - InMotion V11 Electric Unicycle Gets Air (Video)
  - Electric Monocyle Tumblebug Available On Alibaba
  - When Will I Get My Unipod Gyro Balanced Personal Vehicle

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Shift Moonwalkers Help You Walk Faster? How About Tractor Treads!

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