MOTORUOTA: The Monowheel Motorcycle

The Motoruota as it appeared in a 1927 issue of Motorcycling magazine. Dedicated monowheel addicts will notice that in last week’s post on the Goventosa monowheel, we made no mention of Douglas Self’s Museum of Retro Technology and his extensive collection of monowheel photos. That’s because we committed the cardinal sin of  historical research: We trusted one source completely. That source ultimately ended up being the Spaarnestad Photo archive, which had tagged both of last week’s monowheel photos with Goventosa’s name (and which resulted in half the Internet parroting that exact same information). We never sourced Self’s site last week because Goventosa’s name doesn’t appear there. But this particular monowheel does. According to Self, it was called the Motoruota; he found French advertisements for it dating to the late 1920s. From those ads, we see that the Motoruota went through at least two or three versions, all of the same basic layout, at one point standing 1.45 meters tall and using a 175cc single through a three-speed gearbox.

It apparently made a splash in Rome in 1927 and in Paris in 1932. According to Self, the Motoruota company was founded by Davide Cislaghi, a former electrician (and possibly a police officer in Milan, Italy) who built a more basic monowheel prototype in 1923 and patented his design in France in 1924. In that patent, we see where Cislaghi laid the groundwork for his tilting mechanism and established the general mechanical layout he’d use for the next decade or so: steering wheel, three rollers to position the outer wheel and a low-mounted, air-cooled single-cylinder engine to power the vehicle. Interestingly, we also see from Self’s site that Cislaghi patented his design with an Italian, Geom. Giuseppe Govetosa, whose name appears alongside Cislaghi’s in the advertisements for the Motoruota.

How Cislaghi and Govetosa came to know each other, we don’t know, but we’re pretty confident Govetosa is the mysterious M. Goventosa of Udine, Italy. Of the two, we’re guessing Cislaghi is the one who posed with the monowheel in the 1933 photo from last week, in the video above, and in the circa 1927 photo from Self’s site. Self’s site also appears to have confirmed our suspicion that the man in the 1931 photo that started all this research is not the inventor of the Motoruota at all. Self reported that it was a Swiss engineer named Gerdes, photographed at Arles, France, on his way to Spain; he surmises that Gerdes was simply one of the few purchasers of a Motoruota.

Regarding the 1933 photo from last week, Self believes it may not have been the Motoruota at all, rather a version of the Walter Nilsson monowheel, which certainly explains some features of the monowheel in the 1933 photo that differ from features of the Motoruota. Yet that doesn’t explain why the 1933 photo appears to have been taken in France (Nilsson built his monowheel in Los Angeles). I suspect there may be more photos and information regarding the Motoruota in some dusty archive somewhere, considering the efforts made to publicize and enter production with it. However, we’re still left wondering: What exactly happened to the Motoruota venture after 1933? And does the Motoruota have anything to do with Walter Nilsson’s monowheel?