Even our ancient ancestors managed to figure out that, to comfortably get from point A to point B without walking, you needed wheels that were perfectly round. And yet, the determined engineers behind the YouTube channel The Q (no, not that Q) managed to build a bicycle with square wheels that rolls as comfortably as a bike with round ones.
Vehicles with non-circular wheels aren’t entirely a new idea. Years ago, the Mythbusters upgraded a pickup truck with square wheels, resulting in an incredibly uncomfortable ride on smooth surfaces, even with the angles of each wheel offset from the others. We’ve even seen bicycles with triangular wheels work, with one demonstrated at Burning Man featuring a custom designed bike frame that cancels out any jarring movements felt by the rider.
Riding a bicycle with square wheels isn’t an entirely impossible idea, either—you just need the right place to ride it. As former The Simpsons show-runner, writer, and producer, Mike Reiss, demonstrates at New York’s National Museum of Mathematics, a square-wheeled tricycle works just fine on a surface covered in a series of perfectly convex bumps. But those aren’t exactly easy to come by.
This square-wheeled bicycle takes an entirely different and clever approach to the problem, and can be comfortably ridden almost anywhere. The square wheels themselves don’t roll at all, but their rubber tires have been sliced up and paired with four sets of bike chains to create a continuous tread that rolls around the outside of each wheel. It’s essentially a pedal-powered tank, with the bottom edge of each wheel quietly gliding along the pavement as it’s ridden.
With an abrupt 90-degree angle on the wheel at the front of the bike, we’re going to assume it doesn’t have the same rough terrain-tackling prowess as a real tank does, and the custom pedal system doesn’t look like it will do the rider any favors when trying to climb hills. But, for all intents and purposes, this is a square-wheeled bike that’s actually rideable.