Roll over, zorbs!

This could be New Zealand's most bizarre travel invention and there are two of them in the country, in Rotorua.

The shweeb is a human-powered monorail train. Sat in a capsule, riders cycle themselves along safe from the elements and road traffic.

The idea was conceived by Geoffrey Barnett, an expat English teacher who had one too many near-misses cycling through Tokyo on his way in to class.

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Rotorua's bicycle monorail may not have changed the world but it's still a lot of fun. Photo / supplied
Rotorua's bicycle monorail may not have changed the world but it's still a lot of fun. Photo / supplied

With pods built for between one to twelve passengers, the monorail design was supposed to take commuters out of the streets into green, cycle-powered carriages.

The eco-friendly and fossil-fuel free design was hailed as the public transport of the future.

In 2010 it caught the attention of the futurists at Google who gave the project US$1m ($1.59), as part of the search engine's ten-year anniversary grants.

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Along with the Elon Musk Hyperloop it was selected as one of a hand full of travel projects that were deemed "ideas to change the world".

Shweeb was once touted as the Kiwi 'hyperloop', with investors including Google. Photo / Supplied
Shweeb was once touted as the Kiwi 'hyperloop', with investors including Google. Photo / Supplied

There was even talk of a building a track across Niagara falls by 2016.

With the backing of the tech giant and a fist full of R'n'D investment, shweeb was set to become a household name.

Except it didn't.

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Any more meters track failed to materialise outside of Rotorua.

It’s a beautiful morning here in @Rotoruanz , if you are hanging about these school holidays come to @velocityvalley and...

Posted by Velocity Valley on Wednesday, 10 July 2019

The success of the Google Anniversary fund was called into question by Wired magazine, which claimed that the tech giant was struggling to find eligible finalists from the 150,000 submitted proposals.

CNN's appraisal was no less flattering asking "Why did Google bet $1 million on Shweeb?"

At the time a spokesperson for Google defended the modest investment as a sound wager saying "the cost of innovation in public transportation is often very high, sometimes in the billions of dollars," and that the project had "potential for significant impact on the future."

The Shweeb monorail race track was once poised to change the world. Photo / File
The Shweeb monorail race track was once poised to change the world. Photo / File

Yet it seemed over time interest and the funding appears to have dried up.

In 2018 the New Zealand company Shweeb Holdings filed for insolvency.

For now the only prototype shweeb in existence can be found at the theme park Velocity Valley in Rotorua. Rebranded 'Shweeb Racer' last year the shweeb has found its real purpose, not as a serious transport option but as a lot of fun.

The shweeb boasts a top speed of 50kph, "if you pedal hard and fast like an Olympian," claims the velocity valley site.

For $55 a rider, you can race around the 200m track – the only one of its kind – and experience the transport that was once poised to change the world.