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MIT meets bicycle
January 6, 2014 3:24 PM   Subscribe

So you can pre-order the Copenhagen wheel now I can't fathom how it might possibly work, but it looks super cool!
posted by mermily (69 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I first saw this on Weeds, and I had no idea that it was a real thing.
posted by Gymnopedist at 3:32 PM on January 6


I can't fathom how it might possibly work...

Really? Cause it seems to me like that big bulbous center part of the wheel probably has a motor and a battery in it, and you connect it to your phone via bluetooth, and then there's a phone app you can use to turn the motor in the wheel on and off.

I mean that's just my guess.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 3:35 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


Holy shit, peak early-aught fetishism?

Bike? Check.
Smart Phone App? Check.
Hand made? Check. In Boston? Double check.
Apps, for a fucking bike wheel? Check.

If they could only figure a way to have it ferment kombucha while you ride, they could tick ever box.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:36 PM on January 6 [42 favorites]


From the site:
As you bike, the wheel is able to capture energy when braking or going down hill that it stores in the integrated lithium battery pack.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:37 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


This video explains the nuts and bolts in depth.
posted by planetesimal at 3:39 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


That looks awesome, though I'm a little boggled by how to do the maintenance on the thing. I'm not really sure how those spokes connect to that hub. The nipples look pretty normal, but are those actually some sort of U-shaped spokes? It says you'll have to special-order replacement spokes as accessories.
posted by asperity at 3:41 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


This video explains the nuts and bolts in depth.
posted by planetesimal at 3:39 PM on January 6 [+] [!]


Consider me public-enemy-rolled..
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 3:41 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


WANT.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:42 PM on January 6


And why Copenhagen Wheel? Because all things Nordic are super trendy? Because they like bikes in Copenhagen?

Should have called it the soon to be stolen wheel. Because it has a life expectancy in the wild of three and a half minutes. I see no way to secure it to the bike against a drug addict equipped with wire cutters and thirty seconds.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:44 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


How does this change the center of gravity on the bike? Having a weight-balanced bike is really handy when picking it up. I imagine a battery in the hub will change the weight distribution pretty severely.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:51 PM on January 6


I got in on this Kickstarter, which, I think, is $100 cheaper than the Copenhagen Wheel.
posted by dobbs at 3:53 PM on January 6


How does this change the center of gravity on the bike? Having a weight-balanced bike is really handy when picking it up. I imagine a battery in the hub will change the weight distribution pretty severely.

Their website says it weighs 12 pounds, so on a lightweight bike, it is going to move it *way* aft.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 3:53 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


And why Copenhagen Wheel?

Did you bother to read the link? "The Copenhagen Wheel was initially developed at MIT's SENSEable City Lab as a research project, sponsored by the Mayor of Copenhagen."
posted by dobbs at 3:55 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


I see no way to secure it to the bike against a drug addict equipped with wire cutters

Well, I suppose that's one reason to have the fancy replacement spokes that are only available from the manufacturer.
posted by asperity at 3:55 PM on January 6


I have a 10-lb NuVinci hub in my Dutch bike, and it does, indeed affect handling, and that's on a bike that already weighs as much as a VW Beetle.

I suspect this may be aimed at people who don't care as much about the center-of-mass cone in their riding styles.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 3:55 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


why Copenhagen Wheel?
Apparently they tested & developed it there, yes.

Meanwhile, I was going to snark about the wireless API being useful for letting you know when it was stolen, but then I found (emphasis mine):
The wheel even has a smart locking mechanism that upon tampering locks the wheel into maximum power generation mode (increasing resistance in the hub) and sending you a text message with the whereabouts of the bike.
So that's that then. Flywheels for everybody!
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:57 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


I saw this at the NY Maker faire a while back. It looks pretty cool, and I'm glad to see they're gonna make some money with it. Seemed like a nice team.
posted by bashos_frog at 3:57 PM on January 6


Each wheel has gotten its power by devouring the heart of its mortal enemy.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:59 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


That looks awesome, though I'm a little boggled by how to do the maintenance on the thing. I'm not really sure how those spokes connect to that hub. The nipples look pretty normal, but are those actually some sort of U-shaped spokes? It says you'll have to special-order replacement spokes as accessories.

Whatever maintenance the hub will need, I suspect the spokes will not be something needing to be often replaced. So, sure, if there is some circumstance where you'll need new spokes, they'll have them.

I'm sure it will affect the center of gravity in one way or another. Just like any motor/battery back would. Or basket, rack, etc.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:02 PM on January 6


Here's someone riding and reviewing a FlyKly, which is similar, and weighs 9 pounds.
posted by dobbs at 4:07 PM on January 6


As you bike, the wheel is able to capture energy when braking or going down hill that it stores in the integrated lithium battery pack.

Wouldn't EDLCs be more efficient?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:12 PM on January 6


I like that it uses Bluetooth and is controlled by a smartphone app, because it's a nifty way to deal with the hardware annoyance of having a button interface, connected via a stationary cable, to a rapidly rotating wheel. Instead, you have a bluetooth chip rotating quickly, which won't matter to the smartphone. A rational, efficient, fewer-moving-parts, fun solution.
posted by suedehead at 4:21 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't EDLCs be more efficient?

EDLC's apparently have 1/10th the capacity of batteries. Perhaps there's a small one in the circuit for short downhill/uphill cycles?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:23 PM on January 6


This is the first time I've thought that maybe I need a smartphone.
posted by GrumpyDan at 4:34 PM on January 6


Pfft. We've had these in Portland for years. They're steam-powered and locally handcrafted from reclaimed old-growth bar stools.
posted by gottabefunky at 4:34 PM on January 6 [25 favorites]


With one easy trick, I will lighten your Copenhagen-equipped bicycle by 13 pounds, making it more nimble, easier to pedal up long hills, less prone to wear, lithium-free, and also easier to carry.
posted by zippy at 4:34 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


The wheel even has a smart locking mechanism that upon tampering locks the wheel into maximum power generation mode (increasing resistance in the hub) and sending you a text message with the whereabouts of the bike.

I misinterpreted "power generation" as, like, output power at first and was picturing the bike peeling out to get away from a would-be thief, shooting off down the sidewalk and into traffic like a drunk rocket. Of course you'd need the track it with your smartphone after that, damn thing could end up two counties over!
posted by jason_steakums at 4:44 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


> And why Copenhagen Wheel?

Because they tested it out using the many astoundingly steep hills of Copenhagen.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:49 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


I really like the idea of this, but I don't know how it'd play out on the '99 Specialized Allez that I'm currently building. I may just have to get an old touring bicycle for one of these!
posted by gucci mane at 5:04 PM on January 6


It's not the only game in town for retrofitting bikes with electric drives. There's also the Flykly, if you're interested in a similar single-wheel, plug and play solution. But there are many other options out there. I built my cargo ebike using parts from ebikes sf and ebikes.ca. I use it to commute about 20 miles round trip to work and run errands. The additional complexity of putting together your own power train will get you many more options, including much higher (and likely illegal) speeds, and much longer range. I have about a 40 mile range at just under 25 mph without pedaling, but the batteries for that cost about 1500 bucks. You can go much cheaper if you hack old PC or power tool battery packs, but it's not for the faint of heart.

If you want to see what the hardware hackers and hot-rodders are up to, Endless Sphere is a good place to lurk. Be careful, though. It's been known to lead to fanaticism.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:08 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


my bicycle commute involves a long, wicked hill on the way back, when it's usually dark and I'm usually tired from working all day. In theory this looks like an interesting solution to that problem.
posted by cell divide at 5:13 PM on January 6


Expecting to see one of these on a carbon fiber racing bike or artisanal hand-welded steel track bike soon!
posted by scose at 5:25 PM on January 6


Holy shit, peak early-aught fetishism?
...
Smart Phone App? Check.
...
Apps, for a fucking bike wheel? Check.


Given that apps, or even smartphones as such, were definitely not a significant thing in the market until well after the initial iPhone introduction, which was halfway through 2007, you really can't call this an early-aughts thing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:30 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


This looks very cool, but why is the top speed limited to 25 km/h? Does that mean the wheel prevents the bike from going faster than that?
posted by dg at 6:11 PM on January 6


And why Copenhagen Wheel? Because all things Nordic are super trendy? Because they like bikes in Copenhagen?
Because it was developed for the Municipality of Copenhagen? Because it was originally shown at the COP15 United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen?

But I don't want to let the easily searchable information about the Copenhagen Wheel get in the way of this thread's uninformed negativity.
posted by Bahro at 6:21 PM on January 6


Keith Talent: If they could only figure a way to have it ferment kombucha while you ride, they could tick every box.

Is this close enough? Gear Grinder: How to Make the Most Hipster Coffee on the Planet.
posted by Skwirl at 6:43 PM on January 6


So if you put one on the front wheel as well, you'd solve the CoG issue and get twice the range? Hey, then you could breast up two bikes together and put a seat in the middle and some sort of cover over the top and... nah.

It's all been downhill since the Sinclair C5 (world's best teardown). Which, given how much energy you still can't fit into a teeny battery, is just as well.
posted by Devonian at 6:46 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


i'm not really sold on the whole wahh wahh the distances are too long, hills get in the way, hard distances to work making you sweaty. call me a masochist but these "issues" for me are some of the best parts about biking. everyone else can enjoy these e-bikes/smart phone la-di-dah fancy pants wheel but i'm gonna stick to actually working my muscles and power through the old fashioned way.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 7:05 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


And why Copenhagen Wheel?

Maybe because the wheel can only be understood as being essentially probabilistic and only after a measurement is made does it collapse into an eigenstate.
posted by horsewithnoname at 7:20 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


...i'm gonna stick to actually working my muscles and power through the old fashioned way.

More power to you (pun intended). But, first, you still use your muscles and burn calories on an ebike. When I moved into the sticks, I stopped riding to work because it took too long. Zero calories burned. Now I'm riding again, at the rate of a few thousand miles per year. Second, ebikes are not just for exercise or recreation. They are a class of light electric vehicle useful for distances of, say, 10-20 miles on a regular basis, for commuting and even light hauling. Given that something like 80% of all car trips are under 10 miles in length, displacing a lot of those trips with ebikes or similar human-electric hybrids would be a huge benefit to both the planet and to people's health.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:29 PM on January 6 [9 favorites]


I see no way to secure it to the bike against a drug addict equipped with wire cutters

Cuz that's all drug addicts ever do and are known for, stealing your shit.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:41 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I see no way to secure it to the bike against a drug addict equipped with wire cutters.

This is arguably the biggest problem with these things. In addition, in urban settings they're heavier and so harder to carry into an apartment. The only decent solution I've heard so far is to basically have a LoJack kind of thing on the bike, with GPS tracking. I believe that's what the Copenhagen Wheel and/or Flykly have (don't recall at the moment). If the powered wheel is installed with a quick release on the front, it could conceivably be carried inside after each use. The front-drive configuration OK performance-wise, but not optimal.

One other thing is stealth--my ebike looks pretty much like a regular bike to the untrained eye. The same can't be said for the Copenhagen Wheel and/or Flykly. So for me, since there aren't that many of these things out there, I feel pretty safe with a decent lock. But in 5 years? I may have to install a GPS tracker, too.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:55 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


This is why we need to legalize drugs. Not to remove the incentive to steal bikes but to free up prison space for bike thieves. Because right now the consequences of bike theft are basically none. And with legalization finally getting some real traction, the prison-industrial complex is going to have to be fed somehow, and for once I'd be on its side.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:09 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


They are a class of light electric vehicle useful for distances of, say, 10-20 miles on a regular basis, for commuting and even light hauling.

It might be interesting to apply these drives to courier and urban delivery bicycles.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:19 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Should have called it the soon to be stolen wheel.

How will thieves even know it's there? It's not like it's ludicrously conspicuous or anything. It's just a giant red circle, just like all the other giant red circles one sees every day stuck in people's bike spokes.

Though, if you ask me, the way to go fully incognito camoflage is, once you get it, to write "This wheel is worth $800" on both sides in giant letters with a permanent marker.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:36 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Each wheel has gotten its power by devouring the heart of its mortal enemy.

"I might have used a few Unorthodox Parts"
posted by mikelieman at 4:21 AM on January 7


I see no way to secure it to the bike against a drug addict equipped with wire cutters

Ever tried to cut out a hub on a wheel with a loaded tire on it? Or cut the rim? There's a reason thieves target the locks.

They don't cut wheels because wheels are the 2nd and 3rd priciest parts of the bike, in some cases, 1st and 2nd, and a bike with a cut wheel screams STOLEN!!! Thieves cut locks, because then they get the whole bike, which has value, and it's vastly easier and quicker to ride or roll a bike away than carry it.

Doubly dumb is trying to cut out the rear wheel, which, if you've locked the bike up properly, won't let you get the rim out. You could theoretically cut the hub out, but if you cut out a custom hub that requires custom spokes, well, that's not going to sell at the local crooked bike shop, and if you actually cut all the spokes out, then cut the rim to get the rim out, well, you've got a bunch of fucked up parts and a hub. Yay. It will also take a great deal of time, and if the bike's locked up properly, it will take a bunch of time and be completely obvious that you're either trying to steal the bike or fuck it up, because cutting up the wheel won't get the frame free.

Now, there are assholes who just want to break shit. They'll fuck up a wheel (or a frame) because they're dicks, but they don't care about the value of the bike, they're just breaking shit to be dicks. Remember the fad of QR on the seat post, and how suddenly, people's saddles were getting stolen? Well, they weren't getting stolen for value. They were getting stolen because people are dicks. Pull off the QR and put in a real bolt, and the saddle stays in place.

This is why we need to legalize drugs. Not to remove the incentive to steal bikes but to free up prison space for bike thieves. Because right now the consequences of bike theft are basically none.

Ding ding ding ding ding. Simply finding and closing down the local crooked bike shops would solve 90% of the problem by basically making it too hard to turn stolen bikes into quick cash. But I remember some time ago where the LCBS in Toronto was closed, for being, well, crooked, and a bunch of people were up in arms about how could they close down this guy, he's been selling bikes in Toronto forever….
posted by eriko at 6:01 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


The point of this (and similar) bikes is not bikes as exercise, it's bikes as transport, and for many, that One Hill is a big argument against riding, and this helps solve that. If you want exercise, this is not your wheel. If you want to get to work and get up Beacon Hill without sweating to death, this might just be your bike. Arguably, if you are already riding your bike to work, you are not the target market for this bike.

Here in Chicago, hills aren't really an issue, but I could see it handy stop-start traffic when you're dealing with lights, and a much better answer than running the lights.
posted by eriko at 6:04 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


What some people won't do to avoid gears...
posted by Thorzdad at 6:39 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


eriko: Ever tried to cut out a hub on a wheel with a loaded tire on it? Or cut the rim? There's a reason thieves target the locks.

Yeah, people will just steal the whole bike, if they can. The Copenhagen/Flykly wheels have an internal lock. The Flykly says this about its wheel:
After parking your bike you simply lock it with a touch of a button on the FlyKly App. This locks the Smart Wheel’s motor and holds its strong magnets in place. If it starts moving regardless just launch the tracking feature and quickly locate your bike on a map by looking for the signal of Smart Wheel’s own GPS transmitter.
Seems pretty effective, if you can get to it before the thief takes out the batteries.

eriko: If you want exercise, this is not your wheel.

I agree with your comment as a whole, eriko, but one thing to emphasize: you still get plenty of exercise on an ebike. I peddle almost all of the time on mine. Let's say, just to make up a number, that you only put in 25% of the power to an ebike, but instead of riding your regular bike once per week you ride the ebike every day because of the assist. Clearly, it's a net gain for exercise, as well as a sustainable form of transportation.

People who think this is just about minimizing effort are forgetting other issues. Time is a big one for me. My commute to work is a bit under 9 miles. That would take me 50 minutes on a good day. That's too long. With the ebike, I can get there in 20-25 minutes, and the door-to-door time is comparable to what it is if I drive.

Thorzdad: What some people won't do to avoid gears...

I know you're joshing... but ebikes can have gears. However, the vast majority just have the gearing in parallel with an electric hub motor, so only human power is geared. A bit more elaborate drive train exists however, such as with the Stokemonkey-driven Edgerunner cargo bike. The Stokemonkey mounts the motor near the bottom bracket and puts the power through the bike's gearing, so that you get the full benefit of your gear ratios for going up hills and for better top speeds.

BTW, IMO the Edgerunner is the best bike/ebike for transportation out there. It irritates me to no end that a lot of people are under the impression that MIT "invented" this technology. There are tens of millions of them in China, and in the Americas and Europe there's a ton of activity going on. MIT was just involved in developing a nice product (with an Italian design firm), but there are many, many other options out there, ranging from pricey high-tech down to the DIY. In case you're interested in dropping 12 grand, you might like the open-cockpit sportscar of ebikes, the FFR 422 Alpha tadpole trike: 40 mph top speed, 165 mile range. A lot of ebike porn can be found at electricbike.com
posted by mondo dentro at 7:49 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


Is this one of those things that are going to change the way cities are laid out?

Thing is, it looks sharp and is clever and all, but still doesn't address any of the more substantive issues that keep people off bicycles. It won't keep you dry in the rain, warm in the cold, safe from idiot motorists on the road, and you still have to wear a helmet or some insane Swedish exploding invisible rubber helmet. Plus, your expensive bike that's locked up outside will be more expensive.

Good as a design exercise, but I dunno.
posted by sonascope at 8:18 AM on January 7


It won't keep you dry in the rain, warm in the cold...

Which, of course, is why nobody rides bikes in the Netherlands.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:22 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


Which, of course, is why nobody rides bikes in the Netherlands.

I think when cold and rain are mitigated in part by an outstanding bicycling infrastructure and the cultural framework of omnipresent cycling, using a bicycle as transportation isn't nearly as hard a sell as it is in a country that strives to make the bicycle as unappealing to the masses as public transit.

I think this will sell to the hardcore cycle commuters who are already making long commutes, but for it to be the revolution it's marketed as, cities will have already had to fix what makes cities lousy for cyclists. The US is a place where bike-hating is mainstream (hell, on progressive-leaning MF, you still get an awful lot of cyclist hate on posts about such things), and I'm not sure ameliorating one of the lesser problems of cycling is revolutionary. Evolutionary, maybe. Time will tell.
posted by sonascope at 8:36 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


So basically we shouldn't try, because trying is the first step to failure?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:40 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


Did I say that we shouldn't try?

Like I said, I think it's fine as an exercise, and the early adopters who already have access to protected trail systems or the composure to tangle with cars who can afford it will love it, but it's not revolutionary, in the same reason automatic-geared bikes are not revolutionary, shaft-drive bikes are not revolutionary, and recumbent bikes aren't revolutionary. They're out there, and some folks swear by 'em, but there's been no revolution. I think this thing is similar—it's smart, but not wise, and I question whether it will come anywhere near the "we're going to change everything" vibe in its promotional materials.

We should try everything, but to claim that it's a revolution seems premature. Of course, that's why I said "time will tell" and not "Q.E.D." there. We tried the Segway, and it didn't change cities. We tried bike share, and it just might change cities, when the bugs get worked out, in a number of significant ways. It's the puffery that I find troublesome, not the thing itself.

Again, though, time will tell. Let's revisit.
posted by sonascope at 8:47 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


It needs Monkey Light-style LEDs.
posted by planetesimal at 8:58 AM on January 7


It's definitely not a revolution... yet. The issue of weather is huge, of course. Enclosed or streamlined human-electric hybrid vehicles (HEHVs) are something I'd like to see explored more. The ELF is in production. It's cute, but it doesn't really turn me on esthetically all that much. I'd like to use one for a few months, though. Maybe if I could "bond" with it, I'd like it.

The main thing I keep coming back to is this: for the overwhelming majority of trips we make, driving around in a 2+ ton box with hundreds of horsepower on tap is ridiculous. (And I say this as someone who loves driving fast... sometimes.) On top of that, in North America at least, we don't get enough exercise and suffer major health problems as a result. And then, there's climate change and the need to get off of fossil fuels. And traffic sucks. And... I think HEHVs have the potential to solve many problems at once. Plus, they can be manufactured locally.

My plan is to have a stable of, say, 3 vehicles that are appropriate for the trip involved. I believe I can do this for similar capital outlays as I have for two cars and a bike or two.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:00 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I just get frustrated because it almost seems like a self-defeating attitude.

The fact is, studies show an overwhelming majority of Americans would like to bicycle more and the Copenhagen Wheel addresses a significant complaint from these people (hills). Yes, it is expensive right now. Yes, there are other signifcant issues that are preventing people from bicycling more. Yes, we have a long way to go. And maybe it is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but man, it's just marketing. As much as I would like a bicycling revolution in America to happen today, I'm going to have settle with evolution and hope it happens fairly quickly. Either way, this is a positive step forward for cycling.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:00 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


Yes, it is expensive right now.

It's true, ebikes can be expensive. My DIY build cost me about 3500 bucks, but that included the bike, too, and pretty large battery capacity. As with all electric vehicles, the batteries are pricey*. But the Copenhagen Wheel and Flykly are only around $700. When you figure in the savings over a car at 50 cents per mile (roughly), it could pay itself off in a year. And that's not counting the health and psychological benefits.
____
* BTW I'm very skeptical of the 30 mile range claimed for the CW. Range comparisons are a tricky business with ebikes, since as the proportion of time you spend pedaling approaches 100%, range goes to "infinity". The only easy way to compare is via the no-pedal range, but the CW doesn't work if you don't pedal (my home-built machine just has a twist grip like a motorcycle, so it does).
posted by mondo dentro at 9:09 AM on January 7


m not really sold on the whole wahh wahh the distances are too long, hills get in the way, hard distances to work making you sweaty. call me a masochist but these "issues" for me are some of the best parts about biking. everyone else can enjoy these e-bikes/smart phone la-di-dah fancy pants wheel but i'm gonna stick to actually working my muscles and power through the old fashioned way.

But with this wheel, someone whose commute is, say, twice the distance of yours can now cycle to and from work and get exactly the same amount of exercise that you enjoy. I mean, there has to be some expenditure of effort that you would regard as prohibitive for cycle commuting, right? If you think of this wheel not as "cutting down on what I regard as a reasonable amount of effort" but as "cutting down from a prohibitive to a reasonable amount of effort" its implications are rather different, no?

Or, in other words, it's nice that you have a cycle commute that is just long enough to give you the work out you want but no so long that its unmanageable, but that's not everyone's case.
posted by yoink at 9:40 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


I think this will sell to the hardcore cycle commuters who are already making long commutes

That's funny, I have the opposite thought. Hardcore cycle commuters aren't going to be interested in adding 12 pounds to their ride in order to get some help with the hills. But people who don't currently bike might get this because it's an awesome-seeming expensive novelty. Or because it seems to overcome the issues they perceive with biking. And then, once they have it, they might become hardcore cycle commuters, because making a big purchase and justifying it over and over is a great way to change behavior.

This one won't start any kind of revolution, because it's so expensive. But almost every cheap technology was expensive once.
posted by gurple at 10:07 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Yay, glad to see mondo dentro shedding some light on ebikes. They really could use some more supporters in the US! I bought one last year to get my depressed ass in gear and to improve my commute. It worked and has been WAY fun, although I'm looking to upgrade it now since my starter one has had a few issues that come with the territory of buying a machine on the cheaper end of the spectrum, and is clunky/too heavy for me to lift easily.

I've been seeing more of the various available-in-the-US models on the streets lately which I always get really excited about. But since I've been shopping for a new one I'm getting frustrated that the ones I'd really love to try (Grace, Gazelle) are super hard to come by in the US and I don't really want to drop $4500+ on a bike sight-unseen that's only available from one US shop. If I wasn't already completely sold on having a dedicated ebike (and if I had an analog bike that would take well to an upgrade) I'd be going for this or the FlyKly in a hot minute. But now that I've had a mediocre ebike for almost a year now I'm realizing that I want a more refined model. This seems like an awesome 'training wheel' though - if this had been out last year I might have saved some change by upgrading my analog bike and then investing in a single really good electric one.

I do need to get over my ebike self esteem issue of calling it "cheating", though. it's not cheating if i'd be taking the train otherwise!
posted by ghostbikes at 10:35 AM on January 7


I think it's a distraction to focus on whether or not this could be a "revolution". The number of hardcore bike commuters who don't care about hills (or commute time, or arriving to work sweaty, or having to change clothes, or... ) is vanishingly small, under 1% of all commuters. If we could raise that to 10%, would that be a revolution? I don't know, but it would be very worthwhile.

Regarding cost: I understand why people think they're expensive (I agreed to this somewhat in a previous comment). Yes, it would be good to bring the costs down, and, yes, economies of scale will help. But, to push back a bit, the perceived costliness is also an exaggeration. $700 for a pretty sophisticated electric wheel is comparable in cost to a TV or a smart phone. Remember: hardcore cyclists drop big money on their bikes, too. My local bike shops are full of conventional bikes that have comparable cost to my ebike.

People will find ebikes "too expensive" if they can't see using them for anything other than a hobby. If they are seen as useful, then people will find that they are also cost effective. Like I said, if you displace car miles with ebike miles, the payback is likely pretty rapid.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:37 AM on January 7


Or, in other words, it's nice that you have a cycle commute that is just long enough to give you the work out you want but no so long that its unmanageable, but that's not everyone's case.

Yeah, why do people need bicycles at all? Or any transportation for that matter? My walk to work is less than a mile and the weather's usually nice. What is wrong with people who are not me?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:12 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Any gadget or fad that might arrest the spread of motorized skateboards is a winner in my book.

I actually see those on my bike commute, occasionally.
posted by gurple at 11:45 AM on January 7


I am skeptical. Batteries are heavy. It is hard enough to accelerate them forward. When you mount it on the wheel, you needlessly waste additional energy spinning it up. The moment of inertia of the battery is an inefficiency in a system that requires high efficiency.
posted by foobaz at 1:15 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I am skeptical. Batteries are heavy...

I'm with you. I hope to get one of these things to play with, but, in addition to the inertia issue you mention, I am skeptical about reliability. It's not only the batteries that are in the wheel, but all of the electronics. Seems more likely to get beat up if its always whirling around and taking the brunt of shocks from the road. Besides that, battery capacity in the wheel is pretty limited. With a remote battery mounting method, you can add batteries to get the range you want.
posted by mondo dentro at 2:21 PM on January 7


It would be rather funny to do the math and discover that the total work it contributes over the ~30 mile range of a charge is equal to the amount required to move its own mass that distance plus that required to spin it up from a stop each time you braked.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:00 PM on January 7


But I remember some time ago where the LCBS in Toronto was closed, for being, well, crooked, and a bunch of people were up in arms about how could they close down this guy, he's been selling bikes in Toronto forever….

Ahh, Igor Kenk. Look on his works, ye cyclists, and despair.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:09 PM on January 7


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