Turning Ordinary Bikes Into E-Bikes

Posted by Kirhat | Thursday, June 29, 2017 | | 0 comments »

European commuters have been using electric bikes for several years now. It is a white-hot popular in the cities of Europe.

On an e-bike, a smooth, silent motor boosts pedaling, making easy work of hills and headwinds. E-bikes offer a perfect middle ground between cars and regular bikes. An e-bike means never paying for gas, sailing past traffic jams, and never having to hunt for parking.

As long as an e-bike’s motor tops out at 20 miles per hour (15 in Europe), most governments consider it a bicycle. So—unlike with motorcycles—riders don't need a license, they don’t have to be 16, they don’t have to register it, and they don’t have to fuss with a bunch of laws.

That part was supposed to get everyone excited about e-bikes. Now here’s the part where gloom sets in: Good e-bikes start at US$ 3,500 and go way, way up.

But what if there is a way to electrify and ordinary bike? Suppose one could just pop off its wheel, and replace it with a motorized one. Then they could have an e-bike for a fraction of the price—without giving up the frame, seat, brakes, gears, and handlebars already owned and loved.

According to David Pogue of Yahoo! Finance, this is one of the brilliant ideas behind the Copenhagen Wheel and the Geo Orbital wheel. (A third, really promising replacement wheel, called the UrbanX, was a successful Kickstarter project and then, renamed UrbaNext, succeeded on Indiegogo. Apparently they’re accepting pre-orders.)

Both companies are based in Massachusetts, both wheels are waterproof and rechargeable, and both wheels change bike-riding game.

This futuristic, robotic-looking circle (US$ 1,000) replaces existing bike’s front wheel. As a result, riders can perform the entire wheel-replacement surgery in, no joke, two minutes after viewing the installation video. Spread the brake pads, open the quick-release clamp, swap wheels, redo the clamp and brakes, and then snap the thumb throttle onto the handlebar. Riders can’t use the GeoOrbital on bikes with disc brakes.

There’s a long list of juicy features. The tire is made of hard foam, so it can't ever go flat. The ignition key locks the removable battery in place, and also turns the power on or off.

The Copenhagen Wheel
This wheel costs more — US$ 1,500 — and replaces the back wheel. Installation is therefore a more complex operation than popping off the front wheel. Riders have to fiddle with their bike chain, for example. Takes about 10 minutes instead of one.

One can order this wheel for almost any bike—road, hybrid, or mountain; any kind of tire, in 700c or 26-inch sizes; single-speed or 7-, 8-, 9-, or 10-speed. They can also order a beautiful complete bike with the Wheel already installed, for US$ 2,000.

Coasting Home
Pogue added that these two products address the same problem, but their philosophies could not be more different. The Copenhagen Wheel supplies power only when the rider pedals; the bike may be superpowered, but it’s still a bike. The GeoOrbital, on the other hand, basically turns the bike into a moped. Riders can, if they like, just sit there and cruise along without pedaling at all.

Which philosophy you prefer is, of course, a matter of your philosophy.


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