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Friday, December 27, 2013

Here's Why The Next Generation of Electric Bikes Will Be Awesome

Posted By on Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 7:11 AM


Thanks to a couple of new startups with Kickstarters, you can spend more on a new rear wheel than you might have dropped on your whole bike.

In the past, $700 wheels were the province of those lucky enough to get sponsorship money from wheel makers, or those that wanted to look like pros. Joking aside, the two wheels I'm talking about, the FlyKly, and the Copenhagen Wheel, are great, because they aren't aimed at the racer.

The other day as I climbed Claremont in Berkeley up into the hills, an older guy passed me easily. Claremont is a 9.3 percent grade. The older guy was hardly pedaling. He was rolling up the hill with an electric-assisted bike. But you know what? It's hard to get mad about that -- if I was commuting, rather than just punishing myself, I'd appreciate the electric boost.

The problem with most electric bikes or electrification kits is that they're bulky, ugly, heavy, silly looking, and don't really give you a lot of bang for the buck. That's where the FlyKly and Copenhagen Wheel come in. I'm not going to harp on the fact that the two wheels are effectively identical -- it's a good design, and it makes sense to make a modular electric wheel that can plug into most existing bikes.

The Copenhagen Wheel has its roots in the MIT SENSEable City Lab, as far back as 2009, long before the FlyKly. I wouldn't be surprised if the two companies meet in court, but that's beside the point. Electric motors and generators have been stuffed into bike wheels before -- they just haven't come with so many whiz-bang tricks. It's the variety of functions that makes these wheels really exciting.

They're also pretty attractive because you can put them on your existing bike that fits you and works for you. Both products don't weigh much; the FlyKly is nine pounds and the Copenhagen Wheel is 13 pounds. Both offer a combo of electric-assisted power, and regenerative braking or generator capability, so you can charge your smartphone or light with the wheel.

I think that these next-gen electric bikes are going get more people on bikes, and here's why:

You won't get sweaty on the way to work, even if there are hills.

You can recharge your phone on your commute.

You'll have a light bright enough that people will be able to see you, and you'll be able to see potholes.

It's one more peripheral with smartphone integration via Bluetooth 4.0.

Both the FlyKly and Copenhagen Wheel can act as a lock and a tracking device.

When you start to stack up all those benefits, the $590 price tag for the FlyKly and the $799 pre-order price for the Copenhagen Wheel, start to make more sense, especially for those who would bike somewhere, but don't want to get sweaty or climb hills.

Based on the FlyKly Kickstarter, which raised over $700,000, more than seven times its original goal, there's a significant interest in a wheel that will make cycling easier, which will generate more interests in biking among non-cyclists. Over 1,000 people are willing to shell out more than $500 for an electric wheel. That's probably over 1,000 people who will now be transportational cyclists. And that's a pretty good number no matter how you look at it.

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.

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About The Author

Leif Haven

Leif Haven

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill — literally and metaphorically.


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