When Assaf Biderman, associate director of MIT’s urban-design-focused Senseable City Lab, partnered with the city of Copenhagen to help sell people around the world on pedal-powered commuting, his team learned that one of the biggest deterrents was sprawl—you can only go so far on two wheels.
Their solution: a candy-colored hub they christened the Copenhagen Wheel ($949). The 13-pound unit can be installed on almost any bicycle, transforming it into an electric-assist ride. Like most other e-bike motors, it harnesses kinetic energy while you brake to charge the battery. Unlike other motors, it measures things like power output, elevation gain, and the bumpiness of the road.
The system also learns your habits, adapting over time to give you more of a boost when you need it. Riders monitor everything through a smartphone app that could one day serve as a data-gathering tool, helping cities design more bike-friendly metropolises. It’s a high-tech gadget that’s totally unobtrusive.
“We wanted to let people pedal—no throttle, no buttons,” says Biderman, who founded Superpedestrian in 2012 to manufacture the Wheel. “It’s like a magic wand that makes riding farther feel manageable.”