Reinventing the Wheel

An intelligent electric hub lets you go farther

The 13-pound Copenhagen Wheel can be installed on almost any bicycle. (Photo: Michael D. Spencer)
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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.”

From Outside Magazine, Mar 2014
Filed To: City Biking
Lead Photo: Michael D. Spencer