The iPhone of Bicycling Has Arrived

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By Patrick Lamson-Hall

Bikes are great! They promote health, they allow you to commute without generating any carbon emissions, and they make you look sexy.

Copenhagen Wheel

The Copenhagen Wheel is a project by the MIT SENSEble City Lab. Photos by Max Tomasinelli.

But biking just isn’t that popular in the United States. Our cities are too spread out, our hills are too steep, and maybe, just maybe, we’re a little lazy. Compared to Denmark, where 36% of adults commute by bike (and 63% percent of legislators commute by bike), even our most bike-friendly cities – Portland, Madison, and San Francisco – seem pretty abysmal (the numbers are 6.1%, 5.1%, and 3.4% respectively).

Into this situation rolls the Copenhagen Wheel. Invented by the SENSEable City Lab at MIT, the wheel is an electric boosting motor controlled by your feet and your phone, becoming an extension of your physical body and seamlessly fusing tech, creativity, and design. Instead of adjusting the speed of the motor with a throttle, you peddle faster to speed up – a unique, intuitive, and desperately needed leap. The controls on the phone change the amount of boost, or “flatten” the terrain of a city, as the motor automatically compensates for changes in elevation. The wheel also stores energy from cycling and braking.

iPhone Copenhagen Wheel

Combining the wheel with a smart phone creates a hybrid e-bike.

Combining the wheel with a smart phone creates a new hybrid e-bike that locks when you walk away from it and can speed along at more than 20 mph. The whole unit snaps on to a standard 26-inch wheel and can be joined with any bike that fits that specification. It has a range of around 30 miles and runs off a removable, rechargeable 48v battery, topped off by the hybrid system. Like any good piece of technology, the Copenhagen Wheel comes with an app that can track distance and calories burned.

The Copenhagen Wheel is being made by Superpedestrian, a Boston startup, for $699. This wheel takes the e-bike out of the realm of aggressive delivery drivers and into the everyday future as an attractive, intuitive, and viable piece of creative tech.

If there’s anything that can make the U.S. more like Copenhagen, this wheel might be it.