Scooters, mopeds, and (more recently) electric bikes all offer lots of great benefits for getting around in densely-populated urban areas. They’re easy to park, have lower cost to operate than cars, and can even help you circumvent traffic to some extent during rush hour. Oh, and they’re really fun.
For many people, however, none of these options are very feasible, due to issues like cost and storage requirements. But recently, a new option has hit the market: electric wheels designed to turn your ordinary bike into an electric bike.
The GeoOrbital Wheel is not the first of its kind, but it attempts to move the product category another step forward by improving certain basic features and adding a few more. Created by engineers from Ford and SpaceX, it is designed to be more convenient, user friendly, and functional than its competitors.
How it Works
The concept is simple. The GeoOrbital Wheel is a battery-powered electric wheel that replaces your bike’s existing front wheel. The battery and the motor are both contained inside a metal housing that sits inside the wheel itself. The way it functions is actually pretty cool. The metal housing is held in place by your bike fork (the same way that you would attach the hub of a normal bike wheel), and the motor drives a rubber wheel that sits against the inner edge of the main wheel rim, propelling it forward. It also looks cool as hell, and apparently drew its inspiration from the movie Tron.
The GeoOrbital Wheel supplies you with 500 watts of power, which they say is the equivalent of an elite competitive cyclist. That’s quite a bit of extra oomph, and it’s one of the things that sets it apart from its competitors. The 700c wheel (the larger of two options, meant for road bikes and some hybrids) will give you about 20 miles of pedal-free range on one charge, give or take. If you’re doing a lot of hill climbing or riding into a fierce wind the whole way it will be a little less. If you add some assistance in the form of your own pedaling, it can be significantly more.
Since the GeoOrbital Wheel is not the only electric bike wheel on the market, you might be wondering what makes it special. As it turns out, several things.
As mentioned before, one of the main features that sets the GeoOrbital Wheel apart from other electric bike wheels is its power. At 500 watts, it outperforms most of its legitimate competitors. You can find more powerful wheel converter kits out there, but many of them fall into the “use at your own” risk category and allow you to reach speeds that are actually illegal on an electric bike. The top speed of the GeoOrbital Wheel is 20 mph (the legal limit in the US), and the 700c wheel gives you a range of up to 20 miles without pedaling (and up to 50 miles with pedaling) and takes about 4 hours to fully recharge. If you have a mountain bike (or other smaller bike, like a beach cruiser or certain hybrids), you may need to buy the 26” version. This one gives you up to 12 pedal-free miles on a single battery charge and takes about 3 hours to recharge.
One very neat feature of the GeoOrbital Wheel is its flat-proof tire. Instead of being filled with air, the tire is filled with high-density foam, making it literally impossible to get a flat, even if you were to drive a nail all the way through it (as they demonstrate on their website). This is an especially important feature because the weight of the GeoOrbital Wheel (21 pounds for the 700c version) means a lot more impact must be absorbed by the tire when hitting bumps, potholes, and the like. It also becomes a lot easier to puncture a standard tire with glass or other road debris when you have the extra weight bearing down on it. The tires have also been designed to provide extraordinary lasting power: 5,000-10,000 miles to be exact, several times the expected life span of most road bike tires.
The GeoOrbital Wheel is also spectacularly easy to install. Their claim that a new user can install it in 60 seconds (and in 30 seconds once they’re accustomed to it) may sound optimistic, but is actually confirmed by people who have used one. In fact it’s no harder to install than a standard front tire. The only extra step is strapping the throttle control onto your handlebars.
The ease of installation (and removal) is a big deal for people who don’t want to ride an electric bike all the time. There is really no hassle in converting back and forth. It probably takes less time than pumping up your regular bike tires.
The handlebar throttle control might take a little getting used to (unless you’ve ridden an ATV), but it’s a nice feature in that it gives you immediate control over how much assistance you get from the wheel’s motor, instead of having to dial in a fixed setting before you start.
The GeoOrbital Wheel is a great product for a lot of people to use, but there are some aspects of it that might turn some people off.
One of them is the weight. At 21 lbs (for the 700c wheel), it’s a pretty hefty implement to be adding to your bike. In fact, for people with lightweight bikes, it may be heavier than the bike itself. This can make carrying the bike up and down stairs cumbersome, and it tends to change the handling enough that it takes a while to get used to riding with it. It can also make the ride a little less comfortable, since it can magnify the feeling of going over bumps or potholes in the road. So if you’re considering buying one for someone who is older or has a physical condition that makes cycling difficult, you may want to reconsider. The other factors listed above may outweigh the benefit for them.
Also, due to the extra weight and the fact that the GeoOrbital Wheel uses regenerative braking (which harnesses friction to help recharge the battery), if the battery dies when you’re out, it’s significantly harder to pedal the bike than it would be with a normal front wheel. The company’s official advice if this happens is to pedal in a lower gear in order to overcome the added resistance, but it’s unclear how much easier this would really make it. Now, with a 20 mile no-pedaling range on one battery charge (12 miles with the 26” wheel), this may not be a problem for the majority of riders, and you can always carry a spare battery with you, which is very easy to swap out on the go. But it’s still something to keep in mind.
Who Will Get the Most Out Of The GeoOrbital Wheel?
While it might not be right for everyone, the GeoOrbital Wheel is a great gift idea for a lot of people.
For instance, it’s perfect for anyone who would like an electric bike but doesn’t have room to store it (provided, of course, that they already have a regular bike to attach the wheel to). Bike commuters who want a break from the exertion of pedaling to work will love it as well.
Due to space constraints, gas prices, and parking issues, the GeoOrbital Wheel will probably be most popular with urban dwellers. However, anyone who lives within approximately 20 miles of work might love being able to take their newly electrified bike to work instead of being stuck inside a car, bus, or train every day. One of the most common reasons people don’t bike to work is because they don’t want to sweat through their clothes. The GeoOrbital Wheel solves this problem.
All in all, this is a very cool new product that lots of people will find useful, especially current bike commuters and anyone who lives close enough to work to make them a potential bike commuter. And for many people who would like to own an electric bike but don’t have the room for it, this could be the perfect solution.Buy at geoo.com Buy on Amazon