Pedal assist for 'any' bike…FlyKly Smart Wheel gets Kickstarter funding

Electric hub with GPS and Bluetooth gives motorised pedal assist to just about any bike

by David Arthur @davearthur   October 28, 2013  

We like a good Kickstarter project here at road.cc, and the latest to catch our attention is the FlyKly Smart Wheel, an electric motor packaged inside the rear wheel hub that can be fitted to just about any road bike.

A few years ago we reported on the Copenhagen Wheel, a similar hub-based electric motor developed by MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, and winner of the James Dyson Award in 2010.  Very recently a start-up company in Boston called Superpedestrian has secured $2.1 million in financing and the exclusive license from MIT to the Copenhagen Wheel's design and related patents. All very exciting stuff.

But there’s competition on the market. Founded in 2010, FlyKly has recently initiated a Kickstarter campaign for the Smart Wheel, which on the surface appears almost identical. In fact, poke beneath the surface and it appears to tick many of the same boxes that the Copenhagen Wheel first demonstrated back in 2009. Similarities aside, they’ve generated a lot of interest: they’ve sailed past their $100,000 target and have so far raised $204,571 from 708 backers, with 28 days still to go.

The Smart Wheel, like the Copenhagen wheel, is an electric motor, battery and electronics all packaged inside the rear wheel hub. This allows it to be easily fitted to any bike. They’re offering numerous wheel size options, plans are even in place for a 20in version for folding bikes.

Electronics inside the Smart Wheel can be controlled via the FlyKly app, which uses Bluetooth 4.0 and is available for free on Apple and Android smartphones. You can do neat things like set the top speed on the app - you then simply start pedalling down the road and the electronics take over. The app will also display useful data such as current speed, distance travelled, time of travelling, and perhaps most vitally, remaining battery level.

Packaged inside the hub is a 36V lithium battery offering a 30 mile range, which is piffling compared to the 140 mile range some of the modern Bosch powered e-bikes are capable of. That's a clear limitation of the packaging, there’s only so battery space available. But it trumps e-Bikes in that it can be fitted to any bike with ease, and only adding a claimed 4kg to the overall weight. It can be charged in 2-3 hours but, not unlike KERS technology in Formula 1 cars, the battery also charges when riding downhill or pedalling with the motor switched off. Still, it does limit it to short city commutes with frequent charging.The 250W motor is powerful enough for a maximum speed of 20 mph claim its inventors.

It’s inventors claim the app is smart enough to suggest time efficient routes based on your cycling habits. Other interesting features that app facilitates is locking the Smart Wheel and, if the worst happens and your bike is stolen, its location can be tracked via GPS.

There’s a lot of activity and development in the e-Bike market, and there are a fair few bolt-on motors like this doing the rounds. It brings to mind the dual-drive e-bike we reported on a while back, which uses two similar hub motors and a backpack full of lithium-ion batteries capable of propelling the willing pilot to speeds up to 50mph.

The Smart Wheel isn’t cheap though. Since they’ve had 708 backers at the time of writing, they apparently only have a  limited stock (78 from 100) of the $700 ‘Hacker’ editions available. This lets you create your own apps for the Smart Wheel.

They’ve expecting to deliver the Smart Wheel in May 2014. More at www.kickstarter.com/projects/flykly/flykly-smart-wheel

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

If you add 3kg to a road bike you will need the bloody motor. Battery life too short for touring and speed too low to be interesting for commuting.

Angelfishsolo's picture

posted by Angelfishsolo [126 posts]
28th October 2013 - 13:10

28 Likes

4kgs if I've read that correctly. Wouldn't it just be easier to pedal?

posted by Tom Amos [246 posts]
28th October 2013 - 13:16

18 Likes

Tom Amos wrote:
4kgs if I've read that correctly. Wouldn't it just be easier to pedal?

you'll barely notice 4kg if it's flat, assuming you're a utility cyclist with an already fairly heavy bike and no great need to go fast. you'll certainly notice 250W once the road points uphill.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7804 posts]
28th October 2013 - 13:25

28 Likes

make it look like a disk wheel and stick it on a TT bike and I can see theose course records tumble Devil

posted by mrchrispy [400 posts]
28th October 2013 - 14:07

26 Likes

Yeah I am going to have to jump on the 4kg is way to heavy band wagon. I mean the range is only 30 miles so you could be pedaling a rather heavy bike quite a ways

posted by jarredscycling [457 posts]
28th October 2013 - 14:40

29 Likes

Lets be fair in the likely target user folks. The people doing 30+ miles in a single ride and weight weenies aren't the people that need pedal assist. If this helps the regular commuter or utility cyclist, maybe even encourages new folks in to the local shops / kids to school rather than driving or maybe keeps someone with an otherwise cycling ending injury or just getting older and enjoying riding less on their bikes then it should be applauded, not picked apart by those of us fortunate enough to cope and ride happily under our own steam.

posted by Shouldbeinbed [35 posts]
29th October 2013 - 9:22

23 Likes

I don't think 4kg is that heavy....BUT, 4kg on a wheel is! Without the power assist, it would be very noticeable.

It's not a bad idea though as it's able to be fitted to just about any bike.
Smile

posted by 80sMatchbox [25 posts]
29th October 2013 - 9:22

16 Likes

The maximum speed is one dictated by law- any faster and for use on public roads they legally get counted as mopeds, so require a licence, VED (£0 of course!), a number plate, permanently fitted lights- the works.

posted by Al__S [855 posts]
29th October 2013 - 9:29

10 Likes

jarredscycling wrote:
Yeah I am going to have to jump on the 4kg is way to heavy band wagon. I mean the range is only 30 miles so you could be pedaling a rather heavy bike quite a ways

well, no. because if you can cycle more than 30 miles in one go, you're not likely to be buying one, are you?

this is for people who'd like a bit of help on short rides to work, and the shops. it's utility. it's not sport. it's not designed to make the Dragon Ride easier.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7804 posts]
29th October 2013 - 10:36

21 Likes

Thanks for mentioning The Copenhagen Wheel. We are actually introducing the first commercial model of the wheel after Thanksgiving and will start taking pre-orders. We’re planning to unveil the full specs and pricing. You might appreciate this video from when we first unveiled the wheel and mayors from all over the world took it for demo test rides in Copenhagen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0wFEbzS3Ag

posted by laura-sp [1 posts]
30th October 2013 - 15:07

8 Likes