Review: Electric bike wheel turns bikes into e-bikes

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The Evelo Omni Wheel, ready to go(Credit: Ben Coxworth/Gizmag)

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It was a couple of years ago that Evelo first announced its Omni Wheel – a motorized wheel that replaces a regular bicycle's existing front wheel, turning that bike into an e-bike. In the past few months, however, the company introduced a new-and-improved second version. We recently tried it out, and it definitely did add some pep to our everyday riding.

The Omni Wheel contains a 350-watt motor, powered by either an 8.7- or 14.5-Ah 24-volt battery – those two choices provide a range of up to 25 or 40 miles (40 or 64 km), respectively. The wheel can be configured in either a throttle-only mode, or in pedal-assist. We went for the latter, as pedal assist seems to be a more popular choice amongst e-bikers.

The top throttle-only speed is 17 mph (27 km/h).

Mounting the wheel on the bike was a reasonably straight-ahead process, although we couldn't use the bike we'd initially selected, as it has carbon forks (a big no-no, according to Evelo). It should also be noted that we did have to readjust the bike's V-brake in order to accommodate the Omni's wider rim – this means that swapping back and forth between the bike's regular wheel and the Omni would not take just a few seconds, and would require tools.

We likewise had to use an included adapter to mount the pedal assist sensor on the bottom bracket. A cable runs up the frame from that sensor to a handlebar-mounted console, where you can select the amount of electrical assistance provided, plus you can view battery levels, speed, and an odometer. The console wirelessly communicates with the wheel via Bluetooth.

Riding with the Omni Wheel was fun and easy, with the motor instantly kicking in whenever we started pedalling. While hills didn't become entirely effortless, they were certainly much easier. The battery range was similar to what the company claimed.

As with other all-in-one electric front wheels, however, one of the big issues is weight.

The Omni Wheel that we used tips the scales at 23.8 lb (10.8 kg) – that's a lot to be adding to a bike at all, but particularly when it's all located in the front. "Unweighting" the front end when going over things like potholes is pretty much out of the question, plus carrying the bike up front steps, etc can be quite awkward, as the front wheel constantly wants to hang down. As mentioned, though, it's a problem that's not unique to this particular product.

Version 2 of the Omni Wheel is available now, priced at US$999 for the base model or $1,249 for the extended-range version.

Product page: Evelo

Special thanks to Edmonton's Hardcore Bikes for supplying us with the demo bike used in this article.
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