Bicycles

Review: Electric bike wheel turns bikes into e-bikes

Review: Electric bike wheel tu...
The Evelo Omni Wheel, ready to go
The Evelo Omni Wheel, ready to go
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The Evelo Omni Wheel, ready to go
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The Evelo Omni Wheel, ready to go
The Omni Wheel's handlebar console
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The Omni Wheel's handlebar console
The Omni Wheel that we used tips the scales at 23.8 lb (10.8 kg)
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The Omni Wheel that we used tips the scales at 23.8 lb (10.8 kg)

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).

The Omni Wheel that we used tips the scales at 23.8 lb (10.8 kg)
The Omni Wheel that we used tips the scales at 23.8 lb (10.8 kg)

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.

The Omni Wheel's handlebar console
The Omni Wheel's handlebar console

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.

4 comments
Brooke
Hi: For me the "big issue" is that all in hub electric motors have no gearing. This means the torque is very small and so of no use for climbing hills. Since I live in the mountains that's an issue.
ljaques
Are parts for these sourced here in North America, or from Asia? How do they compare to the Chinese models in performance and maintenance schedule? I'm very happy with the concept and performance of the Chi electric hub motor and will have to upgrade to the LIFEPO4 battery to cut #25 off my bike. One concern I have with the Omni is that all of it is right there on the ground, taking the hits from potholes, roots, and rocks. Longevity may take a beating.
aWintersTale
Would definitely consider this as an alternative to the hub motor/frame mounted battery towards converting my vintage Klein (I don't like the look of a battery in the frame's triangle or on a bike rack in the back - just a personal thing). The weight of this offering is to be expected, with the battery hidden in the rim, which reminds me of the HED rims of yesterday. And I would hope that the mass is centered within the hub near the axle as opposed to being distributed near the outer circumference. Lastly, as Ijaques has noted, longevity and durability is always a concern, as well as how much the company is willing to back their product in terms of warranty and repair. All these things need further investigating, and to me, this all-in-one rim looks promising.
Nostromo47
Theft is a big concern for me. Parking your ebike downtown with a security cable could result in an unpleasant surprise when you come back to find your bike with your thousand dollar Omniwheel ripped off!