Bicycles

Tron-inspired electric bike wheel chucks the hub

Tron-inspired electric bike wh...
The GeoOrbital Wheel has a look that's definitely its own
The GeoOrbital Wheel has a look that's definitely its own
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The GeoOrbital Wheel in action
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The GeoOrbital Wheel in action
The GeoOrbital Wheel's handlebar-mounted remote
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The GeoOrbital Wheel's handlebar-mounted remote
The GeoOrbital Wheel has a look that's definitely its own
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The GeoOrbital Wheel has a look that's definitely its own
View gallery - 3 images

Whether it's the Copenhagen Wheel, the FlyKly Smart Wheel or the Electron Wheel, there are now several choices of motorized front wheels that temporarily turn your regular bike into an e-bike. So, what does a new product have to do to stand out in this market? Well, it helps if has a radically different design than its competitors – and the GeoOrbital Wheel has just that.

Do you remember the light cycles in the movie Tron? GeoOrbital Wheel inventor Michael Burtov does, and in fact it was that film that inspired him to create the device. Like the light cycles' wheels, the GeoOrbital is a centerless wheel. This means that it has no central hub.

Instead, the center of the wheel is occupied by a non-rotating module that contains the 500-watt brushless motor, the removable Panasonic li-ion battery pack, and the electronics. Three arms reach out from that module to the inside of the wheel rim, each one equipped with a rubber roller at the end. The bottom roller is powered by the motor, causing the rim to rotate around the module.

The GeoOrbital Wheel in action
The GeoOrbital Wheel in action

For now, the system is throttle-only – a pedal-assist feature may be added later on. Users control the speed (up to 20 mph or 32 km/h) via a hard-wired handlebar-mounted remote. When the motor isn't in use, a regenerative system uses the spinning of the wheel to help keep the battery juiced up.

Plans call for the GeoOrbital wheel to be made in 26-inch and 700C sizes. On the latter version, one 4-hour USB charge of the 36V/10-Ah battery should be good for a range of about 20 miles (32 km) without pedalling, or up to 50 miles (80 km) with. That larger wheel tips the scales at 20 lb (9 kg), while the smaller version weighs 17 lb (8 kg). The wheel's included tire is foam-filled, not pneumatic, so flats won't be a problem.

The GeoOrbital Wheel's handlebar-mounted remote
The GeoOrbital Wheel's handlebar-mounted remote

Aside from the unique looks, though … what's the point in not having a hub? "The GeoOrbital wheel platform allows us to integrate an almost limitless amount of components into the wheel itself," the designers state. "Because the wheel doesn't spin we are able to integrate motors, batteries, electronics, headlights, USB charging ports, storage compartments, and many other components that it would not be possible to build into a traditional spoked wheel."

If you're interested, the GeoOrbital Wheel is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of US$649 will get you one, when and if they reach production. The planned retail price is $950.

The wheel can be seen in use, in the video below.

Source: Kickstarter

GeoOrbital wheel prototypes for 2016

View gallery - 3 images
18 comments
ScottKlaff
No when and if about production. They have blown out there number on kickstarter!
Dweezil Speedy
Seems from the video that there is a bit of controll lacking there compared to a normal bike wheel, as its missing some of the gyroscope balancing/steering effect. Wonder what it handles like at top speed. Also a spoked wheel has some flex to it does this? Makes the front end look quite sci fi. Wouldnt you want some kind of torque arm conected to the fork as well?
Grunchy
Spokes do a terrific job of stiffening and strengthening a wheel. I'm not really a fan of low-spoke wheels, and this one is not even under tension. To me it seems likely to be weak, probably heavy to compensate, and therefore likely weak and heavy... It would have been terrific for them to have actually installed the hub headlights. That would be the epitome of "trick!" Lastly, I ran a set of GreenTyre foamed for a lot of years.. I am so grateful that they finally wore out. The flat-proof guarantee is great and all, but the terrible ride and huge rolling resistance just tired me out & made riding no fun, I'm sorry to report.
DaleGlimp
It seems that it might be a good idea to replace the back wheel with another unit. With an integrated controller for both wheels the range might be doubled. More batteries could be positioned on the frame for more range. As others have said, lateral stability could be an issue so perhaps it would be better to drive the back wheel and have the front wheel remain as a traditional spoked wheel, since it does the steering.
Buellrider
The reason people are so darn overweight these days is because we keep coming up with ways to avoid using our muscles. Neat idea but completely unnecessary. If I want a motorized two wheeler then I'll buy an electric motorcycle so that I can go fast enough to have fun and get out of the way of cars.
CamKirmser
No, there's still a hub. It's just not in the center of the larger wheel.
SSD
I hope the many hours of testing included the effect of a stone getting lodged in between the drive or any one of the two passive rollers and the rim. I suspect it will cause the front wheel to lock. Or are they confident they can apply this to mountain bikes? May be they can put a brush in front of each roller to stop stones penetrating in between the surfaces. Also how long will the rubber rollers survive in gritty, real road conditions? Anyway great to see these experiments being performed.
Paul Anthony
At first I got excited especially the potential for storage, lights etc, and the reduction of wires needed to supply wires for batteries, and locating the controller near the handle bars. On my current hub motor I have two sets of wires running the full length of the bike. But, and a big but, not sure about the efficiency of this friction drive system and the potential for dirt, grit, and water to reduce its efficiency. It does look cool though.
Keith Reeder
"The reason people are so darn overweight these days is because we keep coming up with ways to avoid using our muscles". Ah - so you pedal your Buell, then?
dugnology
What happens when you hop a curb and your wheel goes out of round?