Bicycles

Review: FlyKly Smart Wheel gives your bike a boost

Review: FlyKly Smart Wheel giv...
Gizmag tries out the FlyKly Smart Wheel
Gizmag tries out the FlyKly Smart Wheel
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Gizmag tries out the FlyKly Smart Wheel
1/5
Gizmag tries out the FlyKly Smart Wheel
The FlyKly Smart Wheel weighs 3 kg (6 lb)
2/5
The FlyKly Smart Wheel weighs 3 kg (6 lb)
Taking the FlyKly Smart Wheel out for a ride
3/5
Taking the FlyKly Smart Wheel out for a ride
Charging the FlyKly Smart Wheel
4/5
Charging the FlyKly Smart Wheel
The FlyKly Smart Wheel app
5/5
The FlyKly Smart Wheel app

Although electric bicycles are becoming increasingly popular for commuting, a lot of people still don't like the idea of completely shelving their perfectly-good human-powered two-wheeler. That's why companies such as Superpedestrian, Evelo and Hycore have developed electric-assist wheels containing a battery pack and motor, that can simply be installed on a regular bike. Although most of them are still in the "pre-order" stage, FlyKly's Smart Wheel is now actually reaching consumers. I recently got to try one out, and it definitely does help with the hills ... although at least one tweak is still needed.

The specs

The Smart Wheel weighs 3 kg (6 lb), and its hub contains a lithium battery pack, a 250-watt motor, a Bluetooth module, and sensors for monitoring factors such as acceleration, torque and temperature. The battery takes three hours to charge from a regular outlet, and has a stated minimum range of about 40 km (25 miles).

Using an accompanying iOS/Android app, users can set the wheel's electronic systems up for their particular bike, plus they can monitor things like speed, distance traveled and battery level. The wheel's top assisted speed is 25 km/h (16 mph).

The FlyKly Smart Wheel app
The FlyKly Smart Wheel app

Gettin' it on

Installing the Smart Wheel in place of my 20-speed city bike's rear wheel was mostly a straight-ahead process, although in order to accommodate its 19-mm-wide rim, I did have to readjust the cable length on my rear brake to let it open wider (the wheel only works with rim brakes, by the way). This shouldn't be an issue for people already running wider rims, but it does mean that for those of us with skinny wheels, swapping in the Smart Wheel won't just be a matter of changing wheels.

The FlyKly Smart Wheel weighs 3 kg (6 lb)
The FlyKly Smart Wheel weighs 3 kg (6 lb)

Using the app to set the wheel up was likewise pretty quick and simple. That said, I had to hold my iPhone 5c right up to the hub in order to maintain a Bluetooth connection. As soon as I moved the phone more than a few feet away, that connection was broken. This means that I could not use the app while riding – the wheel still worked, but I couldn't monitor what it was doing.

A FlyKly rep informed me that this is an ongoing problem that the company is still working on – this is backed up by numerous user complaints that are posted on the app's App Store page.

Hitting the road

The first time I tried actually riding with the Smart Wheel, there were a few problems – my not-worn-out chain skipped against the wheel's single sprocket, the motor would kick in even when I was just walking with my bike (causing it to alarmingly rear up on its back wheel), and the hub ultimately just seized up and stopped working.

This could be due to the fact that it was a well-used somewhat-buggy demo unit, so the company promptly sent me another one. It had none of those problems, working just as advertised. It automatically kicked in according to how much torque I was applying, amplifying my pedaling power. Hills were definitely easier than they would be otherwise, as was starting up from stops.

Taking the FlyKly Smart Wheel out for a ride
Taking the FlyKly Smart Wheel out for a ride

One thing that should be noted, however: whatever your bike was beforehand, putting the Smart Wheel onto it makes it into a singlespeed. I had initially thought that I'd still be able to go back and forth between my two front chainrings, but going into the small one put the chain at too much of a lateral angle, causing it to scrape against the inside of the front derailleur.

In the case of my bike, the gear ratio I ended up with consisted of a combination of my 46-tooth big chainring and the Smart Wheel's stock 18-tooth sprocket. While this is an OK cruising gear, it definitely made hill-climbing harder than it would have been in a lower gear. Although most hills were still relatively easy, I did have to stand up and hammer on some of the steeper ones, and my cadence slowed way down. Casual commuters using the same setup would definitely work up a sweat.

Battery life was roughly what I expected, based on FlyKly's claims. Because the battery pack isn't user-removable, riders do have to take their whole bike indoors when the wheel needs more juice.

Charging the FlyKly Smart Wheel
Charging the FlyKly Smart Wheel

The Smart Wheel is available in three sizes, with a grey or white hub, for US$1,099.

If I were in the market I'd probably at least wait until the reviews start coming in for Superpedestrian's much-ballyhooed Copenhagen Wheel, to see how it stacks up. Even if the FlyKly does ultimately come out on top, potential buyers might still want to wait until the connectivity issue is fixed – plus they might want to swap in a smaller chainring.

Product page: FlyKly Smart Wheel

13 comments
zevulon
everything in Wheel (EIW) designs for electric bicycles are the worst of all worlds, sacrificing the best aspects of hubmotors, and bracket mounted mid-drives for----------an easy installation process. is it worth it? no. don't wait for the much balleyhooed copenhagen wheel, or the fly kly, just try hub motor or middrive bike wheels if your'e interested. if you want a lightweight hub get the geared, if you want totally silent with lower maintainance but higher weight get the 'direct' ungeared hub motor. if you want the best performance with the highest installation cost or original bike cost, get the mid-drive mounted at the bracket. simple. EIW is garbage. if you don't believe me , just do your own research and you'll find the ONLY advantage is installation with far too many disadvantages as to make a non-electric bike preferable to an EIW solution.
gna149
An enticing idea, unfortunately, not at that price. That's like buying one component of an electric bike at twice the price of a whole electric bike (i.e. the Sondors Bike early bird offer was $499).
AndrewMathison
I have had an electric bike, one of the cheaper models, that I bought secondhand for €200 five years ago, (around US$220). The battery alone was/is still worth more than that on ebay!! It cost new €700 or about $760 and was 3 months old, ridden once. There are lots new bikes around here nowadays at that price or close.... The battery still gives a sterling performance (around 55 Kms) as long as I keep the tyres well pumped up and adjust any brakes that drag... I personally would not invest in this "wheel" for a normal bike, not even if you gave it to me for nothing, as it is FAR too expensive, plus its only a "half-way-house".....the normal bike is simply ruined.... Having a "proper" made for "electric" bike, (I have ridden several over the last 10 years or so) is best...... I recently, with almost 20,000 Kms ridden, replaced the chain, saddle, gear cluster and brake Bowden cables.....the bike rides like new again. Total cost of parts from ebay, around $45 and a few hours work......all cheap parts..... The bike has electric assistance till 25Km per Hour. The only changes I will make if I ever buy a second one, is to buy one with rear suspension (mine only has front) and a faster charging battery, as mine takes 5 to 6 hours from empty to full.....I do ride on a lot of "rougher" roads, but a well sprung saddle helps! (Says he with high pitched voice!!) I do believe that I could actually get such a bike nowadays for the cost of this single wheel, and with a far greater "radius" of operation than either the wheel or my present electric bike..... Someone with a high value "normal" bike, might simply sell the old one and add the money to the price of the new one. Electric biking is fantastic, I can only recommend it to anyone interested, but buy cheap first till you have got used to it and you will then know what you REALLY want.....sell it and buy that "Cadillac" one!! Complicated electronics on an electric bike, do not like being "outside" much, so consider that also before buying!! Don't forget the helmet!!! Andy PS. Only charge the battery when either empty or close to empty, it will extend battery life dramatically.....never charge every day just for "safety" it will reduce battery life dramatically!! PPS. If you have long distances to cover, say half the battery capacity or so, consider having a spare charged battery with you.....then you can really charge from empty only!!! :-)
NickHull
I have 2 Sondors eBikes. They are really great bikes - and I only paid $695 for the first and $750 for the other. Why buy just a wheel when you can buy a whole bike? Sondors isn't the only inexpensive eBike out there. I also have a Wave eBike coming that cost about the same as the Sondors, but doesn't have the Fat Bike styling
Jason Pase
I scored a Sondors for $499 ! Top speed is 32 km/hr and range is 30+ km = BEST BARGAIN in the e-bike world.
The 1 TaiN
Can it be used on a Ti-Lite Wheelchair?
StWils
"Fly Ky"? I think more likely " FlaKy". Front Wheel Hub motor with a removable battery and no rear wheel changes. Also, skip this nonsense of having every damn thing only accessible from a smart phone. What happens when you drop it, lose it, fail to pay your bill on time, forget the password, let your A-hole friends or kids have access, your girlfriend or wife have access, the list continues..
Noel K Frothingham
Let's not lose sight of the obvious - many of us have either a custom-built frame or a frame we've tweaked to be just the way we like. Many of us were also much younger and more athletic when we bought our frames and are not ready to toss a perfectly good frame out on its lugs since those frames aren't cheap, in financial terms or seat-time. Opinions are cheap when it's not your butt on the seat that put another persons wallet on a diet. In other words, when I am interested in hearing opinions expressed in absolute terms, mirrors are found everywhere. Regardless of how long e-power assist bikes have been around, until it is mass produced, designs are still in development stage. There are plenty of mistakes yet to be made and lessons to be learned. It's taken approx. 125 years to develop the sturdy, reliable, and relatively cheap bikes we ride today. It stands to reason that developing a workable, relatively inexpensive e-drive bike won't be a quick process. Patience, children. Patience. If you can do better, get out there and do it.
DonGateley
This is also a Kickfraudster project. Go here to see what backers think: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/flykly/flykly-smart-wheel/comments