Back in 2009, MIT's SENSEable City team unveiled its Copenhagen Wheel prototype. In a nutshell, it's a self-contained electrically-powered rear bicycle wheel that can be installed on any regular bike, instantly turning it into an e-bike. Today, it was announced that a commercial version of the Copenhagen Wheel is now available to consumers.

Development of the original wheel was sponsored by the Mayor of Copenhagen, hence its name. The production version is being manufactured by Superpedestrian, a Massachusetts-based company consisting of SENSEable City team members who licensed the technology from MIT.

The wheel's onboard electronics sense how hard the rider is pedaling, and trigger the motor to pitch in with its own assistance, as needed. This means that if the rider is going uphill, for instance, the motor will contribute more. If they're cruising along comfortably, on the other hand, it might not run at all.

Exactly how much assistance it provides can be predetermined by the rider, using an app on their smartphone. That app also allows them to track their riding stats, including distance traveled, calories burned and elevation gain. Additionally, when the paired phone (and its user) move out of Bluetooth range of the parked bike, the wheel will automatically lock until the phone returns.

It features either a 250-watt or 350-watt hub motor (buyer's choice), a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, a range of approximately 30 miles (48 km) and a top assisted speed of 20 mph (32 km/h). It weighs 12 lb (5.5 kg), and is available in 26-inch, 27-inch and 700C sizes.

Battery life is extended via a regenerative braking system. When recharging is required, the battery can be removed from the wheel.

Some readers might recall our recent report on the FlyKly wheel, which very much resembles the Copenhagen Wheel. A representative from Superpedestrian agrees that the FlyKly is "strikingly similar," but tells us that there is no official relationship between the two products.

The Copenhagen Wheel is available now for pre-order, at a price of US$699. Shipping is expected to begin at the end of the first quarter of next year.

More information is available in the video below.

View gallery - 3 images