After a few prototypes and soft launches, the Copenhagen Wheel has officially arrived. This is an e-bike made-easy—an electric hybrid bicycle wheel that houses a motor, battery, and computer, all in a single red hub you swap out for the rear wheel of nearly any bike of your choosing. Made by the Massachusetts-based company Superpedestrian, the Wheel has long captured the imagination of would-be cycling commuters: It’s been hyped as the bicycling-aid that can turn lazy Americans into refined European velocipedestrians. Now, you can finally buy one, for $1,499 (or $1,999 pre-installed on a bike).
The wheel has been greeted with excited reviews from tech geeks, urbanists, and Bostonians for its inventive design, which was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s SENSEable City Lab. (No relation to this CityLab.) Back when a prototype emerged in 2014, this site’s Nate Berg gave it a test ride, declaring, “If an Electric Bike Is Ever Going Hit It Big in the U.S., It’s This One.”
Now that the Wheel has hit the mass market and is widely available to consumers, it’s time to put it through its paces in the real world and see how it fares.
But first, some history. The Copenhagen Wheel Story begins not in Copenhagen but in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Assaf Biderman, Superpedestrian’s CEO, taught urban studies and urban planning at MIT and worked with SENSEable City Lab from 2004 to 2012. He left in 2012 to take the wheel developed by the lab—which was originally unveiled at the 2009 United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen—into the market.