- One of the most affordable, compact and light weight electric bike conversion options available
- Comes in eight colors, adjustable speed and power using mobile app, no wires for installation
- Doesn't work with disc brakes, converts the bicycle to a single speed, no throttle mode
The FlyKly Smart Wheel is an ebike conversion kit consisting of a motor, battery, control system and bicycle wheel designed to be simple to use, light weight and efficient. It was successfully funded through Kickstarter on November 25th 2013 reaching over 7x it’s $100k launch threshold. While it doesn’t deliver all the bells and whistles of some purpose built electric bikes it is extremely light weight, relatively affordable at $800 and fairly sophisticated with a smart phone app that lets you change the top speed (limited to 16mph) and power output percentage to conserve battery usage. In short it’s smooth, relatively quiet and fairly stealth (so most people won’t even know you’re riding an electric bike). It works with a variety of wheel sizes and comes in eight fun colors including glow in the dark… The final version (which I tested in the video review above) is almost have the size and weight of the original prototype and benefits from a partnership that FlyKly has entered into with an Italian electric bike manufacturer.
The motor contained in the FlyKly hub is a 250 watt planetary geared design that does not freewheel like most comparable offerings. Instead, this one is setup in a direct-drive configuration that allows you to regenerate energy using the motor as a sort of brake. It works a lot like engine braking in a car (where you downshift and force the motor to run at a higher RPM) only in this case magnets are repelling instead of pistons moving at a higher rate (which just converts the mechanical energy into heat vs. electricity). It’s an extremely creative design that reminds me of the regen button used on Stealth electric bikes only here you backpedal to activate it instead of pressing a button. This is a very clever design because it completely eliminates the need for wires to be run along the frame. The motor itself is relatively quiet, fairly powerful (thanks to the geared design) and small. The only real downsides are the top speed of ~16 miles per hour and the cogging. What happens here is that when you’re coasting, the motor is spinning along and the gears are still turning inside. This, along with magnets that repel a bit on the inside, creates a bit of drag that I show in the video review. So that’s cogging… All things considered, the ability to get this system spoked into a 20″, 26″ or 700c wheel at no extra charge and the fact that it delivers both power and regen makes it very practical. While we’re on the topic of regen and motor performance it’s worth noting that if the battery is completely full regen will cut off in order to protect the batteries from overcharging. If you’re relying on regen as your only brake (not recommended) you might be in a tough spot… On the bike I tested there was a rim brake added to the front wheel for added stopping power. You could also add a rim brake to the rear wheel but note that the FlyKly system is not compatible with a rear disc brake. In the case of any brake levers, you will not be cutting power to the motor so keep that in mind because it can wear your brake pads down and make stopping a bit unpredictable until you learn how to operate properly.
The batteries used on this bike are all contained inside the rear hub. They’re placed along the outside of the motor casing but kept within the outer shell which means you can’t remove them for charging. You basically have to carry the bike inside or use an extension cord and connect to the axle-based charging port (shown in the image below). It’s a neat, clean design that again… requires no extra wiring. There’s even a pair of rubber caps that cover and protect both ends of the axle. Thankfully, the FlyKly Smart Wheel system only adds ~6.5 pounds to the overall weight of the bike and that means this is one of the easiest electric bikes to carry up stairs, hoist onto a wall hook rack or transport on cars, trains busses etc. The cells used are 18650 size with Lithium-ion chemistry inside that’s meant to go for 1,000+ charge cycles. They’re light, long lasting and can be replaced by FlyKly once they eventually do expire. You will however, have to send the entire wheel back to them and pay for this service. My testing time was limited but I do know that extreme heat and cold can be hard on Lithium batteries so I was concerned about how these ones will fare being located in such close proximity the motor along with the regen feature which could heat them up. Time will tell.
The other really cool thing about the FlyKly setup is that you can get the wheel pre-installed on a Wize city style bike (which is what I tested in the vide). For $1,800 it’s not a bad option. Keep in mind, the FlyKly is not compatible with rear cassettes so you only get one gear to pedal with. For many people this is fine and they’re already using single speed or fixed gear bikes for city riding. I found that the motor assist really helped when starting and climbing and let me reach a comfortable pedaling cadence that I could then maintain on my own. Depending on which speed is comfortable you can set the system to cut the motor so it’s really just there to give you a regular, gentle boost. While there’s no throttle option with the FlyKly the smart phone app does allow you to choose power percentage for both drive and regen (to start harder or slow faster) and is freely available for Android, iOS and Pebble devices. It’s intuitive to use and offers a GPS, route history and some gamification stuff for comparing rides with friends. Depending on your ride length, the constant use of your phone for GPS could wear the battery down so it’s nice that you don’t need to have the app open to ride. You just unlock and lock the bike with it… and that’s the other cool part. You can use the motor as a quick “cafe lock” that will immobilize the bike by locking the wheel. If anyone else tries to unlock it the system will report in and communicate a GPS coordinate to help you retrieve it. To help mitigate the smart phone drain potential I mentioned earlier (from constant app usage) FlyKly also offers a Smart Light that you can use to improve safety and charge your cell phone all from a dynamo hub that goes in the front wheel. Nice!
Honestly, this is a pretty sweet system and I’m excited for the FlyKly company to begin distributing their kit. The idea that for $800 and less than seven pounds you can get a little boost from each stop sign and some help with wind and hills is exciting. It’s a niche application that’s right at home in the city. The fact that you can use this with an existing bike frame and don’t need to run wires or add a cadence sensor is very cool. The kit blends in (unless you get the glow in the dark option) and can match your style thanks to the eight color choices. I was impressed with how smooth and responsive the pedal assist design was and glad that it was built right into the wheel. This system feels more like riding a bike than operating a scooter and for someone with sensitive knees, a longer or hill commute or just an interest in a little help and fun along the way this is a great option.
- Free app lets you power on the system, change the speed and power settings and is required to lock and unlock the wheel (works with Android, iOS and Pebble)
- Mobile app includes GPS, speed, route history and usage stats with gamification to compete with friends
- Drive system is available spoked into 20″, 26″ and 700c wheel sizes
- Planetery geared motor is small and light weight while offering good torque for accelerating and climbing
- The batteries, controller and motor are all contained in the rear hub so you don’t have to run wires around the bike, the hub is also designed to be water resistant for easy cleaning and use on rainy days
- System is basically hands free (pedal forward to get assistance and pedal back to activate regen)
- Extremely light weight design with motor, batteries, controller and wheel weighing in at just ~6.5 pounds
- Torque sensor activation is smooth, responsive and efficient extending the range of the battery as you pedal along
- Optional FlyKly Smart Light lets you charge your phone and add a front light to your bike and power them with a dynamo hub in the front wheel (great for when you use the app since it draws on your battery or GPS data)
- Available in eight color options including white, silver, blue, red, green, yellow, pink, glow in the dark
- Relatively affordable at $800 for the wheel and motor combined, pretty easy to intall compared with other kits
- Option to order the FlyKly built into a Wize bicycle, ready to go
- Brake levers aren’t connected to motor system, if you keep pedaling the motor will fight your brakes (have to stop or pedal backwards)
- Batteries are not easily removable for charging, have to bring the bike inside or use an extension cord
- When batteries eventually expired you have to send the entire wheel/hub to FlyKly for replacement
- When battery is fully charged, regenerative braking won’t work (motor will stop powering the bike but won’t slow you down)
- Only works as a single speed (can’t add a cassette or geared hub, not enough room to fit… may be able to add a Schlumpf Drive or similar system in front bottom bracket) system only works on rear wheel
- Not compatible with disc brakes, must use rim brakes or rely on front brake only with rear backwards pedaling regen mode
- Top speed is limited to ~16 miles per hour vs. other ebikes that can hit 20mph
- No twist throttle option, pedal assist only which can be tricky to adjust on the fly (easier to stop and use the app vs. a control panel mounted on the bike)
- Direct drive motor does experience some cogging from gears and magnetic resistance inside (see video review) this enables motor braking and regen
- Official Site: http://www.flykly.com/
- Kickstarter Page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/flykly/flykly-smart-wheel/posts
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/sz4Xn6ifqZzaY2p17