- An advanced all-in-one electric bike wheel with the motor and battery combined in a sturdy red case, provides near-silent pedal assist based on four signals, measures rider input 100+ times per second
- Offers three levels of assist with adjustable speed from 10 to 25 mph (in some geographies), allows you to regenerate energy with Exercise Mode or by pedaling backwards to trigger regen braking
- Available in two wheel diameters and five rim widths to fit a range of bike frames and tire types, rims come in black or silver and utilize reinforcement eyelets for strength, uses sturdy 14 gauge curved spokes
- Slightly increased battery capacity over prior generations, not the lightest conversion choice at ~16.8 lbs but it's durable and quiet (as most gearless motors are), rear-heavy design, can be pre-built into a wide selection of bikes
It has taken some time to get here, but Superpedestrian appears to be rolling ahead at full speed with their latest iteration of the all-in-one smart electric bike wheel called the Copenhagen Wheel! Dating back to 2011, this concept has been internationally praised and excitedly backed by individuals who put down deposits through crowd-funding websites like Kickstarter. Initially, it sounds like some backers were waiting over a year to get their wheels, but the company has caught up and now it’s fully available. So, whether you buy this as a stand-alone ebike conversion kit for your favorite existing bike (with 26″ or 28″ 700c sized wheels), or choose from one of the many pre-converted frames available from partner companies like Fyxation, Marin or Public, you’re going to get simplicity, intelligence, and fun. This thing is a lot cleaner than most of the other hub motor kits I have tested and reviewed in recent years, in large part because it’s completely wireless. It relies on Bluetooth and requires a smart phone to operate (iOS or Android). It will fit 135 mm or 120 mm rear dropout spacing (for single speed, 7 to 9 speed cassettes, or fixies), and I was told that in late 2018 or early 2019 they plan on supporting disc brakes! This is one of the big trade-offs with current gen Copenhagen wheels which only support rim brakes. The demo bike shown in the video review above only had a front rim brake and we relied on the regenerative braking feature to slow the rear wheel… which worked surprisingly well. My favorite parts of this system are how sleek it looks, the attention to detail in design and manufacturing of the hardware and the app, and how quiet but fluid it feels to ride. Some of my gripes include the overall weight of the system and that it’s rear-heavy vs. spread out across the frame, that the battery capacity is much lower than average (279 watt hours vs. 500+ wh on many new products), that it only comes in one color, and that the app must be open to change assist levels (and would slowly drain your battery and possibly create a large bright visual distraction in low lighting conditions). Like so many of the best products out there, this thing focuses in vs. on a few use cases vs. trying to do everything. And I must say, for city riding applications, it does very well.
The only thing I really know about the motor inside this hub is that it’s a gearless direct drive type, rated at 350 watts. That’s about average power in the world of e-bikes, but more companies are moving to 500 or even 750 watts for hub motors to make them better at climbing, accelerating, and being marketed. Those larger motors weigh more and drain the battery quicker… and some of them are physically larger as well, but the extra stat’s don’t mean a lot when you’re cruising on efficient tires through a moderately level city environment. Keep in mind, most cyclists stay below 200 watts when pedaling, so 350 watts nominal is still quite capable. This is a pedal-assist type of motor that requires human input to run, but I was impressed by how smart it was. I didn’t always have to push hard to get it moving. It sensed when I was pedaling lightly and still provided some help (especially in the highest level of assist). I compared the Copenhagen Wheel to the BionX D-Series in the video review because their cases have a similar wide look. The D-Series however, is just a big motor and their battery pack, controller, and display are all separate. Within a similar hub casing space, Superpedestrian has included batteries, a controller, sensor units, and a charging interface, but they rely on your smartphone for the display. I questioned heat dissipation in the conversation we had on camera, but I have no reason to think that it would have issues, despite acting as a generator in regen mode. Extreme heat and cold can impact performance of and degrade Lithium-ion batteries so one thought I had was about storage. Even if the motor stays relatively cool when in use, it may be subject to more extreme conditions if you cannot bring the entire bike inside. Perhaps the complexity of this all-inclusive design, making sure it was durable, is part of why it has taken Superpedestrian a bit longer to deliver a finished product to market? What I can say about the Copenhagen Wheel is that the power output feels very satisfying and zippy. It does surge a bit at low speeds because power output seems closely linked to pedal torque signal once cadence is registered. That is, you feel the motor kick in hard on a forceful downstroke and then ease out between strokes for the first few strokes. The benefit to this higher sensitivity is that the motor stops pushing you almost instantly when you stop pedaling and never feels out of control… it’s a more empowering drive system vs. one that feels like a scooter or on/off with delay. So many cheaper pedal assist systems measure one or two signals and do so with less frequency. Superpedestrian measures four signals more than 100 times per second and does deliver the experience of being a “super-pedestrian” or maybe a “super-cyclist” who is getting a response relative to their pedal actions. Eventually, when you do start slowing down and eventually stop pedaling altogether, there’s an opportunity to recapture energy by pedaling backwards to initiate regeneration with the motor. This is one of the neatest parts of the Copenhagen wheel to me, that pedaling backwards (even slowly), results in smooth deceleration that’s hands-free. A similar experience can be achieved by navigating down from one of the three assist levels into Exercise mode (simulating climbing a hill) or activate the bike lock through the app. Someone could still pick the bike up and carry it away, but riding becomes much more difficult in this locked mode and you receive a notification on your phone about the bike possibly being stolen, so you can check in on the situation. Once the wheel is stolen, it would be difficult to re-configure and re-connect to the wheel so much like smartphones, it’s not a great theft target. As a final thought, gearless motors are known for being durable because there aren’t gears rubbing together to create power from a gearbox but they do suffer from a bit of magnetic drag when coasting (called cogging) and they do weigh more because they require more magnetic material and copper winding inside.
Powering the bike is a slightly improved Lithium-ion battery pack that should provide 15 to 30 miles of range per charge, depending on which level of assist you choose and environmental factors. It’s not a long-distance solution and there does not appear to be a way to expand the capacity or even remove the battery for off-bike charging like a lot of systems that are coming out today, but it’s compact and still quite capable. Lithium-ion batteries have become the standard for e-bikes in recent years because price has gone down and this technology is lightweight and long-lasting. That is, it can endure over 1,000 full charge cycles before the capacity drops significantly. I mentioned that extreme heat and cold can play a role in the lifespan and even day to day use of these cells, and that storage is one consideration that would impact this. Given how clean and compact the Copenhagen Wheel is, and that many riders may already keep their bikes inside apartments in the city, perhaps this is not an issue? I thought about how quick and easy it might be to remove the entire rear wheel for storage, but remembered that the integrated torque arm adds to this complexity, and should be considered when it comes to rear-wheel maintenance. Most people who cycle regularly will advice that you check your tire pressure regularly to avoid dropping too low and getting a “pinch flat” where the rim cuts into the inner-tube when traveling over rough terrain. That’s a great consideration here, again because of the extra steps to remove the wheel. But to be fair, it’s not that much different from a lot of hub motors that have cables running to them… on those systems, you have an extra cable to disconnect and here, you have a torque arm. The included charger offers a standard 2 Amp output, which is fine for the modest capacity here, and has a fancy magnetic connector point that won’t get bent or pull the bike over if snagged. I love the four-LED charge indicator on the side of the wheel near the charging port, the power switch, and the cover device that protects the charging port. It’s all right there, compact and clean, but it does require that you lean down to interact and this is another interaction that makes me think of younger riders who live in the city. Being comfortable with a bit of extra weight to bring the bike inside, bending over to turn it on, dealing with limited brake options etc.
Operating the Copenhagen Wheel is simple once everything is setup, but it’s a system that requires a bit more up front work. You need to install the wheel, charge it, lean over and turn it on, then make sure the app has been downloaded to your phone, that you have paired the wheel over Bluetooth, and that your personal information has all been entered into the app. Now, you are ready to go. From this point, it’s pretty simple and satisfying to use. The main screen shows your assist level in the center (allowing you to swipe up or down to change) and your battery percentage on the left. I LOVE that they went with a big infographic and percentage for the battery considering that the capacity is a bit lower than on other ebikes. Even though the current lot of pre-made bikes seem to be efficient, the extra 16.8 lbs of weight here and the cogging factor wouldn’t make it super fun to pedal the Copenhagen Wheel up a hill or for long distances. It’s the curse of any electric bike, that the weight added for motor support can become a weight challenge if you run out of juice… Consider bringing the 1.7 lb charger in your backpack? Keep an eye on the battery level and swipe down for less assistance if you are running low and use the backwards-pedaling regen feature as much as possible. But be safe! And note that regen seems to deliver a very small percentage of actual refill potential. You’ll burn way more energy on calories trying to charge the bike on exercise mode than you would by simply plugging it in. But, you will get exercise! Yes, the app is neat, but it does add to the cost of owning this bike in that you need a compatible smartphone. Most people have one, it’s not a huge deal, but you will drain the battery on your phone if you leave the app open while riding around and it could get distracting at night with a big bright screen facing you. Yes, you can close your phone, but then you cannot change assist levels or see the battery readout. It’s a bit of a compromise, and there’s no way to charge your phone off of the e-bike battery because there are no wires running along the bike. This is one area where I’d consider getting creative with a case+battery for your phone or a portable energy bank. Like so many products, when you try to get super clean and simple, you end up making trade-offs. The optimal use for this bike system in my mind is for under 20 mile rides through the city with a more fit and active rider. This is when it becomes fun and empowering, it helps with hills when you need it, gives you a “tail wind” feel, and won’t become a drag because you’re really not going too far… and your phone won’t run out of juice either ;)
I’m told that one other update coming in late 2018 or early 2019, in addition to disc brake compatibility, is an 11-gear option. For now, you get 1-10 gears and rim brake support. I test rode a single speed bike because it keeps the chain tight and simple, it won’t fall off and the bike is lighter because there’s only one rear cog and no derailleur or shifter. In so many ways, the single speed option is best, because you get support from the motor to make up for a lack of gears. You can configure a bike like this to weigh in the mid 40 lbs (or less depending on the frame) which is lower than the average electric bike. Yes, it’s a bit rear heavy and you’re stuck with red unless you feel like getting creative with spray paint. In a lot of ways, this seems like the same Copenhagen Wheel that I have seen and been excited about before… but the app is always getting better and their hardware seems really solid and durable. I welcome feedback from newer customers, people who have bought the late 2017 model or through 2018. It would be neat to hear from someone who has had an earlier version and now upgraded to the latest and greatest. As someone who only has space for one electric bike in my apartment, this could be a great option for keeping an old favorite bicycle frame but breathing some new fun into the daily commute routine. Perhaps the biggest consideration then is range. Is there a spot to charge at work? The battery cannot come in, the wheel is not easy to remove, and leaving your fancy charger out near a public rack (perhaps in a parking garage) might not feel that safe. I would love to see a removable battery from Superpedestrian someday, or some other way to extend this product so people who have further commutes, or need to pickup groceries after work will not be stuck pedaling part way unassisted… and worse, fighting the additional weight and slight drag produced by the gearless motor. And please also chime in about the app locking feature, we found that it did not lock initially and that we had to turn off auto-pairing and even close the app… so perhaps that’s a software update or we had something mixed up. Big thanks to Superpedestrian for partnering with me on this post, coordinating the opportunity to see a converted bike at Propel Bikes in New York City and providing some insights into future improvements and features. It’s rare to get that from companies because they do not want to cannibalize current sales, but I think it makes sense here because many compatible bikes are not using disc brakes and 10 speeds vs. 11 speeds isn’t a huge deal in many cases.
- You can set the top speed as low as 10 mph and as high as 25 mph with one mile increments in between, this is great for people who have kids and want to limit their speed for safety or maybe just want to help extend range… in my experience, anything over 20 mph starts to see a big hit due to air resistance
- You can set the power save timeout at one minute or up to 30 minutes, which is good because the gyroscope seems to be active and pulsing the motor power of the bike when it’s on and this could slowly sap the power
- I like that they offer a range of wheel size choices, gearing options (which should include 11 speeds in late 2018), and even bikes now! You don’t have to build this yourself or get help from a shop, you can simply choose one of their bikes and they are all reasonably priced
- Unlike many electric bicycle systems in this price range, the Copenhagen Wheel is constantly getting better because it receives over-the-air software updates and new app releases, it also has localized support depending on what country you live in
- The charging interface uses a standardized magnetic clasp called Rosenberger which pops out easily if tripped over by accident, vs. bending or tipping the bike, it costs more but works pretty well (just avoid getting the plug end dirty or it can pick up metal filings and debris from garage floors
- I really like the app that Superpedestrian designed, it’s clear and simple when riding but provides LOTS of supporting information and stats about how and where you traveled in the sub menus and even includes a profile system to make it more personal and relevant, and easy to share
- The wheel seems pretty well made, both the hub and spoke integration but also the rim which has reinforcement eyelets to improve strength
- Even though the price hasn’t risen, you now get a slightly higher battery capacity with the Copenhagen Wheel, it’s rated at 5.8 amp hours vs. just 5.5 and still runs at 48 volts for increased efficiency and peak power
- The unique backward-pedal system, to activate regenerative braking, is so fun to use and made me miss it when I switched back to traditional bikes, it’s so cool to slow down using this approach vs. your hands and will limit wear on your brake pads over the long run while slowly re-charging the battery
- The motor controller is very responsive, it provides power when you push and eases back when you release, there’s a bit of surge feeling at first (when making those first few pedal strokes) but quickly smooths out and just seems smarter and more active than a lot of sensors I have tested on other electric bikes and kits
- The Copenhagen Wheel comes with a torque arm that connects to the left chain stay to spread force into the frame vs. the dropout, it’s a thoughtful and sturdy design, a nice little attention to detail
- Gearless motors are known for being very durable and quiet, I can attest to how quiet the Copenhagen Wheel is and was impressed with the torque and zippy feel despite being so quiet
- Customer support seems to be very good at the company now, they have built out the website and hired a team who are engaged to answer questions and provide support, they now offer a one year comprehensive warranty
- Even though the Copenhagen Wheel is mostly sold direct, it appears that the company is now working with dealers as well, so it’s easier to take a test ride, get the wheel installed on your bike, and get post-purchase support
- The current wheel system is not compatible with a rear disc brake setup (late 2018 that is planned for release), at present you have to use rim brakes but at least the system does offer some regenerative braking, you backpedal to activate this
- Only works with specific wheel size options including 26″ and 700c 28″ but not 20″, 24″, or fat bike which limits some of the possible use cases for the wheel, at least they provide several choices for different tire sizes with rim widths in addition to the two 26″ and 28″ diameters
- Let’s hope you are okay with glossy red, because at this time, Superpedestrian only offers their wheel in one color, it seems like a branding decision, which makes sense, and they do let you choose the rim color (silver or black) but I might add a few stickers or even consider spray painting this product to better match my bike
- It’s awesome that everything is contained in this one wheel, there are no wires running across the frame or extra things to setup but it also makes the bike rear heavy and might shake the batteries more than competing products that are frame mounted, the shorter spokes may not provide as much flex in the rear wheel which also makes it feel a bit stiffer
- You must own a smartphone with iOS or Android in order to operate the Copenhagen Wheel vs. many other systems that have a stand-alone display panel and control pad, and there’s no way to physically connect your phone to any sort of charger that draws from the rechargeable e-bike battery
- As with most of the direct-drive gearless hub motor ebikes I have tested and reviewed, there is some cogging drag which occurs because of the magnets repelling the stater inside the wheel, this adds a bit of work when pedaling unassisted or when coasting but also generates a small amount of electricity that goes back into the battery
- The phone display has a battery percentage readout and realtime power charts (showing your power and how much power the motor is putting out) which is all great but the background is white and could be very bright and distracting at night, we were able to turn down the phone brightness but I think a night mode would be cool… maybe that’s already built in or coming with a software update