segway – Bike Intelligencer http://bikeintelligencer.com All bike, all the time Wed, 11 Nov 2015 18:11:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 102563645 Copenhagen Wheel: When the hype meter twitches http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/03/copenhagen-wheel-when-the-hype-meter-twitches/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/03/copenhagen-wheel-when-the-hype-meter-twitches/#comments Wed, 24 Mar 2010 08:19:42 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=2637 Why does the whole Copenhagen Wheel publicity campaign remind us of the Segway?

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We might make a slight emendation to Cozy Beehive’s intriguing piece entitled “How the Copenhagen Wheel Works,” adding the word, “Supposedly.”

We love the idea, the concept, the theory, the design, the gestalt and zeitgeist of the Copenhagen wheel. But it’s been months now and we have yet to see anything that looks quite, well, real to us.

Plus there are several things that make us a bit uncomfortable.

First are the flashy ads featuring models who look better suited to the runway than the roadway. You have to love a helmet-less beauty in fashion boots hopping on a Copenhagen wheeled bike for a 60-second “demo” of its wonders. There are times she doesn’t even look like she’s riding the thing, as though it’s a dream sequence from some Lady Gaga video.

It would’ve been nice to at least feature a real rider in the ads. What, DrunkCyclist and BikeShopGirl weren’t available?

You don’t produce hype like this without big money. It reminds us of the buildup to another revolutionary magical device we never quite believed in: the Segway.

Which also, coincidence of coincidences, had support from MIT, where technology investment goes to die. OK, I’m being harsh. It goes there to live it up — bright lights, big city, lotsa ink and press parties … and then fade to marginality.

The video, and Cozy Beehive’s communiques with MIT’s Senseable Lab (a name that also makes us uncomfortable), talk about Phases and Prototypes and Great Things to Come. And I love the goal sets, e.g. a target weight of 3.5 kg (just under 8 lbs.). But there’s more fairy dust here than elbow grease.

One thing in particular I don’t get is the so-called exercise mode. Dude if a cyclist wants exercise on a bike, it’s not going to be the kind where you pedal against a mechanism that is deliberately increasing drag. I’ve hung around a lot of competitive cyclists, even trained with a few, and not a single one has ever tightened his or her brakes to increase drag on the wheels in order to get more “exercise.” It’s just kinda not why we ride.

Then there’s this: “Typically, a flat city commute of 2 km will make a 70 kg cyclist expend 31 Watts of power.”

OK, you lost me at “2 km.” I mean, who commutes slightly more than a mile to work? The whole equation of “8 hours on a single charge” really starts to break down when you tick up the calculator to real-world commutes of 5 or more miles over hilly terrain.

As for the iPhone connectivity, I’m kinda scratching my head. It’s cool enough, I guess (although if you’re really interested in personal energy output, calories and training, why are you riding an electric bike?). But it could go on any bike. It has nothing to do with a battery-assist rear wheel hub.

Now the sensible folks at, uh, Senseable have to keep raising money for more R&D. We understand that. So perhaps they can be forgiven for hype aimed more at Wall Street than Street Smart. The danger comes in over-promising, which winds up cheating an expectant public. A lot of people are genuinely psyched about the Copenhagen Wheel — including many who were psyched about the Segway … and Windows Vista … and electric knives. They don’t deserve another disappointment just to get VCs all warm and fuzzy.

How about a video that candidly discusses the technical challenges here, what needs to happen technologically to make it viable, how long it will take to really do what they’re aiming for, and what real-life application will mean for real-life commuters.

Ron at Cozy Beehive is a mechanical engineer, which I’m not, so I will happily defer to his judgment on specifications and performance when the CW, or something like what is promised as the CW, actually exists. For now we prefer to keep it real. The bullshit detector hasn’t gone off yet, but its needle keeps jiggling every time another glitzy “update” of the Copenhagen Wheel comes within drafting distance.

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Will the Copenhagen Wheel Cure Cancer? http://bikeintelligencer.com/2009/12/will-the-copenhagen-wheel-cure-cancer/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2009/12/will-the-copenhagen-wheel-cure-cancer/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2009 20:44:50 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.wordpress.com/?p=1558 Several people have breathlessly alerted me to the big announcement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the MIT “Copenhagen Wheel” — a rear wheel with hub-enclosed technology that not only boosts a cyclist with a “burst of power” on demand but contains a number of “smart bike” features, including anti-theft “braking” and email […]

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Several people have breathlessly alerted me to the big announcement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the MIT “Copenhagen Wheel” — a rear wheel with hub-enclosed technology that not only boosts a cyclist with a “burst of power” on demand but contains a number of “smart bike” features, including anti-theft “braking” and email notification.

OK, I love all this. But really.

First off, in evaluating any Woo Woo Tech Whiz product, I like to see numbers. In the reports I’ve seen so far, there aren’t any. Battery type. Wattage output. Drive-system specifications. Weight. Volume. Does the hub have internal shifting? Judging from the photo, it’s either that or a singlespeed with a fairly challenging gear ratio. No wonder it needs a battery boost.

Battery technology is improving all the time, so maybe this thing can put out enough power to be meaningful. And the brake-regeneration system works, as the Prius I drive attests to. But you don’t brake bikes the way you brake cars; bikes slow down pretty well on their own on most surfaces. Cars have to be braked far more, with considerably more force.

Further, the press release mentions only “steep inclines” for acceleration boosting. Seattle and San Francisco, to cite a couple of bike friendly cities, don’t have inclines, they have hills. Inclines are something almost anyone serious about cycling can handle without a battery boost. Hills are where you really need an electric backburner.

But auxiliary power is just one facet of the Copenhagen wheel. It’s supposed to be chock full of “cheap electronics” that notify you of friends nearby, how much pollution is in the air, terrain challenges ahead, distance to and from, and other cool stuff. It supposedly will interface with your iPhone as the client, all well and good. The iPhone can do much of this already, but the notion of real-time communication with your bike invites all kinds of fantasizing.

The one that stopped me, though, was the theft-deterrence feature. Apparently the bike will automatically go into brake mode when stolen and automatically send the owner an email that his or her bike has been purloined. Under the “worst-case scenario,” the press release states, “the thief will have charged your batteries before you get back your bike.”

No, under the worst case scenario, the thief tosses your bike in a truck, slaps a lead case over the hub (or simply jams the signal) and drives off to a lab where the electronics are reconfigured to impede any detection of or communication with the bike.

The Copenhagen Wheel is asking a lot in terms of consumer faith, and my skepticism derives from two real-world reality checks. First, this is still a project in development (is there even a prototype?), which means it needs continued funding. And the best way to get funding is to hype something over the ever-gullible mainstream press and eWorld.

Secondly, recall the last time we were promised a huge breakthrough in personal transportation technology. A two-wheeled invention that would prove bigger than the personal computer, and more important than the Internet. That’s right, the Segway.

Yeah, like that worked…

Copenhagen wheel, meet Seattle's mayorStill, I know a guy who’d be the perfect ambassador for the Copenhagen wheel. It’s Seattle’s new mayor, Mike McGinn. He already rides an electric bike and knows a lot more about its ins and outs than a mere blogger like me. Plus he’s committed to continuing to ride as mayor.

MIT, here’s your guinea pig.

The Copenhagen Wheel unveiled

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