Actor Jared Leto Throws Support Behind the ‘Copenhagen Wheel’

Superpedestrian, born out of MIT, just banked $4 million in a Series B for their energy-storing bike fixture project.
Image via Associated Press/SUPERPEDESTRIAN.COM

Image via Associated Press/SUPERPEDESTRIAN.COM

Jared Leto—known to most as the guitar-riffing, Oscar-winning actor who once played teen heartthrob Jordan Catalano—is more than just a dreamy face.

He’s also a fan of sustainable transportation.

The Hollywood star recently put some cash behind an MIT-spun concept called the “Copenhagen Wheel,” which for a mere $700 gives riders an extra boost while pedaling around by using energy stored within a hub affixed to a back wheel, making those strenuous hills and long commutes a bit more expedient.

In total, Superpedestrian, the company that produces the bike-wheel attachments, raised $4 million thanks to a combination of funding from lead investor Spark Capital, General Catalyst, Akamai CEO Paul Sagan, and an undisclosed amount from Leto himself.

According to a press release, the money generated on behalf of the funders will go toward the Copenhagen Wheel’s continued production, and expanding Superpedestrian’s team of robotics engineers, manufacturing specialists, designers, and software developers.

First created in MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory in 2009, as part of a research project sponsored by the Mayor of Copenhagen, the “Wheel” features a motor packed away inside of a red circular device, along with a list of bells and whistles like a powerful computer and special sensors, letting riders who are pumping the pedals collect data about how they use their bicycles so they can better plan their trips.

The 12-pound hub turns any ordinary bicycle into an electrically-powered hybrid, offering more than four times the moving power that an average person can put out. It also connects to people’s smartphones so information can be dissected and shared via social media.

“The bike learns how you pedal. So from a technical standpoint, it improves by understanding how hard you push when you pedal, and how often you need help,” said Assaf Biderman, an MIT researcher and founder of Superpedestrian, in a previous interview with Boston. “The steepest hill on Beacon Hill will feel slightly more difficult than riding on a plane.”

On top of the recent funding they received, the creators of the Copenhagen Wheel were recognized Friday at this year’s “Red Dot: Design Concept Awards” for their innovative design concept, and received the “Best of the Best” award in the category of mobility. A panel picked Superpedestrian’s red hub as the winner of the Red Dot: Luminary, the highest distinction given to companies at the ceremony.


Steve Annear Steve Annear, Digital Writer at Boston Magazine sannear@bostonmagazine.com