GeoOrbital’s Electric Wheel Makes Bicycling a Breeze
No more breaking a sweat during your morning commute—a new type of wheel from GeoOrbital will give your standard bike some extra power.
The Cambridge-based startup’s idea is simple. The GeoOrbital wheel can replace almost any front bicycle wheel in less than 60 seconds to turn it into an electric bike.
The idea led to a successful Kickstarter campaign, which ended Wednesday. In 45 days, the startup raised more than $1.2 million and in just 78 minutes they blew past their original fundraising goal of $75,000.
What’s most shocking is the simplicity and ease of the wheel. All you need to do is switch out your existing front wheel, make sure the removable battery is charged, and put GeoOrbital in its place. An on-off button attaches to the handlebars, letting you effortlessly switch from peddling to electric.
While set on electric, the wheel can bring you to a speed of 20 miles per hour in six seconds for up to 20 miles with no peddling. If switching between electric and peddling, you can go even farther on a single charge.
Bonus: the wheel’s battery has a USB port that lets you listen to a portable speaker or charge your smartphone as you ride.
Now, Boston is a bike-friendly city already. But many city bicyclists are fit and young, and there isn’t much diversity among riders, says GeoOrbital Founder and CEO Mike Burtov.
“I think by having an easy way to convert a bike into an electric bike, we can open up biking to a lot of other people,” he says. “Biking is a great way for people to get around financially, environmentally, and from a health perspective.”
Before Burtov hatched the idea, he wasn’t much of a cyclist. It was the movie Tron that spurred his imagination and eventually got engineer Dakota Decker from SpaceX, now GeoOrbital’s CTO, on his team.
Burtov thought the hollow-wheeled motorcycles in the movie were cool, but why have wasted space? With that, the GeoOrbital wheel was born. The wheel takes advantage of the space where a standard bicycle would have spokes, instead placing a rechargeable battery, motor, and motor controller. The GeoOrbital wheel even includes the tire, made of high-density foam, making it “flat-proof.”
“I like the idea of biking, but having it be exercise wasn’t really my thing,” Burtov says. “I like e-biking because if I want to work out, I can, but I don’t have to.”
Besides the front wheel, adding GeoOrbital doesn’t change anything about the bike, so if halfway through the ride you want to turn off the motor, it’s as easy as pushing the off button and beginning to peddle. Also, if the battery dies, the bike can still be used without the motor.
High-end luxury e-bikes sell in the $5,000-$10,000 range, but they don’t have the comfort and familiarity of the bike you own. The main feedback GeoOrbital has received is that it has the specifications of a high-end luxury e-bike, but the feel of the bike you’ve had for years or the retro beach cruiser you love, Burtov explains.
“People really like that is still feels like their bike, but with a rush of power.”
Speaking of a rush, the pre-order sale on Kickstarter sold wheels for as low as $499 and sold out in less than 10 minutes. However, if you weren’t quick enough, GeoOrbital has opened up an additional pre-sale on their website for a price of $760, which is still lower than their projected full retail price of $950 and will get the wheel to your doorstep by February 2017.
Regular retail price sales will begin in early 2017 on their website and through retailers. The wheel also comes in a range of colors, including “Lobstah Red.”
The wheel has also interested a range of users. People who don’t want to sweat biking to work and those who aren’t regular cyclists can find equal use of the GeoOrbital, Burtov says.