Evelo Omni Review: Make Any Bike Electric With This Add-On Wheel

Make Any Bike Electric With This Add-On Wheel

Sometimes I feel like my entire life is spent commuting — by train, cab, or on foot. But biking is by far my favourite way to get around in my home town of NYC, except for those minutes I spend huffing over the Manhattan Bridge. That's where Evelo's Omni Wheel comes in. The after-market add-on can transform most bikes into an electric-powered commute machine. And it works — for the most part.

AU Editor's Note: The Evelo Omni isn't yet available for sale in Australia, but we'll let you know if that changes. — Cam

All images: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

Like most things in life, convenience comes at a price, and in this case, convenience will cost you $US1000. It's an eye-popping figure, but in the context of electric bikes, it actually seems downright affordable. After all, you might already have a really nice frame you're not willing to part with.

Make Any Bike Electric With This Add-On Wheel

The Omni Wheel is a hub — about the size of Captain America's shield — that fits right into your front wheel frame. The wheel is then hooked up to a handle-mounted display and throttle. The display shows your approximate speed and battery life, and the throttle works as you'd expect. Down is go, up is stop. The charging port, housed on the metal hubcap, uses a proprietary three-pronged charger that you definitely won't want to lose.

Make Any Bike Electric With This Add-On Wheel

When you slap this giant hubcap on to your existing front wheel, it's best to not think of your ride as a bike anymore. The Omni Wheel adds a lot of weight — between 9 to 10kg depending on the model. So forget a quick jog up your third floor walk up with your newly motorised bike.

And, of course, because the hub is so hefty, it subtly changes how the bike handles. For example, the hub makes your bike front-heavy, which means slower response times when you're swerving to avoid a car door or spaced-out pedestrian. It's not a design flaw per se — it just takes some getting used to.

Make Any Bike Electric With This Add-On Wheel

But the biggest problem I experienced with the Omni Wheel is wind. Unless you're cycling every day you probably don't think about it much, but outdoor bicycles have spokes to mitigate crosswinds. Seal up all those holes, and suddenly, every gust of wind slams into your bike and forces you to rapidly wrench back control.

In New York City, this is an especially big problem since tall buildings have the tendency to create wind corridors. So when you're crossing an avenue — one the worst times to lose control your bike — you can feel the tug of the wind on your handlebars. That said, I never felt like the Omni Wheel put me in any actual danger. It's like the disk wheels popular with mid-2000 hipsters. They're not a danger as much as an annoyance.

If you overlook its relatively nitpicky failings, the Omni Wheel's battery blessing starts to feel almost indispensable. I rode with the Omni Wheel almost 48km, covering all three major Brooklyn-Manhattan bridges, and I have yet to suck the wheel's battery completely dry. Evelo says the Omni provides 64km on a charge, and I'd venture that's about right, depending on your riding style.

Make Any Bike Electric With This Add-On Wheel

The omni charges via a proprietary port. So hold onto the charger.

Regardless of its impressive range, I would still charge the thing every single time you get home. Because you do not, I repeat, do not want to be caught mid-ride with a dead battery — not unless lugging around an extra 9kg for no reason sounds like fun to you.

What will keep the Omni Wheel off every city computer's bicycle isn't that weight, its the price. For someone who has a beloved bike that they want to endow with electric powers, it might be worth $US1,000. But for most, you should just spring for an integrated electric bike. Yeah, it's heavy, but it will still handle like a normal bike for the most part.

With that being said, I will miss finally being the cyclist yelling "left" as a I blaze by on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Make Any Bike Electric With This Add-On Wheel

README

  • Climbs hills like a PRO
  • Susceptible to pesky headwinds thanks to the hub covering the entire wheel
  • 9-10kg of extra weight changes the handling of your bike
  • Unless you love your bike the $US1000 price tag is ridiculous. Grab a full electric bike instead.

Comments

    I think the Copenhagen Wheel looks promising https://superpedestrian.com/

      that if it is ever freaken turns up. its been in development for ages

    This product illegal in most states of Australia. Australia has mainly adopted the EU pedelec standards that require electric motor assistance to ONLY be triggered by pedalling. Anything that uses an Mobile App or a Throttle to trigger acceleration is in violation of these rules and would require your "motorbike" to be street legal (with indicators and mirrors) and fully registered before you're allowed to ride it. Except for private property. Fill your boots on your own land folks.
    Edit (Removed reference to Copenhagen Wheel also being illegal. The Copenhagen Wheel now has a torque sensor and is a true pedelec under EU law! The 250W model is all good for Australia... in most states anyway)

    Last edited 06/09/16 12:08 pm

      My electric skateboard has a wireless throttle.
      Does my skateboard run afoul of the same rule?

        I think electric skateboards are illegal. Some manufacturers refer to them as "wheeled recreational vehicles" but I think most states limit this label to "human or gravity powered" devices only. That means your electric skateboard is a car which does NOT meet the requirements of vehicle registration and is NOT allowed on roads or footpaths. If you can't ride it on footpaths, can't register it for use on roads then the only place you can use it is on private property.

        This article (below) is MISLEADING as it just copies what they tell you on electric skateboard website's. But the comments offer much more accurate insights: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/11/ask-lh-where-can-i-legally-ride-my-electric-skateboard/

      The Copenhagen wheel is triggered by pedaling....

      also no one enforces those laws.

      Last edited 06/09/16 9:37 am

        I'm not worried about a fine. Get in an accident and see how well you're taken care of once they ascertain you were operating illegally. Insurance becomes useless. Get ready to lose your house when a driver sues you for their pain & suffering and property damage.

          https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/cyclist-safety/power-assisted-bicycles

          A motorised bicycle is not classed as a bicycle if:
          the motor is the primary source of power
          the motor's power output exceeds 200 watts (whether or not the motor is operating).

          Pedalec:
          maximum power of 250 watts, with a safeguard allowing for power assistance only when the bicycle is travelling at less than 25km/h and the rider is pedaling.

          so as long as the power is under 200w, it's a bike

          if its over 200w and under 250 but has a safeguard its a Pedalec.

          anymore power or no safeguard its a motorbike and falls under the same regulation as motorbikes.

          Copenhagen Wheel:
          250 watts for the EU market (and Aus), 350 watts in the USA
          only provides power when peddling (no manual accelerator)
          so it falls under the Pedalc rules- ie the same rules as non-power assisted bikes

          Last edited 06/09/16 12:33 pm

            Thanks for the extra info. I wasn't aware the Copenhagen Wheel folks had added a torque sensor and therefore, now qualified as a true pedelec solution! This is great news! I've amended my misguided and misinformed original post.

    I still don't like the idea of powering the front wheel.

    The windage issue sounds like a potential game-breaker.
    Is the windage of a passing heavy truck enough to render this life-threatening?

    Perhaps if the author has problems getting up the gentle slope of NYC bridges, he could adopt some other ground breaking new bicycle hill climbing technology, like having more than one gear on his bike.

    http://dillengerelectricbikes.com.au/electric-bike-kits/best-sellers/street-legal-electric-bike-kit-samsung-power-13ah-by-dillenger.html
    Just got one of these Street Legal kits to upgrade my existing bike, $900AUD with free shipping from QLD. I didn't want to store/own 2 bikes, hence the upgrade was perfect.
    Simple to install, & having the battery in the frame is more balanced than having everything in the whell.
    Great so far!

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