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Superpedestrian’s wheel gives bikers a boost

The Copenhagen Wheel adds power to the work a rider is already doing.

AP/File

The Copenhagen Wheel adds power to the work a rider is already doing.

Bicycle commuting is a great way to keep in shape, but pedaling up a steep hill on the way to the office may be a bit more exercise than you want before the workday begins.

Assaf Biderman

AP/File

Assaf Biderman

Enter the battery-powered Copenhagen Wheel from Cambridge startup Superpedestrian, which turns almost any standard bike into a hybrid e-bike. The Copenhagen Wheel was developed at MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory, designed to replace a bicycle’s regular rear wheel. It kicks in when a rider needs a boost — like on that incline before the office.

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“How many of us have bikes in the garage that we walk past on the way to the car?” said Superpedestrian founder Assaf Biderman. “People don’t want to arrive to work sweaty. Overcoming this problem with a motor is kind of an obvious thing.”

The idea is not to turn a bicycle into a motorcycle. The Copenhagen Wheel adds power to the work a rider is already doing. The wheel monitors a rider’s output and can be programmed to turn on the juice when the wattage dips below a threshold.

The rest of the time, it functions just like any other bike wheel. But it quietly captures and stores energy during gliding and braking.

With a top speed of 20 miles per hour, the Copenhagen Wheel is good for 1,000 charging cycles.

At $799, it is no cheap ride. But the price includes additional high-tech features, such as a wireless connection to a smartphone app that lets riders track their routes and lock their bikes. The wheel is also less expensive than fully electric bicycles, which can cost thousands of dollars.

After planning to deliver its first Copenhagen wheels this spring, Superpedestrian said it received several thousand preorders on its website — many more than expected. Now it’s in the final stages of establishing a production line to meet the demand and put wheels on the road in the near future.

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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