FlyKly Smart Wheel is a Kickstarter project that wants to turn your boring old pedal bike into a sneakily pedal-assisted electro-bike by sticking an electric motor in the back wheel. Or, more specifically, by replacing your old geared (or non-geared) back wheel with its Smart Wheel, and adding an app into the mix to control the speed. The app is also used for locking and unlocking the smart wheel (and therefore the bike), and GPS tracking in case of theft.
FlyKly’s N.Y.-based creators say the Smart Wheel is compatible with “practically any bicycle that can fit a 29″ or a 26″ wheel on the fork of its frame” — and claim the replacement process is pretty straightforward, albeit, unless you’re swapping out a brand new bike, you should be prepared to get caked with bike oil while you do the switch. The FlyKly replaces the wheel that holds gears (unless you had a fixie) with an app-controlled motor that replaces the function of gears by helping you pedal up hills or accelerate along on the flat.
A FlyKly-augmented bike can apparently go up to 20 mph (25 km/h) for a 30 miles (50 km) range on a full charge before its 36V lithium batteries need juicing up. That process takes two to three hours by plugging it into a wall socket. Alternative options for charging the battery are your own pedal power (by turning the motor off), riding downhill, or going above the desired speed.
The system uses your smartphone as the interface for users to set their desired top speed — in the FlyKly app. Once the cyclists starts pedalling the motor accelerates to that speed, and then they get to cruise along until they wish to slow down or the battery gives out. The motor also cuts out if you stop pedalling.
Other users for the app include social options for sharing a ride route with friends, and for tracking the location of the Smart Wheel via GPS. The FlyKly app also monitors the components inside the wheel so it can warn the user when somethings needs replacing.
FlyKly’s full system also includes a smartphone mount/holder — so you can access the in-app speed dial. This mount doubles as an LED Smart Light for night riding, and can also be used to charge the phone via USB while you’re riding along (using a dynamo generator).
FlyKly is not the first analogue to e-bike conversion kit to take to Kickstarter. Rubbee’s bike converting electric drive also springs to mind, although their approach was slightly off centre compared to FlyKly. Rubbee sited their motor on the back of the bike where it could touch and therefore spin the back wheel, whereas FlyKly replaces the standard back wheel and sticks its motor at the centre.
A key consideration of all e-bike conversion kits is price — Rubbee’s circa $1,240 price tag is a hefty obstacle to uptake, especially when you consider you still have to factor in the cost of the bike as well. It may be clever, but it ain’t cheap.
FlyKly is not as expensive — the early bird discount price of $550 is sold out, so it now costs at least $590 to Kickstarter backers — but it’s still relatively pricey for an add-on gadget with a battery life expectancy of 1,000 charges.
Still, FlyKly’s lightweight (it adds 4kg to your ride), low hassle (once you’ve replaced your dumb wheel for the smart one, that is) and relatively low cost approach to converting a traditional bike into an e-bike looks like an attractive mix, helped by the minimalist look of the wheel itself.
The Kickstarter project has already garnered more than $81,000 of its $100,000 funding goal with 39 days left to run so FlyKly’s makers are clearly onto something. If, as is looking highly likely, they hit their funding goal, they are aiming to ship to backers next May.