PRODUCT TEST: GEOORBITAL WHEEL
The easiest & cheapest way to make an e-bike?
There are a few bolt-on options out there for turning a traditional bike into an electric one. Some are sophisticated and require a bike shop to install. Then there’s the GeoOrbital wheel, which is wholly unique and is an entirely self-sufficient, powered front wheel.
The brushless DC motor is located internally, and instead of the hub motor being attached to the rim via spokes, the motor and battery are suspended in the center of the wheel by a triangular-shaped, aluminum uni-body assembly with two small wheels and an outdrive that runs against the inside of the rim and provides the drive.
The 700c wheel rolls in at about 21 pounds (the 26-inch wheel weighs 4 pounds less); in other words, the GeoOrbital wheel is very heavy! It can make it difficult to maneuver the bike up and down stairs if you have to. The GeoOrbital uses a standard quick-release skewer, so unless you have a bolted-on wheel, it installs very easily and without any tools. If you have disc brakes, you’ll have to wait a few months until GeoOrbital releases their disc version of the wheel or a disc adapter. We’re told that the disc-specific wheel is in the works.
Remove your old front wheel, insert the GeoOrbital wheel, and tighten it down and lock it on. There are two torque bars that you place against the back of your fork that strap on with two heavy-duty rubber straps. Those straps can take some serious strength to lock on, even though they don’t have to be particularly tight. The only other thing to do is attach the thumb throttle to whichever side of the handlebars you prefer using the brilliantly designed clamp-on. No tools are required for any part of it.
We were surprised to find that the GeoOrbital’s tire is solid. This makes good sense to provide a sturdy-enough platform to withstand the torque forces, which would most likely rip the valve stem off in the first third of a revolution. Sure, you’ll never get a flat, but if you do wear out the tire, you’ll have to order a new one from the company.
Installation is easy, and so is riding the retro-fitted bike. Turn the key to the on position, push the on button on the throttle, and three lights light up showing a full charge. It was funny to ride one of our well-worn pedal bikes that we’ve ridden many times before, but now with power. The motor is powerful, but takeoff is smooth. It’s throttle only, so pedal assist only comes from actual pedaling; you have to modulate the motor and your legs completely separately. We found ourselves using the throttle to take off from stops, then pedaling normally, only using the throttle on hills.
The acceleration is gradual, but you can pick up speed. We maxed out at 18 mph, but that speed took two blocks to reach. Range is about what the company claims, about 12 miles. That’s definitely enough to cover most commutes. Ride quality is compromised slightly from the solid tire and heavy weight. Going over bumps can be painful if you don’t have a suspension fork.
TWO BIKES IN ONE
For the asking price of $995, the GeoOrbital could be a less expensive solution for someone who doesn’t want to buy separate bikes so as to have the option of an electric-assist or non-assist ride.
There are two options on size, either 26 inches or 700c, in either Boston Silver or Bounce Black. GeoOrbital also makes some cool accessories. There’s a travel bag, spare battery ($239), charger and, the coolest one of all, the mini Penny bike frame. It turns your GeoOrbital wheel into a mini Penny Farthing with a banana seat.
The one type of rider who would not appreciate the benefits of the GeoOrbital wheel would be that person who doesn’t want to have to answer endless questions, because this thing is an eye-catcher for sure! www.geoo.com
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