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A ‘revolution’ in cycle wheel design

11 February 2011

Thanks to their small dimensions, low weight and excellent running accuracy, Kaydon Reali-Slim bearings have proved the best choice for a high-tech bicycle wheel that, in every sense of the word, is ‘revolutionary’. Called the Copenhagen Wheel (a name derived from the fact that it was launched at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference), the development enables a cyclist to store energy from braking and use it to provide an extra boost when overtaking or on tough gradients. Using sensors and a wireless connection to an iPhone on the handlebars, it can also monitor speed, direction, traffic conditions, as well as collect data on air pollution.

A joint project undertaken by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Italian technical partner Ducati Energia, the first goals of the Copenhagen Wheel are to promote cycling by extending the distance people can cover and making cycling less exertive.

The wheel uses a technology similar to the kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) that have radically changed Formula One racing in recent years, as Professor Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab explains.

“The bike contains all you need so that no sensors or additional electronics need to be added to the frame; an existing bike can be retrofitted with the blink of an eye. When you pedal forward the motor supplements your torque. When you pedal backwards to brake, the motor starts regenerating electric energy while reducing your speed.”

As space is very tight in the drive system, Ducati Energia chose Kaydon Reali-Slim thin-section radial bearings for the prototype, which is currently in the final stages of testing. The Copenhagen Wheel is expected to go into production in June 2011 with a price comparable to that of a standard electric bike.

While this project may be unique, the application is fairly typical for the Reali-Slim bearing, which easily meets criteria for compactness, low weight and high performance. The bearings are available in the UK from the company’s distributor, R. A. Rodriguez.

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