Have you ever wondered what hubless electric bikes are and how they work? If you’re a movie geek, I’m sure the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term “hubless bicycle” is an image of the futuristic motorcycles from Tron Legacy.
Well, while humans haven’t advanced to the point where we’re able to transform into vehicles, hubless electric motorcycles (like the Verge TS) or hubless wheels are in fact real. And recently a startup in Seattle Washington started manufacturing electric bikes with hubless wheels.
Beno Inc. (the name of the company) is set to start shipping its third batch of futuristic e-bikes to customers later this year. While a lot of bicycle enthusiasts are excited about this innovation, some bike users are not impressed by Beno’s invention and even believe what the company is promising is too good to be true.
In this article, we will answer some of the most asked questions about hubless spokeless bicycles. We will also take a deep dive into how hubless wheels work and find out if they are more efficient than regular wheels.
Is the hubless bike real
Beno’s Reevo is indeed real. The hubless electric bicycle was first teased on Indiegogo sometime around October 2020 and the company behind the product has managed to raise over $6 million in funding since the beginning of their campaign.
The bike, which is expected to ship to addresses in the US anytime soon, comes with a 750W Reevo electric-drive motor (more on this later in the article), spokeless tires, front & rear lights that come with light sensors, a 48V 10.5Ah removable lithium-ion battery, etc.
Currently, there isn’t much information about the bike and it hasn’t been reviewed by independent sources yet. However, you can rest assured that the Reevo and the concept behind it are real; hubless motorcycles have existed for more than a decade now.
What is a hubless e-bike
In general, a hubless (or spokeless) e-bike is a bicycle whose wheels have no spokes. The idea of hubless wheels had existed long before Beno decided to integrate its unique engineering into their futuristic-looking electric bike (hubless wheels were first invented in 1989 by Franco Sbarro).
How do hubless wheels work
In most cases, a hubless wheel system will consist of a wheel, a center ring, an outer ring (this is the part that stays bolted to the frame of the bike), a huge sprocket, two large circular bearings (one inserted into the other), and a belt drive.
Okay, so let’s break down the function of each piece mentioned above:
- The wheel (or rim) is the ring that supports the tire;
- The outer ring, as mentioned earlier, stays fixed to the bike or motorcycle’s frame. This piece does not rotate;
- The center ring attaches to the wheel to sort of create an extension that goes through the outer ring and connects to the sprocket;
- The circular bearings fit in-between the center ring and outer ring, ensuring that the center ring is able to rotate independently;
- The belt drive transfers motion from the motor (or engine) to the wheel (It doesn’t have to be a belt drive though. Belt drives are just used in most of the popular applications of this system. The whole idea is to transfer motion to the components in the wheel that spin);
- The sprocket, like in regular vehicles, rotates the rest of the wheel with power from the belt (or chain).
So, basically, the operation of a hubless wheel system goes like this; the bearings ensure that while a part of the entire wheel is anchored to the frame, another part can still go on rotating in the same system.
Centerless e-bikes can also be hub-driven. In a hub-driven hubless spokeless bicycle, the electric motor spins the bearings fitted into the outer ring. These bearings then transfer the rotational force from the motor onto the center ring which goes on to spin the wheel.
The example above is just one application of a hub-driven centerless wheel system. Engineers are always trying out new ways to transfer rotational force from a motor (or engine) to a rotatable ring within a hubless wheel system.
The only components that are consistent in all hubless wheel systems are circular bearings.
You see now that hubless wheels kind of work like regular wheels. They’re just a bit more complex than regular “hub” wheels.
How much does a hubless bike cost
Hubless electric bikes haven’t gone mainstream yet. When they eventually become popular, expect hubless e-bike prices to range between $2500 and $3500 per unit.
Currently, the only hubless electric bicycle available on the market is the Reevo and it costs just $2698. Beno’s premium package costs about $3190. This package includes one Reevo e-bike and all the necessary accessories and utilities users will need to enjoy safe and convenient rides on their bicycles.
Potential buyers also get a discount when they purchase more than one bike.
Are hubless wheels (without Spokes) more efficient
In most cases, the efficiency of a hubless wheel will depend on the type of drive system integrated within the wheel. For example, a “hub-driven” centerless electric bike is bound to be more efficient than an e-bike with a center hub-motor because its motor is closer to the outer rim and as such retains more of its centrifugal force.
As we all know, spokes transfer power from a bicycle or motorcycle’s hub to the rim and create a little drag while doing so. In a hubless system, the force is delivered in the perimeter of the wheel.
This is why hubless designs are believed to be able to generate more torque than regular hub-drive systems.
How does the Reevo hubless bike work
The Reevo’s drive system operates in a similar manner to the model I analyzed earlier in the article. However, instead of a chain or belt, Beno chose to use a series of gears to transfer motion to the Reevo’s rear wheel.
This works like a geared hub-drive system where the rotor spins a series of gears in its system which then rotate the wheel. One of the biggest advantages of this setup is that it provides an extra layer of security against bike theft (it doesn’t feature an automatic lock though)
Unlike other electric bicycles that can still be pushed along without electric power, the Reevo hubless e-bike comes with a wheel lock that once activated, locks the wheels in place. Now whoever’s trying to steal your bike can’t manually ride it or even get into its drivetrain to bypass it.
The bike is currently available in 750- and 250-Watt versions. The 750W version is designed for riders in the US and comes with both pedal and throttle-assist functionalities. This model can reportedly reach top speeds of 25 mph (40.2 kph) in its highest pedal-assist setting (PAS level 5).
The version that is designed for riders in EU nations comes with a 250-Watt motor propels the bike to a max speed of 25 kph (15.5 mph).
Reevo electric bike operation
Once turned on (after unboxing), riders can connect the Reevo hubless electric bicycle to their smartphones via an app. The app gives riders access to a lot of functions available on the bike, one of which includes setting a fingerprint lock.
The lock, once set, prevents anyone from being able to gain access into your bike’s electronic drive system. After registering your fingerprint, you can take your bike out for a spin.
The app also records riders’ speed, trip distance, battery consumption, etc. Riders can also set how much power they want the motor to deliver at any given time as well as tweak the sensitivity of the bike’s light sensor.
While the Reevo hubless e-bike doesn’t come with its own LCD device, there’s a phone mount attached to the bike’s handlebars where riders can place their phones and monitor their ride data.
While the Reevo’s unique design makes it an attractive e-bike, it’s worth noting that there are risks involved with investing one’s money in a project that hasn’t gone mainstream yet.
In 2016, a revolutionary company teased the “world’s most advanced hubless smart cycle”; The Cyclotron Bike. The company’s finished product was supposed to come with a 36V 10Ah lithium-ion battery and a 500W brushless DC motor.
However, production halted sometime around 2020 and the manufacturer has since ended their campaign on Indiegogo. They were, however, able to raise about $300,000 during the course of their campaign — money that hasn’t been returned to the people who invested in their project.
Now, I’m not saying that the same fate will befall Reevo investors, but this isn’t the first time we’re seeing an overly enthusiastic manufacturer propose an innovation that would “rock” the cycling industry. Beno claims to have started shipping Reevo e-bikes to customers, however, there are still no reviews of the bike from independent testers.
According to updates on their Indiegogo page, shipments to the United States should begin sometime in 2022. I would advise that riders who want to purchase this e-bike wait till trusted reviewers are able to get their hands on this product before investing their hard-earned money in it.