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It is not easy to reinvent the wheel, but researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are giving it their best shot.
The Senseable City Laboratory at M.I.T. has designed a wheel that captures the kinetic energy released when a rider brakes and saves it for when the rider needs a boost. While technically sound, the wheel’s true challenge may be in winning over cyclists. For centuries, bikes have been beloved for their simplicity, not their bells and whistles.
But, said Carlo Ratti, the laboratory’s director, “biking can become even more effective than what it was.” What the lab is working on, he said, is “Biking 2.0.”
The new wheel uses a kinetic energy recovery system, the same technology used by hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, to harvest otherwise wasted energy when a cyclist brakes or speeds down a hill. With that energy, it charges up a battery inside the wheel’s hub.
This is some wild stuff. While part of me cries, “Boo! Pure cycling!”, the other part of me wonders if this is any less “pure” than gears and triple chain rings.
And I am not kidding. I replaced a spoke today, did a little truing, and it’s very very tempting to go ride in the storm. But I think I’ll walk to the grocery store and play in puddles on foot instead today.
During the developments of the cycling tragedy in Baltimore last week, I found myself needing something else to think about. I had been sick (cold and fever) and home and technically on vacation, so I decided after finishing what work I had to do from home (that I missed earlier that week) to see how well I really trued my wheels last week. With it being so late and my being so tired, I wondered if I really did a good job.
The sound that I thought was my rim hitting my brake pads before I trued them was still present. I took off the tire and tube and put everything on my truing stand. Noise was still there. It was almost like a scraping sound. Quick fix: might be the dork disc (Zack had this problem last year). Took off the cassette and dork disc, and the sound was still there. I thought it might be my hubs or axle. I opened everything up, re-adjusted the hubs, got extremely messy. Noise was still there. I didn’t feel like overhauling my hub and even less so when I realized the front hub was making the same sound. These are new wheels, and I haven’t gotten to ride in any serious weather yet. So I trued the wheel again (not leaving well enough alone) and put everything back together.
Then that night, it hit me. It was the rubber seals rubbing the hub body. Had to be. So I took Mr. Wheel off again and removed the cassette and both rubber seals. The noise was gone. I even asked the ever patient Eleanor R/Frankie to lend her ears. She agreed. I put the seals back on, and the noise was back. BINGO! Specifically, it was the seal that went into the body of the freehub. I wasted two and half hours during a nice summer afternoon, when I could have been watching a movie or reading or taking a walk on my vacation.
So, if your hubs are making a noise, rule out the rubber seals (if you have them) before you tear everything apart like I did. Unless you like tearing things apart. Which I do, so I guess that day last week wasn’t exactly a waste at all.