Why reinvent the wheel? Because sometimes it makes for a better bike. Loopwheels are a completely new type of bicycle wheel, designed with a unique built-in suspension that makes for a delightfully smooth ride. Instead of spokes, as on a traditional bicycle wheel, the Loopwheels have three loop-shaped springs that allow the wheel to absorb the vibrations and bumps most riders are accustomed to feeling.
The Loopwheels’ spring system between the hub and the rim cushions the rider from potholes and bumps in the road. It also reduces road noise by absorbing it, thereby reducing vibration through the frame—and into the rider’s arms and body. Because the suspension is inside the wheel, you don’t need fat tires to make the ride nicer. Instead, you can use high-pressure or puncture-resistant tires.
So how does it work? Well, a suspension fork (spoke suspension) only works on one plane. The Loopwheels on the other hand, provide what Loopwheels call, “tangential suspension.” Basically, they work in every direction, according to Loopwheels.com. So, they respond “to a force hit head-on in the same way as they do to a force from above or below.” This gives riders a smooth ride, instead of the lumpy, vibrating ride they are used to.
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Founder Sam Pearce describes his design idea: “In 2007 my idea of a wheel with tangential suspension was born when I was sitting at Eindhoven airport waiting for a flight. I saw a mother pushing her child in a buggy. The front wheels hit a slight kerb and the child jolted forward because of the impact. I asked myself why a wheel couldn’t have suspension inside it, so it would soften an impact from any direction. I sketched the idea in my notebook, got on my flight, and didn’t think much more about it for a couple of years.”
Loopwheels are currently available in a 20-inch size for bikes and a larger size for wheelchairs. They are working on 26- and 29-inch wheels for bicycles. They are currently available as a retrofit for Dahon or Tern foldingbikes and have a 100mm front fork for the changeover. The wheels themselves cost $462 US while a Loopwheels folding bike will set you back $1,493.
Because of the similarities between bicycle wheels and wheelchair wheels, it made sense for the Loopwheels team to look at developing a smoother wheelchair ride. To that end, they just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising close to $33,000 toward their shock-absorbing wheelchairs.
Images via Loopwheels