This new ebike is reinventing the wheel, but the obvious question is – why?

This eye-catching ebike offers 750 watts of power, about 500 watt-hours of battery, a long list of neat gadgetry and an impossible-looking pair of hubless wheels you can poke your arm right through. We’d urge caution when it comes to buying one, though.

“Spokes are so last year,” says Seattle’s Beno, a company name short for “be innovative.” Well, spokes have been the last 4,000 years at least. They were one of the key achievements in the invention of the wheel, a device you may have heard of, and a pretty decent innovation themselves. Spokes do a terrific job of strengthening and stabilizing a wheel while keeping it lightweight. They’re resistant to shocks from all directions and allow a wheel to be pulled back into shape if it suffers a slight deformity.

Look closely at the tires here; without a traditional rim, Beno has had to poke the inflation valves right through the rubber sidewall of the bike’s Kenda hoops. Both front and rear wheel mounts essentially need to be single-sided, or else you wouldn’t be able to change the tires without disassembling the thing. We’re interested to know what the process of changing a tire is like, too; you can’t just pull an axle to get the wheel off.

Still, to the credit of the team, they do appear to have solved all these problems and designed a bike that works without spokes. But you’re making some big tradeoffs for the sake of grabbing people’s attention. The company says it’s stress-tested those wheels up to 265 lb (120 kg) of weight – but would you take this bike over bumps at any kind of speed, especially in the absence of suspension? Would you trust it to get you to work every day for a year?

It’s telling that all the riding in the Indiegogo video is slow and careful. We wonder how much lateral wheel wobble needed to be cut; surely even steering the thing puts some torque on that gaping rim. We’re interested to know how much rolling resistance these hubless wheels add into the mix – the team says range averages around 37 miles (60 km), which doesn’t seem bad for the battery size. We also wonder how practical people will find a single-speed ebike, and how much of a step backwards those rim-mounted brakes will be compared to a typical disc setup.

It can certainly not be accused of lacking technology. Along with the long list of wheel-based problems the Beno team has had to deal with, they have taken on the task of making this one of the most gadget-packed bikes on the market as well.

There’s a built in wheel lock, out of reach of bolt cutters, there in the frame, which is locked and unlocked by a fingerprint sensor. Great idea. There are anti-theft sensors and GPS tracking to protect your investment. Outstanding! There’s a retractable, hidden kickstand, which is nice. A phone cradle turns your smartphone into the dash, which we’re neither here nor there about.

The lights are interesting. Because the inner rim of this bike essentially stays still while the tire assembly rotates around it, Beno has been able to fit “autonomous” LED lighting to the front and rear wheels in the form of a low-slung headlight, brake lights and even rear indicators. These turn themselves on automatically as the ambient light gets low.

There’s no question, this bike would be an arresting sight rolling down the street. And the early-bird pricing is impressive at US$1,999 a unit; that’d be pretty dang decent for a regular ebike with those tech goodies built in, let alone a machine for which so many new designs are needed and for which so many off-the-shelf parts won’t fit.

We also have some nagging doubts about whether this company is trustworthy, particularly given that the last hubless bike we covered with lights in the rims – the Cyclotron of 2016 – took nearly US$200 grand’s worth of customers’ hard-earned on Kickstarter before disappearing into thin air and leaving nothing but a trail of tears in the comments section.

Is Beno somehow related? There’s no smoking gun to suggest so. But there’s not much on Beno’s Indiegogo page to give us peace of mind either. None of the team members are presented with surnames we can link to a real person, although CEO “Alec” did bravely throw himself to the wolves in a highly skeptical Reddit thread to defend the company’s honor a couple of weeks ago.

And to be fair there’s nothing necessarily shady about having a headquarters in Seattle but a registered business address in a giant anonymous box of a building in the well-known tax haven of Delaware. As Cycling Addicts points out, some 250 other companies have the same address. It’s a legal way to dodge state taxes. Likewise, there’s nothing at all inherently bogus in the idea of manufacturing and prototyping in Penang, Malaysia.

So we’d simply say this: you’re looking at an attractive, but likely impractical, product that appears to be going for an extremely low price given the design and tech involved, from a company that seems to have popped up out of nowhere.

We certainly don’t want to lay a steamer on a young team’s genuine efforts, if that’s what they are – and genuine time and effort have certainly been spent to develop a prototype that even looks like it works in the video. It’s certainly an innovative machine, even if the central innovation sacrifices utility for cosmetics. But we’d say Beno can definitely do more to inspire trust in a world where people have already lost their shirts over these kinds of crowdfunded products.

We look forward to seeing how this one develops; at the time of writing, the Reevo has pulled in nearly half a million US dollars, smashing its fundraising target nine times over. So we’ll be finding out one way or the other in time.

The team’s pitch video can be viewed below.

By Loz Blain

From New Atlas

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