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Capitol Hill company tries to take the hills out of riding

I wrote a story for Capitol Hill Seattle about Clean Republic, a company based out of a garage near the top of the Interlaken Blvd hill that makes electric front wheels to fit any bicycle. They will be at the Seattle Bike Expo this weekend if you want to check them out.

Seattle can paint more bike lanes on the streets, but it is not likely to flatten any more of its hills. To some people who are interested in riding a bicycle to get around, the city’s geography is a deterrent. But one company headquartered in a garage on Capitol Hill has created a bike wheel they hope will make huffing and puffing up a hill history.

It’s called the Hill Topper. It’s an electric bicycle wheel that replaces the front wheel of any bicycle. Press a button on your handlebars and you get a boost of power. Let go, and your bike goes back to full human power.

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“The point is not to change the way you ride your bike, it just takes the crappy part out of your ride,” said Clean Republic CEO and Co-Founder Michael Shope, who grew up near Stevens Elementary in the house just across the back yard from Clean Republic’s sun-powered headquarters. But Shope is not an avid cyclist, he’s an engineer.

“I came from the battery side, not from the bike side,” he said. After college in North Dakota, he knew he wanted to work with renewable energy in some way, and he saw a void in the American electric bike market.

“There was a vacuum in the US even though everyone thought they were cool,” he said. “We thought everyone else’s designs sucked.”

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3 responses to “Capitol Hill company tries to take the hills out of riding”

  1. Reminds me of the Copenhagen wheel concept that’s been around for a year or two. Hopefully they’ll actually get around to producing these, at a more affordable cost. Unlike the copenhagen guys.


  2. Already in production. Not high-concept, just a smaller planetary-geared electric front hub with a lithium battery and simple velcro-on push-button to use. Cheaper by far than other lithium-front-hub solutions, when you buy the Pro Pack and build the wheel yourself or pay a mechanic $60 to do it for you.

    We have one, and it’s been on our xtracycle and MADSEN so far. Futsy to install with our MADSEN disc brake, but now it works and we love it. Makes a 2-kid plus groceries load handle like a road bike, and does indeed flatten the hills. You’ll still need to stand and grind on the really steep stuff, and you still get exercise … but you can choose less sweat, higher speed, longer distance, or hillier routes with this.

    We’ll be rocking it at the Fashion Show tomorrow … nothing says high style like a velcro’d on e-assist.

  3. […] Hill-based Clean Republic makes an easy-to-install electric front wheel they call the Hill Topper (a brilliant name if you ask me) that has become very popular. Electric […]

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