Softwheel-Fluent_suspension-wheel_Fluent_Main

First developed to smooth the ride of people confined to wheelchairs, Israeli-based SoftWheel has taken their in-wheels suspension concept and refined it for a wide of cyclists. By essentially isolating the bicycle rim from the hub with a set of three tunable shocks with hydraulic rebound damping, the Fluent bike wheel is said to deliver an unmatched level of comfort, while maintaining ride control and stability, and actually reducing energy lost when riding over obstacles and surface irregularities. Take a closer look at options for city and even e-bikes after the jump…

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Much like their wheelchair design has made it easier and more comfortable for users to get around in an urban environment, SoftWheel hopes the Fluent wheel can do the same thing for cyclists. The way they describe how the wheel absorbs shocks claims that they are especially effective at abrupt sharp edge obstacles like riding up and down stairs. Since the rim can variably move in the direction of each impact (as opposed to a typical fork which can only telescope up and down, or a rear suspension setup which is confined to the axle path determined by its layout), it is better suited to the wide range of actual impacts your normally encounter.

SoftWheel also claims that this movement measurably decrease the energy lost from suspension movement. Their simulated track testing equated these gains to 16.4% extra energy that was not lost in a traditional suspension system. That of course means saving energy for the rider, and results in faster rolling. We’ve seen conceptually similar solutions like the carbon leaf Loop Wheels without damping, and even a smaller amount of suspension built into Gokiso’s hubs, but these Fluent wheels are certainly more tech-heavy.

Softwheel-Fluent_suspension-wheel_rear Softwheel-Fluent_suspension-wheel_front

In addition to their solutions for wheelchairs and (Yes!) cars, SoftWheel has three versions for bikes. The premium wheelset is the disc brake Fluent HD setup designed for all around and even off-road riding, and available with either 27.5 or 29″ carbon rims. Its 3 shocks use an adjustable preload gas spring and hydraulic damping for 40mm of shock stroke. That isn’t the same as wheel travel due to the orientation of the shocks, so it’s not exactly clear how that translates to rim movement or really hoe it would compare to traditional suspension travel.

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They’ve also developed a more bullet-proof wheelset with 25mm of shock travel called Fluent B designed for urban bike share programs. It includes a dynamo front and an internally geared rear hub. Lastly, the Fluent E is an e-bike version with 40mm of stroke and an integrated proprietary rear hub motor.

Final pricing hasn’t been set, but it looks like the standard wheelset should run about $2000 when they are available sometime later this year. In each of the wheels they use tech called Adaptive Rigidity that seems to be an optimized suspension tune geared to “absorb the bumps that matter and stay rigid over the ones that don’t”. How that is achieved isn’t entirely clear, but is certainly a unique take on suspending a bike.

Softwheel.technology

30 COMMENTS

  1. I actually really like this design. I’m sure it’s heavy, but it also seems to keep lateral flex in check, and the idea of the suspension movement being able to travel in any direction necessary is fantastic.

      • How are the negative comments baseless? You can buy a “whole” full suspension bike for less than 2000 dollars these days. All that “stuff” and it’s not even 40mm of suspension travel? Adding weight and complexity to the wheels at this point in suspension development is extremely unnecessary. For the amount and quality of suspension possible with this design it would be lighter and much cheaper to use a softail or flex stay design let alone any of numerous proven technologies that are freely available. Heck a 29erPLUS wheel probably gives a better overall quality ride than this. How much is it going to cost to replace a gas spring or rim compared to a regular wheel, your dang sure not going to find any spares at your local shop when you run into trouble before a big ride. They claim they direct impact better than a traditional telescoping fork BUT each of their gas springs are at the exact same angle as a traditional telescoping fork. How many modern quality 27.5/29er frames come with quick releases on the rear end these days? And numerous “they claim” statistics are just BS until somebody verifies it. And then even “if” what they claim has merit, what are the trade-offs. Because you don’t just magically get free energy… Non of those are baseless comments. But they are all pretty negative… I could see if they had these for maybe 2-300 bucks you might find a market for people who would want to retrofit old 26er hardtails. And for sure there will be people who have the 2grand to blow just because they want to have people stare at them when they ride down the street. Otherwise I’m calling this a pretty lackluster idea.

        ON the flip side, being able retrofit older wheelchairs wass an awesome idea.

  2. Surprised at the baseless negativity this morning. Wait, no, I’m not. Maybe it’s not the simplest suspension solution, but a cool alternative when everything else is homogenizing.

  3. Let’s put as much weight in the wheels as we can! I would just love to have to accelerate all of that weight over and over again in stop-and-go city traffic. Woof! Talk about energy savings!

  4. Interesting. Would enjoy getting to try it out. Would not buy it.

    The fact that each shock is individually adjusted and tuned makes me wonder how difficult it would be to get them synced and the negative effects of them being out of whack with one another.

    • Isn’t this criticism true of the vast majority of front suspension systems on the market though? Other than a few crazy linkage equipped forks that never really caught on, compression of a suspension fork will steepen the head angle and shorten the wheelbase too.

  5. Maybe I’m wrong but wouldn’t the wheel react differently every time you hit the same obstacle depending on how the shocks are pointed?

  6. It’s an elaborate design and really shouldn’t warrant hate in itself, but it’s a questionable application for bicycles. This would be awesome in smaller city cars, perhaps.

  7. They didn’t even mention the rim profile, surface treatment or wind tunnel results. I mean come on! Call me when there’s an aero version.

    Or an arrow version–now sounds badass.

  8. Probably needs CX bike tyre clearances on the forks and stays while fitted with 700×23 tyres.
    Else the wheels/tyres will bottom out onto the frameset / fork crown on hard bumps wouldn’t it ??

  9. The reason why this is horrible:

    Each time the wheel revolves, you’re compressing “suspension”. This means that precious rider energy is being wasted, constantly. It’s kind of like the drag you get from soft, 5″ fat tires.

    That’s why you don’t want suspension between the ground and your hubs. Plus, many, many other reasons.

  10. This was clearly made by someone who has never had to get two carburetors to work simultaneously or two flutists.

    It will never be perfect, there will always be slight compromise. Now, we have three to contend with.

  11. Design concern: Compressing the suspension changes the center of the wheel. When the wheel is also rolling this means there needs to be a ‘handoff’ between the three struts. The result will be the translation of energy in to compressing the next strut which will slow the wheel.

  12. As Grande Inquisitor I decree from this day forth this site be renamed…BikeOrthodoxy.

    No new devices or components shall be allowed that deviate from accepted standards & practices.

    If god wanted a different wheel he wouldn’t have made them round to begin with. Louis IV was correct in closing the Patent office….all things worth being invented…were invented by the 17th century.

    Go forth with what my minions RockShox & Fox have created & do not question what you don’t understand.

  13. … At 1st look interesting concept… BUT!!
    Pricy => $2K for a set of wheels … hmmmm
    No review => let’s put them to the test in real life..
    Weight ??? => no comments

What do you think?