More people are commuting via bicycle than ever before, and innovators are responding with new tech to help riders get around. Upgrades are available for bars, wheels, and everything in between. Those who can afford it may even want to upgrade their whole bike. 2015 is a great time to be a commuter.
Safety first: a helmet is an essential piece of commuter gear (even if it’s not always worn). Just because not every rider wears a Lycra suit in matching fluorescent colors to ride doesn’t mean they want to completely sacrifice their looks. Acknowledging this, Closca introduced its collapsible or “foldable” helmet, the Fuga. Available in black or white, the Fuga is constructed of three concentric rings that fold in somewhat like those plastic cups from the 80s, only more fashionable.
For the majority of riders, fashion is secondary to getting from A to B, and that’s where the plethora of cycling-specific GPS systems come in.
The Hammerhead is the newcomer to the bicycle GPS arena. It’s a separate device that eschews the traditional GPS methods: It doesn’t require headphones for disembodied voice directions, nor does it rely on text. Instead, it works in conjunction with its downloadable smartphone app and uses cleverly designed light signals to indicate turns on the bike-mounted Hammerhead. In addition, riders can use routes from handy apps like Strava and MapMyRide instead of relying on yet another app. The mount even works on a variety of bike share bicycles, like CityBikes in New York.
smrtGRiPS (in development)
Smart Grips (or smrtGRiPs, though why exactly they’d spell something like that we’re not sure) are another alternative to GPS devices that pull riders’ eyes from the road. They are essentially long bar-end plugs that work in conjunction with your favorite map app — for many, that’s Google Maps, as shown in SmrtGrips advertising video.
The grips vibrate and beep to guide riders along their GPS-selected route. Sadly, their Indiegogo campaign didn’t “go,” so we’re still waiting to find out when or if these will be available for purchase. The grips’ length made this writer wonder if they would fit in bullhorn or drop bars. In addition, photos show a USB port in the inside end of the grip; do they need to be removed regularly to charge or sync with riders’ smartphones?
Further, while they purport to offer “connected biking,” — meaning community-generated info about bike lanes and nearby friends for example — it’s unclear how riders receive this info without pulling out their smartphones, the very act devices of this nature are designed to avoid. Nonetheless a great idea, more about the smart grips will hopefully be revealed later in 2015.
These bars are like the Smart Grips, except the entire bars are one piece of sleek tech. Conceived as a light system for bicycles, Helios bars incorporate haptic feedback for turn-by-turn directions, have turn-indicators with rear-facing bar-end lights, and come with a built-in headlight. This saves the hassle of removing lights when parked to prevent them getting stolen, and lessens the amount of commuter gear riders need to lug around.
Helios bars also use Google Maps for seamless navigation via Bluetooth connection to the rider’s smartphone. And they have speedometer functionality, as the lights can be tuned to display colors based on the bike’s speed — that sets them apart, along with the fact that they are available to order, with planned shipping dates in the second quarter of 2015. Weighing in at between 610 and 810 grams, they may be too heavy for weight weenies out there (a pair of decent aluminum drop bars should weigh no more than 300 grams, and that’s generous), but the aluminum Helios smart bars offer a great combination of features in a well-designed, streamlined package.
Schwinn’s CycleNav GPS system adds anti-theft tracking to a combination of the best features of apps like Strava and MapMyRide — though it does not directly tie-in with those apps like the Hammerhead. Riders can plot their own routes turn-by-turn, participate in competitive challenges that track their times, and compare their rides with others’ but like the Hammerhead, it does require the purchase of the GPS unit itself.
BikeSpike ($129 coming soon)
Yes, it’s true: Bikes occasionally get stolen, even when properly locked. The BikeSpike aims to combat pesky thieves by designing ride-tracking and anti-theft features into a nondescript black device that can be screwed onto your bottle cage mounts and hidden with their custom carbon water bottle cage. The unobservant thief won’t even know it’s there. For these services to work, interested buyers need to subscribe to a monthly data plan — small price to pay to keep your wheels.
Connected Cycle (in development)
Connected Cycle is competing in the same arena as the BikeSpike guys by offering riders similar options, but in pedals that can attach to almost any bike. Their crowd-sourcing campaign is expected to start at Indiegogo. The pedals are also a ride-tracker that charges by the very act of pedaling, a feature sure to be the envy of GPS devices everywhere. The BikeSpike and Connected Pedals are great options for clandestine bike protection since they are not as obvious as handlebar-mounted tech. Unfortunately, the pedals are not yet available for purchase, but Digital Trends will keep readers up to date.
Stromer ST2 ($6,990)
If CycleNav’s large and obvious contraption seems like a half-measure in the face of the two stealthy newcomers, and if you’re in the market for a new bike anyway, check out the new Stromer ST2, an electric bike with more built-in tech than last year’s desktop computer.
The frame itself on this bike is smart: The Omni interface features a display on the top tube that shows battery power and speed, and even flashes “Theft!” and locks the motor if the alert is turned on. E-bikes are a 2015 highlight for both novices and experts for more than the security provided by built-in GPS. Electric bikes come with motors that give a little bit of aid where it’s needed. In some models, pedaling recharges the battery, but with the ST2, pedaling assists speed and riders can top out faster than 20 mph.
Denny Bicycle (in development)
Another e-assist bike, the Denny won the Bike Design Project competition
. Conceived by Teague and Sizemore riders in Seattle, the Denny features automatic shifting, handlebars that are removable and double as a bike lock, integrated front storage, built-in front running lights and turn signals, and a minimal fender design to keep that annoying brown streak of road mud off riders’ backs on rainy days. Thank goodness the battery is removable to make charging a breeze. This combination of 2015’s best bike tech of is due out from Fuji later this year.
Tannus Tyres ($73)
The last thing any rider needs when they’re flying along at the local speed limit is to run over something sharp and end up with a flat tire. Tannus has done away with that worry by introducing a solid tire. Made from Aither, their proprietary material, Tannus Tyres are immune to punctures, can be mounted on standard clincher rims, and the 23c has a listed weight of 380 grams, about as much as the standard tire-tube-rim tape combination. They even come in up to 13 colors.