Love them or curse at them as they fly by the morning gridlock on the shoulder, cyclists are on the rise in American cities. Whether to save cash on gas and parking, get more exercise, or outgreen the neighbor’s Prius, more and more people are choosing to bike rather than drive. But unless you’re a fixed-gear aficionado who sneers at technology, going on two wheels doesn’t have to be a primitive affair. Any number of gadgets can help make cycling safer, easier, or just more fun. Here are a few of our favorite techie gadgets for cyclists this holiday season.
MonkeyLight M232 ($60)
Some bike lights will make sure drivers notice you, and some lights will make sure everyone notices you. MonkeyLight’s debatably obnoxious M232 light definitely falls into the latter category. Using an array of 32 multicolor LEDs flicking on and off thousands of times per second, it weaves illuminated images into your spokes as you pedal, from psychedelic patterns to skulls, hearts and lighting bolts.
Headphones aren’t a great way to rock out and ride: While you’re nodding along to Gary Numan’s Cars on your morning commute, you’re not hearing the one that’s about to send you somersaulting over its hood. Scosche’s BoomBottle lets you listen to music without losing sense of your surroundings – just drop it in your water bottle cage, connect your phone via Bluetooth, and let the whole neighborhood know you start the morning with Wu-Tang.
Castelli CW 3.1 gloves ($70)
You probably shouldn’t be one-handing your iPhone to answer a text while you careen through traffic on the way home from work … but you do, so at least get a pair of gloves that work with a touchscreen. Castelli’s CW 3.1 offer wind protection and light insulation, but they’re still thin enough so that you have the dexterity to grip, shift and text safely. At the curb, of course.
LifeProof nuud case with Bike + Bar mount ($130 together)
A smartphone doesn’t make a great bike computer, but you can still use it to navigate as you ride, watch those texts roll in, or you know, just change up the music on your BoomBottle speaker. LifeProof’s clever nuud case makes your phone totally waterproof without covering the screen with any irritating protectors, and it snaps right into the separate Bike + Bar mount to hitch a ride on your handlebars.
Whether you’re stranded on the side of a country road in a downpour, or you just need to install some of the other accessories on this list in your garage, you’re going to need tools at the ready. Topeak’s Alien II has no less than 26 of them, from all the essential hex wrenches to a knife, tire levers, and even the elusive T25 Torx bit. Better yet, it all packs down into a tiny, lightweight tool you have no excuse not to bring on your next ride.
GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition ($400)
You don’t have to go careening down a narrow spine of rock in Utah on a mountain bike to make GoPro video worth watching. As it turns out even routine commutes and twisting mountain races make pretty good POV videos. And if you happen to get nailed by a car in the process, you have evidence!
Any tail light can meekly blink a few LEDs at drivers and hope they notice, but this one goes a step above – or below if you want to get literal. A pair of lasers project parallel red lines onto the asphalt below you, giving drivers an impossible-to-miss cue that they’re sharing space with an unboxed human at 30 miles an hour.
Feeling the wind in your hair as you breeze down a hill at 40 mph on a bike can be an exhilarating experience – and potentially a fatal one if you miss that pothole up ahead. But you can have both safety and freedom. Hovding’s nigh-miraculous “invisible helmet” is exactly what its futuristic premise alludes to: a helmet that doesn’t cover your head. Instead, you wear a scarf-like collar containing an inflatable airbag, which puffs open in milliseconds as soon as sensors detect your unsheltered skull flinging toward pavement.
Hand signals are all well and nice, but they don’t do you much good if the drivers around you don’t know how to interpret them. (Have you looked at some of these people? They don’t.) These LED-illuminated BlinkerGrips act as side markers when you’re not turning, then begin flashing with the press of a thumb button to make your intention to turn crystal clear. They use standard AAA batteries, and installation is as simple as replacing your existing grips.
Hammerhead isn’t out just yet, but we think it’s one of the few gadgets so cool that any patient cyclist would be excited just to have one on preorder this holiday season. Using the GPS in your smartphone, the Hammerhead tells you how to get where you’re going with a series of simple LED signals. It’s less distracting, keeps your phone safely in your pocket, and damn cool. There’s also an LED headlamp built in, and the app has social features to make sharing the best rides that much easier.