Putting the Pedal to the Metal: Innovations in Smart Biking

LED headlights, turn-by-turn navigation and Bluetooth capability make for more enjoyable, safer rides.

By on October 10, 2014

While its original inventor is hard to pinpoint, the modern bicycle — which is defined as a two-wheeled, pedal-propelled vehicle with handlebars for steering  — hasn’t changed much since its introduction to the U.S. in the mid-to-late 19th century. But the advent of smart bikes and smart bike accessories is changing –  and fast. These sleek, smartphone-friendly cycles are providing riders with technology that helps make traveling easier, safer and a lot more fun.

The Smart E-Bike, for example, is outfitted with an electric motor that makes heavy pedaling a thing of the past. Riders can go faster, travel longer distances and enjoy their journey with ease. The power-driven bike is also equipped with a carbon belt drive (which, as Smart points out, won’t tear your pants like chains sometimes do), built-in front and back lights, and a USB port to charge your phone and add navigation capability.

But a bike doesn’t need a motor to be brainy. The Samsung Smart Bike isn’t motorized, but it does have plenty of other electronic features, which are all controllable from a Samsung smartphone plugged in to a handle-mounted console. These include a rear-facing camera that transmits real-time video of what’s going on behind the vehicle, as well as lasers in the front which create a virtual bike lane that comes on when it gets dark. The aluminum frame is also smart — it’s crafted to soften the turbulence caused by uneven concrete streets.

Then there’s the Kickstarter-funded Vanhawks’ Valour, which credits itself as being the “The world’s first connected bike for the urban community.” It’s compatible with iOS, Android and Pebble, and, when synced with a special app, provides riders with an easy-to-follow navigation system (LED lights on the handlebars indicate when and which way to turn), records metrics such as speed, distance, calories burned and time, and gathers information about riders’ most common routes.

It’s also equipped with safety features like blind spot detection sensors, which know when another vehicle has gotten too close and alerts the rider by sending a vibration to the handlebars. It’s also self-charging — one hour of pedaling is enough to power the Valour in full.

For those not wanting to part with the ride they already have, there are accessories that can bring an ordinary bike up to smart-cycle snuff. Bike+ from Wi-MM, a participant of Verizon’s Innovation Program, developed the first cloud-enabled platform for bike performance analytics and theft protection. The Hammerhead clip, which is now in production after raising its crowd-funded goal, adds navigation functionality to regular bikes. Helios makes connected handlebars that feature GPS tracking, a headlight comparable to that of a car, rear LED blinkers and more. And FlyKly has created a smart rear wheel that connects to smartphones via Bluetooth and features pedal assist capabilities for smoother and faster rides.

All of these new technologies help make for safer travels and efficient alternatives to daily car commutes. Whether they’re electrically charged or pedal-propelled, these smart vehicles have the potential to significantly reshape the bicycle marketplace for the first time in close to 150 years.

Tags: Cycling, Smart E-Bike, Samsung Smart Bike, Kickstarter, Vanhawks Valour, Bike+, Hammerhead, Verizon Innovation Program