Far from bicycle doping on the Tour de France, there is no shortage of smart accessories to enhance your own ride. Introducing our top 10 most promising (and most successful) cycling prototypes.
There are many ways to ride through the city, from carbon fiber road bikes to cardboard wheelchairs, not to mention artisanal bamboo bikes, electric bikes, folding bikes, tandems, unicycles, tricycles, chainless disjointed bicycles… A bike is like a pair of shoes—no matter how pretty, the better the fit, the better you move. Therefore we recommend you choose the best bike for your ride… and then augment it. Here are the smartest prototypes to make your bike better.
Beeline: the single white arrow
First off, navigation. For those with a soft spot for simplicity, Beeline is the way to go—without the dictates of GPS and always-connected. Just tell it where you’re going on your smartphone, and it will point you in the general direction like a compass, so that you can be free to explore the many paths that lead there. Or specify and customize waypoints for a bit more guidance. Tap the screen to display the time, speed and battery levels; slip it in your pocket once you arrive. All the details of your journey will appear in the app.
Home base: London (UK)
Price: £99 ($130) including free international shipping
SmartHalo: the multicolored black box
While SmartHalo’s primary function is navigation, this mysterious black cylinder stuffed with sensors that attaches permanently to your handlebars is also a jack-of-all-trades… that communicates exclusively through multicolor LEDs and sounds. Like Beeline, SmartHalo can operate in compass mode, but it can also indicate turn-by-turn directions. Likewise, it tracks your activity in a dedicated app, while its display transforms into a chromatic speedometer. It has an integrated front light and alarm system, and blinks with a single blue dot if you receive a call or SMS en route. The hardware seems pretty tough, but as with all connected objects, time and user feedback will tell how well SmartHalo’s many software features evolve to meet expectations and demand.
Home base: Montreal (Canada)
Price: $149 including free international shipping, also available in Apple Stores in North America
I Lock It: the smart lock for bike sharing
If your main concern is preventing bike theft, I Lock It blasts a 110-decibel alarm if anyone tampers with it. However, as a smart lock connected to your phone, it presents the same risks as any other connected lock in the IoT age. Unsurprisingly, it was designed for cities where everyone runs errands on a bike, like in Germany. I Lock It’s most interesting feature is perhaps peer-to-peer sharing, which can also be temporary—lend your bike to a friend by sending her a code to open the lock manually.
I Lock It demo:
Home base: Brandenburg (Germany)
Price: €99 ($117), shipping from November 2017
I Lock It website
Spylamp: find my bike
Even more minimalist, Spylamp is little more than a bug hidden in your rear light to track its location in case your bike is stolen. Spybike also makes other trackers that can be stashed inside your seatpost or top cap. Designed seven years ago, this series of bike bugs has remained true to its primary mission of tracking the position of your bicycle, independently of your smartphone. It’s also one of the few smart cycling devices that works with its own SIM card.
Home base: Nelson (New Zealand)
Price: $125 + $8 international shipping
Add-e: the electrifying water bottle
Of course, the more connected the bike, the more tracked the cyclist, the easier it is to hack the device… but unlike with autonomous cars, you’re still the one pedaling the machine. So e-bikes just may be the mainstream point of entry to a widespread cycling lifestyle. While there are many kits and peripherals available to convert your ride into an electric one, Add-e’s standout feature is its water bottle disguise—the thermos-like battery slips right into your water bottle cage, the engine attaches to your rear wheel, and the whole package weighs less than 2kg.
Home base: Villach (Austria)
Price: from €890 ($1,050) + shipping
Livall: the socially connected helmet
Livall’s smart helmets were developed through several crowdfunding campaigns since 2015, and Chinese engineer Brian Bo Zheng’s entreprise continues to grow. The iconic Bling Helmet BH60SE integrates rear lights to signal turns and braking, connects to your smartphone to take your calls, play music, send an SOS alert if you fall, and can serve as a walkie-talkie between cyclists of the same team. Similarly, Sena offers high-tech helmets for both bicycles and motorcycles, although they don’t include lights and a dedicated SOS alert. However, their X1 pro bike helmet features an integrated front camera.
Home base: Shenzhen (China)
Price: from $130 on Amazon.com
CTRL Eyewear: faster than the blink of an eye
For those who go a bit faster and a bit further on their days off, might as well be a bit safer wearing sunglasses with liquid crystal lenses (in this case, which transition automatically between light and dark in one-tenth of a second). Because every fraction of a second counts when you’re pummeling through shadows and tunnels in bright sunlight. Enjoy calibrating the sensitivity of the transitions with military precision. Fashion tech for cyclists.
CTRL XC demo:
Home base: Kent, Ohio (USA)
Price: $300 + shipping
Omata One: the luxury retro speedometer
But let’s get back to the bike, and to the luxury of analogue in a digital world. How can any maker resist this mechanical speedometer with its clockwork hand precision and connected brain? Omata One is like a luxury watch that displays speed, distance, altitude and time, while recording all the data from your journeys for later viewing on a digital screen. If you have the financial means and an irresistible taste for luxury, forget the smartphone and ride like a pro.
Omata One demo:
Home base: Venice, California (USA)
Price: $550, shipping from November 2017
Patchnride: the magic fix for a flat
At some point, every cyclist has faced a punctured tire on the road, although not everyone is adept at fixing flats. Patchnride is a tool that allows anyone to patch up the punctured inner tube without even removing the wheel. Not only is this inventive method more convenient and accessible to all, it offers an eco-friendly alternative to systematically throwing out inner tubes, which can still be used for a long time, even with several patches.
Home base: Hollywood, Florida (USA)
Price: $50, shipping from early 2018
Bike Balls: the urban cyclist’s testicles
Designed in Toronto, a city that has double the population but half the budget dedicated to cycling infrastructure when compared to Montreal, Bike Balls are humorously suggestive of the “balls” it takes to ride a bicycle in an urban environment dominated by motor vehicles. The hanging sack is also an extra-large rear light that inevitably (if not outrageously) draws attention, for everyone’s safety. Welcome to the critical mass!
Bike Balls demo:
Home base: Toronto (Canada)
Price: $15 + $4 shipping
Bike Balls website