Urban Transport

Top ten cycling innovations of 2012

Top ten cycling innovations of...
The Bicymple – one of the more "out-of-the-box" cycling products that we covered last year
The Bicymple – one of the more "out-of-the-box" cycling products that we covered last year
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The ADAPTRAC tire inflation/deflation system
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The ADAPTRAC tire inflation/deflation system
The BioFloat seatpost
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The BioFloat seatpost
BioLogic's PostPump 2.0
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BioLogic's PostPump 2.0
The GyroBike
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The GyroBike
TRP's Parabox system
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TRP's Parabox system
The Revolights system
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The Revolights system
The SpyBike system
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The SpyBike system
Tiso's wireless electronic shifting system
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Tiso's wireless electronic shifting system
The Torch T1 helmet
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The Torch T1 helmet
The Bicymple
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The Bicymple
The Bicymple – one of the more "out-of-the-box" cycling products that we covered last year
11/11
The Bicymple – one of the more "out-of-the-box" cycling products that we covered last year

As many readers have no doubt noticed, we like bikes here at Gizmag. We particularly like truly unique cycling products, even when they may ultimately be a little too out there to garner much commercial success. With that in mind, here's a look at the ten bicycle-related innovations from the past year, that most made us say “Hmm, now that’s interesting.”

Let there be light

While advances in technology have meant big things for cycling computers, they’ve also resulted in LED bike lights continuously becoming brighter, more efficient, and less expensive. This has led to a “bike light gold rush” of sorts, with both large manufacturers and small start-ups trying to get in on the action.

The Revolights system
The Revolights system

Of all the new lighting systems to grace our pages in 2012, though, Revolights was perhaps the most distinctive. It consists of two hoop-like assemblies each containing eight LEDs, that clip onto a bicycle's existing wheel rims. Powered by hub-mounted lithium-ion battery packs, the lights blink on and off at a rate set by the speed at which the wheels are turning – this blinking pattern, in turn, results in the front half of the front wheel and the rear half of the rear wheel being illuminated (in white and red, respectively).

The blinking LEDs appear to the human eye as a solid arc, meaning that a bike running Revolights looks rather like a pair of bright parentheses, traveling down the street. The system reportedly makes the bicycle highly visible from the sides, rear and front, and also serves to illuminate the road ahead of the rider.

Price: US$250 (set of two)

Honorable mention: We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Magnic Light, a no-contact dynamo light that’s powered by electrical currents generated by the bike’s spinning metallic rims. Also noteworthy were the Blink/Steady tail light, that automatically comes on when it gets dark outside; Magnetic Bike Lights, that automatically power up when attached to a metallic frame; and BLAZE, which warns motorists of an approaching bicycle by laser-projecting an image of a cyclist onto the road.

Giving it the gears

Tiso's wireless electronic shifting system
Tiso's wireless electronic shifting system

While big-name components manufacturers Shimano and Campagnolo already offer electronic gear-shifting systems, in 2012 we saw smaller Italian firm Tiso announce its own offering. The big thing that sets this system apart is the fact that the bar-mounted shifters communicate with the down tube-mounted control unit wirelessly – Shimano and Campagnolo’s systems, by contrast, are entirely hard-wired.

Pricing has yet to be announced, although Tiso’s system will reportedly “be lower than all the other groups in electronic commerce.”

Honorable mention: Although it isn’t commercially available – yet – a smartphone-controlled automatic transmission for bicycles is being developed by researchers at UK-based Cambridge Consultants. Utilizing a stock Shimano Di2 electronic gear-shifting system, various bike-mounted sensors and a handlebar-mounted iPhone, it automatically shifts gears in order to keep the cyclist pedaling at their preferred cadence.

When the rubber meets the road

The ADAPTRAC tire inflation/deflation system
The ADAPTRAC tire inflation/deflation system

Although it adds weight and complexity to the bike, and more thinking to the riding of said bike, we still can’t help but admire the engineering that went into the ADAPTRAC system. Consisting of a network of hoses, switches, gauges, system-specific wheel hubs and a compressed air tank, the system allows mountain bikers to inflate or deflate their tires while riding.

If a rider is approaching a hill or a rooty/rocky section of trail, they can increase their traction by letting some air out of the tires – when they get to a long flat section, rolling resistance can be minimized by pumping the tires up.

Price: $1,470.50 (complete kit)

Honorable mention: Britek Tire and Rubber is developing a mountain bike tire/wheel known as the ERW (Energy Return Wheel) that doesn’t get flats or require air, and that also reportedly converts bumps in the trail into forward momentum. We were also intrigued by the BTPS no-contact electronic tire pressure gauging system.

Have a seat

The BioFloat seatpost
The BioFloat seatpost

What, you don’t like road vibrations traveling up into your butt? Well, perhaps the BioFloat carbon fiber seatpost might be for you. Its saddle rail clamp is cradled within a pair of flexible clamshell-style elastomer inserts, isolating it from the rest of the seatpost head. This not only helps soak up some of the bumps, but it also allows the saddle to move with the rider’s butt as they pedal, supposedly minimizing pressure points.

Price: $200 (estimated)

Honorable mention: The BodyFloat seatpost uses two coiled springs – instead of elastomer inserts – to soften the cyclist’s ride. Ergon’s CF3 seatpost is designed to do the same thing, but via two parallel carbon fiber leaf springs.

Thieves, beware

The SpyBike system
The SpyBike system

We’ve covered plenty of clever locks in the past, but a sufficiently motivated thief can get past pretty much any lock yet created. If your bike is equipped with Integrated Trackers’ SpyBike system, however, you could still get it back.

At the heart of the system is a GPS tracking device/vibration sensor, that is hidden inside the existing headset. Once activated via an electronic key fob, that device will detect if the bike is moved – as long as it continues to move, the device will upload its coordinates to the cloud every 20 seconds. Users can check on the Integrated Trackers website to get those coordinates, then advise the police accordingly.

Price: $154 and up

Honorable mention: Sometimes, thieves are content to just make off with parts of a bike. The infiniti3D system is intended to keep that from happening, by replacing a bicycle’s existing component fasteners with ones that can only be removed with a tool that’s unique to that bike.

Protectin’ your noggin

The Torch T1 helmet
The Torch T1 helmet

You could attach lights to your bike and put on a helmet ... or you could just wear a Torch T1 helmet, which features built-in lights. The T1 has a water-resistant panel of white LEDs on the front and a panel of red ones on the back that can run in either flashing or steady mode. While the current model won’t light up the road ahead of you (much), it will help ensure that you get noticed by drivers.

Price: $120 (pre-order)

Honorable mention: Helmets can be bulky things to carry around. In an attempt to address that problem, Carrera has developed an expandable bike helmet that can be squeezed together like an accordion when not in use.

Them’s the brakes

TRP's Parabox system
TRP's Parabox system

About two and a half years ago, the International Cycling Union announced that it would start allowing the use of disc brakes on cyclo-cross bikes. This means that while new bikes now may come equipped with such brakes, owners of older bikes are stuck with using cantilevers ... or are they?

Bicycle brake manufacturer TRP’s Parabox system allows these cyclists to use their existing cable-based brake levers with after-market hydraulic disc brakes. Its junction box master cylinder clamps onto the handlebar stem, just beneath the bars. This is linked to the levers via two hose-enclosed cables, which activate the cylinder mechanisms within the box, providing hydraulic braking power.

Price: $470

Honorable mention: Although some mountain bikers have seen hydraulic rim brakes before, they’ve always been quite a rarity in the world of road riding. That changed in 2012, when Magura released its RT8 TT hydraulic rim brake system for lightweight time trial and triathlon bikes.

The right tools for the job

BioLogic's PostPump 2.0
BioLogic's PostPump 2.0

Hand pumps may be easy to bring along on a ride, but floor pumps will put air in your tires a heck of a lot more quickly. BioLogic’s PostPump 2.0, however, combines the portability of the one with the easier pumping of the other. It’s a floor pump that doubles as a seat post, so it simply serves as part of your bike when you’re not using it.

Price: $50

Honorable mention: Your handlebars are hollow, so why not store tools in there? That’s the idea behind the Incog multi-tool. It consists of several commonly-used tools that are linked together like sausages, then fed into the bars.

Don’t forget about the kids!

The GyroBike
The GyroBike

Training wheels – who needs ‘em? The Gyrobike instead starts out with no pedals, so the wee ones can push themselves along with their feet. Once they get a bit more experienced, the pedals go on, as does a gyroscopically-stabilizing front wheel. Finally, that wheel can be replaced with a regular one.

Price: £229 (US$362)

Honorable mention: Bikes are rather expensive to keep replacing as your child gets bigger. Orbea’s Grow Bikes will save you a few upgrades, however, since their frame can be lengthened – as with regular kids’ bikes, the seatpost and handlebar stem can also be raised.

And just one more ...

The Bicymple
The Bicymple

While 2012 saw the introduction of some very fancy, lust-worthy bikes, if it’s innovation we’re talking about ... well, that would be the Bicymple. Imagine if you took a unicycle, with its direct-drive wheel-mounted pedals, but then added a short frame, handlebars, and a front wheel. Both wheels are mounted on forks with headsets, so they can both turn. This makes nutty things like “crab-riding” possible. Perhaps this might not be your first choice as a go-everywhere do-everything bike, but it certainly looks like it would be fun.

... and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Price: $800 and up (pre-order)

19 comments
Michael Lau
Gyrobike is actually out of business, I was trying to buy on of the gyro bike wheel, and did some research, many said the wheel do what it said to do as long as it still in one piece, many experience broken down very soon.
Stewart Mitchell
bicymple looks like a bike for nasty winter corrosive roads
Gadgeteer
Michael Lau, I was going to write that we're in big trouble if these are the "top innovations," because I honestly think almost all of them will be out of business within five years. So according to you, it's already begun.
Michael Franke
Thanks Ben. Look forward to more articles on the cycling front, modern tech is giving us devices and systems that we couldn't even dream about a short few years ago. Keeep up the good work.
Daishi
@Gadgeteer Bicycles are a simple technology that has been around hundreds of years. It is pretty hard for any groundbreaking innovation at this point. Most of the really useful things you could add (like storing energy to assist with hill climbing) add a whole bunch of complexity, cost, and weight to the design. My trek is quite similar to my grandfathers old Schwinn for a reason.
wle
the bicycle has been being ''invented'' for 150 years now At the turn of the century there were two buildings in Washington DC that held every patent in the U.S. One building held patents covering every type of product you can think of. The other building was reserved specifically for bicycle patents.
teknovision
I think there is one missing here, SRAM XX1 drive train: http://www.sram.com/sram/mountain/family/xx1
Gadgeteer
Diachi, Disagree. There have been quite a few useful innovations in the last few decades. Indexed shifting. Dual-purpose shift-brake levers. External bearing bottom brackets. Threadless headsets. Clipless pedals. Freehubs. Mountain bike suspension. Mountain bikes themselves. I just don't see any of these becoming long-term successes like those did.
Robert Bodill
Hi Michael, As the MD of Gyrobike Europe I can confirm that the US business is undergoing restructuring and during this process is no longer trading in that region. However, Gyrobike Europe is absolutely trading and has just launched the above mentioned 3in1 Gyrobike 12 Inch for the UK and EU markets. Please send me an email and I'd be happy to help answer any questions you may have: robert@gyrobike-europe.com Thanks Gizmag for the editorial!!
Melanie Ealing
@Robert Bodill I think the gyrobike looks amazing, but i'm interested in your justification for the price. In the US the gyrowheel is $99 including shipping (about £66 at today's exchange rate), whereas in the UK it costs £122. How is that reasonable? I'll be amazed if you are still trading at the end of the year. Not because it isn't a great product but because when a kids' starter bike costs about £80 no-one is going to spend that much on an extra. Match the US price and I'll buy one for tomorrow, but at £122 we'll just stick with stabilisers.