The 10 best cycling innovations of 2016
As another year draws to a close, it's time to once again look back at some of the highlights of the past 12 months – in this case, as they pertain to the world of cycling gadgets. These aren't necessarily things that received a lot of publicity, or that are guaranteed to be big sellers. Instead, they were selected simply because they made us say, "Now that's a good idea." Read on to see our picks, which are presented in no particular order.
Electronic shifting for the rest of us
Perhaps you're intrigued by the basic concept of electronic gear-shifting, but you don't want to shell out for a dedicated system like Shimano Di2. Well, that's why XShifter was created. It consists of a wireless handlebar remote, along with two electronic shifting modules that are added to existing mechanical derailleurs – the make and model of those derailleurs doesn't matter.
A really complete bike
You could get a basic bike and then equip it with a bunch of accessories, although the result might look a little like a fully-opened Swiss Army knife. Instead, the Volata smart bike features integrated electronic shifting, head and tail lights that automatically come on as it gets dark out, a GPS tracking module (in case of theft), a cycling computer and an electric horn. Everything is accessed by a built-in display/joystick and is powered by a single battery pack, that is in turn juiced up via a dynamo in the front hub.
Made for the South Pole
Although you probably aren't planning on cycling across Antarctica, Australian adventurer Kate Leeming is. And if a new Indiegogo campaign is successful, you can soon own an all-wheel-drive fatbike like the one that she'll be using. Made by Christini Bicycles, the expedition-spec Fat 4 and Fat 5 feature a linked shaft drive that delivers power from the rear wheel to the front.
Price: $2,995 and up
This helmet has an electronic edge
Sure, we've already seen lots of helmets with built-in headlights and tail lights. Brooklyness' Classon likewise offers those, but it also has an automatic brake light, gesture-activated turn indicators, and even a dual camera system. The latter not only records video for subsequent playback, but also warns riders of vehicles traveling in their blind spot.
These pedals may draw you in
There are a lot of mountain bikers who don't like the idea of their shoe being mechanically attached to the pedal, but they're still interested in having some sort of foot-retention system. It was for these people that the original Maglock pedal was created, which simply uses magnets that are attracted to a metal cleat on the bottom of the rider's shoe – no "clicking in" is involved. Whereas the original version was pretty heavy, however, the new Vault model is … well, it's considerably lighter, anyway.
What's old is new again
According to Finnish startup Omata, analog speedometers are easier to read than their digital counterparts. It was with this in mind that the company created its One speedometer. While the face is old-school, its innards are all present-day electronics. The device measures speed using an integrated GPS module, and also tracks distance traveled, vertical ascent, and elapsed time or time of day.
Putting the power to your feet
Power meters can be valuable training tools, although they're usually either mounted on or built into the crank. This makes it difficult if not impossible to swap one meter between multiple bikes. Brim Brothers addresses the problem with its Zone DPMX, which simply attaches to the rider's shoe. It does, however, require Speedplay Zero pedals and cleats in order to work. On the other hand, the shoe-mounted Luck Potentiometer works with multiple pedal/cleat combos, but is only compatible with certain models of Luck shoes.
Price: €440 (about US$556)
Rack one up for this idea
Not all roof racks accept all types of bikes – or at least, not without the use of adapters for things like fat tires or thru-axles. That's where the Upside Rack comes in. It's attached to the saddle and handlebars of just about any type of bicycle, allowing the bike to then be flipped upside-down and mounted on an existing third-party roof rack.
Price: AUD$220 (around US$165), estimated
A tire-preserving trainer
Eddy currents are electrical currents that are produced through relative motion between a magnet and a nearby conductor. The STAC Zero trainer uses them to create rear-wheel resistance, without having the tire or rim actually touching anything. Not only does this result in a much quieter stationary ride, but it also means there'll be no more stripped-off tire rubber.
Price: CAD$399 (about US$302)
If the tech is good enough for fighter pilots ...
While we've already seen a few different "smart glasses" for cyclists, Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems' Everysight Raptors look particularly sharp. They project content, such as navigational cues, time, distance, speed, heart rate, cadence and power, over top of the wearer's view, yet without the ungainly projector arm that some others use.
Price: Still in development, but "test pilots" are being sought