Smart bicycles hit the road


Bicycles from Tour de France really get my inner-cyclist all worked up! Bicycles are becoming really handy in terms of hydraulics, lightweight, sturdiness and flexibility. But expansion of smart technology into the bikes is what has really impressed me. Bikes today can give you directions without the need of your smartphone. You can unlock your bike without any key. And in case your bike gets stolen, you can instantly track it down with your mobile. So let’s explore the smart bikes that are reigning the roads today and see how smart they really are!

LeEco smart bike
To make bicycling smarter for the riders, LeEco launched Smart Road Bikes and Mountain Bikes at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last year. Riders need not check their mobiles for direction while riding these two-wheelers. Neither do they need a fitbit on their wrist to check whether they have exercised enough.

The smart bike comes with a 10cm (4-inch) touchscreen docked on the frame. It runs its functions on a customised Android platform and can connect online using 4G LTE connectivity. One of the most important usage of the screen is navigation with real-time GPS tracking and optimal route calculations.

The LeEco Smart Bike Screen

A range of sensors enable measurement and display of parameters like speed, barometric readings and direction with compass. Various details related to cycling—for example, covered distance, duration of cycling and other fitness metrics—are also calculated and stored. Another great feature of the smart bike is voice communication with other smart bikes.

All these functionalities are smoothly handled by a Snapdragon 410 processor. The bike’s 6000mAh battery ensures a long running time.

Made of Toray T700 carbon fibre, the bike weighs just 8.4kg. Its 11-speed one-by drivetrain packs a punch to the cycling power.

Vanhawks Valour
Ever heard of a Wi-Fi bike? Well, Vanhawks is definitely spreading the word. Its new line of bikes, called Valour, are not just smart but connected too. Valour is haloed by sensors, chips and all kinds of gadgets.

Let us start with the navigation system. Vanhawks has created a mobile application that gives real-time information about the route being followed, upcoming directions, traffic conditions and best route suggestions. You can anchor your phone on the front while driving. If you don’t want to do that—no problem! Handles on the bicycle have LED indicators. These indicators point left, right or even U-turn as per directions sensed by the application.

Vanhawks Valour Bikesd

The bike has numerous inbuilt sensors including accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometer, GPS receiver, speed sensors and blind-spot sensors. All these sensors enable it to predict its motion.

Valour has integrated ultrasonic sensors that detect a safe-zone radius. In case any object comes too close and enters the safe zone, the ultrasonic sensors pick it up and handles start vibrating, alarming the rider of a potential chance of collision. The sensors consider 1.2m (4 feet) along the sides and 3m (10 feet) behind the bike as the safe zone threshold. These blindspot sensors add X-factor to the bike and justify the definition of smart bikes. Valour can also evaluate the road quality through its 9-axi accelerometer.

In addition to this, there is an anti-theft alarm system. In case the bicycle has gone missing, the mobile application tracks the in-built signature of the bike. As soon as it is located, the application provides the location and timestamp where the bike has been tracked. The owner can also share the details to the nearest police station immediately, details of which are shared by the application as well!

Vanhawks lets its customers choose the frame size, colour and speed options before buying. Based on the road types, the bike can be single-speed or dynamic-speed. Its body is made of light yet rugged carbon-fibre and weighs 9-13kg. Vanhawks Valour is priced at $1500.

VanMoof SmartBike
VanMoof has introduced a smart bike that unlocks with your touch. Well, there is no fingerprint sensor per se. To unlock the bike, you should either use the mobile application provided by VanMoof or turn your phone’s Bluetooth ‘on’ and just touch the display of the bike. The sensors in the bike will detect the phone’s Bluetooth, identify it and let you access the bike.

The vanmoof lock that unlocks with your touch

The mobile application has in-built intelligence. Based on your ride metrics and patterns, daily schedule and other data, it can start giving recommendations and predictions.
The anti-theft system is also quite capable. The first layer of protection comes from the hardware. Bike parts that are more likely to be stolen are fixed with protected screws and nuts and reinforced material. In addition, the bike features GSM- and Bluetooth-based ant-theft tracking.

Moreover, the VanMoof team provides a paid recovery service; in case your bike gets stolen, the team guarantees your bike’s retrieval or a full replacement. The service is called Peace of Mind. VanMoof bikes cost $1100 onwards.

Mission Lyra
San Francisco-based bicycle manufacturer Mission has come up with a non-motorised smart bike that combines smart navigation and stunning design. Called Lyra, the bike integrates GPS system to provide constant directions to the rider.

A detachable battery keeps the system going. The battery has a microUSB port, which can be used to recharge the unit. What’s more, an application developed by Mission for Android and iOS allows users to track their cycle from anywhere. It essentially does the work of a smart tag. So, if you do not find your cycle where you left it, or you forget where you parked it, simply use the application to tag its location.

LED Wheels in the Mission Lyra bicycle

Also, to ensure night-visibility, the bike has 100 LEDs strategically fixed into the fork and five LEDs running across the seatpost. The rider can toggle between the standard 65-degree power saver bike light and a full 360-degree illumination—that too by pressing a single button!

Made of proprietary lightweight material, the bicycle is flexible yet sturdy. Mission Lyra starts at $1100.

Other things to look out for
Additional gears are available to make bikes smart. For instance, a small gadget called SmartHalo fits in the centre of a bike’s two handlebars. Controllable through a mobile application, it instantly turns a normal bicycle into a smart bike with real-time navigation or route guidance, auto-controlled bike lights, anti-theft alarm and phone-based notification system, and fitness tracker. Finally, it notifies riders of calls and SMS as well. Interestingly, all these features come for just $149!

The SmartHalo smart gear

How about non-electric bikes that can help us go green? French startup Pragma Industries has brought forward such a solution with the help of hydrogen gas. Called Alpha, their bikes use hydrogen fuel cells to run the miles. A two-litre tank of hydrogen allows these bikes to run 100km. The refill process is a matter of minutes, compared to hours taken by batteries of electric bikes to restart. Water is used to produce hydrogen, so it is a completely green setup utilising a renewable resource! As the Pragma bikes cost quite high for consumers, these are being offered to enterprises as of now.