The best cy­cling tech to keep you safe

From smart lights to wear­able airbags: a guide to the lat­est gad­gets de­signed to make bike jour­neys safer

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY - Ciara O’Brien

In an ideal world, cy­cling would be far a more com­mon method of ev­ery­day ur­ban and sub­ur­ban com­mut­ing than cars. How­ever, for a few rea­sons – ac­cess to safe cy­cle routes, safety is­sues on the roads, or maybe just the fact that the weather in Ire­land is mis­er­able a good por­tion of the year – com­muters haven’t turned to two wheels in the sort of num­bers many would have hoped.

Help may be at hand in the form of a grow­ing num­ber of gad­gets and tech fea­tures to keep cy­clists safe. Tech has found its way into most past times, and cy­cling is no ex­cep­tion. And while some of it is “nice to have” rather than “must have”, there are a few things that could help make your bike jour­neys a bit safer.

Lights

Prob­a­bly one of the most im­por­tant things you can in­vest in as a cy­clist, good lights can mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween you be­ing seen in bad light, and, well, not. You can still buy reg­u­lar lights, but tech­nol­ogy has made it all a bit smarter, al­low­ing you to con­trol the bright­ness ac­cord­ing to the road con­di­tions, build­ing in crash alerts and even warn­ing you when your bike moves but you aren’t with it.

Belfast com­pany See.Sense has been mak­ing its smart bike lights for a cou­ple of years, backed by a suc­cess­ful crowd­fund­ing cam­paign or two. The com­pany has a cou­ple of prod­ucts to of­fer in­clud­ing its Icon lights.

They may look like a nor­mal set of lights, but See.Sense’s Ace (www.seesense.cc) is much more than a few blink­ers at­tached to your bike. It’s much smarter than that, us­ing in­for­ma­tion from your sur­round­ings to gauge when you are most at risk, mak­ing your lights shine brighter or faster to make sure you can be seen. It’s all thanks to a bit of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence.

An­other op­tion is Blink­ers ( www.blink­ers.bike) which as the name sug­gests gives cy­clists a very ob­vi­ous way of sig­nalling their in­ten­tion to turn, a rear light that gets vis­i­bly red­der when you brake, and a laser light that projects a half cir­cle on the ground to in­di­cate where the cy­clist is and how much space they need.

It’s all con­trolled through a re­mote that at­taches to your han­dle­bars, and works on the idea that the more vis­i­ble you are, the less likely you are to hear the ex­cuse “I didn’t no­tice you” when you end up in a one-on-one with a car.

They charge through a USB and you get about 20 hours out of a sin­gle charge – enough for a few bike trips at any rate.

They’re not as com­pact as other bike lights, which may be an is­sue if you like to re­move them and take them with you to guard against theft, but it’s a small price to pay.

Nav­i­ga­tion

There are plenty of de­vices out there that will help you find your way when you are out and about on the roads.

It re­ally de­pends on what you want: an all-singing, all-danc­ing de­vice that mea­sures ev­ery­thing from your speed and el­e­va­tion to ex­actly where you are at any given time, or some­thing that will just point you in the right di­rec­tion.

If sim­plic­ity is what you are after, then Bee­line (bee­line.co) is a good bet.

It has a sim­ple fol­low-the-ar­row in­ter­face and was de­signed with cy­clists in mind.

It links up with a smart­phone app so you can set your des­ti­na­tion, and then you sim­ply have to at­tach it to your han­dle­bars be­fore you head off.

It ticks a cou­ple of boxes: a sharp back­lit dis­play, a clean in­ter­face that shows the smart com­pass, bat­tery life, a speedome­ter and a clock, and it will take a bit of abuse in the el­e­ments.

Bat­tery life is about 30 hours, and it charges over USB, so if you ever get stuck you can sim­ply strap a power pack some­where to your bike and keep on go­ing.

Garmin of­fers some­thing a lit­tle more com­plex.

The nav­i­ga­tion ex­pert has a range of de­vices for cy­clists – not count­ing their smart­watches and ac­tiv­ity track­ers that will help mon­i­tor your ac­tual ex­er­cise ses­sions – that cover ev­ery­thing from the sim­pler, smaller de­vices to the full on cy­cling com­put­ers that do ev­ery­thing ex­cept mas­sage your legs after a ma­jor bike ride.

A good mid­dle of the road op­tion for tour­ing cy­clists is the Edge Ex­plore, which will track your progress but also al­low you to find new routes through Garmin Cy­cle Map, which will show you what other paths other cy­clists like, and give you turn-by-turn nav­i­ga­tion.

It can also link up with your smart­phone for ex­tra fea­tures such as au­to­matic in­ci­dent de­tec­tion, which sends your lo­ca­tion to an emer­gency con­tact if you have a col­li­sion, or with other safety de­vices such as radar and smart bike lights.

If you are a bit more in­vested in your cy­cling, the Edge 520 or 1030 might be more suitable, or move away from Garmin al­to­gether and in­vest in a Wa­hoo Elemnt Bolt.

Safety

Cy­clists are more vul­ner­a­ble than most other road users, so pro­tec­tive gear of some sort is prob­a­bly in most cy­clists’ kit.

There is a de­bate about bike hel­mets. On one hand, there is the re­cent find­ings from Aus­tralian re­searchers that say wear­ing one will re­duce the like­li­hood of a se­ri­ous head in­jury by up to 70 per cent. On the other, there is re­search that claims wear­ing a hel­met makes you more likely to in­dulge in risky moves.

You may not agree with laws mak­ing the wear­ing of cy­cling hel­mets com­pul­sory, but Lu­mos gives you an ad­di­tional rea­son to wear one: it has lights built in to make you vis­i­ble to pass­ing mo­torists. There are 48 LEDs – 38 in the back, 10 bright white in the front – and there is a wire­less re­mote that you can use to ac­ti­vate your turn sig­nals. A test fea­ture also uses the ac­celerom­e­ter to de­tect when you are slow­ing down, trig­ger­ing a warn­ing sig­nal on the hel­met.

If you are adamant about cy­cling hel­mets not pre­vent­ing head in­juries, maybe this de­vice will get a bit more sup­port; the Hovd­ing is es­sen­tially a wear­able airbag that will de­tect falls and im­me­di­ately in­flate, pro­tect­ing the cy­clist’s neck and head with an air cush­ion. It claims to be the world’s safest bike hel­met, es­ti­mat­ing it is eight times safer than a reg­u­lar hel­met. It’s not cheap at €299 for the ini­tial Hovd­ing, and €135 for a re­place­ment if you have an ac­ci­dent.

Us­ing your morn­ing com­mute to catch up on pod­casts or zon­ing out with mu­sic is some­thing you can take for granted in a car, but as a cy­clist, it’s not rec­om­mended. You need to be able to hear traf­fic or have your at­ten­tion on po­ten­tial haz­ards, and bone con­duc­tion head­phones can be a so­lu­tion. No, it’s not an elab­o­rate form of tor­ture – or maybe it is, de­pend­ing on your taste in mu­sic – it’s a form of tech­nol­ogy that al­lows you to hear sound through vi­brat­ing the bones in your face. That means you can hear mu­sic, but still have your ears free. The head­phones sit over your ears touch­ing your cheek­bones (in this par­tic­u­lar case), so you can lis­ten to mu­sic but still be aware of your sur­round­ings.

Cam­eras

More and more cy­clists are wear­ing bodyor bike-mounted cam­eras on the streets of Ir­ish cities. GoPro has a se­ries of cam­eras that are weath­er­proof and rea­son­ably ro­bust, and the Hero 7 sil­ver or black, while an in­vest­ment, gives some great video. There are other op­tions too, with Sony, Pana­sonic and TomTom also of­fer­ing ac­tion cam­eras.

Locks

Fi­nally, se­cur­ing the bike it­self is an im­por­tant thing. You don’t need a smart lock as such, but the Deeper Lock Pro+, cur­rently crowd­fund­ing on Kick­starter, has mo­tion sen­sors that trig­ger an alarm when the lock is tam­pered with, and GPS to track the thief should they ac­tu­ally make off with the bike. If you want some­thing a lit­tle more sub­tle, the Sher­lock Bike is a GPS unit that hides in­side your bike frame and con­nects to an app so you can track it. The idea is that thieves won’t re­alise it’s there un­til it’s too late. You have to pay a monthly fee after the first two years, but it’s only €3 to keep the GPS con­nected.

Hovd­ing is es­sen­tially a wear­able airbag that will de­tect falls and im­me­di­ately in­flate, pro­tect­ing the cy­clist’s neck and head with an air cush­ion

The Blink­ers bike light

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