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Top ten cycling innovations of 2012

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January 3, 2013

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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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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18 Comments

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.

Michael Lau
4th January, 2013 @ 03:01 am PST

bicymple looks like a bike for nasty winter corrosive roads

Stewart Mitchell
4th January, 2013 @ 09:17 am PST

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.

Gadgeteer
4th January, 2013 @ 04:30 pm PST

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.

Michael Franke
4th January, 2013 @ 10:21 pm PST

@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.

Daishi
5th January, 2013 @ 12:01 am PST

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.

wle
5th January, 2013 @ 06:19 am PST

I think there is one missing here, SRAM XX1 drive train:

http://www.sram.com/sram/mountain/family/xx1

teknovision
6th January, 2013 @ 06:04 am PST

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.

Gadgeteer
6th January, 2013 @ 09:55 am PST

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!!

Rob GB
6th January, 2013 @ 12:16 pm PST

@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.

Melanie Ealing
11th May, 2013 @ 08:58 am PDT

Hi Melanie,

Thank you for this great question. There are a lot of reasons for a higher price point in the UK/EU, but the basics are.

1. VAT adds 20%, which the USA does not have

2. The product is assembled in the US, then shipped to the UK so this adds costs that the US does not have

3. UK/EU sell G2 models where as the US sells G1 models.

Every Gyrowheel sold in the UK/EU is upgraded with a new electrical circuit board which reduces the time it takes to fully charge a Gyrowheel from 16 hours to only 2 hours. It also increases run times by 50% so that little ones get more time in the saddle. This is a significant product upgrade, but we thought it valuable based on USA customer feedback.

We would LOVE to sell Gyrowheel for less than £75 a wheel and this is our target for future models. But like all new technology, costs only come down as volumes increase.

As a special offer to you and all Gizmag readers, if you use this gift code: GIZMAG20 on our website, you will get 20% off all our products for the next 30 days; ending 21st June 2013.

Again, thank you for your feedback and all your support.

Rob GB
21st May, 2013 @ 02:11 am PDT

The seatpost pump idea has been around since the late 80s at least, witness the Odyssey Aerator:

http://forums.mtbr.com/attachments/vintage-retro-classic/268599-remembering-old-days-girvin-flex-stem-odyssey_aerator.jpg

Matt Wenham
7th June, 2013 @ 02:49 am PDT

The article mentions a company creating an automatically shifting system using a smartphone. I'd like to mention there already is an official Shimano automatic shifting system, although it is not compitable with the Di2 road system but only a 3 or 7 speed internal hub.

Thijmen
19th November, 2013 @ 03:18 pm PST

Thank you Gizmag team for allowing me to post my idea about an efficient bicycle pedaling.

Replace the conventional rotary motion of the bicycle pedals with the up and down pressing of the ratchet operated pedals in conjunction with the see-saw mechanism at a (an energy efficient) small angle around horizontal plane. This way the rider can use the body weight along with the muscles.

Ram Bang, .

Ramratan Bang
25th November, 2013 @ 10:06 pm PST

I would put at the top of the list the invisible bicycle helmet by Hovding - this is truly amazing http://www.gizmag.com/hovding-inflatable-airbag-collar-purchase/29828/

@gurnick
3rd December, 2013 @ 10:10 pm PST

Ram Bang,

Something similar to treadles of the American Star bicycle from the 1880s?

http://veloaficionado.com/american-star-bicycle-will-robertson-pedals-down-the-steps-of-the-united-states-capitol-in-1885/

Taianonni
2nd January, 2014 @ 11:05 am PST

This bike came to my attention from someone else's post on the Antarctic Success tricycle article. I am not sure how innovative it is, but it solves the seat to body problem well, and is used to set long distance cycling records, Looks cool, and cost less than a lot of competion bicycles:

http://cruzbike.com/records

Dave B13
7th January, 2014 @ 08:02 am PST

There was a bike in the late 80's or early 90's that used two pedals the were pumped up and down, driving the rear hub through two cables, short pieces of chain and dual ratchet mounted sprockets.

The Bicymple is not at all new. All they did was take the design of a 1980's STC (Super Trick Cycle) and give it some more angle on the head tubes. http://www.twospoke.com/forum/f64/super-trick-cycle-swing-bike-4949/

There are two images there, one of an assembled STC and another of a never assembled one which still has the original protective plastic wrap. That one shows the head tubes do have some angle.

But even the STC wasn't innovative, it was merely a simplification of the Swing Bike, which various companies have tried selling and a large number have been built by people of varying degrees of mechanical skill.

Gregg Eshelman
21st February, 2014 @ 11:43 pm PST
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