5 Gadgets to Make Biking Safer
These tech finds will help you steer clear of hazard
Pedaling from point A to point B is a great way to get around, not to mention good exercise. But even in communities with bike lanes and smooth pavement, riding a bicycle can be hazardous. When you’re on two wheels, you’re sharing the road with cars, pedestrians and other bikes. If you have a collision, there’s no metal box to protect you.
To make riding a bike as safe as possible, pimp your ride with smart accessories. Here are five worth considering.
When you’re riding a bike, you need to see and be seen. The Revolights system gets both jobs done.
The centerpiece of the comprehensive lighting system is pair of LED rings that snap onto the spokes of your wheels. They’re controlled by an integrated accelerometer and powered by lithium ion batteries that mount onto each wheel hub. Once you install the system (it will take you about an hour), the front wheel becomes a glowing white arc and the back wheel will shine red — just like the headlights and taillights on a car. This makes it easy for other people on the road to interpret where you are and how fast you’re going.
The headlight provides 360 degrees of illumination so you can see in front of you, behind you and on either side.
The lights are fully weatherproof. Since they’re set into your wheels, they’re easy to protect from theft with your regular bike lock. The batteries last about four hours before needing to be recharged via USB.
Orp Horn ($65)
The blast of a horn is a powerful signal to others on the road. Many cyclists have to rely on their voices or a weak warning bell to sound their presence. The Orp changes that. It’s a super small, handlebar-mounted unit that packs a big sound.
At the touch of a button you can play a “friendly hello” signal at 76 decibels (just above normal street noise levels) or an “urgent warning” at 96 decibels. That’s as loud as a car horn, the level necessary to get motorists’ attention. Orp also incorporates two 70-lumen beacon lights that can be set to on, off or variable strobe speeds.
Orp is weatherproof and comes in eight colors. The batteries hold enough charge for three to 11 hours of light and recharge via USB. The unit comes on and off easily, so it’s a good idea to remove it when you park and lock your bike.
Hovding Airbag (about $340)
No one can disagree that bike helmets save lives, but there are plenty of objections to the way they look. The Hovding Airbag is a shock-absorbing airbag system that offers a low-profile alternative.
Hovding looks and fits like a small neck cowl. It consists of two parts: an interior USB-charged collar and an exterior, interchangeable fabric shell. It works through a system of accelerometers and gyrometers that sense the difference between normal biking movements and those that signify a crash. In a crash, the Hovding deploys into a large hood-shaped airbag that can protect the head from multiple impacts.
It’s weatherproof, fits comfortably under a jacket and is easy to put on and take off.
Hovding was invented in Sweden and went through seven years of development. It’s approved by the CE (Europe’s regulatory safety body) and has been found in rigorous testing to perform as well as — if not better than — a traditional bike helmet.
There are some caveats. Hovding won’t work if you have a large, rigid hairstyle (a stiff Mohawk, big Afro or lots of thick loose dreadlocks, for example). It also may not deploy if you’re wearing something bulky on your head (such as a thick fur hat with earflaps). It responds only to accidents involving bodily movement, so if something falls on your head from above, it won’t deploy.
Like bike helmets, which should be replaced after an accident, Hovding will work only once. If you have a crash and it deploys, you’ll have to replace it.
Right now it’s only sold in Europe, though U.S. customers can place international orders.
Road ID is a trusted name among fitness enthusiasts. The company makes a whole line of products designed to increase the safety and visibility of outdoor athletes. One of their offerings is a smartphone app widely used by runners and bicyclists to track their training. It uses the phone’s GPS system to track route, splits, pace and more.
The Road ID app contains a powerful safety feature known as eCrumbs (electronic breadcrumbs), which allows others to track your workout on a map in real time. It includes an optional “stationary alert” that sends notifications to your emergency contacts if you stop moving for more than five minutes, whether or not they’re watching you on the map.
It’s a great feature especially for cyclists with health issues, kids or riders who cover long, uncharted distances. For extra safety, the app can also configure your lock screen to display your name, emergency contacts and other vital information such as medical conditions in case you’re hurt and unable to speak.
Instead of keeping you safe, Bitlock keeps your bike safe. It’s a weatherproof, cut-proof steel U-lock that opens with a smartphone rather than a key.
After purchasing Bitlock, you download the accompanying app, create an account and follow the prompts for setting up your lock. When it’s time to use it, you just need your phone — and it doesn’t even have to be in your hand. As long as the phone is turned on it can stay in your pocket or backpack and will automatically allow you to lock or unlock Bitlock with the touch of a button.
The Bitlock app comes in handy for other things, too. You can use it to give someone else access to your bike, keep track of where you parked your bike and calculate your mileage. If you lose your phone or it’s dead when you need to unlock your bike, you can log in with someone else’s device or enter a self-programmed combination on the lock itself. Bitlock’s batteries are replaceable but not rechargeable; one will last about five years.
Related: 5 Smart Choices in Smart Locks