Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Electronics on your bike

For all of us bike commuters, this topic pretty much doesn't exist. If you ride to work, you don't need any electronic gadgets on your bicycle. But the other side of us - recreational cyclists, installs various electronic devices on our bicycles we find indispensable on a ride.
I guess you could be really creative here and text on your phone (which may be dangerous in some situations so stay careful), listen to music and record your ride with GoPro all at the same time. But if most of us have a single electronic device installed on our bikes, it would likely be a cyclocomputer. These little gadgets don't cost much and provide us (if properly calibrated) with some useful information such as speed, distance, etc.
But how useful this data really is? Unless you are trying to break some records you shouldn't really bother with checking your speed, distance or cadence at all. After owning a cycling computer for many years, I realized that recently I use it mostly to... check time. No, not my riding time. I mean - the clock, so that I know when I should finally head back home. And because I don't own a wrist watch, cyclocomputer is my only clock on most rides. This doesn't mean that I don't like to keep a record of my ride somehow. I usually do it on RideWithGPS - manually, as I don't own a GPS device. This electronic log takes care of tracking distance and all my exploration data, if I ever want to review it. During the ride however, current time is all the information I need.

Some of you would say that I ride my bike like it was still 1995 and you will probably be right. But times change and electronics enters bicycle world aggressively. Right now, if you are a wealthy amateur with a very thick wallet you can outfit your bicycle with so much electronics, you could easily get lost in it: power meters, GPS trackers, electronic derailleurs, etc. The question is whether you really need it?

You can answer it yourself but I'm not getting too excited about these gadgets. I don't race nor train for any race so power meter remains an useless option for me. Same with wireless electronic shifting. While not having running cables along the frame to operate derailleurs seems attractive, recharging all of those batteries frequently, isn't.

And it will get worse (or better - you choose). Soon you won't carry a key for your bike lock anymore. You will have to use your smartphone to unlock it. Or you won't be wearing regular sunglasses but Strava-connected ones. You will probably be wearing a smart helmet as well. That's right, from now on everything about your bicycle has to be smart, connected and social.
 The future? (Source: 4iiiik Innovations)

I read this somewhere - you know you live in XXI century if you have to recharge your book and your cigarette once a while. It seems unavoidable but it's coming to bicycles as well. Before you hit the road, you will soon have to recharge your derailleurs, GPS tracker, unlock the bike from your smartphone, connect to Strava and put your HUD glasses and a smart helmet on.

But will you? Fortunately, ordinary, mechanical bicycles won't become useless or illegal overnight. You can still ride your old-fashioned bike like you did in the past. No one will force you to add all those battery-powered gizmos to your two wheels. That's the freedom to love and keep.

1 comment:

  1. Can confirm. I do zero recreational riding and use a cyclocomputer only for the clock and odometer. I find the odometer useful for scheduling maintenance. Anything involving a smart phone is way too cumbersome for my daily commute and errands. Locks and lights are enough of a fuss.