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By Andy Wynne & Matt Fordham
Eurobike is one of the most popular cycling exhibitions in the world. With over 1,300 exhibitors it’s an opportunity to showcase new products and talk to industry leaders about the latest trends and innovations in cycling. As a product design engineer and cycling enthusiast myself, I'm interested to see the role that technology is currently playing and visualise the direction it will go in the future. The major areas that technology development in the industry seems focused on is providing solutions to enhance the ride experience for all categories of cyclist, and improving performance intelligence. There were some fantastic products featured at Eurobike demonstrating both improved and emerging technologies:
• The ‘cycling computer’ is a must-have part of the long distance cyclist’s arsenal; feeding you with all the information you might possibly need, from your speed and location to your heart rate and cadence, with the help of a few peripheral components.
• Electronic gear shifters such as the Shimano Di2 systems.
• eLECT electronically controlled suspension system by Magura.
• Uvex were showing off their Variotronic dynamic tint altering sunglasses which will switch from 64% to 16% light transmission in one tenth of a second to combat headlight blinding or that moment you round a corner into direct sunlight.
• One particular favourite was the ICE collision detection sensor that sends an emergency signal in the event of an accident, which is similar to a product we have developed at CDP for construction workers and people working in remote locations that require helmets.
Ever decreasing sizes of motors, batteries, and sensors are the key foundation that make these innovations possible. We know all of these technologies have been around for a long time, but only with more recent improvements in component size and performance has it become worthwhile producing bike products to take out on the road or along the trails.
Sensing & tracking in elite sports
In the near future there will be an influx of products that will allow people to see a live feed of their power output as they’re riding to monitor his or her physical stress levels, core temperature levels, and tools that will help to nail that perfect aerodynamic position. The cycling industry is also very well suited for the use of wearable technologies with ‘zero interfaces’ such as heads up displays, maybe even with gesture controls.
Sensors we work with everyday are finding more avenues and clever applications in sports . Taking a look at the evolution of the heart rate monitor (as just one example); first invented as a training aid for the Finnish National Cross Country Ski team, now commonplace for even the most entry-level sports enthusiast. It’s not hard to spot the cascading trend of technology developed for professional athletes making its way back to the consumer.
When we’ve worked with professional teams to develop sensing and tracking systems, the focus is understandably more centred upon performance, so we throw convenience and novelty out the window, setting our sights on lightweight systems, speed and power. With the emphasis on weight reduction for race day, the bulk of technology applications here are in training, monitoring the athlete, and measuring various outputs on the bike. Sensors can be used to monitor core metrics such as the athlete’s power output, aerodynamics, live training feedback, and even skin chemistry sensing.
Another big topic that couldn’t go without mention, due to their impressively large presence at Eurobike this year, is that of e-bikes. It’s a young emerging market that many companies are clearly investing in. For those wondering, an e-bike is just like your everyday bicycle, but with the addition of an electric motor to give you a bit of extra ‘oomph’, either by monitoring your pedalling and providing assistive torque (also known as a ‘pedelec’) or by simply providing propulsion based upon user input at the controls (known as a ‘twist-and-go’).
In 2013 global e-bike sales hit 40 million, with 1 million of those in Europe. Bosch is one of the largest suppliers of generic and easily integrated motor systems and you can see examples of them on a huge portion of the available e-bikes (the Scott E-Spark is an attractive example), but we can definitely expect to see more OEM systems like the Stromer e-bike which is a stunning example of an effective blurring of the lines between the bike and the electronics.
So why, with such attractive and practical solutions out there, are we not seeing every commuter whizz past on an e-bike?
The two main barriers so far are legislation and the public perception of e-bikes. Up until now, there has been a bit of resistance from the ‘normal’ bike retailers as a result of bad past experience; unreliable performance and difficult spares supply. Winning over retailers is the first hurdle, this appears to be happening as the large brand manufacturers like Cube and Cannondale have begun releasing their e-models.
The legislation aspect (more of an issue in the US) is largely out of the hands of the consumers and manufacturers, and more under government control. In basic terms, the authorities have some confusion over the inclusion of a motor, with motorised vehicles not able to share trails and paths with pedestrians, equestrians, and cyclists; so we have ourselves a grey area. This is definitely a space worth watching though, as decisions on this matter are due to be made. It is however, conceivable that we can expect to see more and more of these on the road in the near future, particularly as the momentum gathers and prices begin to drop.
If you’d like to discuss biking, or any sporting technologies, please get in touch with Andrew Wynne or Matthew Fordham on 01223 264428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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