TIME Gadgets

9 Bicycle Gadgets That Will Keep You Safe in Style

Bicycle Technology
Guido Mieth—Getty Images Bicycle Technology

Turn some heads in the name of fun and safety with this techy cycling gear

Sure, the bicycle was invented in the early 1800s, but lately, a renewed interest in the two-wheeler’s eco-friendly footprint has yielded many great innovations for riders. Concerned first and foremost about sharing the road with gas-guzzling automobiles, cyclists want better visibility and more ways to pedal safely. But beyond that, they’re into making their commutes and cruises fun again.

These nine gadgets may have not exactly reinvented the wheel, but they’d be welcome additions to any modern-day ride.

Blink Steady

High design meets high visibility in this low-profile, rear flashing light. Hewn from solid aluminum, the $125 tail light securely affixes to your seat post using a 2 millimeter allen wrench, not the kind of tool your everyday thief typically carries. Lit by two 120-degree, low-powered LEDs, the waterproof flasher sips power from two AAA batteries.

But don’t worry about leaving the light on — an accelerometer ensures the light only flashes when you’re riding, and a photosensor only turns Blink Steady on when it’s dark enough.

Cycliq Fly Cameras

A pair of action cameras disguised in working bike lights, the Fly 12 and Fly 6 are ingenious devices for recording the road rage that goes on around you. Named after 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock, the front- and rear-facing cameras (respectively) are two different products.

Fly 12, which just nearly tripled its Kickstarter goal, is a smartphone-compatible 400 lumen headlight that records 1080p video. Fly 6, which appears to be sold out thought Cycliq but is still in-stock through Amazon for $210, packs a 720p video camera into a 30 lumen flashing light. Whether it’s keeping an eye out for you or helping you to be seen, this smart technology certainly has your back.

Helios Handlebars

As righteous as many riders can get, there are quite a few that actually know their hand signals from their hind quarters. Due out this summer, Helios makes a range of connected handlebars (they come in bullhorn, drop, or straight styles) that not only pack a 500-lumen headlight, but also a blinker system into the ends.

Pair the $280 smart handlebar with your phone through Bluetooth, and you can make the lights turn on when you’re near (a great battery-saving feature), enable GPS tracking, and use the rear-facing LEDs (which serve as blinkers) to guide you around using your phone’s Google Maps turn-by-turn navigation.

Monkey Lights

Sure, a Tron light cycle would help improve night-time visibility, but you don’t need to replace your entire rig to turn heads. Monkey Lights snap onto your bike’s spokes and flash colored LEDs in certain patterns to give your wheels a brightly-colored visual. From rainbow stripes to barreling fireballs, the 8-bit-like graphics can be programmed in hundreds of color and pattern combinations. And ranging in price from $25 to $75 dollars (per wheel, and depending on how many LEDs you want) the waterproof and theft-resistant lights don’t draw much attention in the daylight, making them a cool surprise once the sun goes down.

Orp

Designed and tested on the mean streets of Portland, Ore., one of the bike-friendliest cities in the world, Orp is a bike bell for the 21st century. Give its rubber button a light tap and the $65 handlebar-mounted peripheral will emit a 76-decibel chirp, the kind of sound that seems to say, “oh hi!”

But if you lay down on that same “wail tail,” an urgent 96 decibel roar emits from the cute little device instead, also causing it to flash its LEDs angrily. USB-chargeable and easy (for you) to remove from a bike (so thieves don’t do it instead), Orp’s battery lasts up to eleven hours in slow strobe mode, or for three hours with a constantly-running 87-lumen headlight.

Scosche BoomBottle H2O

Back in the day, it was no big thing to see someone cruising down the street carrying a boombox. Okay, maybe it was a minor curiosity. But now, you can wirelessly stream your music into a battery-powered speaker that’s so small, it can fit into the water bottle cage on your bike.

Designed to take all the bumps and splashes your ride can dole out, the Schosche BoomBottle H2O can handle both dirt and water (and, therefore, mud) with an 11-hour rechargeable battery to help rock your ride. And, since your bike won’t be carrying any water, if you opt to take a plunge, fear not — the $99 speaker also floats.

Skylock

The only item on this list that is solely available through pre-order, this solar-powered, keyless bike-lock is the u-bolt for the smartphone set. Pairing via Bluetooth, the accelerometer-equipped lock will alert you if anyone is tampering with it, and send notifications to your friends if you’re in a serious accident (it’s got the brains to know when it’s gotten bashed).

In addition, you can set the Skylock to let your friends unlock your ride, so you can take part in bike-sharing without all the sign-ups. Chargeable through the sun or USB, the steel, shock-proof, device is weather resistant and both Android and iPhone compatible — and $159.

Siva Cycle Atom

It seems like a long-overdue technology, but Siva Cycle solved it anyway: Of all the energy we’re expelling pushing down on a bike’s crank, why can’t we capture it to do something useful, like charge a phone? The Atom, a wheel-mounted portable battery charger, turns kinetic energy into potential energy, storing it in a 1650Ah battery that’s perfect for topping up your phone on the fly. And, with an extension cord routing up to the seat-post, the $130 charger will even power your phone directly while you pedal. Talk about a stroke of genius.

Torch T1 Bike Helmet

Usually, a bright idea is symbolized by a lightbulb going off over someone’s head, but this brilliant concept integrates lights right into the helmet. Shining bright with 10 LED lights, this shatterproof helmet has a white headlight and red rear light that give you great visibility on the road. A marked improvement in safety because it puts the lights higher into drivers’ line of sight, the Torch helmet can last up to 12 hours before needing to be recharged, and only takes 1.5 hours to juice up.

Currently the T1 is on sale for $109. But get it while you can, because it looks like they’re cleaning out inventory while they gear up to sell the Torch T2, a new version currently fundraising on Indiegogo.

TIME Transportation

Bike Deaths Spiked 16%, Study Finds

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Hero Images—Getty Images Rear view of triathletes cycling on street

More than a quarter of bikers 16 and older who were killed in 2012 in motor-vehicle crashes had been drinking

The number of bicyclists killed in motor-vehicle crashes jumped up 16% between 2010 and 2012, after many years of decline.

A study released Monday by the Governors Highway Safety Association suggests that recent growth in the popularity of biking has contributed to the rising death toll, though the findings do not offer conclusive data.

“To the extent encouragement of bicycling is successful, exposure and fatalities are likely to continue to increase,” the study says.

In 2012, the most recent year in which figures are provided, 722 bikers were killed in motor-vehicle crashes, up from 621 in 2010. The figure is still down from 1975, when the data was first compiled and 1,003 people were killed in motor-vehicle crashes.

The majority of bikers killed in motor-vehicle crashes were adults over the age of 20, a dramatic shift from 1975 when the majority of bikers killed in motor-vehicle crashes were younger than 20, and adults comprised only 21%.

The study also found that the lack of helmets was a “major contributing factor” in fatalities. More than two-thirds of fatally injured bikers were not wearing helmets, though it’s not clear what portion of riders generally wear helmets.

One figure has remained relatively constant since at least 1982: roughly a quarter of bikers over age 16 who were killed in 2012 had been drinking.

“Despite the association of biking with healthy lifestyles and environmental benefits, a surprisingly large number of fatally injured bicyclists have blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08% or higher,” the study said.

TIME fun

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TIME bicycles

Mountain Biking’s Beginnings: Fat Tires, Broken Hubs and the Grateful Dead

Mountain biking took root in the fertile counterculture of the 1970s

Long before there were gutter bunnies, baby heads or WOMBATS, there were cyclists eager to push the limits of what their equipment and bodies could take.

It began with a group of sporty iconoclasts, wheeling down the hills of northern California, creating a rough-and-tumble style of biking to match their unconventional personalities. They made it up as they went along, modifying their bikes to manage the terrain and enjoying themselves in all the ways that adventurous youth did in that era.

Watch UC Fig. 1‘s video about the early days of mountain biking. Narrated by UC San Diego’s Sarah McCullough, who wrote her PhD thesis on the topic, it tells the history of the sport, the “renegades (including the women) who started it, remade the bikes and helped create a new leisure industry. And it wasn’t just about bikes and terrain in those days, ideas and music played an important part, including a benefit performance by the band that personified the counter-culture.

“[P]eople were creating the kind of world they wanted to live in,” McCullough says. “A world with trails that created a flow through the mountains, paths they could follow fast, without braking.”

If you want to learn more, check out work from off-road pioneers like William Savage (Klunkerz), and Charlie Kelly (Fat Tire Flyer, due out later this year).

TIME

Meet the Company Helping Detroit Get Back Up and Fighting

If the name Shinola rings a bell, it may be because of an off-color taunt. Founded in 1907, the brand-name shoe polish was a staple for American GIs, who popularized the expression “You don’t know sh-t from Shinola.” Over the past year, the brand–which was bought and relaunched by Fossil Inc. founder Tom Kartsotis–has established itself as a force in American-made design. The company’s watches range in price from $475 to $950 and can be found at Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus as well as its two flagship Shinola-branded stores. In 2013, the company made about 50,000 watches; this year it wants to make 150,000. It has also expanded into customized bicycles, leather goods, journals, soft drinks and, naturally, shoe polish. During its first six months in business, Shinola generated more than $20 million in sales. The company expects to turn a profit by 2017, when revenue is projected to hit $100 million.

More than style is at stake. Shinola is growing at a time when American manufacturing is in full revival and the global trade equation is being rewritten. Climbing wages in China, higher transportation costs, a weaker dollar, rising U.S. productivity and cheaper energy: all these factors mean American firms are finding it increasingly competitive to make things at home. Companies like Shinola–native U.S. manufacturing operations determined to nurture domestic cottage industries that have all but disappeared–are the latest test of these trends. If Shinola can thrive, it could become part of something the Motor City hasn’t seen since the glory days of American automaking: a new boom in manufacturing.

For more, read this story.

TIME curiosities

Hell on Wheels: LIFE With Mutant Bicycles

LIFE.com offers a selection of photos from six long decades ago that belie the famous old saying (which we just made up) that there's no such thing as a useless bicycle.

Every year, more and more people in the United States are clambering aboard their beloved bicycles and blithely pedaling into a brighter, cleaner, healthier tomorrow. Or losing their balance, wiping out and maiming themselves. Either way, they’re getting exercise.

But back in 1948, a number of inspired amateur craftsmen — not content with riding mundane, conventional bicycles — took their enthusiasm to another, unlikely level and . . . well, let’s let LIFE tell it, in the words the magazine used in its December 27, 1948, issue:

To Webster a bicycle is “a light vehicle having two wheels, one behind the other.” Such a definition theoretically describes the contraptions [seen in the article], but fails to do justice to the imagination of the Chicago chapter of the National Bicycle Dealers’ Association.

By artfully applying welders’ torches to metal tubing, the chapter’s members transform ordinary, utilitarian bicycles into traveling monstrosities. By far the most outlandish ideas have come from the Steinlauf family, who produced from their bicycle repair shop most of the oddities [shown in the article]. They are hazardous; generally at least one member of the clan is to be found in the hospital.

Here, LIFE.com offers a selection of photos of these preposterous creations from six long decades ago — mechanistic marvels that belie the famous old saying (which we just made up) that there’s no such thing as a useless bicycle.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

MONEY

Single Mom Opens Women’s Bike Shop

Robin Bylenga’s working life hasn’t always been a smooth ride.

Nine years ago, the then newly divorced mother of three young kids reentered the workforce and began honing a career in sales through a series of positions — the most recent of which involved peddling L’Oréal hair products to beauty salons. While Bylenga liked the paycheck, the travel and long hours required took their toll.

Looking to unwind, she climbed on a bike for the first time in years. Something clicked. “I rode and rode and rode,” Bylenga recalls.

When she was laid off from L’Oréal in 2009 after her division was sold, she decided to take an interim job at a local cycling store.

Within no time, she says, “women began to come in just to talk to me, and to ask questions like what trails were good with kids and what bra I wore when I rode.”

The experience gave her the idea to create a bike-shopping experience for women that, as she says, wasn’t all about how fast you rode or what scars you’d acquired. She imagined a boutique featuring feminine décor, stylish cycling apparel, and positive messages.

In December 2010, after a year of researching the market, Bylenga opened that store, called Pedal Chic, in downtown Greenville, S.C.

To drive traffic to the shop, she has hosted weekly group rides — which are BYOBB, “bring your own beverage and bike” — and offered maintenance classes called Women With Wrenches.

Last year, revenue hit $250,000. Based on sales so far, Bylenga expects to take in $500,000 in 2012 and reap her first profit.

She’s also now paying herself $1,000 a month. While she could take more, she’d rather pump cash into growing Pedal Chic’s e-commerce business.

Her next big goal is to expand, either by franchising or opening boutiques within larger retailers.

For now, though, she’s happy with her return on investment. “Every time I help a customer find women to connect with through cycling,” she says, “it’s a payday.”

HOW SHE DID IT

Profit she made on her trial run: 200%

Before deciding to open a store, Bylenga wanted to make sure she could make a go of it. So she invested $500 in a small inventory of women’s bike apparel to sell at a local bike race. After parlaying that into $1,500 in sales, she was convinced.

Amount she needed to start Pedal Chic: $50,000
The majority came from a five-year, 3.5% startup loan from Michelin Development. She also personally invested about $10,000. Together, the money allowed her to sign a lease, buy inventory, and hire five employees.

When Bylenga expects to match her previous pay of $60,000: 2014

In tandem with the child support she receives from her ex, her salary — albeit small — allows her to scrape by while reinvesting in the business. Because she’s been in belt-tightening mode, she hasn’t yet added to her savings but notes, “Pedal Chic is my retirement fund.”

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