When you think about it, bikes haven’t changed a whole lot over the years. It’s a chain attached to a rear wheel with a human atop on a seat, powering the whole contraption forward with their legs. We’ve tried to augment the analogue biking experience for years to get around our cities, but the future of cycling is digital. Here’s how you’ll ride safer, smarter and faster thanks to the futuristic tech coming to bikes of all shapes and sizes.
This month, Gizmodo Australia will be hopping in our domestic DeLorean to bring you what the future will have in store for the way we live. The Home Of The Future series focuses on smart tech for your home life and beyond. We’ve got a great month planned full of news, reviews and features.
Welcome to the future.
Believe it or not, much of the bike tech of the future is already here, ready to order online and strap to your beloved two-wheeler.
For example, instead of strapping a tiny LED torch onto your handlebars and hoping for the best, the future will see bikes light up their wheels to keep you safe and illuminate your path through the mean streets of your city thanks to a gadget called Revolights.
Like many bikers, Kent Frankovich pedaled at night and wondered if cars around him saw his dimly-lit tail light. He also loathed his headlamp that barely lighted his way.
Instead of abandoning his night-time bike rides, he used his mechanical engineering know-how to develop Revolights, an LED lighting system for bicycle wheels. He attached a string of LED lights to his front and rear tires. When the wheels spin, the LEDs form a bright arc. The arc is so bright that it lights the path in front of him and makes the bike visible to cars behind him.
The lights are powered by lithium-ion powered batteries which need to be replaced, but a future version could use kinetic energy produced by the movement of the wheel. Frankovich is working with two colleagues on this project and is raised funds for the gadget via Kickstarter.
Since then, people have been working to make their own. All you need is reed magnet switches instead of a microcontroller and 18 LEDs powered by two AA batteries, as well as a bit of know how.
Of course, it’s Neanderthal-like thinking to assume that the bikes of the future will be powered by your meaty legs. Australian-made brushless motor technology is already powering the way.
The Stealth Bike (stealthelectricbikes.com.au)
is more than just a bicycle with a fancy name. It’s a custom featherweight frame onto which a bespoke, Australian-made brushless motor is added to the rear wheel.
The crossbar then becomes the home for unique battery technology and an LCD screen to tell you just how fast you’re going and to regulate your ride.
Finally, the handlebars are outfitted with your front and rear disc brakes like on a real motorbike, and a throttle collar designed to give you more power than pedalling could ever give.
What makes the Stealth Bike special, other than the fact that it’s an electric bike that can do 80km/h, is the motor and battery technology that get it there. The brushless motor is attached to the rear wheel, and it’s the secret sauce of Stealth Bikes. It’s so secret that we’re not allowed to know what’s inside.
The other side of the ingenious Stealth Bikes coin is the battery technology. The batteries themselves are made up of lithium-iron phosphate, unlike other electric bikes on the market which use other materials like cadmium and nickel in their power sources. These innovative batteries mean that the Stealth Bikes can recharge from flat in around 2 hours and belt along at 80km/h for a full hour before running dry again.
The awesome batteries paired with the clever motors mean that the Stealth Electric bike is the best e-bike in the country, perhaps even the world.
Like most brilliant Aussie inventions, the Stealth Bike was first invented in an backyard. John Karambalis is the man with the plan when it comes to Stealth Bikes, and together with his school friends — also bike enthusiasts — they went on and founded the company we know today.
But Stealth Bikes aren’t the only mugs working on smarter, faster bikes. The geniuses behind the Copenhagen Wheel are also working to make the future of bikes a digital one, by creating a product of the same name that can make any normal bike an electric monster.
It doesn’t look like much, but inside that weird dome around your back wheel is technology originally used on F1 cars to make those long pedal journeys easier and faster.
The Copenhagen Wheel is a brand new wheel that you attach to the back of your bike. At the centre of the spokes is a big red oval module forming the hub. Inside this red hub is a rechargeable battery, a motor, a wireless module and a smart lock.
What the Copenhagen Wheel is designed to do is remarkable: it takes the energy dispersed from braking and converts it into energy, the same way a KERS system would work on a Formula 1 car, and uses said energy to power a small motor on your back wheel when it figures out you’ve hit a hill.
It connects to your phone with the wireless module inside the hub, and clever software starts to learn how you ride. It wants to learn how you ride so that it can trigger the motor automatically, rather than have to install a complex throttle linkage system on your handlebars. If it realises that you’re slowing down because the incline is increasing, it can pump up the power to give you between three- and 10-times your original pedal power.
It was invented by a team of geniuses from MIT, in conjunction with the city of Copenhagen: one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, hence the name. They all came together to form the start-up, Superpedestrian.
As you can see, the bike tech of the future is within reach.