Cycling into the future

The bike – still the most accepted and popular green way to move other than using one’s two walking legs.

Engineers have been tinkering with the concept for centuries - from early prototypes to e-bikes today – and there is no ending in sight. We will spare the details; everyone everywhere across the globe is familiar with the handy two-wheeler, which provided the feeling of freedom long before cars were even put into the cradle. There are currently over a billion bikes in the world and the current annual global production is about forty million.[1]

With a product as successful as the bike it is worthwhile to take a look at what the future might bring.

E-bikes and smart(phone)-bikes

Electric bikes are by no means something new. The incorporation of a light electric engine into the frame is becoming more and more something like a norm. At the press of a button the cycler can switch from muscle to electric power. The company eROCKIT, however, fused the two mechanisms into one: the eROCKIT bike requires the cycler’s physical efforts but complements them with an electric engine.[2] So while you peddle you can control to what extent you want to be supported by the underlying engine. It basically multiplies (by a factor that you choose) the power that you first come up with yourself. The semi-machine is called “human hybrid” and fully charged it covers an impressive 70 kilometres at a speed of up to 81 kmh. Not surprisingly then, you need to possess a class A1 driver’s licence to manoeuvre the 123 kg heavy “bike”. 123 kg is of course too heavy to retain the spirit of a true bike. But the eROCKIT looks like a Harley Davidson and is able to keep everybody fit because now there is no reason not to go on a nice bike tour. Rather inevitable, the generation smartphone also mingled its way into the ancient principle of cycling. As an example out of the many, the “wireless bike” seems promising. The wireless bike is called as such because the smartphone or tablet becomes part of the bike without being physically connected to the bike. Designed for those among us that want to take part in the Tour de France, the app enables automatic and optimised wireless gear change. You can thereby save precious seconds that you would otherwise spend on switching a gear manually.[3] The technology behind this comprises sensors attached to the bike that are connected to the smartphone via Bluetooth. It is actually really straightforward and easy: the smartphone measures whether the rounds of pedalling are appropriate to the current speed. If this is not the case, the smartphone sends a signal to the sensor attached to the gears resulting in a switch. The designers, Cambridge Consultants hope to sell 50 billion units of its app by 2020. Rather ambitious as the app hasn’t even been properly tested on the road.

The bike is a marvellous invention. And with recent advancements in electric propulsion as part of urban vehicles - such as the Renault Tweezy previously featured on this blog – it is not crazy to guess that something similar to the eROCKIT’s technology will become part of our daily life. The same holds true for the integration of the smartphone into the cycling experience. Whatever will be added to the bike one thing is for sure: people love cycling and will do so far into the future.

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