13 smart bike gadgets that take the stupid out of cycling

From powered bike wheels to handlebars with turn signals, these are the coolest biking gadgets and add-ons we've seen this year.

Of kickstands and Kickstarter

Some of the world's most innovative bike parts and accessories come from small engineering and design companies, and in many cases their products are available only to Kickstarter backers. But don't let the relative obscurity of the company names in this slideshow dissuade you from investigating their products further. If you have any interest in cycling, you should check out what's on the high-tech horizon of biking gear.

Monkey Light LED wheel lights

The Monkey Light Pro system consists of four separate LED bars that attach to the spokes of each bike wheel. When you're riding down the street, the spinning bars form animations thanks to a “persistence of vision” effect.

It's an insanely cool optical trick, and the maker of the system, San Francisco–based Monkey Light, provides software for creating and uploading your own animations (you can also use Monkey Light Pro's preloaded content). The Space Invaders animation is my personal fave. For more information, and to see video of the system in action, check out the Kickstarter page.

Helios turn-signal handle bars

Do your current handlebars have turn signals? These replacement bars do. Just hit a small button on either side of the bars to indicate the direction you're turning.

The bars are GPS enabled and connect to an app to let you know where your bike is at all times. Helios raised $120,000 on Kickstarter earlier this year and is now selling its handlebars for $200 on its website.

FlyKly powered bike wheel

The FlyKly Smart Wheel sports a superthin motor that turns your bike into a powered smart bike. The wheel will come in 26- and 29-inch versions, and will fit on almost any bike. FlyKly says the motor can propel your bike at up to 20 miles per hour for up to 30 miles. If the system works as promised, you'll get some help climbing hills for a lot less money than you'd spend for a fully powered bike.

The FlyKly Smart Wheel is on Kickstarter right now, and the wheel is scheduled to ship in May 2014 for $590.

Bitlock smart bike lock

The Bitlock makes your old, key-driven bike lock look like a museum piece. It connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth, and when it detects that you're in close proximity, you can open the lock with a simple push of a physical button on the side of the shaft.

But the Bitlock app does way more than that. Suppose your bike is locked up in some random, remote location, and you want a friend to ride it back home for you. No problem: You can manage access directly from your phone. The app also maps your bike routes and gives you stats on how many miles you've ridden and how many calories you've burned. At press time, Bitlock needed less than $1000 to reach its $120,000 Kickstarter goal.

Turtle Shell bike speaker

The guys at Outdoor Technology lent me one of these mountable bike speakers earlier this year. So I clamped on the $100 Turtle Shell speaker, and rode around town with my music playing. Loudly. The Turtle Shell sounds good, and pairing it with my phone via Bluetooth was a snap.

Orp bicycle horn-light

I bike to work every day, and remaining visible in traffic is a constant challenge. Enter the Orp, which combines a superloud horn with a superbright beacon light in a small, aerodynamic device that attaches to a bike's handlebars.

It's a attention-getting audiovisual one-two punch will help you avoid going unnoticed by drivers of nearby vehicles. Orp completed a successful $110,000 Kickstarter campaign earlier this year. If all goes well, the product should start showing up in the marketplace next year.

Revolights LED wheel lights

Revolights are small LED lights for bike tires. But now Revolights (the company) is making bike wheels with the lights built right into the rims. I've seen a few bikes around San Francisco with these lights, and they do indeed look dazzling on the road at night. The Kickstarter campaign originally aimed to reach $14,500, but has far exceeded the goal with almost $95,000.

BikeSpike security alarm

The BikeSpike is like a LoJack system for bikes. If the BikeSpike detects that your bike is moving after you've locked it up, it alerts you via an app on your phone. You also get an alert if the system detects your bike is being tampered with.

But why stop there? It also displays where a stolen bike is traveling on a map, shares that information via social media, and even passes it along to law enforcement. You can hide the BikeSpike inside a custom water bottle cage, and removing it requires time and the right tool. The BikeSpike will go on sale sometime this winter. The device will sell for $130, and the bike monitoring service plan will cost another $5 to $7.

Magnetic bike lights

These little magnetic LED lights attach to the metal frame of your bike. They turn on only when they're attached to the metal, and they turn off when you park your bike and throw them in your bag. They have a simple, elegant design and come in red and white light colors. The manufacturer, Copenhagen Parts, raised $75,000 in a successful Kickstarter campaign last year.

BioLogic seatpost bike pump

No, it's not a pogo stick. This small pump fits neatly inside the seatpost of Tern commuter bikes. You pull it out, a small foot extends from the bottom, and you use your bike seat as the pump handle. Hopefully, the manufacturer will develop similar versions for all kinds of bikes. The BioLogic PostPump 2.0 Seatpost is available now at the BioLogic Store for $50.

Doppelganger turn signal gloves

These $42 turn signal gloves come from Doppelganger. You control them with your thumbs, thereby solving an age-old cycling problem.

See Sense smart bike light

The See Sense light might be the first “smart” bike light. It detects various problematic biking scenarios—like when you're merging into traffic, or biking in a low-light area, or being approached by a car with its brights on. The light responds by changing its brightness and flash rate to give you more or less visibility when you need it. The manufacturer just completed its successful Kickstarter campaign, and the product should show up in the market next year.

Dahon Pango foldable helmet

When the sides slide up and the back folds in, this $130 Dahon helmet shrinks to about half its original size. The helmet's mesh dome reminds me of the xenomorph in Alien—an unexpected bonus.

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