Innovative handlebars turn ordinary bicycles into smart bikes

helios-handlebarsThe basic bicycle design hasn’t changed in a hundred years, although advancements in materials and technologies have been made during that time to make bikes lighter and faster and easier to maintain, but the so-called extras (lights, signals, navigation, etc.), are still an afterthought. There are plenty of aftermarket LED headlight kits, safety lights, GPS and navigation tech, and security gadgets for bikes, but every single one of those is built to be added on to the bike, and not designed as an integral part of it.

In a new connected world, isn’t it time to rethink what’s necessary for cyclists, and to integrate those features into the hardware itself? I believe so, and thanks to the ingenuity of the team at Helios, cyclists can get some of the most innovative features for bikes, built right into one of the components, the handlebars.

The Helios smart handlebars, which had a really successful crowdfunding campaign last year, aim to take any bike and turn it into a smart bike, which can make cycling safer, more convenient, and perhaps even more fun.

The basic idea behind the Helios is that it integrates many handy features into the bar itself, so there’s nothing to be misplaced or stolen, and no issues with mounting them (or needing to remove them for security purposes). The Helios bars contain a bright LED headlight, turn signals (and visibility lights), a visual speedometer, turn-by-turn navigation, and a GPS bike locator, all controlled via your smartphone.

The headlight, a CREE LED bulb said to be as bright as a car headlight, can come on automatically when you’re in proximity to the bike, or manually as you desire, taking some of the pain out of riding at night (like when you leave your headlight at home, because it’s a detachable version). At the brightest setting (500 lumens), the battery will last about 9 hours, which is plenty of time for most riders to go several days or more between charges, or up to 20 hours at its lowest setting.

For safety and visibility, RGB LED bulbs are built into the rear-facing bar ends, which can be used as turn signals, as ambient lighting, and as a visual speedometer (changes color depending on the speed). Users can choose from 9 colors for those lights to display, which allows them to match their personality (or their clothes, I guess) using the smartphone app.

To help keep your bike secure, or to track it down if stolen, a built-in low-power GPS module can transmit its location via SMS at any time, along with a link to a Google Maps page, within 30 seconds. The device also includes a 15 day reserve battery, so even if the battery is removed, or goes dead, it can still be tracked and possibly recovered.

In addition to tracking via GPS, the Helios bars can also help riders navigate by displaying turn-by-turn directions via the bar end LED lights, which could be much more useful than trying to use a smartphone mounted to the bike itself, and probably much safer.

There are a number of new ‘smart’ bikes and electric bikes on the market these days, but for the rest of us, who don’t want to purchase a whole new bike in order to get cutting edge bike technology, and who still like to pedal instead of using an electric motor, adding a Helios bar could be one of the best things for falling in love with your bike all over again. And because it’s priced affordably ($279), fits most bike handlebar stems, and comes in both drop bar and bullhorn designs, it’s well suited to everyone from serious bike commuters to weekend warriors and recreational cyclists.

To find out more about Helios, see their The Apron Project page, or get more info about the smart handlebars at their website, their Facebook page, or via their Twitter feed.

P-Apron-Project[Disclosure: This post was written as part of Progressive’s Apron Project, helping tell the story of people and their initiatives making progress towards a greater good. I have been compensated as a contributor to this project, but the thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.]

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

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