Gadgets for the bicycle commuter
Designer Billy May
As a daily bike commuter here in Boston (yes, even in the winter), I'm always on the lookout for gadgets that will make my ride safer, faster, or more convenient. Here's a sampling of what's popped up on my radar in the past few weeks.
Nike Hindsight glasses ($TBA)
Though just a designer's concept from what I can tell, these futuristic wrap-around shades claim to add an additional 25 degrees of peripheral vision to a rider's view. Fresnel lenses – first developed in the 19th century for lighthouses – at the temples of the glasses make this possible.
Anything that helps riders be more aware is a good thing, but nothing is a substitute for the type of survival awareness one develops when out on the roads. Inexperienced city cyclists shouldn't let this – or any gadget – replace caution and road awareness.
Cordarounds Bike to Work pants ($90 online)
Reflective accents are common on backpacks, athletic shoes, and jackets, but business-casual khakis? The inside of these innovative trousers is lined with Illuminite Teflon and 3M Scotchlite reflective fabrics. The result is that when a rider rolls up a pant leg or two (usually done to avoid grease stains from contact with the bike's chain) he exposes the reflective side of the otherwise normal-looking slacks.
At $90 they're a bit pricey for me to consider for everyday wear – especially on a bike. But they're a great idea in that they give cyclists visibility without a garish neon getup.
Monkeylectric Monkey Light ($64.99 online, shipped)
Possibly the most eye-catching and awe-inducing bike accessory I've ever seen. Most bike lights focus on making sure the rider is seen, but these make sure you're seen, cheered at, flagged down, and followed (in a good, fun way). A series of 32 LEDs joined to a weatherproof circuit board and a sophisticated graphics synthesizer turns any spinning bicycle wheel into a canvas of psychedelic light.
The wheel's motion and persistence of vision turn the straight row of AA battery-powered LEDs into amazing patterns and images, grabbing the attention of motorists and pedestrians. Patterns, colors, and speeds can all be changed, but custom logos, text, or images aren't supported (yet – the light's creator has posted its schematics online, for any tinkerers out there.)
As soon as I saw a video of this product in action, I knew I had to have one. At $65 shipped it's a lot to pay for a bike light, but the dividends in visibility and fun more than make up for it.