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Smarter Cycling Computers

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The wave of electrical patents and componentry may mark a new era in cycling, propelling something as basic as pedaling two wheels into the future. Along with publishing a patent for an electrical front hub generator, Shimano has patented a cycling computer whose display changes color/brightness based on the time of day (Patent #7049944: Bicycle Display with Color Changing Atributes). Based on the initial schematics, from 6am-10pm, the backlight will be orange, and from 10pm-6am, the backlight will be blue. Two questions: 1) how many people ride from 10pm to 6am; and 2) what about daylight savings time. A smarter display would be a backlit LCD that actually senses ambient light and changes display settings automatically, much like what my PDA does now.

This got me thinking about high-tech cycling computers. First it started with distance and speed, then adding cadence, inclination, altitude, and heart rate. Garmin's Edge 305 appears to be the end-all-be-all of cycling computers incorporating a GPS unit into a fully-loaded cycling computer and heart rate monitor, all in a clean wireless package.

Those little red computers often seen in the peleton are SRM displays showing the cyclist, along with their basic cycling information, their power output measured at the cranks. Every bit of information from riders' heart rate, speed, distance, and power output can also transmitted over a modem on the bike to team coaches as well as cable networks so television viewers can gage how their favorite peleton rider is doing during the race.

All these features in a cycling computer makes me wonder how far this bicycle technology will go. With today's 'iPod' and 'Blackberry' society, I wouldn't be surprised if the next generation of consumer cycling computers played your favorite music, take your voice calls, or check your e-mail, all while you ride your favorite singetrack. Hey, why not? Nike and Apple just teamed up to make the iPod a running computer, you can surf the web in a bicycle side-car in the Phillipines, and the Japanese have already replaced the rider with a robot. Whoa, scary. This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

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