Turbocharge your two-wheeler with this new tech
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
On your bike
Globally, the number of bicycles gathering cobwebs in garages or under tarpaulins is estimated (by me) to be “loads”. My Dutch-style town bike hadn’t been ridden for about three years, but having transformed it into an ebike using the Swytch kit (essentially a few cables, a motorised wheel, a pedal sensor and a clip-on battery), I’m now slightly besotted with it. I also sense that my car may be experiencing twinges of jealousy.
Swytch has been around for a little while, but its most recent iteration has seen a number of improvements, the most significant being its ridiculously small power pack. It gives a 10-mile radius on one charge, weighs just 700g and can fit into a (big) pocket. That’s partly down to smaller cells packing a bigger punch, and partly down to the motor controller being moved from the battery itself to the handlebar mount. But in any case, the weight the Swytch kit adds to your bike is minimal in comparison to some of the hulking ebikes on the market.
Part of the deal, however, is that you have to assemble it yourself. If you’re not adept at cycle maintenance this can feel daunting, particularly when you open the box to find several smaller boxes, a wheel and a 52-page manual. I confess that I baulked and sought assistance from my local repair shop, Braintree Bike Repairs. But while I was grateful for Matt’s help with moving the tyre and inner tube to the motor wheel, the whole process was comparable to (or easier than) assembling flat-pack furniture. “You could do this in your kitchen in an hour,” said Matt. “It’s idiot-proof. Everything’s labelled and colour-coded. You can’t put it together wrong.”
A neat display, also handlebar-mounted, gives you push-button control over your pedal-assisted power (from one to five, with five giving you an eyebrow-raising boost). And you’re off! As your kit is built-to-order it can take a few weeks to arrive, but it’s worth the wait to see a neglected pushbike gaining a dramatic new lease of life. Swytch Kit, from £449, swytchbike.com
Makes sense in hindsight
While rear-view mirrors are a legal requirement for cars, cyclists rely on looking back over their shoulder (which, of course, is time spent not looking forwards).
HindSight’s clever solution is to embed small mirrors in the lenses of a pair of sunglasses, giving a view to the rear that’s actually in your eyeline, something that cannot be said of wrist- or handlebar-mounted mirrors. The angles and perspectives take a few minutes of getting used to, but your brain soon catches up with the new reality. After dark, the lenses can be swapped out with ones optimised for dealing with the glare of car headlights. Prescription HindSights aren’t currently available, but are in the works. HindSight V2, £199.99, hindsight.store
Train to the max
Highly visible promotional campaigns have made Peloton synonymous with indoor cycling, but while it may have cornered the market in spin-class fitness, Wahoo caters for outdoor cyclists who are keen to have a realistic riding experience at home.
Their Kickr range includes a turbo trainer to which you attach your bike, but this is their all-in-one solution, with customisable gears and a climb mechanism that offers realistically simulated ascents and descents. WiFi-enabled for the first time, it works in tandem with a number of riding apps, but their own Wahoo RGT and SYSTM apps are tailored specifically for the machine, with structured training, virtual racing and much else besides. Wahoo Kickr Bike, £3,499.99, wahoofitness.com
The most advanced cycling computer ever?
In a colourful, touchscreen world, cycling computers tend to be stubbornly monochrome. The Karoo 2, billed as “the most advanced cycling computer ever”, is certainly the most attractive, with a 3.2in colour screen that feels very smartphone-like.
Small touchscreens aren’t very convenient while riding, but the Karoo 2’s most important features are operable via rugged, textured buttons on each side. It mounts solidly, integrates nicely with route-planning services like Strava and has a wealth of neat features including “CLIMBER”, which recognises if you’re on a gradient and shows a graphical representation of how well (or poorly) you’re faring. Hammerhead Karoo 2, £359, hammerhead.io
Back in the saddle
Cycling enthusiasts are rightly proud of their hard-won pedal power and aren’t overly interested in batteries taking the strain. The surge in interest in ebikes is more attributable to those keen to get back on a bike but find going uphill on two wheels to be painful, embarrassing or both. The Peddle range has been designed precisely for them: super-accessible, comfortable to ride and easy to set up.
The Pro is appropriately named, with a 630Wh Samsung battery allowing journeys of up to 80 miles, and Suntour suspension offering solid support during off-road adventures. A bunch of accessories are included, such as a security lock, additional charger, cup holder and discounts on eco-friendly Dashel helmets. Peddle Pro, £2,599.99, peddlelife.co.uk