Cycling has changed my life. Tech improves my life on a daily basis. If I can combine these two things, it̵
You know, just super cool bike innovation. Things that didn’t exist (or at least weren’t so accessible) ten years ago. The bike things that change the game, ride by ride.
Cycling computers and wearables are blazing a new trail
My love for any gadget that tracks my cycling habits is no secret, and it’s only getting stronger by the day. Modern cycling computers are so much more than the simple souls of yesteryear, with the ability to track damn close to every metric you can think of today. Everything from the expected stuff like speed and cadence to more useful stats like heart rate data to the insane stuff like power data, number of shifts (for electronic powertrains, which we’ll talk about in a bit), and… you get the idea.
I currently ride a Garmin Edge 530 cycling computer, which is honestly the best computer I’ve ever owned (and I’ve had many!). But as much as I love my Edge, the new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt looks like a really nice piece of gear for anyone interested in getting a quality cycling computer and not yet married to the Garmin ecosystem.
But if you really want to take your fitness to the next level, a fitness watch is the way to go. For example, you could go for a Fitbit — the Versa 3 is a great choice for an entry-level fitness watch (though I wouldn’t really call it “cycling tech”) — but if you really want to jump first, a multisport watch is the best option.
When it comes to this category, it’s really hard to beat Garmin. There’s a watch for just about everyone in the Garmin catalog – from the sleek and elegant Venu 2 to the budget-friendly yet versatile Forerunner 45 to the outrageous and over-the-top Fenix 6x or absolutely extreme Enduro. If you need anything from a fitness watch, there’s almost certainly a Garmin that can do it.
And while you can use many fitness watches to replace (or mimic) the function of a cycling computer, they also work as great lifestyle or overall wellness devices. Almost every new fitness watch worth its salt also tracks steps, sleep, intake, heart rate and a whole host of other really meaningful data. Fitness watches are one of my favorite pieces of cycling technology right now, mainly because they fit so well into my life, both on and off the bike.
Recovery technology is also an interesting and up-and-coming piece of technology to watch out for. Whoop is a clear leader here – I’m testing one now for review which will be published in a month or so. The concept of tracking not only your workouts but how well your body is recovering is brilliant.
Smart trainers and power meters have a meaningful impact on training
If you’re already a cyclist, you’ve probably read about (or even researched extensively) power meters and smart trainers. If not, here’s the quick, very simple explanation. Power meters measure your power (in watts) – it’s the most accurate way to know where your fitness is on the bike. And smart trainers are resistance-controlled trainers for better indoor training and integration with training/riding apps.
Smart trainers all have built-in power meters, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds. The main advantage of having a real power meter is that it is a part On the bike so that you can use it both indoors and outdoors. A smart trainer can only be used indoors. I mean, unless you drag it to the backyard or whatever. In that case, hey, you do. I respect it.
Either way, these are both training tools that I find invaluable. I won’t go into the details about power meters (that’s beyond the scope of this article), but know that there’s no shortage of options out there – cranks, spiders, pedals and hubs are all on the table here (to name a few to name).
And for smart trainers, you again have a lot of choices, such as wheel-on or direct drive. Again, that’s a wider range than I can include here, but they both have pros and cons. If you want my honest opinion, I think getting a “dumb” trainer and dedicated power meter is the way to go – you’ll save a little money (maybe) and get a really versatile setup.
But if you get a smart trainer, you can use fun apps like TrainerRoad and Zwift, which are really life-changing, you really get excited. Rolling through Zwift’s beautiful digital world is honestly quite surreal when paired with a smart trainer. Or if you just want to get faster, skip the “fun stuff” and just hit TrainerRoad hard and heavy. OR! Do what I do: both. That is the best.
Honestly, you can’t really go wrong here. It just depends on how much money you want to spend. These are two pieces of cycling technology that I use several times a week and never want to be without.
Electronic powertrains are the future
if I had to pick one piece of cycling technology I’m most excited about as it evolves, it’s the electronic drivetrain. The idea here has been around since the 90s, but it wasn’t until Shimano introduced Di2 in the late 2000s that it started to gain relevance.
For those who might be confused about what “electronic” means here, a little clarification. Most bicycle drivetrains, i.e. the shifting mechanisms, operate through cable tension. A cable is installed in the derailleur (the thing that moves the chain when you shift), then tightened or pulled through the shifter to change gears (this is too simplistic, but you get the idea).
Electronic switching, on the other hand, makes the wire superfluous. The shifters and derailleurs communicate wirelessly, ensuring reliable, sharp shifting in all conditions. It’s also really insanely cool. Di2 still uses wires that run through junction boxes, but cables are a thing of the past. It’s more about a system that just works than a more streamlined drivetrain. Or at least it was.
While Shimano Di2 has been around for over a decade, SRAM recently took electronic shifting to the next level with the introduction of its eTap system – a more streamlined and truly wireless take on the electronic drivetrain. It followed this up with the launch of the eTap AXS (pronounced “axis”) system, which offers further refinements and more gears than its predecessor.
Now, as you might imagine, electronic shifting on bicycles has traditionally been a quite expensive. To add even “entry level” (if such a thing even exists), Shimano Di2 to a bike would be about $2,000. But with the arrival of SRAM’s eTap AXS, the company trickled down everything that makes electronic shifting great to the most affordable electronic system on the market: Rival eTAP AXS.
Now mind you, it still isn’t cheap (a full Rival AXS drivetrain starts around $1400 at the most basic level). But the arrival of, uh, Rival in the AXS line means one thing: The electronic powertrain market is heating up in a meaningful way. Shimano will have to respond with a more affordable option if it is to remain relevant, and it will have to make its technology wireless.
This is going to be an area of bike technology that’s really worth keeping an eye on as it’s almost certainly the way the entire industry is moving towards anything but the lowest systems. SRAM has already announced that Rival eTap is replacing its mechanical Force line, which speaks volumes about the future of this technology — it’s not going anywhere but up. Or down, I think. Depends on how you shift.
Smart safety technology to raise awareness
What good is a bike if you don’t feel safe on it? Not very. That’s why safety technology is important for cycling today, with companies like Garmin and Cycliq leading the way. Garmin has the Varia Radar to make cyclists more aware of approaching vehicles, while Cycliq makes cameras for the front and back of bikes in case something happens. They are both brilliant pieces of technology.
The Garmin Varia Radar is a great rear light that attaches to the back of a bicycle and uses radar technology to detect oncoming vehicles to send an alert to a compatible cycling computer. The Varia Radar is not only compatible with Garmin head units, it also works with Wahoo, Hammerhead and others.
When I first started riding the Radar, no one else I knew had one. But I could call out cars coming from behind when I got to the… front side of the suit. After a few rides, other riders slowly started picking up Radars, and now everyone I know rides one. They’re not super useful when driving through busy streets as there are always vehicles approaching, but it’s a game changer for roads that don’t get much traffic. You know when a vehicle is approaching long before you can hear it.
There’s also Cycliq, which makes what I would call ‘dashcams for bikes’. The Fly line of cameras is designed to be mounted on the front and back of bikes, offering at least some peace of mind should something happen – say, a ride that gets too close. Or, you know, worse. If you get hit by a car, Cycliq can defend you with video evidence of what happened.
There are also other things that may not be directly related to safety but are helpful, such as bone conduction headphones. Allows you to get some tunes while you drive and still all the situational awareness you need. It’s the only way I wear headphones on the bike and my top recommendation for cyclists and runners alike.
The future looks bright for bicycle technology
While there is a your from cool bike tech not mentioned here (seriously, that could be a whole book), this is a look at some of my favorite things. I personally use a lot of the technology mentioned here, but still waiting for that electronic powertrain upgrade.
I always keep an eye on the latest cycling technology because it is (of course) one of my favorite niche markets. With some of the things I see coming on the pike, there’s a lot to be excited about right now.