Bikes get Bluetooth Automatic Gearboxes
The latest development in the world of cycling is bikes with automatic gearboxes, and they don’t even need a flywheel.If you are one of the growing army of cyclists, then you will know that changing gears can be tricky. Knowing exactly when to change gear and actually doing it is not something that is entirely intuitive; it takes quite a lot of practice before you get it right. Until you become skilled at it, you will find that frequently you are in the wrong gear, either higher or lower that you intended.
However, thanks to some recent developments you can put all that behind you. There is now a bike with an automatic gearbox which is controlled by a smartphone.
The system uses a set of sensors which are attached to the pedal crank and to a wheel. These send signals to the phone over Bluetooth and the phone calculates both peddling and road speeds. It then computes the optimum gear for those conditions and transmits data over Bluetooth to an electric gearbox shifter which changes gear as appropriate without any intervention on the part of the rider.
For when the cyclist wishes to take control and select gears manually, the bike has handlebar buttons that communicate with the gearbox also using Bluetooth. These override the automatic smartphone based gear controller.
As well as the convenience, there are other advantages. In particular the system weight much less than a bike equipped with gear cables and handles, and the system is much more reliable as there are fewer components to wear out.
The Bluetooth system that is used is called smart/low energy Bluetooth. This has been designed to run on small button watch batteries with battery lifetimes of around a year.
The system is also programmable, so that riders can set up the gear shift points to suit their own riding styles, and the latest developments include using the accelerometer in the smartphone to detect when the rider is applying emergency braking and then changing gears accordingly, thus preventing locking up the from wheel; the system is analogous to the ABS in a car and can increase cyclist safety considerably.
Note that the system will only work on phones that are equipped with Bluetooth smart/ low energy protocols, though these are available on selected mobile phone deals as well as on some phones that use free SIM cards. Future plans include the integration of GPS so that the system is aware of forthcoming hills and so can act accordingly. Data can also be uploaded in real time to the internet so that cyclists can subsequently analyse it.
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