Friday, May 16, 2014

Getting "Connected" With Your Bike

Following right on the heels of Tuesday's post about Total Electronic Integration comes this Wall Street Journal article on "The Connected Cyclist." Yes, the WSJ got one of their tech geeks to load up his bike with every electronic geegaw he could fit on his head and his handlebars. That's right -- head and handlebars. Two of the tested items were the 4iiii Cliiiimb Head-Worn Display goggles, and the LifeBeam Smart Helmet. In addition, he also set up a car-worthy dashboard with nearly a half-a-dozen computers and a smart phone, as well as a crank-mounted power meter and a heart rate monitor. All of it just pushes into the realms of ridiculousness.

Of these items, the ones that were totally new-to-me were the head-mounted ones.

From the WSJ description: The 4iiii Cliiiimb is a "heads-up display that mounts on sunglasses. The Cliiiimb has an LED display in front of your face that tells you if you're in your target heart rate zone. When you're riding, the Cliiiimb shouts in your ear like a coach, telling you how far you've fallen behind your virtual opponent." Seriiiiously? When iiii want to have someone shout at me, iiii'll just riiiide my biiiike with traffiiiic, as iiiin my normal commute. Okay, I'm still trying to figure out the name -- it seems like a stutter to me. The reviewer says it didn't connect well to his phone, so it didn't really work as claimed. I think he should consider himself lucky.

Then there is the LifeBeam Smart Helmet. From the WSJ description: "The $249 LifeBeam helmet records your pulse using an optical sensor on the forehead that can monitor blood flow." The helmet's data displays on the Wahoo Fitness RFLKT+ computer, which was also tested. Apparently, using the LifeBeam necessitates regular recharging of one's helmet. Notice that with the way things seem to be going, it will not be long before people won't be able to ride a bike at all without constantly recharging their phone, computer, helmet, goggles, power meter, and of course, their shifters. 

Even for those people who see the bike as a training device, I question how much all this connectivity improves their training or their performance. I have a hard time believing that any of this electronic equipment and all the sensors and software will turn any middle-of-the-pack Cat. 4 racer into a winner. And the act of riding a bike just becomes so much data chasing.

What I find ridiculous about all of this is that when I ride my bike, I don't want to be connected to technology. And all that technology just serves to disconnect us from what's important. When I ride, I want to be connected with the road, or with the scenery, or a friend, or maybe even just myself. The way I see it, all of this electronic gadgetry takes bicycles and the act of riding them further and further away from the very things that make them special, and I don't believe it really adds anything to enjoying them. The simplicity of a bicycle should not be undervalued. I wouldn't be a Retrogrouch if I didn't feel that way.

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