Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Connected" Cycling - Here We Go Again

Yet another Kickstarter campaign is upon us which promises to improve the cycling experience by getting us connected through technology. The makers of COBI call it the "world's smartest connected biking system" and "the smartest way to upgrade your bike -- making every ride more rewarding and more fun."

And there's a video!

In it, we meet Andreas, the founder of this new startup.

"As an active surfer and mountain biker, I've always been fascinated by ideas that combine technology and design with sports."
Andreas has a problem with his bicycle -- and ultimately, I think his problem is going to have something to do with the fact that it isn't enough like a car.

"Whenever I look down at my handlebars, it seems that there is something wrong."
Hmm. . . could it be that his handlebars look a little like a mobile RadioShack?

"It wasn't an integrated and connected experience. . . It wasn't beautiful."
I have a suggestion. Just take some of that crap off the bars and leave it at home. But then, that wouldn't allow him to enjoy riding his bicycle as much. Apparently the "modern cyclist" can't enjoy a ride without being inundated with data, keeping up with text messages, tracking every little thing they do with social media, etc., etc. Honestly, some people don't seem to know they're alive if their experiences aren't posted on social media. Which brings to mind a philosophical question: If a Fred rides a bike but doesn't see his data on Strava, did he actually go for a ride?

Next, we hear from Carsten, the "Head of Brand Experience."
"So far we haven't seen an interface that matches the needs of the modern cyclist."
By the way, what the hell does a "Head of Brand Experience" do? Is that what we used to call "marketing"? And what exactly are the "needs of the modern cyclist"? What does COBI do that "makes every ride more rewarding and more fun"?

Just like a car that will remotely start for the driver, COBI will "start" your bike for you when you get near it with your cell phone. (Hey -- I'm just reporting it. I'm not making this up)
Yes, you might already have a weather app for your smartphone -- but apparently the COBI system has an "Enhanced Forecast" that chides you into riding. "The forecast is sunny. Hit the streets like a bolt!" Maybe it should also nag you about maintenance. "Hey PigPen, you haven't cleaned your chain for a while!"
So much for eliminating all the extra hardware from the handlebars - there's also a "thumb controller" that lets you scroll through all your on-screen options, so you can keep your eyes where they belong . . . on your cell phone! A particularly handy feature for urban riding.
Don't forget the ever-popular navigation system. . .
. . . built-in headlight, and an automatic brake light with turn signals . . .
. . . and a "custom bell" that issues a pathetic little "ding" from the cell phone.

Of course, there's also an anti-theft system that "only unlocks for you" and a "motion sensitive Theft Alarm" that "scares away thieves with its light and sound alert." Yes, because car alarms that go off in the middle of the night are truly effective at pissing off the neighbors even though they do little to keep determined car thieves at bay. A flashing, beeping bicycle is sure to strike terror into the dark souls of bike thieves. It just sounds laughable.

To be honest, I don't know how any of this is supposed to improve our riding experience and make it more rewarding, but again and again we have people telling us we need to be "connected" when we ride.

Want to know how to get "connected" with your bike and your ride experience? All you need is THIS:
The best way to be "connected" to your bike.

The best way to be "connected" to your ride experience . . . 

(. . . or if you prefer, the "gooier" version.)

That's it. That's really all the "connectivity" you need for a rewarding bike ride. The rest is just a distraction.

My Retrogrouch-y Advice: Unplug once in a while. Just ride the damn bike.


  1. A great posting. Much needed and my feeling also.

  2. This kickstarter is just plain ridiculous. This reminds me of youth bicycles I saw in magazines in the 1970's that were equipped with steering wheels, supposedly to make them feel more car like.

  3. I gave up cycling electronics when I started riding Mercians. Coincidence?

  4. Unplug once in a while. Just ride the damn bike.
    Recently I did a piece about smart bikes, measuring and connectivity craze in the blog section of a German daily paper. I needed far more words to make my point, but exactly that is what it comes down to at the end of the day. And one should see the red alert sign if some nerd starts talking about experience. How comes that all these experience enhancing nerd bikes leave you with a wet bum on a rainy day because fenders are considered contra-stylish? This is clearly an experience I can do without.

    But I have to admit that I'd fancy that automatic brake light - if were compatible with Shimano 600 Ultegra brifters. ;-)