Smart urban commuter bike features built-in sensors, navigation, & performance tracking

The sleek Vanhawks Valour is a carbon fiber beauty that integrates a 'connected' platform in a bid to reshape urban commuting.

While the high-tech trend in commuter cycling is moving rapidly toward e-bikes, not all new 'smart' bikes are electric bicycles, and with good reason. Not every bike needs to be electric, and not every commuter needs or wants an e-bike, and while electric bikes can be just the right transport option for some people, there are still plenty (maybe the majority) of riders that will stick with a conventional bicycle for their commute. But there are companies working on the middle ground between completely conventional bicycles and fully-connected electric bikes, such as Vanhawks, which builds what it calls "the world’s first fully-connected smart bike."

Vanhawks Valour bike© Vanhawks

Lloyd wrote about the Vanhawks Valour in early 2014, when the company went to Kickstarter to crowdfund "the bike of the future," and after that very successful campaign, Vanhawks is now offering the Valour in a number of different configurations, all with the same core smart technology and carbon fiber frame and fork.

The Valour integrates a suite of sensors for both safety and data tracking purposes, including a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, speed sensor, and blindspot detection sensors, which are intended to "enhance" the riding experience and allow riders to "commute with peace of mind." Considering the amount of coverage that the sensor suites in new cars get, which enable lane-keeping, collision warnings, blindspot detection, and soon-to-be autonomous driving, putting these types of safety features on bicycles seems kind of like a no-brainer, and adding screen-free navigation aids to bikes could be a real attention saver for riders.

As Lloyd wrote about the Valour before, it "may be the perfect bike for the mesh city" due to its high-tech nature, which might help improve modern city infrastructure through better and more data collection, as well as the ability to connect and/or interact with other systems, including other bikes. The Valour mostly connects with its app, however, so the bigger picture of bikes being part of "the mesh city" may still be farther in the future, but riders may find the "smart" features of the bike to be a welcome addition to their commutes or pleasure rides. Knowing when someone is coming up in your blindspot can be a real lifesaver, getting navigation cues from the handlebar (not a screen) can keep your eyes on the road, and tracking your ride metrics and routes could help improve both health goals and commute times.

Vanhawks Valour navigation© Vanhawks
A series of LED lights on the handlebars guide the rider along the route they've selected, which means the smartphone can stay in the pocket, not on the bike, and the ultrasonic blindspot detectors send haptic (vibrating) alerts to the handlebars as well, which can warn riders of dangers without having them take their eyes off the road. Sensors also track speed, distance, and length of rides, which are then be displayed on the app, along with estimated calories burned, and can be used to track performance over time. The bike is said to also be able to connect riders with a network of other Valours owners, "aiding in theft prevention by allowing riders to report the bike as missing or stolen and other riders to assist in recovery," but this wouldn't likely be a big advantage unless there are a horde of other Valours riders in the area.

The bike itself, which has a carbon fiber frame and fork and weighs between 16 and 20 lbs, comes in four sizes, and is available either as a singlespeed or with a continuously variable transmission (internal gearing), with motive power delivered by the rider through a Gates Carbon Belt Drive, and includes front and rear disc brakes. The electricity for the bike's tech features comes from a dynamo hub in the front wheel, which fully charges the internal battery in about an hour's worth of riding. The Valour connects via Bluetooth to the accompanying app, where it relays data about the ride and route, which can then be used to improve other commuters' rides, as the sensors "pick up on potholes and rough terrain, creating a Google Maps overlay that informs other riders via companion app of a route's topography."

Prices on the Vanhawks Valours begin at $1,299 and run to about $2,449, depending on the configuration, and more information is available at the company website.

Tags: Bikes

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