Let’s go way, way back in time. The year is 1817 and German inventor Baron Karl von Drais created a two-wheeled, human-propelled machine. This has been called the first verifiable claim for a practical bicycle. Going by that date, we are now celebrating the 200th anniversary of the bike in 2017.
The original design from von Drais was mainly constructed from wood and ran on iron wheels. The basic concept and look of that early bicycle are still familiar today, but von Drais would have a hard time recognizing all the fabulous technology accouterments available to modern riders.
1. Garmin Varia Rearview Radar
Bicyclists need to be defensive riders, always on the lookout for cars, other bikes and pedestrians. It can be especially challenging to keep an eye on vehicles approaching from behind, so Garmin developed a very interesting product called the Varia Rearview Radar. The gadget uses radar to detect the proximity of cars and other vehicles up to 153 yards behind.
The tail unit part of the system brightens and flashes when it detects traffic, but there’s a lot more going on here. An optional radar display unit mounts to your handlebars and uses dots to show you when vehicles are near and how far away they are. According to Garmin, the display also communicates “the relative speed of approach and threat level.” That can give you a valuable early warning if a car is coming from behind at a fast clip. The whole system with the display unit costs $300, but the safety advantages could outweigh the price tag for riders who spend a lot of time on the road.
2. XFire Bike Lane Safety Light
Bicyclists have long used headlights and taillights to help them be seen on night rides. The Xfire Bike Lane Safety Light takes a different approach to lighting up your surroundings. The gadget uses high visibility red lasers to beam a virtual bike lane on the ground around your bike. These two long laser trails move with you and help to mark out your space on the road while alerting drivers to give you room.
This doesn’t replace a regular headlight, but it’s eye-catching and makes for a fun safety upgrade for those times when you’re riding in the dark. Xfire also offers a USB-rechargeable version of the bike lane light.
3. Monkey Light wheel lights
If you think the bike lane safety light is fun, then you’ll really love the Monkey Light wheel lights, a kit that turns your wheels into glowing works of animated art. The M232 model features 32 full-color LED lights. The LED array connects to your wheel spokes and is held in place with small rubber blocks and straps. The battery pack attaches to the wheel’s hub. The system is waterproof and dust proof to handle even bad weather rides.
You can choose between 48 different pre-set themes that come to life when the wheels rotate as you ride. The themes include stars, hearts, spiders, elephants, flowers, lightning bolts and rocket ships. Can’t decide? No problem: There’s also a random mode.
The Monkey Light system is a lot of fun, but it’s also aimed at improving your visibility. It’s hard to miss a bicyclist with glowing animated wheels. The battery-powered lights can last up to 20 hours, which should get you through a few nighttime rides.
4. Zackees Turn Signal Gloves
Bikes are usually expected to behave like cars when it comes to following the rules of the road. Bikes, however, don’t come equipped with a lot of features that are standard on cars, like turn signals. Bike riders learn to signal their turns by using their hands and arms (a straight left arm represents a left turn and a straight right arm indicates a right turn). This works well during daytime, but it can be hard for motorists and other riders to see the signals in the dark.
The Zackees Turn Signal Gloves solve the nighttime directional dilemma by equipping the back of your hands with bright LED turn signals. Each glove features a directional arrow and two metal rivets that sit between the thumb and the side of your palm along your index finger.
Touch the two rivets together to activate the signals. While the lights really stand out at night, they can be used at all times. An ambient light sensor increases the brightness during day use. The gloves are also designed for comfort with shock absorbing foam, a reinforced palm, and a stretchy breathable mesh back.
5. Biken Banana Holder
Just when you thought you had seen it all, along comes a bike accessory that is simultaneously strange, funny and practical. Biken’s Banana Holder is exactly what it sounds like: a holder for a single banana that attaches to the center bar, handlebars, or seat of your bike.
The leather holder is surprisingly classy-looking and is sized to carry a normal banana and keep it in easy reach for a natural energy boost during your rides. Is it silly? Absolutely. Will it keep your banana from getting smooshed? Yes, and that (along with the amusement value) might be worth the $55 price tag for some riders.
Bonus: Garmin Edge 20 Bike Computer
When you're out on the trail, the last thing you want is to get turned around. This little gadget is one of Kim's favorites. In fact, she recently even gave this gadget to her nephew for Christmas since he regularly rides his bike around town.
The Garmin Edge 20 Bike Computer is one of the smallest cycling GPS computers out there, but it still packs a powerful punch. It can track exactly how far you've traveled, and how fast you're going. Plus, you can download preset courses you'd like to follow. This little gadget is typically around $130, but right now it's on Amazon for $100.