These smart bikes can learn from each other

You know it's a connected world when bikes are reporting sightings of stolen brethren

Cycling is a sport with strong ties to technology. From the bikes themselves to the clothing and accessories, cycling has readily adopted new technologies over the years. When I plan my 150-mile rides, my tech is as important as my nutrition and training. I plan routes using dedicated software and upload them to a GPS device for navigation. I monitor my heart-rate during the ride to improve my performance. Smartphone apps and helmet-mounted cameras have become a normal part of cycling for many people. The next advance in cycling? Connected bikes.

Vanhawks, a Toronto-based tech company, successfully raised $820,083 CAD in a 2014 Kickstarter project to modernise the urban commute. Now they are shipping Valour: the first smart, connected road bike. My own unintelligent bike is rigged with various devices and receivers to give me the data I need, but the Valour can do everything itself. Whether you want to record your rides, navigate new locations, or keep yourself safe, the Valour can help straight out of the box.

The Valour has a built-in gyroscope, speed sensor, GPS receiver, accelerometer, magnetometer, and even sensors that detect dangers in your blind spots. The Valour syncs with iOS or Android smartphones and tracks speed, distance, cadence and other important cycling data. The handlebars provide haptic feedback if a vehicle approaches dangerously close in your blind spot. The Valour even detects other Valours to form a network of users. One major advantage of this system is that stolen bikes can be reported when they are nearby other Valours. If spotted by another user, you receive a notification on your smart phone to alert you to the stolen bike’s location. Amazingly, all this tech can be powered just by cycling. There’s a dynamo in the front of the bike that takes energy from your pedalling and feeds it to the various sensors and receivers.

Navigating using GPS and planned routes usually means buying a dedicated device that costs hundreds of pounds, or clumsily strapping your smartphone onto the handlebars. With the Valour’s built-in GPS receiver and Bluetooth syncing with smartphones, even navigation is possible. Unobtrusive LEDs on the handlebars point out the direction to turn on your route, including when you’ve overshot and need to do a U-turn.

The accompanying smartphone app is equally impressive. It records your rides and allows you to plan routes, much like other cycling apps such as Strava. However, the Valour records a lot more than your GPS position: the accelerometer detects all those dodgy roads with potholes that slows down your commute. Over time the app learns your routes and is able to suggest faster routes by helping you find smoother roads and avoid bad traffic. The app combines data from other Valour users so everyone benefits.

Image © Vanhawks

The bike itself is simple and ergonomic, sporting a carbon fibre frame and forks. There are a number of aesthetic and technical customisation options available on the Vanhawks website, too. The Valour looks good, but not like it’s riddled with sensors – it’s less about making a statement and more about practicality. Vanhawks want their bike to be comfortable, keep you safe, and improve your commute.

If you want one as much as we do, the bike can be pre-ordered now on the official website, but it’ll cost you: about £804 for the single-speed version including UK shipping.

Vanhawks say new orders will be reaching European customers early this year and they’re partnering with a supplier in the UK to reduce shipping costs. An extra $176 (£123) will give you variable gears and $35 (£24) will upgrade the disc brakes, but a bike that talks to its bike friends? That’s priceless.


Main image © Vanhawks