Cycling changed my life. Tech enhances my life on a daily basis. When I get to combine these two things, it’s truly magical. So I figured for World Bicycle Day I could highlight some of my favorite bike tech—things I use daily and things that I’m just genuinely excited about and haven’t gotten to try yet.
You know, just super cool bike innovation. Stuff that wasn’t around (or at least not as accessible) a decade ago. The bike stuff that’s changing the game, one ride at a time.
Let’s dig in.
Cycling Computers and Wearables are a Paving a New Path
My love for any gadget that tracks my cycling habits is no secret, and it’s only getting stronger by the day. Modern bike computers are so much more than the simpletons of yesteryear, with the ability to track damn near any metric you can possibly think of these days. Everything from the expected stuff like speed and cadence to more useful metrics like heart rate data to the insane stuff like power data, shift count (for electronic drivetrains, which we’ll talk more about in a bit), and … you get the idea.
I currently ride with a Garmin Edge 530 cycling computer, which is honestly the best computer I’ve ever owned (and I’ve owned a lot!). But as much as I heart my Edge, the new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt looks like a very fine piece of gear for anyone interested in getting a high-end cycling computer and isn’t already married to the Garmin ecosystem.
But if you really want to take your fitness to the next level, a fitness watch is where it’s at. Like, you could go with something like a Fitbit—the Versa 3 is a great choice for an entry level fitness watch (though I wouldn’t really call it “bike tech”)—but if you really want to jump in head first, a multisport watch is the best option.
When it comes to this category, it’s really hard to beat Garmin. There is a watch for almost everyone in Garmin’s catalog—from the sleek and elegant Venu 2 to the budget-friendly but feature-rich Forerunner 45 to the insane and over-the-top Fenix 6x or absolutely extreme Enduro. If there’s something you need from a fitness watch, there’s almost certainly a Garmin that can do it.
And while you can use many fitness watches to replace (or replicate) the function of a bike computer, they also work as great lifestyle or overall wellness devices. Almost every new fitness watch worth its salt will also track steps, sleep, intake, heart rate, and a slew of other really meaningful data. Fitness watches are among some of my favorite pieces of bike tech right now, especially because of how well they flow into my life—both on and off the bike.
Recovery tech is also an interesting and emerging bit of tech to pay attention to. Whoop is a clear leader here—I’m actually testing one for review now that will get published in a month or so. The concept of tracking not just your workouts but also how well your body recovers is brilliant.
Smart Trainers and Power Meters Have a Meaningful Impact on Training
If you’re a cyclist already, you’ve probably read about (or even extensively researched) power meters and smart trainers. If not, well, here’s the quick very simple explainer. Power meters measure your power output (in watts)—it’s the most accurate way to know where your fitness is on the bike. And smart trainers are trainers with resistance control for better indoor training and integration with training/riding apps.
Smart trainers all have built-in power meters, so it’s sort of the best of both worlds. The primary benefit of having an actual power meter is that it’s a component on the bike so you can use it both indoors and out. A smart trainer can only be used inside. I mean, unless you drag it to the backyard or whatever. In which case, hey, you do you. I respect it.
Either way, both of these are training tools that I find to be invaluable. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details on power meters (that’s outside the scope of this article), but know there is no shortage of options out there—cranks, spiders, pedals, and hubs are all on the table here (just to name a few).
And for smart trainers, you yet again get a bunch of choices, like wheel-on or direct drive. Again, that’s a bigger scope than I can include here, but they both have pros and cons. If you want my honest take, I think getting a “dumb” trainer and a dedicated power meter is the way to go—you’ll save a bit of money (maybe) and get a truly versatile setup.
But if you get a smart trainer, you can use fun apps like TrainerRoad and Zwift, which are honestly life-changing one you get really into them. Rolling through the beautiful digital world of Zwift is honestly pretty surreal when paired with a smart trainer. Or if you just want to get faster, skip the “fun stuff” and just hit TrainerRoad hard and heavy. OR! Do what I do: both. That’s the best.
Honestly, you can’t really go wrong here. It’s all about how much money you want to spend. These are two pieces of bike tech that I use multiple times a week and I don’t ever want to be without either one.
Electronic Drivetrains are the Future
if I had to pick one piece of bike tech that I’m most excited to watch as it evolves, it’s the electronic drivetrain. The idea here has actually been around since the 90s, but it wasn’t until Shimano introduced Di2 in the late 2000s that it started to pick up relevance.
For those who may be confused about what “electronic” means here, a bit of clarification. Most bicycle drivetrains—that is, the shifting mechanisms—work by using cable tension. A cable is installed into the derailleur (the thing that moves the chain when you shift), then tightened or pulled by the shifter to change gears (this is overly simplistic, but you get the idea).
Electronic shifting, on the other hand, does away with the wire. The shifters and derailleurs communicate wirelessly, which creates reliable, crisp shifting in all conditions. It’s also really freakin’ cool. Di2 still uses wires routed through junction boxes, but cables are a thing of the past. It’s more about a system that just works than a more streamlined drivetrain. Or it was, at least.
While Shimano Di2 has been around for more than a decade, SRAM recently took electronic shifting to the next level with the introduction of its eTap system—a more streamlined and truly wireless take on the electronic drivetrain. It followed this up with the launch of eTap AXS (pronounced “axis”) system, which offers further refinements and more gears than its predecessor.
Now, as you might imagine, electronic shifting on bikes has historically been quite expensive. To add even “entry-level” (if such a thing even exists) Shimano Di2 to a bike would be roughly around $2,000. But with the arrival of SRAM’s eTap AXS, the company trickled down everything that makes electronic shifting great into the most affordable electronic system on the market: Rival eTAP AXS.
Now, mind you, it’s still not cheap by any means (a full Rival AXS drivetrain starts around $1400 at the most basic level). But the arrival of, uh, Rival in the AXS line means one thing: the electronic drivetrain market is heating up in a meaningful way. Shimano will need to respond with a more affordable option if it wants to stay relevant, and it will have to make its tech wireless.
This is going to be an area of bike tech that’s truly worth keeping an eye on because it’s almost certainly the way the entire industry is heading for all but the lowest-end systems. SRAM has already announced that Rival eTap is replacing its Force mechanical line, which speaks volumes about the future of this technology—it’s not going anywhere but up. Or down, I guess. Depending on which way you shift.
Smart Safety Tech to Increase Awareness
What good is a bike if you don’t feel safe riding it, though? Not very. That’s why safety tech is a big thing for bikes these days, with companies like Garmin and Cycliq leading the way. Garmin has the Varia Radar to keep cyclists more aware of approaching vehicles, while Cycliq makes cameras for the front and rear of bikes in case something happens. They’re both brilliant pieces of technology.
The Garmin Varia Radar is an awesome taillight that attaches to the back of a bike and uses radar tech to sense upcoming vehicles to send an alert to a compatible bike computer. The Varia Radar is compatible not just with Garmin head units—it also works with Wahoo, Hammerhead, and others.
When I first started riding with the Radar, no one else I knew had one. But I could call out cars coming from the back when I was at the front of the pack. After a few rides, other riders slowly started picking Radars up, and now everyone I know rides with one. They’re not super useful if you ride on busy streets since there are always vehicles approaching, but it’s a game changer for roads that don’t get a ton of traffic. You’ll know when a vehicle is coming long before you can hear it.
There’s also Cycliq, which makes what I’d call “dash cams for bikes.” The Fly line of cameras is designed to mount to the front and rear of bikes, offering at least some peace of mind if something were to happen—a drive passes too closely, for example. Or, you know, worse. If you happen to get hit by a car, Cycliq can be there in your defense with video evidence of what happened.
There are also other things that may not be directly related to safety but are helpful—like bone conduction headphones. These allow you to get some tunes while you ride and still have all the situational awareness you need. It’s the only way I will wear headphones on the bike and my top recommendation for both cyclists and runners.
The Future Looks Bright for Bike Tech
While there is a ton of cool bike technology out there that didn’t get a mention here (seriously, that could be an entire book), this is a look at some of my favorite stuff. I personally use a lot of the tech mentioned here—still waiting on that electronic drivetrain upgrade, however.
I always keep an eye on the latest in bike tech, because it’s one of my favorite niche markets (naturally). With some of the stuff I see coming down the pike, there’s a lot to be excited about right now.