Ask the trade: Where is ‘smart bike’ technology welcome in design?

Quickly following on from part one of our smart bike discussion piece, we grill four very different bike shops on exactly when technology is welcome within bike design and discuss at what point it takes the fun out for customers (and our industry’s mechanics!)…

We’ve seen talk of bikes carrying motion sensors and cameras, among other innovations, to deter thieves at the home – are such innovations welcome or a step too far into the realm of sci-fi?

Mark Almond, Revo Bikes
Surely anything that helps catch bike thieves is good, isn’t it? Of course the underlying stumbling block is that people need to charge these security measures for them to work. As is often the case, it is the user that lets smart technology down.

David Barnett, Tring Motion
This really depends on the frame of reference. For those that are targeted currently in garage thefts an extra layer of security may well have deterred the thief. The professionals will study these systems and try and locate a weakness; the hammer near the impact sensor on cars is one that comes to mind and some cars used to be open-able with a tennis ball.

If we tie this question into another story – that of bike registration – then the consumer will be taken less down the paranoia route and more down the practical benefits route. What the bike industry doesn’t have, as far as I am aware, is a “Glass’s Guide” for used bike values. For many, proof of ownership is currently pretty impossible to do with accuracy. Some form of ownership registration system would open up the part exchange and used markets for dealers. A dealer could plug a bike in to work out its condition, check for ownership and outstanding finance, make a sensible offer based on the guide (or get it underwritten) and ultimately sell more bikes.

Neil Holman, George Halls Cycle Centre
Anything is possible. I remember “Tomorrow’s world” when they first showed off a “Hands free phone”. Look at them now; they are more powerful than many home computers.

Paul Corcoran, Pennine Cycles 
At what cost does this come? Are customers going to spend for these things? In my view, extra features all add to the overall cost of maintenance.

If Shimano’s patent filings are to be believed, we could soon see a bike that auto adjusts suspension based on the height of your dropper post. Genius or taking the fun out?

Mark Almond, Revo Bikes
I have mixed feelings on this one. Not only do I see this as hand holding the rider just that little too far, but it also depends on the rider actually using their dropper posts correctly. I see far too many people with posts down when they shouldn’t be and vice versa. Smart bike technology, I believe, should help the rider get the most from their riding, not do it all for them. I also feel that there is a strong belief among many consumers that the bike industry is just creating solutions to problems that aren’t really there; this level of smart ‘hand holding’, I fear, reinforces this belief.

Maybe developers should actually ask our mutual customers, without whom none of us would have jobs, what they want, instead of telling them what they will have. Basic marketing rules there.

David Barnett, Tring Motion
For some riders this will be an absolute bonus, though as with all things it will require some knowledge to set up correctly in the first place and it will depend ultimately on execution and suitable product installation by the manufacturers. This is a product that should be the specialist’s friend.

I see many customers that do not even have the most basic knowledge on how to set up suspension, so to have it all done for them will be a great selling tool and will certainly add value.

Paul Corcoran, Pennine Cycles
Is this just another gimmick to make cycling a mindless sport with no individuality and no thinking? Does it then become a sport of big manufacturers with big budgets? We shall end up with bikes that will require a degree in computer technology.