Monday, May 5, 2008

Ideas for New Cycling Products : Part 1

There's a fair number of people out there who think that the bicycle industry is stagnant. That there is no engineering, no new ideas and not enough, you know that certain something compared to other industries which I don't know how to define. I have come up with some of my own ideas for possible new cycling products/ideas. Some of this may be practical, some over the edge and wacky and some swims in the realm of science fiction (hey, but look what Arthur C. Clarke did for space exploration!!)

I haven't gone too much into the technicalities of any because that will defeat the purpose of me writing this. They are simply ideas and I hope they will influence, stimulate or even inspire your own thinking. If you're willing to contribute more, do drop in comments. If you have a winning idea, keep it for the patent office.

1. On the go tire inflation/deflation system - A monitoring system mounted on the handlebars detects tire pressure while riding. If pressures are too low and in order to avoid a pinch flat, pressure is boosted by a certain 'mechanism'. If pressures are too high, the system releases a quantity of air for more 'comfort'.

Now the idea is not strictly 'new. There's a bunch of patents out there and in the recent past, I have seen two Youtube projects that approach my thinking. Both were from the 'Innovate or die' contest sponsored by Google and Specialized.

A pedal powered pump here :

A Semi-automatic Tire Pump

I say keep the developments going!

2. Acceleration and lean angle monitoring - Former can be accelerometer based and the latter could employ gyroscopes. Knowing both these variables may perhaps aid in training like the power meter does. An objective number to test the power of a 'jump' on the bike for criteriums and sprinting and something else to perfect cornering technique. For how accelerometers work, click here.

3. Individual Leg Input Measurement - Knowing the force, power or perhaps even torque applied by each individual leg on the pedals can help balance the input from both legs. This may eliminate the input "bias" that we all grow with. Some are more right prone, some left. Balancing things out may help distribute the forces evenly preventing fatiguing or cramping on one side. Research is being done in this area. Recently I wrote a post on "Intelligent" cycling components that have sensors embedded into them in the manufacturing process.

4. Horizontal Fork Dropouts - I have discussed a safety scenario in an earlier post where sharp, pointy fork ends may slip from someone's grip and fall on an exposed feet leading to possible injury. This may even prevent instances of painting chipping or dropout damage. Some others have commented for the need for 'common sense' on part of bicycle users. I like both sides of the discussion. Giggle..

5. Self Healing Paint and Rubber (for tires and tubes) - It will be a dream to make a paint job on a bike last a lifetime. How about a paintjob from heaven that can heal itself from damage? And how about your inner tube or tire retaining its original form even after a puncture tear. This avoids the need for buying replacements or even dealing with rudimentary patch kits. It is my belief that tires are too expensive these days, pinched tubes are thrown into the basement or even the trashed and not many bother to recycle these items. These steps may conserve earth's natural resources like rubber. Hopefully nanoparticles can find itself into the bike industry in these two areas. Look here for an article on self healing rubber. Automotive companies are stepping up the game in these two areas. For self healing paint, I have scanned some literature from my personal collection for you to read :

6. Magnetic Braking - Disc brakes are fine but how about taking it a step further? Amusement park rides employ magnetic brakes to get equipment and payload to a complete halt. Long descents on bicycles can easily reach 60+ mph for those intent on speed. Perhaps braking could be more efficient, eliminate brake pads and could perhaps be built in a way as to take measured inputs for desired braking output. Vehicles employ magnetic brakes comprising an eddy current brake with a stator and rotor. According to this patent, eddy current brakes can also be used in bicycle ergometers. Click here to learn about how eddy currents work.

Go onto Part 2.

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