Clever Training

Best of 2018: Cycling Gadgets and Trends

Best of 2018: Cycling Gadgets and Trends
Ray Maker

Ray Maker is behind DCRainmaker.com - which focuses on endurance sports technology and training and was ranked as one of the 50 Most Influential people in running by Runner’s World magazine.  The site produces the most in depth reviews and analysis of sports technology products out on the web today, gathering more than 3 million views a month.

Each year between summer and fall, a slew of new cycling products is announced at various trade shows such as Eurobike and Interbike. With these trade shows having wrapped up in recent weeks, it makes for a great time to round-up all the trends in cycling, especially the new products. In some ways, fall tends to be one of the best times of year to decide on new cycling tech as there are virtually no new cycling-specific tech announcements until the April timeframe the following year. Thus, you don’t usually have to worry about some new gadget superseding what you just bought.

Indoor Training Gear

Given that Winter is Coming, there’s no better place to start than indoor trainers. With apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad becoming commonplace for a cyclist’s winter fixes, trainer companies have kept pace by releasing an ever-dizzying number of products and enhancements – and these past few months have given us tons of options.

This year, we saw the push towards quieter trainers, as well as additional features that move the trainers and increase the indoor cycling experience to make it less boring. Above all – virtually all trainers got more and more accurate, as well as simply cheaper.

Wahoo KICKR CORE

It’ll be likely the trainer of the year from a price-to-value standpoint. The Wahoo KICKR CORE takes the previous year’s always popular Wahoo KICKR trainer, makes it silent and then slices $300 off the price by going with static (but still foldable) legs instead of height adjustable ones. It retained a high level of accuracy (+/- 2 percent), as well as the road-like feel by using virtually the same flywheel weight as previous KICKR units. The flywheel weight generally drives how a trainer feels from a reaction standpoint and whether or not it feels like accelerating out on the open road.

But the biggest feature of the KICKR CORE is simply that it’s silent. The only sound you’ll hear is that of the drivetrain of your bike. It’s a direct drive trainer (so you take your rear wheel off), which means you won’t be putting mileage on your tires, nor will you get any of the dreaded tire slip. It broadcasts dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, so it’s compatible with every trainer app on the market and virtually every type of electronic device you can throw at it can connect to it: Smartphones, desktops/laptops and even Apple TV.

Finally, it’s compatible with the Wahoo CLIMB, which was announced last year but only started shipping this past summer. The CLIMB automatically raises and lowers the front of your bike to simulate climbs (up and down). It can replicate up to 20-percent grade up, and 10-percent grade down. Apps can automatically control the grade, simulating what you’re seeing on your big screen TV in the pain cave.

Kinetic R1

Kinetic has long been loved and known for their Rock and Roll trainers, which allow you to sway side to side, akin to how you’d ride your bike out on the real road. But up until now, you were somewhat limited from a trainer technology standpoint. However, in the last few weeks, Kinetic dropped the hammer by announcing the new Kinetic R1. This trainer took the best of the side-to-side swaying concept of their previous frames and integrated it directly into a modern direct drive trainer.

Gone is the larger Rock and Roll frame, and inside the setup is a much more compact design that has the rocking motion built directly into the trainer itself. The trainer falls roughly inline with other units in this price range from an accuracy standpoint +/- 3 percent, though exceeds others with being able to replicate climbs up to 20 percent.

While it has a bigger flywheel than most other trainers at or below this price point, it’s not 100 percent silent like the KICKR CORE. But it is pretty quiet, and a typical indoor fan will be louder than the trainer itself.  Ultimately though, the main reason you’re going for the R1 is the side-to-side motion, which can help you get through longer sessions on the trainer via those slight movements which in turn cause you to shift ever so slightly on the saddle, like outdoors, reducing fatigue in any one exact position.

Bike GPS

When it comes to new bike computers this year, the competition has been split between the more affordably priced options as well as the super high-end mapping units. Both have seen a number of great units land over the course of the spring and summer.

Garmin Edge 130

First up is Garmin’s Edge 130, which aims to fill the sub-$200 market with its most complete option to date. This is the first Garmin cycling device introduced below $200 that not only has power meter support, but also basic navigation support. Plus other sensors like lights and radar (more on that in the next section), as well as the common ones such as heart rate, speed, and cadence. On top of all that, it’s one of the smallest bike computers Garmin has ever made.

Now, there are some compromises to be made with the Edge 130. It’s best not to think of it as a replacement for a mid-range unit but like an Edge 500 series device, as it doesn’t have quite as many data field options like TrainingPeaks metrics. But for the vast majority of people, it’s a great sub-$200 GPS bike computer that checks off all the boxes.

SIGMA ROX 12

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the new SIGMA ROX 12 introduced this past summer. It’s got a stunning display based on Android though, you don’t need an Android device to use it. That display is leveraged for the impressively quick mapping and a touchscreen interface that’s one of the fastest on the market. It’s also got features like Strava Live Segments as well as Training Peaks integration.

It can pull routes from not just Strava though, but also Komoot – which has special integration with the ROX 12.  After all, the main reason you’d buy the ROX 12 is for the mapping and navigation. Or perhaps because you just want a GPS bike computer with a big screen that’s easy to see in all lighting conditions.  As you’d expect it’ll connect to most ANT+ sensor types, including Di2 – and soon also most Bluetooth Smart sensors as well.

The unit uses the standard quarter-turn mounts so it’s compatible with tons of third-party options and even comes with a Barfly mount in the box, a rarity to include such a high-quality out-front mount inbox.

Safety Accessories

Accessories for the cycling safety side of things has expanded greatly over the past few years, with numerous connected accessories that aim to make you both more visible to vehicles – but also assist you in being aware of vehicles as well. It’s a two-way street, figuratively and literally, if you will.

Garmin Varia RTL510 Radar

First up is the revamped Garmin Varia Radar, the RTL510. In the past, this unit looked like a small brick on the back of your bike but Garmin’s updated version this year goes with a much cleaner look. It blends in a full set of rear tail lights, but also can detect approaching vehicles. It’ll then broadcast that in real-time to either your existing Garmin bike computer or a standalone Varia display unit. It shows you each car that’s about to overtake you, detecting them hundreds of feet before they get to you.

For traffic that’s overtaking you at significantly faster speeds, it’ll give you a more notable alert as well. The system works well in group rides and typically doesn’t false trigger for those in your same cycling group, though, if a faster moving group of cyclists overtakes you, it’ll naturally make you aware of them as well.

Generally speaking, the Varia Radar is one of those products that virtually everyone that buys it loves but can be a bit hard to convince non-owners initially. The move to a more clean bike light and radar setup this year has greatly improved the device and made it a must have, especially for those on quieter country roads. In busy city environments, it tends to be a bit vocal given the heavy traffic.

Cycliq Fly12 CE and Fly 6CE

Cycliq is now on their third generation of combination bike light and camera products, which aim to be a safety camera that’s built into bike lights you’d use anyway. The Fly 12 CE faces forward, while the Fly 6 CE faces rearward, which comes from the term “on your six.”

The new CE editions improve the Bluetooth Connectivity and app pairing, though disband with the WiFi transfer capability of the past (instead there’s a desktop app).  However, the new CE units also enable Garmin head unit support so you can easily control your bike lights from most Garmin cycling computers, both manually and automatically.

The lights and camera can be configured to automatically turn on and start recording as soon as you start your Garmin or instead, as soon as you press the start button to begin your ride.

Anytime the Fly 6/12 units are turned on they’re automatically recording to the micro SD card inside. You can independently control the light modes and brightness, in case you want to just use it as a safety camera. While the quality isn’t really a great replacement for a typical GoPro to show off your latest rides, it’s good option for capturing traffic around you and anything unexpected that might happen.

The app makes it easy afterwards though to overlay Strava stats directly onto the footage, including speeds and overlaying visual safety buffer lines such as laws that require vehicles maintain a certain distance from riders.

Power Meters

While 2018 was a bit of a quieter year for power meters, there’s still been some standouts – and in one case that really comes from numerous features updates to a unit announced/released last year.

Favero Assioma Power Pedals

Like the previously-mentioned Wahoo KICKR CORE trainer, the Favero Assioma pedals likely grab the title of best all-around value power meters. Not to mention some of the best power meter accuracy as well.

While the Assioma pedals were announced last summer, they’ve received a number of significant firmware updates this year as well, bringing new features as recently as late summer.

At its core, the Assioma pedals are a dual-sided power meter or a single-sided if you buy the Uno variant. They transmit dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart and with the most recent update, they feature a special Zwift mode to ensure the correct dual-sided Bluetooth Smart power transmission to Zwift, something that isn’t actually the norm for dual-sided systems these days.  In addition, the company rolled out support for elliptical chainrings back this past spring as well as increased their accuracy tolerances to +/- 1 percent, some of the best in the industry.  On top of all that, they dropped a huge white paper, detailing their accuracy testing and validation methodology.

Wrap Up

With winter just around the corner, the new indoor trainers, like the Wahoo KICKR CORE and the Kinetic R1, will allow cyclists to maintain peak-performance form without having to worry about the weather or traffic.

As for getting around places, Garmin has shown affordable options, like the Garmin Edge 130. Whereas, those looking to spend a couple hundred more dollars can turn to SIGMA's ROX 12 model, which features a detailed map with quick and easy routing options and a touchscreen interface that’s one of the fastest on the market.

In terms of staying safe on the roads, the Garmin Varia Radar detects vehicles trailing hundreds of feet behind you. The Cycliq Fly12 CE and Fly 6CE are the perfect safety cameras you can mount on your bike. Both the Varia Radar and Cycliq's two bike light and camera products are perfect for detecting what's in front of you and behind you.

While 2018 was a relatively quiet year for power meters, Favero Assioma Power Pedals are a must-have, in terms of training with the highest accuracy and best all-around value.

As we have until next spring until we see any major cycling-specific tech announcements, these products should keep you ahead of the technology curve.


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