We are approaching a new age of wearable tech; soon we’ll be able to fine tune every aspect of our riding experience with advanced gadgets. Or at least that’s been the promise in recent years, with little more than a series of overhyped crowdfunded projects to show for it. But what exactly can you buy now, and what should you? Join Bikesure, the free-wheeling insurance broker, as we take a look at the current state of wearables and figure out what’s worth wearing and what’s worth chucking.
Total surveillance begins with you
In the world of actually available gadgets, cameras rule the roost. Aside from being able to record exciting footage of your commute, they can help with insurance claims and perhaps even lowering your premium. While the doughty GoPro is the brand most people immediately think of, there’s a wide range of alternatives.
360° cameras are also coming down in price, if you’re interested in creating VR videos. One thing to bear in mind is the extra power your PC will need to render the videos, especially for high-end units like the GoPro Fusion. Not necessarily the most useful gadgets for your everyday needs but if you’re going touring they will take some stunning videos.
Going blue in the tooth
Bluetooth headsets add a whole bunch of useful functions, such as the ability to make calls, listen to music, hear GPS directions, and many can operate as an intercom between paired units. Which one is the best for you depends on your make of helmet, first and foremost.
Some manufacturers make kits specifically designed for their products, but obviously, as with any helmet, you should attempt to try in person before you buy to make certain it is a good fit for you.
Some of the features, particularly the intercom, will come into their own if you regularly ride with a passenger or friends. So if that’s the case, choosing the right headset for you and your crew is something that you should decide on together.
As any biker knows you can spend simply absurd amounts of money on pretty much every accessory. While supercool electronic gadgets will improve small parts of your driving experience, it’s the clothes that are really important and will protect you if you crash. While full leather outerwear will provide the most protection if you take a tumble, modern armouring and Kevlar make a good middle ground for urban riders.
A few well-chosen pieces will undoubtedly help, for example gloves. After head and spine, hands are probably the thing you’ll want to protect the most. Products like Handroid gloves from Knox look straight out of the Cyberman school of design, which is cool in and of itself, but features like the exoskeleton and specially designed sliders will help prevent some of the worst injuries your hands are prone to during high-speed impacts. These are more tuned for racers and anyone else planning on regularly going stupidly fast, and the cost is up there. For racing style gauntlets, anything over £150 should be decent enough.
Jackets are obviously a fairly hefty outgoing, but they should last a long time. If you’re after even more peace of mind, the Helite range of jackets incorporate airbags designed to protect your spine and reduce the risk of whiplash. This is very much a developing market, and alternatives like the Dainese D-air are angling for your cash with consumer versions of products originally developed for professional sportspeople.
Not necessarily an alternative but just as good an idea is the Pinlock Pulse vest, which detects if its wearer has fallen off the bike and activates warning LEDs, making them more visible to other road users and hopefully avoiding the situation escalating further.
Getting tooled up
These quality of life gadgets are all well and good, but if you break down you’ll want something that helps you get back on the road as quickly as possible. Constructing a portable, totally comprehensive toolkit is probably impossible, but you can get close. The main issue you’ll be facing is puncture repair. You can get a comprehensive repair kit for about £30, but these kits won’t have the tools needed for other issues. You can buy something like the Motohansa compact tool kit, specially designed by Dakar champion Simon Pavey, this stores easily on your bike, doesn’t take up much space but still has loads of tools to undertake emergency repairs when off-road.
Compact multi-tools are some of the most useful things you can carry on a daily basis. We’re talking Swiss Army Knives and similar. Probably more useful than a Swiss Army knife is something like a Leatherman. For anyone wanting wearable tools, they produce the Tread, a bracelet that conceals 29 tools within its links. That said, it’s probably not going to be practical for many situations, but it does look exceedingly cool. There’s even a watch version, making it even less practical.
Battery powered pants
Many bikers, especially ones going long distances, know the importance of a good undergirding with thermal underwear. But have you thought to yourself “if only I had to recharge my pants from time to time?” Well, the market has listened, and provided. Gerbing offer a complete range of heated bike-wear, from full outers to various liner style underclothes, each requiring charging every three hours. If you’re looking for gloves with a degree of protection and heating, they’ve got you.
Heck, they’ve got everything from jackets to socks, if you feel like spending £85 on some socks. If you really suffer from the cold and have too much money then you could absolutely kit yourself out with a completely heated motorcycle suit, including the various cables and controllers necessary to adjust the heat.
If you’re going that far to keep warm, then you might as well also buy a solar charger to help you keep warm. Products like the Tespack backpack allow you to charge a power bank, which should hopefully be able to keep your entire range of powered gadgets going.
With the importance of smartphones and the ever-increasing power draw a good power bank or subsidiary battery is a handy little thing to have. Something like the Anker Powercore should be enough to recharge your phone seven times before it’s exhausted. Whichever battery pack you chose, check it outputs the correct levels for your devices, otherwise, it may take forever to charge, if it works at all.
What about the helmets?
While we touched on smart helmets or at least making helmets smarter, the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the overall smart helmet shaped hole in this article. Fear not, we’ll be giving this topic the space it deserves in a full article soon. Until then, if you know any must-have gadgets or top tech tips, sound off in the comments!
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