Posts with «cycling» label

Cowboy’s new all-road e-bike adds suspension and a much bigger battery

Like many premium electric rides, Cowboy's e-bikes make short commutes easier, especially those involving hills or a lot of stop-start traffic. Its latest bike is an attempt to address another challenge: comfort. The Cowboy Cross is the company’s first “all-road” model, with thicker, bigger tires, seat suspension, inverted fork suspension and a substantially bigger battery for more extended trips—or simply fewer trips to the charger.

It’s a substantially different offering from Cowboy, which previously aimed its products at European cities with established cycling communities and infrastructure. With the Cross, the addition of a rear rack fused to the frame and an expanded range of 120km (in ideal conditions) both mean it’s designed for more involved trips beyond a simple jaunt around your neighborhood.

With that larger battery and suspension, the Cross ST weighs 26.5kg – over 58 pounds – more than the company’s Cruiser and C4 models, while the standard Cross is even heavier at 27.9kg. It’s a substantial e-bike. Once again, you can choose between step-over and step-through frames, and the Cross will launch in three colors: dark green, dark brown and black. All of them have an almost-satin finish, and the company has changed up the paint it uses to make it more resistant to scratches and grazes.

Image by Mat Smith / Engadget

Compared to its predecessor, the Cross is far better equipped for curbs and random road bumps, resulting in a much smoother ride that I immediately felt during a brief test ride in central London. The e-bike launched up curbs, instead of the bounce and shudder I usually get on other e-bikes. It’s a single-gear bike, again, with a carbon belt drive system and the suspension is split between inverted fork suspension on the front wheel and seat suspension, both with 40mm of travel.

It’s easy to forget, due to the assistance you get pedaling, but e-bikes can be heavy – almost always heavier than their manual counterparts. So suspension makes a lot of sense when you’re riding something that weighs in at well above 20 kilograms. The ride, otherwise, was very similar to the Cowboy C4 I’d ridden before. Adaptive power is also on-board, ensuring the bike controls are simple and comparable to a standard bike. You just squeeze the brakes, and the bike will handle acceleration and thrust.

Cowboy couldn’t help tinkering with its companion app, and these bikes will launch with new social aspects for your rides, adding league tables between groups of riders and incentives to pump those pedals using your legs. (Excuse me, Cowboy, but I ride e-bikes in order to do that less). Fortunately, the onboard phone holder doubles as a wireless charger too.

While I love the Cross, I’m unsure about the in-app mini-games. Madly pedaling to reach your app goals in a place like London, where you might miss a junction, cyclist or runaway baby stroller if you blink, simply doesn’t seem wise. Cowboy says it’s still working on ways to gamify your trips in a way that’s fun and not, well, so dangerous.

Image by Mat Smith / Engadget

Adding suspension and a bigger battery cell, however, also contribute to the price. The Cross will be available at an early-bird price of £3,099 (just shy of $4,000) for a limited time, and will eventually go up to £3,499 (almost $4,500). In mainland Europe, it’ll cost at 3,500 Euros at launch and will increase to 4,000 Euros. You can order one now and the bikes will start shipping near the end of May or in early June 2024.

There are no US prices though, because the Cross won’t be headed to the US for now. The company says it’s continuing to focus on the European market, as it – getting all TechCrunch on you here – chases profitability. For some business context, rival premium e-bike maker VanMoof declared bankruptcy in 2023. However, the company still plans to roll out its rides to the US. But only when it’s ready.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The best gifts for cyclists in 2023

Other than a bike, helmet and a few emergency maintenance essentials, there aren’t many things a person needs to enjoy a bike ride outside. But having the right accessories can go a long way towards making the experience more fun, more safe and, ultimately, more rewarding. The list of recommendations below cover the gamut of things you can give to the cyclist in your life, from must-have safety accessories like bike lights, to more techie gadgets like bike computers. However, each represents an item the staff here at Engadget have personally tested or swear by, and would make for a great holiday gift.

Crankbrothers M19 Multi-Tool

Knog Rear Blinder or Rear Plus Lights

Garmin Varia Radar

Knog Oi Luxe Bike Bell

Kryptonite New York U-Lock

PS Bagworks Rider Strap

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

Planet Bike Waterproof Bike Seat Cover

Park Tool Cyclone Chain Scrubber

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt V2

Ortlieb Back-Roller Plus Panniers

Outdoor Research ActiveIce Sun Sleeves

Steadyrack Vertical Bike Rack

Burley Kazoo Trailercycle

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Honbike’s e-bike of the future is perfect for cities

Editorial Note: Apologies for the delay in this review, earlier this year I was in a bike accident – not with this bike, I should add – that left me with a months-long concussion.

I am a proud townie. I don’t mind the odd nature walk, but I’m far happier striding for hours at a time through cities, coffee in hand. I loved walking from law school in the center of London back to my apartment, six miles away, through the hustle and bustle. That’s possibly why I feel such a kinship with Honbike’s Uni4. It’s an elegant, efficient and beautifully-designed city e-bike of the future that is a joy to ride, just so long as you never think about taking it out of its comfort zone.


Photo by Daniel Cooper / Engadget

I won’t lean too hard into the “unique design” angle because plenty of bikes eschew the usual diamond frame template. It’s undeniably eye-catching, with a crossbar running from the headset / head tube down to the rear wheel, which then appears to bleed into the chain stay. I quite like the commitment to making it look as if it’s one continuous structural unit, even if it is divided by a wheel. The chunky crossbar gets much of its strength from the 432Wh worth of battery inside, which promises a top range of 100 km or 62 miles. The squared-off tube ends and built-in front light gives it a look and feel best described as “VanMoof-y.”

The Uni4 costs $1,699 in the US and £1,799 here in the UK, less than the £2,000 you can pay for a half-decent e-bike. Honbike hasn’t scrimped too obviously, with a Gates carbon belt drive with a quoted life of 10,000 km. There are Tektro Aries disc brakes on custom, six-spoke wheels that make it look like you’re riding a sport bike. The front and rear fenders are included although the instructions do tell you to put the front fender on backwards. There’s an integrated front light but only an aftermarket, battery-powered rear light bolted onto the seat. It’s less than ideal, but the logic for why it’s there is obvious: With no top tube, there’s nowhere to install an integrated rear light that’s high enough to be visible at night.

Photo by Daniel Cooper / Engadget

Integrated into the headset is a dot matrix display that’s supremely bright and perfectly visible in bright sunshine. There’s a small control unit on the left hand grip where you’ll turn it on, run the lights and set your power level. On the right, a built-in throttle will activate walking assist mode and give you a tiny shot of power from a standing start.

There are plenty of e-bikes costing around two grand that often feel a little phoned in, and no, I won’t name names. But for every standout like the gorgeous Raleigh Trace, there are plenty that look like their manufacturer took an old road bike, added a rear wheel motor, bolted a battery onto the downtube, and called it a day. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the industry to up its game – and the big brands are getting better – in the face of better-designed competition. The Uni4 is a better-looking bike than lots of those in its price bracket and, I’d say, looks like it costs a little bit more than you’ll actually pay.

The bike is hewn from 7,000-series aluminum and weighs about 20 kg or 44 pounds, which is a little heftier than it may look. It's a two-handed job to lug it about, and so you probably wouldn’t want to carry this up several flights of stairs on a regular basis.

In Use

Photo by Daniel Cooper / Engadget

I often wonder to what extent we should judge a bike upon the merits the company itself sets for it versus a more general-purpose view. The Uni4 is marketed as a city bike, engineered to eat up the long, flat stretches of asphalt between us and our destination. It’s no surprise – because I already tipped my hand here – that it’s ideally-suited to that environment, comfortably cruising along the road whenever and wherever I chose to go. In fact, judged on that merit alone, if you’re only ever riding this on the road (or a dedicated cycle lane) you can just order one right now. When the electric assist is off, the Uni4’s essentially the world’s most overbuilt single speed, and it works in that configuration, too. If you’re on flat, well-paved roads, then you should feel very comfortable that you’ll get where you need to go quickly and easily.

It’s only when we take a more general-purpose view and test the Uni4 out of its comfort zone do you see its weaknesses. Like many townies, it starts to struggle the further from civilization you get, even if you’re well within the boundaries of a city. Not far from where I live, there’s a path through a small wood that you can use to cut the distance between two major roads. It’s a well worn path, and on sunny days it’s a (mostly) flat and dry stretch that’ll save you 10 minutes or more. Sadly, even the gentlest of terrain will pose a problem because there’s no suspension or shock absorption, shaking your bones to a fine powder. Afterward, I took the bike to some tree-lined residential avenues, the sort where the roads are only relaid once every three or four decades. The trees have had time and opportunity to burrow across the road and make the terrain less than smooth as a consequence. Your municipality may be fine with potholes and uneven roads, but take it as read that the Uni4 is not.

Photo by Daniel Cooper / Engadget

You’ve noticed, too, I’ve mentioned flat roads a few times, because you’re not going to get too much help up hills. There are only three acceleration modes, and no fine-grain control beyond to help you get more power where you need it. Here in Norwich, there’s a daily savage hill that, up one side, has an incline of between 11 and 14 degrees, while its opposite hits 22.4. It’s so steep that it’s the site of an annual endurance cycling competition, and seemed an ideal place to test the Uni 4’s gyroscopic uphill assistance. Essentially, the bike is meant to know the gradient you are cycling up, and automatically adjust the power to suit your needs. Yeah.

For the gentler side, it’s doable, but you can expect far less help from the bike than you might expect. The company says it’ll run between nine and 12 mph on a 18 degree incline, but only if the rider’s maximum weight is 90kg. Sadly, I’m a few kilos over that figure, and so I really had to work for every little bit of help, leaving me fairly sweaty by the time I’d reached the summit. For the latter, however, you’ll struggle to go more than halfway up before the bike simply refuses to continue. During my testing, a pair of dudes in a panel van were hooting with sadistic glee as I tried, and failed, to motivate the Uni4 to climb any further. This isn’t a dealbreaker, since there aren’t too many really nasty hills in the center of most towns and cities. But you might need to plan your route to avoid anything too extreme during your morning commute.

While I’m piling on, the bike is designed to look like a single piece of metal that curls into itself. The lack of a second tube means there’s less of an obvious mounting point around the frame when you need to lock it to a public rack. Instead, you’re forced to wrap the chain around the wheel mount and then back again to try and create something that feels secure enough to leave. You can also electronically “lock” the electric assist, but that won’t stop the wheels from turning, leaving an enterprising thief with at least something usable. Given the cost of one of these things, the fact so little thought had been given about safely storing one is a bugbear.

Photo by Daniel Cooper / Engadget

Honbike says the 432Wh battery will squeeze out around 62 miles, or 100km in range via that 250W motor. Naturally, that’s in the best possible conditions with the lightest rider and the least amount of electric assist available. Here, in the real world, you can expect that figure to fall by a fair amount, and the company has tuned the motor to emphasize a smooth, gentle ride over world-beating power. You’ll pretty much find that the bike will just keep you gently cantering around at 10 mph in all but the highest power setting. You can push things to the current legal limit of 15 mph if you want, but you’d rarely need that sort of power unless you’re going hard in heavy traffic and need to work your legs. But I found that – as a heavier, more power-hungry rider – that my range would be closer to 30 miles on a single charge.

And here’s a nice thing: Honbike may have a perfectly fine app, it’s also completely inessential. The built-in display will give you most of all the information you’d need to access, including your speed and a basic battery monitor. If you want, and you splash out for a smartphone mount, then the app can show you a local map, your speed, distance and trip duration. At the end of each trip, it’ll also tell you how much carbon dioxide you’ve saved by cycling, if you really need the boost to your eco credentials.

If I have one other concern, it’s about how riders will be able to keep this bike running for a very long time. An end user can buy replacement tyres and inner tubes, brake pads, pedals, fenders and the front and rear lights, from the company’s online store. While brake cables that are run through the frame are an annoyance, it’s a common issue on high-end bikes, and most repair stores can handle it with little bother. But, for the other key parts, including the wheels, the motor and the battery, it appears that Honbike recommends you send it in to its service center. I don’t necessarily blame the company for getting nervous about user-repairs to power units, since the risk is fairly significant. 


Photo by Daniel Cooper / Engadget

It’s worth saying that more of this piece has been focusing on the Honbike’s flaws rather than its strengths. Which is a bit of an irony, really, since riding around on this thing has been pretty much a joy from start to finish. It’s just that it’s very much designed to be the apex predator in a single environment, and so you need to be aware of that before you buy. But if what you want and what you need is a bike that’ll get you from one end of the city to another, in an elegant and painless manner, then there’s plenty of reasons to buy one. Especially when you look at other bikes in this sub-two-grand bracket and realize that, as limited as it may be, it’s also a real looker.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Urtopia's Chord e-bike is a little overkill for a city ride and that's okay

Urtopia may be a relatively new name in the e-bike world, but it makes a strong first impression. With its 4G, GPS, mmWave sensors and even light projection turn indicators, the Carbon 1 felt like the Inspector Gadget of two-wheeled travel, but its exotic design and road-bike leanings meant it wasn’t for everyone. The company’s second bike, the Chord ($1,799), has a much less divisive aesthetic and – unlike its sibling – practicalities like gears and a more upright (and city-friendly) ride. Importantly, the Chord contains all the wireless connectivity of the Carbon 1 at a cheaper price, possibly making it a more compelling package overall.

The Chord feels like Urtopia’s attempt at a stylish city bike in the vague style of Cowboy or VanMoof. The Chord is apparently inspired by pianos, with its black and white colorway and the melodic notes that play when you cycle through the power modes. At 46 pounds (21 kilograms), it’s noticeably heavier than the Carbon 1 (33 pounds/15 kg), but it’s on par with other models in the same category.

The motor is a pretty straightforward 350W hub powered by a removable 360Wh battery. Top assisted speed is 20MPH over four modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Turbo. The maximum range is an estimated 75 miles, but that will obviously depend on how much assistance you use. As a Class 1 ebike, there’s no throttle mode here; instead, there’s a Turbo mode with barely any need to pedal to get you up to that maximum speed. As mentioned, the Chord comes with an 8-speed Shimano gear system which, combined with the assistance modes, make for a flexible ride in terms of speed and effort.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

The more interesting features with Urtopia bikes come from its connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS and 4G. Combined with an accelerometer and a gyroscope the Chord has a surprising amount of situational awareness, which I’ll get to later. Oh, you can also speak to the bike to change settings and use it as a Bluetooth speaker as you ride while receiving visual directions on the dot-matrix screen contained in the “smart box” bike computer. Did I mention there’s a comprehensive app with ride tracking, navigation and deeper settings, too?

Taking the Chord out for the first time, it was hard to ignore the extra weight compared to the aforementioned Carbon 1, but also the similarly pitched Tenways. It’s not chonky in the same way something like the 63-pound (28-kilogram) Velotric Discover 1 is but those extra pounds were noticeable the first time I tried hustling it (upright) into the elevator in my apartment block. Thankfully, it’s not something you’ll notice so much while pedaling.

The riding position is naturally more upright and it makes for a comfortable cruise around town. It’s not designed for off-road, but if you find yourself on uneven pavement or even a short stint on a dirt trail it does a decent job considering. The motor uses a torque sensor to decide when to kick in; it’s a very common system right now and does a good job of delivering power just as you need it.

Now, about that power. In the scheme of things, a 350W motor is a pretty standard entry-level option; it’s not about to pull your wrists out of their sockets when it kicks in, but it’s gets you to that 20MPH max speed in good time, as long as you’re willing to do the your part on the pedals. The three power modes are spaced adequately for whether you just want a little help or just wanna surprise that weekend warrior as you pass them barely pedaling. Turbo mode will reach max power without you really trying too hard – it’s a good option for if you’re feeling really pooped, and it doesn’t feel like the bike is pulling away from you, which can sometimes be the case with similar modes on higher-powered bikes.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

Utopia’s heavy-tech approach made the Carbon 1 stand out, but it also felt a little unpolished, at least in the first iteration of the app. The built-in GPS and 4G are meant to automatically record your rides and serve them up in the app with a map and statistics. Initially this felt a bit hit-and-miss. The fingerprint reader in the Carbon 1 was a nice touch, too, and it even doubled as an electric bell, but unfortunately it would often sound about half a second after I needed it. With the newer Chord, the software feels more finished from the get-go.

For starters, the bell is still digital (you can even change the sound), but it’s triggered by a much clickier button that’s much more responsive. More importantly, the app feels more refined now and I haven’t seen any rides go missing during my time with it. In fact, they appear almost instantly once I finish.

Of course, automatically mapping rides is cool, but it’s not the primary purpose of the 4G/GPS. That would be the ability to track your bike if someone steals it. As long as the Chord’s within cell coverage, you’ll be able to see its last known location via the app. You can also set it so you receive notification the moment the bike moves – potentially giving you a heads up before a thief can ride off with it. Of course, if the battery runs out or the GPS can’t see the sky it won’t update the app, but the cell lasts for a good amount of time in standby and it only fully turns off if you remove the battery, which requires a key (or bike-breaking brute force).

A quick note on the battery: Its placement under the top tube is a cunning way to semi-hide it, but also provides a little more protection from the elements. On the flip side, there’s no way to fully turn the bike off, so the 4G connection will gently drain the power between rides unless you remove it. In my testing, I also found that the estimated max range of 75 miles feels a little optimistic. It might be possible under optimal conditions, but even on shorter rides of 11 miles, with mixed use of modes and terrain, I had used up a claimed 25 percent of the cell. So if very long rides are your thing, take note.

If, upon hearing about all this 4G data you’ll be using, your first question was how much that’ll cost, the answer is nothing for the first year and then $29 annually after that. While it feels like everything has a subscription attached to it these days, this feels reasonable for the functionality you get out of it – especially if your bike does go missing and this helps you find it.

Beyond knowing where the bike is, the Chord can also guide you to your destination via built-in navigation. To be clear, it’s handled by the app, but when your phone is connected to the bike, the directions will appear on the dot-matrix style display. This also means you can keep your handset safely in your pocket or bag – unlike some bikes that make your phone the bike’s computer, forcing it to remain exposed to the elements.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

With the Carbon 1, I thought the option to play music through the built-in speaker was a novelty at best. The Chord hasn’t changed my mind either. Your music is going to sound pretty bad, but it’s a fun party trick nonetheless. Perhaps it’s more useful for podcasts and audiobooks? Just know that it’s something you can do (but not necessarily something you should). The voice control is a little more practical, but I rarely find a moment where I’d rather lean into the bike and talk to it instead of using the app’s controls.

Another interesting change from the Carbon 1 is that the smart box (formerly, smartbar) is no longer built into the bike. On the Chord it’s a separate unit that you attach manually, opening the door for some level of modularity. Urtopia hints at this in its press materials, suggesting that in the future you could upgrade to a different smart box with a better display, or new features which is an interesting concept if nothing else.

With just its second bike, Urtopia is showing a promising mix of consistency and growth (where needed). The Chord is a pretty enough bike that, if it’s to your taste, would serve as a good general purpose city e-bike. It’s not the most powerful, nor the most longevous in terms of range at this price point. But it’s possibly one of the most tech-laden and featureful if that’s what you’re looking for. Sometime's it feels like there's a little too much focus on the tech features and less on the ride itself. The fact that the door for feature upgrades further down the line, via the modular smart box, though, shows some welcome initiative on the company’s part. For the price, though, it's an easy recommendation if you love a quantified ride and rarely go off-road.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Acer is making an e-bike

Acer is making a serious left turn in its product offerings with today's announcement of the ebii e-bike. The Taiwanese company — typically known for its PCs, laptops and accessories — touts ebii as a bike designed for cities, with AI features used to learn riders' personal preferences and change gears depending on road conditions. Weight wise, it's about 35 pounds, making it lighter than most e-bikes. Acer claims it has a maximum assist speed of 20 MPH and can go just under 70 miles on one charge. 

The bike takes about two and a half hours to reach full battery life. In this area, Acer connects back to its roots, as the power brick can also be used as a portable charger for your laptop or phone. Riders must download the ebiiGO app for information on battery life, recommended routes, speed checks and to lock and unlock the bike. However, ebii will also auto-lock anytime the linked phone leaves the immediate area. Plus, it has an anti-theft alarm. 

Additional features of the ebii include collision detection sensors, lights in every direction and airless tires to avoid a flat. 

Acer hasn't specified how much the ebii costs or when it will be released. It's hard to make an estimated guess as e-bikes can range tremendously in price, from the $800 Lectric XP Lite to Audi's new electric mountain bike at over $10,000. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Urtopia's tech-heavy ebike is only as good as its software

At the tail end of last year, a curious new entry into the ebike market emerged: Urtopia. The company’s mission seemed pretty clear, to make the most feature-rich, connected bike the world has ever seen. And with a built-in 4G SIM, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, a fingerprint reader and mmWave sensors for collision detection, it was likely accomplished. Except, the model we tested was a prototype leaving us unable to evaluate some of the more interesting features. Until now.

The retail version of the bike is almost identical to the pre-production version we tested at the end of last year bar a few minor cosmetic details. The D-pad on the left handle has been slightly redesigned and the fingerprint reader on the right is also now a button. The only other visible change is the dot-matrix display, which is now flat and easier to read.

Perhaps one of the main features we couldn’t test wasn’t available at all – the app. With so much going on in the bike, it’s more important to have a companion tool on your phone to confirm settings and to extract more use out of some of the sensors (ride tracking, for example).

James Trew / Engadget

All I’ll say is, the bike might be the final hardware, but the software side of things started out a little... less complete. But in the space of a few weeks, the app has been redesigned and there have been a couple of firmware updates for the bike itself and the experience feels much less like a work in progress.

But first a little reminder. The Urtopia bike is a fixed-gear (Gates carbon belt), single hub-motor ebike with three levels of speed assistance (20MPH in the US, 15MPH in Europe). The 30lbs/15Kg city bike offers approximately 60 miles of assistance out of the 360Wh battery. That’s a fairly common spec for an ebike, but one look at the Urtopia will tell you this isn’t really a normal bike.

Last time around I was able to test Urtopia’s cred as a general road bike, and despite a slightly stiff ride (there’s no suspension) it performed well, with smooth pickup from the torque-based motor. The voice control for changing speed, locking the bike and more was also fun but perhaps not the smoothest experience (and even if it were, I’m not sure we’re collectively ready to be speaking to our bikes in public yet).

The first thing I wanted to try here was the 4G connectivity. Utopia isn’t unique in having a cellular connection (newer VanMoofs, for example, also offer connectivity), but the 4G here is behind a few interesting features. For once, you’ll (theoretically) get a log of your ride in the app every single time you go out. I say theoretically as it often didn’t work for me. Then sometimes it did. I couldn’t quite pin down what caused it to work sometimes and not others, but I suspect it’s to do with whether you leave the bike in standby while at home, or if you power it down (thus fully resetting the sensors).

After one of the firmware updates this feature became more reliable. Which is good, because it was frustrating to put in double-digit miles only to come home and find your ride wasn’t logged. Right now, there’s not a lot you can do with the data other than see where you went and how fast in a slick animation. It, of course, logs all your miles and… as I went to check the app for what other data it records there was an app update (duration, calories, average speed and even CO2 saved is the answer). Right now, you can only share the rides with the in-app “community” but the option to share to services like Strava would be a real positive.

James Trew / Engadget

In a similar way, the app can also tell you exactly where your bike is at any time, as long as the battery is connected and has enough power to ping the network. It will stop working once the battery totally dies, of course, but if someone steals your ride, you should have plenty of time to ping it and locate it before they realize it’s the world’s most connected bike and what a fool’s errand stealing it was. 

Another security feature is the fingerprint sensor. This was physically present on the prototype, but without the app, there was no way to set it up. It works surprisingly well and allows you to turn the bike on or to disable the alarm quickly. You can still ride the bike without assistance without unlocking the bike with your finger, but it’s effectively a cumbersome fixie at this point. Unless you turn the alarm on, then it’ll start sounding an alert at the slightest, and I mean slightest movement which can only be disabled with a registered digit.

One of the more intriguing additions to the Urtopia’s spec sheet are the mmWave sensors. These are designed to detect vehicles approaching from behind on either side. If something is detected, you’ll be alerted through a visual signal and vibrating handlebars. In practice, it’s a little hard to test without deliberately endangering yourself, but it does seem to work. Although, I am not sure whether, if faced with a truck coming up behind, you might be more distracted by the alerts than the traffic itself. That’s to say, this is clearly a valuable feature, but the outcome of it is hard to quantify at this time.

James Trew / Engadget

Something much easier to evaluate is the onboard navigation. Or rather, the ability to punch a destination into the app, and then have visual and audio turn instructions via the speaker and display on the handlebars. There are, of course, other ways to do this - either with a phone in a mount or maybe just in your pocket with audio instructions via headphones. But having it here right in the handlebars feels a lot more futuristic and means you don’t have to expose your phone to the elements/thieves.

The dot-matrix screen does have a bit of a retro vibe to it, and makes it feel a bit more like KITT (especially when it speaks to you). For the navigation, this works well enough as the arrows/directions are shown clearly enough that you can glance at them without being distracted.

Urtopia calls this screen and speaker combo the “smart bar” and it has other plans for it beyond serving up data and other visual feedback. One example is using the bike’s speaker as a Bluetooth speaker for music. This may have accidentally been my idea. I suggested it to them the first time we tested it, and now it’s part of the app. It’s kinda fun, though I have never felt quite so self conscious as I did riding through a busy park with phonecall-quality Drum & Bass playing from my bike. Podcasts might be a bit more its speed, but happy to see the feature here nonetheless.

James Trew / Engadget

There is… more. Another addition that was conceived after our initial testing is “game” mode. It’s not quite what you’re likely imagining. Or at least, what I was imagining. I assumed it might be some sort of virtual race where you have to “catch” up with a ghost rider like in a Mario Kart time trial. Or maybe some sort of way of making training/intervals fun? But no, it’s actually a game of Snake you can play on the display using the control buttons which, to be fair, are basically a D-pad. Obviously, not to be played while moving.

Perhaps the biggest chance since we last looked at the bike is the price. Now that the crowd-funding campaign is complete and the bikes are made and ready to ship, the $2,000 early-bird price has given way to the regular $2,799 retail price. That puts it in a similar category to something like the Cowboy C4 which has fewer high-tech features, but does have the important theft detection and locating capabilities.

All to say that, the Urtopia definitely has a lot of tech appeal, but it still feels like the software and features are settling into themselves. If they can continue to make that side of the experience as comfortable and as exciting as it is to ride, this will be a solid choice for those that want a capital-E e-bike.

VanMoof's new A5 and S5 e-bikes are harder to steal and smoother to ride

It was a breezy three-kilometer ride on VanMoof’s A5 e-bike around Battersea Park in London. Starting from VanMoof’s flagship London store, the company’s CEO, Ties Carlier, took the lead. He shot off on the more typically framed S5 ($3,498), while I got to grips with the boost and controls on the VanMoof’s new, shorter A5 (also $3,498). A few seconds later, I caught up. I hadn’t broken a sweat. My brief test ride around the neighborhood was almost too easy.

I had briefly ridden VanMoof’s e-bikes before, but its latest generation of e-bikes usher in changes across the board. The company has tried to make most of the parts on its newest e-bikes itself. The most significant change might be the removal of the tube-based display of the S3 and X3 bikes, swapping it for a duo of Halo Rings near the buttons on each side. (One rings the digital cute bell, while the other controls boost.) In addition to indicating battery life, it also shows how much the bike’s motor is working, along with the bike’s lock status.

Anti-theft technology (and a team of bike hunters)

E-bike security is a significant selling point for VanMoof’s bikes. Carlier explains that deterring theft is one of the biggest challenges to making “the perfect city bike," which has been the company’s aim long before it even started designing its first electric bike.

“A good bike – a good ride – requires more money,” he said. “With an e-bike, that’s even more true.” He added that whatever solution companies like VanMoof come up with, thieves will get smarter. The threat of it getting stolen has put me off from investing substantial money into bikes, and has deterred me from e-bikes entirely.

The anti-theft technology in the S5 and A5 (both priced at $3,498) includes an improved kick lock on the rear wheel. In addition, the bikes will automatically unlock if they detect the user’s phone nearby, and riders can otherwise unlock it with a numerical code that you can tap into the left handlebar – another instance where the new Halo Rings come into use.

Mat Smith/Engadget

If someone does manage to steal the S5/A5, tampering (or breaking) – which is integrated into the e-bike’s computer within the tube – the lock will first sound an alarm and, a short while later, immobilize the e-bike functions. For the thieves, then, it’s just a heavier push bike with a mildly distinctive frame and built-in lights that won’t work.

And if you’re willing to pay an extra $398 for three years of coverage (and that’s a fraction of the cost of replacing these $3,000-plus bikes), your VanMoof ride will come with support from a retinue of bike hunters – which still sounds cool. The e-bike transmits its location over 3G and the hunters are equipped with more fine-grain Bluetooth signal detectors to sniff out stolen bikes. If your bike goes missing, you can mark it as stolen on the VanMoof app, and if the hunters can’t find it within two weeks, the company will replace the bike for you.

It’s peace of mind, for sure, but it’s also yet another subscription. The S5 and A5 are even more expensive than their predecessors, which cost just less than $2,500. VanMoof’s latest rides each cost $3,498 – a $500 increase since they were first revealed. The company has also added support for Apple’s Find My network, but that’s more likely to help you locate your bike in a parking lot, not track down a thief.

Mat Smith/Engadget

VanMoof’s new stepover A5

The A5 model has a lowered step-in, meaning the bike is smaller and VanMoof believes it gives riders a feeling of being closer to the road. VanMoof’s premium-priced e-bikes don’t look like typical electric bikes – there’s no visible battery to begin with – but I like the unusually low-profile A5. When I use a bike, it’s multiple short trips, with several stops. This step-through model felt easier to ride. It was more of my thing.

The S5 and A5 come with 487 Wh and 463 Wh batteries, respectively. With the included charger, both take roughly six and a half hours to charge. VanMoof teased a fast charger too, but pricing is still TBC. On a full charge, the A5 can hit around 34 miles on full power, or 87 miles on economy power mode. Meanwhile, the S5 has a 37 mile-range on full power, which can be stretched to 93 miles on economy power mode. If VanMoof’s claims are accurate, both bikes should be able to handle plenty of short trips before needing to be plugged in overnight. The company also plans to offer a battery expansion pack that should double the bikes’ range.

A smoother ride

Mat Smith/Engadget

Both of the new bikes have upgraded gear shift tech as well. I tried a friend’s VanMoof S3 bike and could tell the newer rides had smoother gear transitioning. The motor has plenty of pep, but the A5 swaps around three gears incredibly gently. It’s hard to forget this was a premium e-bike.

While you can’t adjust gears yourself, it keeps the bike “interface” (can I call it that?) simple. That’s part of the plan. VanMoof’s Carlier says the company is targeting people who might not consider themselves bike people. The challenge is convincing them to invest in an e-bike. (At these prices, I’d call it an investment.) And if you’re waiting on the company’s even pricier high-speed e-bike, the VanMoof V, expect to wait a little longer. Due to supply issues, production has been delayed from fall 2022 to late 2023.

We plan to test out VanMoof’s latest bikes more extensively soon. Both the A5 and S5 are available to order directly from the company, with delivery dates currently estimated to be around January and February 2023.

Welcome to the age of the cargo bike

As the need for cleaner, more sustainable transport becomes ever more urgent, I’ve noticed a familiar pattern in conversations on the topic. Someone will point out that bikes are a lot more efficient and environmentally friendly, reduce congestion and are often faster than cars in cities. Others respond saying that bikes can’t possibly replace cars for a multitude of reasons: Riding on roads is dangerous, it requires a fit body, it makes you get all sweaty, it’s not ideal for trips into the office and bikes can’t protect you from the rain. The other objection is that a standard bike can only carry one person, making it useless for the times when you need to carry multiple people, or lots of stuff. Bikes can’t be used to ferry kids on the school run or haul a week’s worth of groceries, and so it’s pointless to look at them.

Except, of course, bikes have always been able to do those things, sometimes more efficiently than a car, SUV or truck. Cargo bikes offer the capacity to carry multiple people at once and / or haul sizable loads of stuff with very little trouble. It’s this form of cycling that may provide the easiest win for both individuals and cities to help solve the climate crisis. The argument that you need to be physically fit to ride – if that’s even true – doesn’t really apply any more given the benefit of electrification. It means that modern cargo bikes can rid dense city streets of delivery vans cluttering up our roads, and SUVs doing little more than the school run. And this isn’t a dispatch from some far-flung utopia, but something that might become massively popular as a looming fuel crisis causes the price of fuel to skyrocket.

The Bakfiets

RUBEN RAMOS via Getty Images

It’s worth saying that cargo bikes are nothing new – in the days before the car was king, cargo bikes were used by many. In Europe, before the second world war, cargo bikes were a common sight on the streets, used by grocers, tradespeople and families to carry goods and people. In the post-war era, and the age of car-centric reconstruction that followed, cargo bikes were left a curiosity in many countries, save, of course, their use to sell ice cream or other food at funfairs, festivals and markets.

There are roughly four types of cargo bike in common use today, although none of these terms are official and there’s plenty of blurring on the edges. Cargo Bikes, for instance, are stretch limousine versions of regular two-wheeled bikes, with a small cargo section behind the front wheel and in front of the rider. Then there are Box Trikes, with two wheels up front and a much larger box between them, while the rider steers from behind. Now, both of these can be described as Bakfiets, from the Dutch “box bike,” but there’s a world between the two and three-wheeled versions.

A more nebulous category is the Longtail, a regular bicycle with a longer, load-bearing frame behind the rider. Instead of a pannier rack, the frame can hold a small cargo box, or a bench seat that can hold an adult or two children. Bikes like Tern’s GSD or Yuba’s Spicy Curry are examples of the type of bike I’m talking about here. Finally there are Cargo Trikes and Cargo Quad Cycles, where the rider sits up front and there’s a hefty box mounted on the two rear wheels. EAV’s 2Cubed, for instance, is already being adopted by some major logistics companies. (Obviously three-wheeled Bakfiets can also be called Cargo Trikes but I’m trying to keep the definitions clear here.)

The Babboe

Daniel Cooper

The Netherlands already underwent its dramatic transition into a cycling-first society, and is the nominal home of the cargo bike. Its bikes are designed not just for one or two people, but families of up to five, and I felt compelled to try one before lecturing people on the future of transport. Raleigh, the British distributors of several Dutch bicycles, leant me a Babboe Curve-E, which is arguably the SUV of the cycling world.

The Curve-E is big, beefy and relatively expensive – in Europe it retails for €3,449 ($3,441). The Curve-E’s box has a volume of around 275 liters (72 gallons) and a load capacity of 100kg (220 pounds), with two benches running along the front and back sides. On each side are two three-point harnesses, and the bike is designed to carry up to four small children comfortably.

(In the US, you can buy a more powerful mid-drive version of the Curve-E I rode from Going Dutch Bicycles in New York for $6,250. It’s worth saying, of course, that the cost of importing a model like this is significant, and there are domestic alternatives available for less. For instance, Bunch Bikes – which previously featured on Shark Tank – will sell you a four-seater model for $3,999.)

I’ve been using the Curve-E as much as I can in place of the family car, trying to see which parts of our lives it can fit into. My wife wasn’t enthused about being a participant in this story, and so I used the bike for various adventures with my two kids. Of particular interest to me was if the Babboe would revolutionize the school run, enabling me to save time at the start and end of each day.

Cleaning up our roads

Leon Neal via Getty Images

If you read Engadget, then you already know how bad cars and trucks are for climate change, air quality and congestion. The rise of e-commerce, supercharged by COVID, has seen a massive surge in fossil fuel-powered delivery vehicles on city streets. And that’s not good for congestion, air quality or emissions. But cargo cycling has already been found to be something of a silver bullet for all of the problems caused by this surge in heavy goods vehicles on our streets.

Last year, Dr. Ersilia Verlingheri at the University of Westminster found that a cargo bike is 1.61 times faster than a van to make deliveries. Using GPS data strapped to both bike and truck couriers, she found that the bikes had a faster average speed and reduced carbon emissions by 90 percent compared to a diesel vehicle, and 33 percent compared to an electric van. The study focused on London, and found that there are more than 213,100 vans working in the city, occupying 2,557,200 square meters of road space. Dr. Verlingheri’s study found that more than half of all motorized freight could be completed by a bike instead of a van. And that the benefits of doing so are staggering – including tens of thousands of hours lost to traffic jams, and several hundred thousand tonnes of CO2 not being released into the atmosphere.

A smaller 2019 study that focused on Seattle, found that electric-assisted cargo bikes were more cost-effective than vans in densely populated areas, such as the hearts of major cities. And that benefits of bikes were magnified when you added in the extra effort needed to find parking, and the second-order costs of owning a truck. Not to mention, of course, the cost of buying the truck, keeping it fueled, maintained, as well as the necessary insurances and permits to ensure it’s road legal.


Daniel Cooper

One company already well ahead of this argument is Zedify, a British courier business making “last mile” deliveries in major cities. It exclusively uses low-and-zero emission vehicles, with the bulk of its fleet made up with a number of cargo trikes. The managing director of the Norwich branch of the company, Richard Jennings, talked me through the benefits of a bike-first delivery fleet. The first being the cost, the second being the relative speed compared to deliveries made by a light truck.

Jennings explained that most major freight companies operate large depots at business parks far outside a population center. Each van is loaded full with parcels before being sent in to cover a planned route that will take the bulk of the day to complete. Zedify’s model, by contrast, uses a smaller hub in the center of a city, where parcels in bulk are dropped off and then loaded on a smaller fleet of cargo trikes. These trikes will then do multiple routes each day, with riders able to choose their own routing in order to avoid cyclist-unfriendly roads and dodge traffic jams.

On paper, that sounds less efficient, but in practice Jennings said that it was significantly better, and Zedify deliveries are often a lot faster than expected. It’s also significantly cheaper, since all of the major capital costs associated with maintaining a fleet of vans are eliminated. The local setup, at least, uses cargo trikes from specialist provider Iceni Cycles, based in Wiltshire. It sells its heavy-duty delivery trike for £11,705 (around $13,486), or leases them for periods of up to five years for £61.47 ($71) a week.

While many fleet companies have to spend enormous sums on regular maintenance, Jennings can employ a single bike mechanic to run the entire fleet. Zedify doesn’t charge a premium for its services either, meaning that any cost savings can be passed on to employees. Jennings said that he’s able to “take better care of [his] people.” Zedify also made (local) headlines for being able to maintain deliveries during one of the UK’s several recent fuel crises.

There are limits, of course – a standard Iceni trike has a maximum weight limit of around 550 pounds, but Jennings says that the safe operating weight is just under 400. After that point, and hauling goods around just gets a lot harder to deal with. That means bicycle couriers won’t be delivering heavy goods, like home appliances or beds, any time soon. But the bulk of smaller goods could easily be carried by bike, removing a big reason for why city streets are full of vans. If companies like Zedify can corner the market in shipping and grocery delivery, then we should see significant benefits fairly quickly.

Jennings also showed me his latest purchase, a Maderna Tractor, a four-wheeled monster capable of taking pallet-sized loads. It’s equipped with a Bafang mid-drive motor that gives it extraordinary power and speed for a bike – as I learned when I rode it. It’s the sort of bike that you could imagine riding for a day without ever feeling fatigued, and certainly one you could have a lot of fun tearing around town on.

Our first trips

My adventures with the Babboe Curve-E involved me taking the kids out and about around the city. They were (and still are) delirious with excitement whenever we go out on the bike. Part of this, I suspect, is because it offers them a substantially better view of the trip compared to sitting in the back seat of a car. They like waving to people as we pass them by, and shouting hello to cyclists when they, in turn, pass us. They sit side-by-side on the forward facing bench, preferring the view (and a little bit of a squeeze) to one facing the other.

At a standing start, the bike requires a decent amount of push, but I found I didn’t need the electric assist at all. As soon as you start moving, the bike’s weight and inertia seem to do a lot of the work for you, to the point where I was riding the brakes more than the pedals. It’s also pretty quick, quicker than I was comfortable riding (especially with my kids in the front box) and so I never felt the need to switch up the gears to go faster.

More often than not, cars would give me a fairly generous berth – I think the uniqueness of the Babboe’s design on British roads meant there was some degree of curiosity. Especially on the main road close to my home, where cyclists are often given short shrift by motorists, it was a striking change. I suspect, too, the fact that the bike is wide enough, and my ride position high enough, that almost by default, I was taking a more aggressive pose on the road than I would ordinarily. That’s important, given the lack of segregated cycle infrastructure, although cargo bikes are often forced onto the roads by default, as most cycle lanes that do exist are designed for the two-wheeled variety.

The cargo boom

It’s clear that some of the factors that have boosted interest in cargo bikes relate to the energy crisis. COVID and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have caused prices to spike, and Europeans are looking for ways to cut their energy consumption across the board. Back in August, Cycling Industry News reported that while e-bike sales – which had spiked for much of 2020 – were starting to slow, eCargo Bikes were still growing. In fact, the uptake of cargo bikes has increased by 37 percent compared to the previous year, while manufacturer Urban Arrow said that it expected to see sales jump by 50 percent across 2022.

The school run

Maja Hitij via Getty Images

The kids enjoy the Babboe so much that they ask, whenever we go out, if we’re taking it or the car. I was, therefore, expecting this bike to totally revolutionize the school run each day and make everyone’s life a lot easier. It didn’t, but there’s one very good reason that I struggled in this instance, and I want to be clear that it is actually worth doing. You just need to really make sure that you know what bike you’re buying, and what your home terrain is like.

My home city is relatively flat, but it does have a handful of utterly murderous hills, and my kids’ school is at the top of one of the worst. According to local maps, the gentlest gradient to get up the hill is around 11 percent, which is a very significant slope. (The road on the other end has a maximum gradient of 22.4 percent, which I wouldn’t attempt to walk, let alone ride up.)

Now, I’ve tested my cycling output to be around 200W, and the motor on the Babboe can output 250W. But it turns out that it’s not enough, given the weight of the bike, to get up that 11 degree gradient without a lot of sweating. In fact, it’s so hard to get up there, especially with kids in the front, that no matter what gear I rode in, or what strategies I tried, with the electric assistance on full, I was still a hyperventilating puddle by the time I got to the top.

This, I should admit, is something that Babboe (if you check) does say in its marketing materials, as its bikes are designed for flat Dutch roads. If a buyer expects to cover a lot of hilly ground, then they should opt for the specialist Mountain version of its bike with a far more powerful mid-drive motor. At my child’s school, another parent bought the same model of Babboe that I had – but said that he would be trading it in for a Mountain version at the earliest opportunity.


Education Images via Getty Images

The elephant in the room is price. You can expect to pay upwards of $3,000 for a standard cargo cycle, and some of the fancier brands start at $5,000. The common response from cyclists is that people think nothing of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on a car, nor the hidden costs of fuel, tax, insurance, servicing and depreciation. On a total cost of ownership basis, the price difference between a car and a cargo bike is stark, and bikes win out nine times out of every 10 when picking the ideal form of transportation. But I can see, and share, the mental barriers to spending thousands on a bike for all of the obvious reasons.

For a start, the comfort level is far less than that of a car, you’re exposed to the elements and you’re limited by range. Then there’s the unspoken truth that in many countries in North America and Europe, bicycle theft is effectively legal. After all, with law enforcement resources stretched thin and the prevalence of bicycle crime, it’s difficult to enforce. Even in situations where people can show the location of their bike with built-in GPS, officers are reluctant to engage in recovery action.

Interesting (!) afternoon while filming, tracking my stolen bike which has an internal tracker & can’t be ridden without a code being ferried presumably in a van …from being swiped in London Bridge….To Stratford in half an hour and now finding a new resting place in East Ham…

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) August 3, 2022

I took plenty of extra precautions, and rarely let my Babboe out of my sight knowing that if I’d left it in the street, even with a chorus of locks, it was at risk. That dilemma is doubled for people who have spent upwards of $3,000 on an e-cargo bike as their primary mode of transportation. Sadly, a lack of infrastructure to keep these bikes safe and secure means that they’re a prime target for thieves, and so you can’t always trust that they’ll be where you left them.

The solution to this problem, surely, would be for a manufacturer to grasp this market for itself. Is it possible for someone to mass-produce a low-spec, but solid, cargo bike “for the people?” And, when I say that, I mean at the sort of prices where it’d be affordable for utility, rather than sport and leisure, cyclists.

Certainly, this isn’t likely to come in the form of a cargo trike. Ben Johnson is the founder of The Cargo Bike Company, a former engineer who got into cargo biking when his kids were born and he “couldn’t afford a European one.” He produces custom cargo bikes and trikes from his workshop in Derbyshire, UK, with a focus on commercial bikes as well as custom bikes adapted to assist people with mobility issues. He said that the rise in cargo cycling is tied to the falling cost and greater access of electric motors, which “enables people to shift loads around town.” He, however, has resisted the trend in his own bikes, saying that the reliability issues are too risky for a small business like his to take on.

Johnson added that there are several factors that mean that cargo bikes will remain a more costly purchase for many. That includes the fact that major manufacturers are “very happy to use unusual or high-end engineering” on its bikes, including drum brakes, geared hubs and stub axles. But as well as the equipment hung on the frame, a major difference between a regular bike and a cargo bike is the time taken to build the frame itself. For instance, Taiwanese maker Giant says that it can produce a bike frame in under two hours, whereas it takes Johnson a full day to weld a frame, and a further day to build the bike that sits on it – in between it’s sent off to a third-party for painting.

That’s not to say that there aren’t affordable cargo bikes available, but the segment that’s ripest for lower prices is the longtail. RadPower’s RadWagon 4 can take a 350lb payload on its long rear rack, or that space could be used to carry two passengers for just $2,000. Similarly, Richard Andrews, who works in local government on cycling strategy in the UK said that an even more disruptive bike is hiding in plain sight. He pointed to (French sports retailer) Decathlon’s R500 electric longtail as a bike that could be mass-produced by the sort of manufacturer who could afford the initial outlay. There are only two downsides to the R500 – it uses a rear hub motor, and it’s presently out of stock.


It’s now time to send the Babboe back to the company for someone else to test it. I didn’t expect to feel as sad sending it back as I presently do, mostly because of how engaged it made my kids. It was fun to cycle – except up and down hills – and I think they enjoyed having a front-row seat on the journey, taking in the city around them. I think that, with a model better suited to the terrain, a cargo e-bike could remove the need for us to have a car for any trips into the city. The only thing I would need is a place to securely store it when I’m out and about, or the reassurance that it wouldn’t go missing.

I should, at least, have some hope there – here in the UK, the previous administration published Gear Change: A Bold Vision for Cycling and Walking. The paper committed to improving road design to ensure segregated cycleways – with a physical barrier between cars and bikes – would be built as standard. It also, more crucially, pledged to back the construction of high-quality, theft-deterrent bicycle parking in towns and cities, as well as bike hangers for residential areas. This should benefit folks who might want to switch to cargo cycling but don’t have the space to store a bike in their own home.

Fundamentally, I’m a convert, even if I still don’t consider myself a cyclist by any means. Riding a cargo bike feels natural, fun and easy, and is something I want to do on a regular basis, especially since I’d like to think my kids will still appreciate the help getting to and from places for the next five years or more. I think I learned two things over the last couple of months: Cargo cycling really is for everyone, and don’t buy a bike with a hub motor if you live anywhere close to a huge hill.

The best bike accessories you can buy

Like a lot of people, I only recently began cycling. After more than a decade of not riding a bike, I bought my first one as an adult at the start of the pandemic and immediately fell in love with what it had to offer. Cycling was my escape from a world that didn’t make sense anymore. It has since become the primary way I stay fit, unwind after a long day and get to where I need to go.

Along the way, I’ve tried many different cycling gadgets. The entries in the list below represent some of my favorites. Outside of essentials like a helmet, multitool and spare inner tubes, you don’t need most of the items listed below to enjoy whatever time you spend on your bike or e-bike, but some will keep you safer or make it easier to achieve your fitness goals – if that’s what you want to get out of the hobby.

Knog Rear Plus Light


Cycling frequently involves sharing the road with cars, and one of the best ways to stay safe is by making yourself as visible as possible to drivers. One way to do that is with a seat post-mounted LED light. You have a lot of options when it comes to cycling lights, but one of the best in my experience is the affordable Rear Plus from Knog.

You’ll notice the Rear Plus is one of two products from Knog on this list. The reason for that is that the company makes cycling accessories that stand out for their usability and clever design. With the Rear Plus, for instance, you plug it into your computer like a USB thumb drive whenever you need to charge it, meaning you don’t need to deal with a micro-USB cable like with many other bicycle lights. What’s more, Knog claims you can get up to 40 hours of battery life from the device depending on the lighting mode you use. And since it’s so easy to charge, you’re much less likely to find yourself in a situation where you don’t have a light when the sun is about to set.

If you’re willing to spend more, an even safer option is to buy a rearview radar like the $200 Garmin Varia RTL515. In addition to being a light, it pairs with your smartphone or bike computer, with models from both Garmin and Wahoo supported, to provide visual, audible and haptic alerts when cars are approaching you. It can detect a vehicle up to 150 meters away and will more urgently warn you if one is approaching quickly. It’s not a replacement for checking your blind spots, but it will take away much of the stress involved with road cycling.

Buy Knog Rear Plus Light at Amazon - $18Buy Garmin Varia RTL515 at Amazon - $200

Knog Oi Bike Bell

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

After an LED light, you’ll want to make sure you have a bell installed on your bicycle. I know what you’re thinking: can’t you just warn people when you’re about to ride past them. The answer is yes, but they probably won’t hear you or react quickly, especially if they’re talking to someone at the time. You’ll be surprised how much more effective a bell is at communicating with pedestrians than your voice. I find one is also invaluable when you’re faced with a driver waiting to make a turn.

For an “aero” option that won’t look out of place on a carbon road bike, consider the Knog Oi Luxe. It’s easy to install and features a slick design that won’t clutter your cockpit. For something with more classic styling, look to the Spurcycle Original Bell. Both produce distinct sounds that cut through traffic and other noises.

Buy Knog Oi Bike Bell at Amazon starting at $17

Ornot Handlebar Bag Mini


There’s a good chance you’ll want to carry your phone and other belongings with you when you set out on your cycling adventures, and that’s where a handlebar bag can come in handy. The amount of choice here is endless, with nearly every major cycling brand offering at least a few different models.

Another option is to support a local company in your area. On that front, there have never been more independent bagmakers than there at this moment. In the US alone, you have companies like Swift Industries, PS Bagworks and Roadrunner Bags making thoughtful and durable cycling bags of all shapes and sizes. Seriously, a quick Google search and you’re bound to find someone sewing cycling bags in your local area. And if all you want is a foolproof recommendation, consider the Handlebar Bag Mini from Ornot. It’s the perfect size for carrying a phone, sunglasses and a few snacks, and like all of the company’s products, the quality of materials and craftsmanship is second to none.

Buy Handlebar Bag Mini at Ornot - $44

Kryptonite Kryptolok


At some point, you’ll need to leave your bike in a place where you can’t keep a constant eye on it. Since 2020, I’ve used a Kryptonite Kryptolok to lock my bike up, and so far it has yet to be stolen (knock on wood). A lot of people swear by Kryptonite locks and I like the one I bought for its no-fuss key mechanism. It also comes with a holder you can mount to one of your bike’s bottle cage mounts.

Buy Kryptonite Kryptolok at Amazon - $64

Strava Subscription

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Even if you only consider yourself a casual cyclist, you should use an app like Strava to record your rides. Like with any activity, it can be easy to get discouraged with cycling, particularly if you finish a ride where you feel like things didn’t go your way. But here’s the thing, you’re getting better whether you realize it or not.

When I first started cycling in the summer of 2020, I was averaging a speed of about 15km per hour. I can now do about 23km per hour. I know that because I have a record of nearly every ride I’ve gone on since I bought my first bike at the start of the pandemic. And it’s all thanks to Strava.

The best part of the app is that you don’t need to pay for its annual $60 premium subscription to get access to some of its best features. Recording your rides is free, and the company recently made its Beacon feature, which can automatically notify your loved ones of your location, available to all smartphone users. In my view, it’s worthwhile upgrading to Strava’s premium tier if you think you’ll get value out of its route-building tool. It uses the company’s data to generate routes in your nearby vicinity, and I find it’s a good way to add some variety to your rides.

Subscribe to Strava - $60/year

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt V2


In your phone, you already own one of the most useful cycling accessories you can buy. Not only can it point you in the right direction when you get lost but you can also use it with apps like Strava to track your rides. In those instances, it can be useful to have easy access to your phone when you’re on the saddle. That’s where a handlebar phone mount can be invaluable.

One of the most secure options I’ve tried is made by Quad Lock. The company’s system involves a case made specifically for your make of phone and a dual-stage locking mechanism that ensures both case and device stay firmly affixed to your bike. They also offer both stem and out front mounts, with the option to orient your phone horizontally – making it a great fit for Zwift.

Another option is to buy a dedicated bike computer such as the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. The Bolt offers turn-by-turn navigation and an interface that’s purpose-built for cycling. That means the inclusion of tactile buttons that make it possible to interact with the device by feel alone, even when you’re wearing cycling gloves. Plus, a $300 bike computer is a lot more affordable to replace than a high-end smartphone if you end up in a crash. Just make sure you go for the V2 version. Wahoo recently updated the Bolt to add USB-C charging and a color screen.

Buy Element Bolt V2 at Amazon - $300

Garmin Rally Pedals


If you already own some variation of everything else on this list, then you’re probably at the point where you’re considering a power meter so you have a more consistent way of measuring your fitness gains.

To be clear, the majority of people, even those for whom cycling is their primary form of exercise, don’t need a power meter. But if you’re absolutely set on buying one, Garmin makes one of the best options. The company’s Rally pedals offer several advantages over other models. They’re much easier to install than power meters that replace either your bottom bracket or crankarms. All you need is a pedal wrench. Additionally, with Garmin offering the Rally pedals in Shimano SPD, SPD-SL and Look Keo versions, there’s a good chance you won’t have to replace your existing clipless cleats to use them. Garmin also offers a conversion kit that allows you to use the spindle mechanism across multiple bikes. With a price tag that starts at $649, they are expensive, but also one of the most versatile options on the market.

Buy Rally pedals at Garmin starting at $649

What we bought: Peloton’s Lanebreak offered just the kick I needed to get back in the saddle

Four years ago, I decided to purchase a Peloton bike. I was spending way too much on membership dues at a luxury gym I hardly attended, and I was intrigued by the idea of an exercise bike with live and on-demand classes. Even though the bike is expensive, I bought it on an installment plan; the monthly payments worked out to be around $100 less than that underused gym membership. Add in the fact that both my husband and I could use it for the price of a single subscription, and I was sold.

While I still do like the bike, I’ll admit that I haven't been using it as much in recent months. I just haven’t been very motivated, and when I do get the energy to go for a ride, I sometimes feel discouraged by my poor performance. Of course, I know that the beauty of the Peloton is that you can ride at your own pace, but it can feel demoralizing to rank at the bottom of the leaderboard all the time.

Recently, however, Peloton added a new “gamified” experience to the Bike and Bike+ called Lanebreak. Instead of following instructors in a class, you’ll be cycling along different tracks and at different difficulties in order to get a high score. Seeing as I’m a fan of fitness games – I really like Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure as well as Just Dance, for example – I was excited to try it out.


Lanebreak is found in the “More Rides” section in the Peloton menu, which is also where the Scenic Rides and Just Ride options are. In the game, there are six different tracks, and you navigate from one to the other with the bike’s resistance knob (you’ll know which one you’re in by the rotating wheel avatar). The farthest left is with the least resistance, while the furthest right is with the most resistance. As you might expect, the farther right you go, the more points you can score.

In order to gain points, you have to complete a few different tasks, which are either one after another on the same track or dispersed on to separate tracks. One is to simply cycle in the lane with blue bars, each of which represents “Beats.” These score points every time you go over them. Another is to cycle really fast in an orange “Breakers" section until the meter is “charged” – the more it’s charged, the more points you’ll get. Last but not least, there are “Streams,” where you’re tasked with holding your target cadence within a specified range.

At the end of a Lanebreak workout, your total score is based on all the Beats, Breakers and Streams that you’ve completed and collected throughout the game. You’ll also see a high score on the Lanebreak leaderboard for that particular game.

The length of a Lanebreak workout runs the gamut from five minutes to 30, and there are four different levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert. There’s also a wide variety of music playlists to pick from, such as “Rock Riot'' and David Bowie remixes.


I have to say, I had a lot of fun. The look and feel really reminds me of Guitar Hero, a game which I have fond memories of. I enjoy navigating to the different tracks and then cycling as hard as I can to score the maximum points. I tend to score fairly well in the beginner and intermediate levels, but I dare not venture into advanced or expert modes just yet. I was a little concerned that a 20 or 30 minute game might feel repetitive, but I actually really liked it – the song mixes help keep things interesting.

There are a few downsides, though. For one thing, the resistance knob can be a little fiddly, which is not great when I’m trying to make quick lane changes. Plus, there’s no real break for you to take a sip of water; you kind of just have to miss out on a few points when you’re hydrating. Of course, as there’s no instructor, you’ll also miss out on motivation shoutouts and stretching exercises. But I find that the gameplay aspect of Lanebreak is fun enough to make up for that.

Perhaps the best part of Lanebreak is that it got me back cycling after several months of not doing so. It really made me fall in love with cycling all over again. After a five-minute Lanebreak session yesterday, for example, I navigated over to the on-demand library and took a 20-minute beginner class. I felt great afterwards, and didn’t care at all about where I was on the leaderboard.