Now, you can cycle loud and bright
IT HAS happened to many a cyclist: the car beside you suddenly cuts into your path or passes close enough for you to feel the heat of its exhaust on your leg.
A big part of avoiding those close calls is being noticed but, for years, cyclists' only defences were bright clothing, battery-powered incandescent bulbs and the cheery ching-ching of a traditional bicycle bell.
Now that is changing. Thanks to improved LED lights, microchips and smartphone technology, bicycles can have loud horns, brake lights, turn signals and all manner of lighting.
One gadget, called Loud Bicycle, can even make a bike honk like a car. Traditional metal bells lack volume, said Mr Jonathan Lansey, and yelling can make matters worse with aggressive drivers.
So he came up with what is basically a car horn on a bike. It is about six inches across and attaches to the stem of the handlebar or one of the central bike frame tubes. The best part is that it has the two-toned sound of an oncoming sedan.
Mr Lansey raised more than US$52,000 (S$66,000) on Kickstarter, the social fund-raising site, and aims for it to be available next month. In the meantime, pre-orders are available for US$95.
For cyclists who want the volume of a car horn but do not want to scare non-drivers, there is the Orp Smart Horn, another Kickstarter project, available in October for about US$50. The horn, which fits on the handlebars and includes a light that pulses with each beep, emits a friendly three-toned melody. For the mean streets, it has a louder, high-pitched electronic sound, closer to the toot of a Vespa scooter.
There has also been a surge in bike lighting products of all kinds. A hand grip by Velo, for example, comes with lights at the end of the handlebars, but they are angled in such a way that they can be seen from the side and back.
Wireless turn signals are another idea beloved by riders who want to keep their hands close to the brakes. Buztronics sells a rear-facing arrow turn signal that fits under the seat for US$46.
Both products are available online.
Brake lights, once a distant dream, are now also possible because of smartphone and gaming technology.
One product gaining notice is the Helios handlebar. The specialised handlebars connect a smartphone app that measures speed to rear-facing lights at the handlebar ends - the rider can set the lights to change colour, turning the brake into an indicator. They also have headlights and a turn signal.
But a built-in GPS does more than that. It can also track the bike's location if it is stolen, connect to Google Maps for driving directions and turn the headlight on automatically as its owner approaches.
And then there are the lasers. The Xfire Lighting System projects two red beams onto the street on either side of a cyclist. The idea is to create the illusion of a bike lane where none exists, and to let drivers know how much space they need to leave when passing, said its maker, Mr Alex Choi.
The Xfire sells for about US$30 and has a USB rechargeable battery.