We have a look at the near-future in bicycle innovation, in association with VoucherBin

In 1885 the modern bicycle was born. The man responsible, John Kemp Starley, is probably the most influential British inventor that you’ve never heard of, having invented what he called the ‘Safety Bicycle’.

In the 1880s Starley and others had been looking into designing a bike that was both safer and easier to ride than the penny-farthing. The Safety Bicycle featured two wheels of equal size and diamond frame made from two triangles.

Since its humble beginnings, bicycle design has continued to evolve and come an incredibly long way. Pneumatic tyres, freehubs, derailleurs and STI shifters have all been massive technological breakthroughs, but what does the future hold for bike design?

Arguably the most widely used braking system on modern vehicles is the disc, so it was only a matter of time before road bikes started to adopt it.

Disc brakes offer vastly superior braking over rim brakes, owing to their precise modulation and consistency. Consistent braking, particularly in the wet, is a huge advantage, especially when descending.

We already have electronic shifting on bikes from the likes of Campagnolo and Shimano, but SRAM and now FSA are set to raise the bar with wireless electronic shifting. This will remove the need for cables on the bike, allowing bikes to look neater and be easier to maintain.

Power meters and other sensors are coming down in price, to the point where bikes of the future are likely to feature the integration of sensors already built into the frame. This has the potential to provide riders with more accurate data and metrics for training and post-ride analysis.

It may not sound hugely exciting, but at present, the industry is swamped with new and different bottom brackets. These contain the bearings through which the pedal cranks sit. To date, a robust design that can accommodate different crank designs without suffering from clicking or creaking has yet to emerge. Advancements in weather-proofing these parts will reduce maintenance and the occurrence of annoying clicking/creaking noise.

Looking further into the future, research from VoucherBin.co.uk suggests it would not be inconceivable to see bike design do away with chains and sprockets in favour of a different drive system. Although well established, the chain drive is not perfect as it is open to dirt, grime and rust, requiring routine maintenance and lubrication.

With regard to frames, carbon fibre is currently the material of choice, as it offers the best combination of stiffness, lightweight, strength and shape. However, material science is a rapidly growing field with huge implications for bike design. The use of more sophisticated carbon fibre employing graphene and carbon nano-tubes will enable bikes to be far lighter and stronger than anything we can imagine right now.

In the mean time, visit ProBikeKit or Merlin Cycles for all your biking needs and to keep up to date with all the latest commercially available technology.

  • Nigel Rue

    The problem is in your statement “Where do you draw the line if you want to keep racing bikes looking like racing bikes”. The very reason bikes look that way in this day and age is because of the restrictive rules.
    I want the choice of buying a traditional bike, or something really futuristic. Something built by one of the big companies, so I know the R&D has been done and it will work.
    This isn’t going to happen though, not until the public see them being raced by the pros, and that won’t happen unless the rules are relaxed. With the rate the UCI move, I’ll be long gone.

  • Stevie

    Where to draw the line though if you want to keep racing bikes looking like racing bikes? I can’t imagine anyone would want to see fully enclosed recumbent bikes in e.g. TdF time trial stages, but that is presumably the kind of thing we could end up with if the rules were relaxed too far. The one thing that does seem fairly straightforward to me though is the weight limit, which I imagine could now be reduced significantly without any harm being done.

  • Nigel Rue

    Well for a start frame design. Now the frame triangle is a good design, but it is not the optimum when using materials like carbon fibre. Then we have riding position, that should be freed up. Wheel design and size is ripe for change too. They are at least moving on brakes, though at a glacial pace..
    Just small stuff really.

  • Stevie

    Can you be more specific? What would you like to see that the UCI is preventing?

  • Nigel Rue

    The biggest obstacle to cycle innovation is the UCI. The main reason we still ride bikes that mimic the safety bicycle is because they dictate that is what racers must use.
    It is only when professional race bikes are allowed to use radically innovative designs that we will see meaningful change.

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    The lightest racing bikes are now an insignificant weight compared to that of the rider, clothing, bottles etc. Hopefully further improvements in material will be used to improve strength, reliability and durability rather than meaningless reductions in weight. Fashion victims will, I suppose, disagree.

  • Chris Coulter

    “To date, a robust design that can accommodate different crank designs without suffering from clicking or creaking has yet to emerge.”

    I respectfully disagree. The BSA threaded BB with external bearings is amazing. The only reason anyone went away from it and towards press-fit was in an effort to make frames a few grams lighter and allow less precise (i.e. – cheaper) manufacturing. It’s no surprise that the best “fixes” for BB30 or PF30 are essentially metal sleeve, external BBs that mimic the BSA set-up. Sometimes to go forward we need to go back!