Automatic bike promises power and comfort

Knees around the world rejoice - automatic bikes are on the way
Knees around the world rejoice - automatic bikes are on the way

When you're puffing your way up a hill on your trusty ten-speed, you can take comfort in today's news that it may be your gear-changing rather than your fondness for doughnuts that is slowing you down.

Researchers at the National Defense University in Taiwan found that (Tour de France athletes aside) few people know how to adjust the gears on their bicycle to get the most power out of their pedaling.

The problem is that many riders become uncomfortable having to pedal too fast in a low gear on level roads or straining when going up hill or to maintain a high speed.

Wheely good idea

That could all be set to change, with their new computerised system that tells you exactly when to change gear. Their algorithm gives a gear shift strategy to cope with almost any cycling conditions and maintain this optimal state without too much hard work.

The algorithm devised by the team and tested by simulation of a 12-speed bicycle provides a gear-shifting sequence with minimal power losses and gear shifts.

"By following the sequence, riders can operate the derailleur system more easily," says the team, "Riders will also feel comfortable because all gear-ratios can be used, and gear-shifting actions will be smoother." The computer will automatically adjust to riding conditions, depending on whether you're in a mad rush to get to work or a leisurely Sunday ride.

The Taiwanese team even envisage extending the concept to entirely automatic mechanical gear-changing system. Roll on the automatic bike!

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.