Bicycling Technology

Using Technology to Enhance Bicycle Riding – Now and Just Ahead


This post is intended for bicyclists or others interested in the subject. It concerns applications of technology that offer added opportunities to the bike ride, now and in the near future. I have tried to make it practical enough so that you could use it as a guide to implement your own setup. And I will also suggest how the uses of this setup will be greatly expanded in the near future.

I live in south central Pennsylvania, in a small town surrounded by farms and mountains. I enjoy riding in this area, usually one to three hours at a time, and usually by myself. I always think about safe riding – potholes in the road, any traffic, dogs that chase, any gravel or wet pavement, things like that. But when you have ridden for many years, all that becomes second nature and almost automatic. You have room for other thoughts. I love to observe the farms and the wildlife and people in their yards and the skies and the weather and all that. But still there is room for other thoughts.

Those other thoughts that come while riding include things I need to remember to do, ideas for my reading and my writing, sometimes whole paragraphs for my writing, people I should write or call and what I want to say to them, something I’ve seen that I want to remember. In the past, I would find a place to stop the bike, pull out my phone, and type in whatever it was. This is not very practical or convenient if the need for it happens often. So, I now have put in place and tested a new system.

This system allows me to keep riding, keep my eyes on the road, keep my hands on the handlebars, keep my ears listening for any sounds I may need to give my attention to, and yet record my thoughts just by talking out loud. This is available to me at any time, just by talking out loud. There is nothing to turn on and off because it stays on and at the ready all the time. It has taken awhile to get this worked out and settled, but now I think I have it. On a ride recently, I covered 24 miles and recorded my thoughts some 20 times, all while riding and without using any hands. Now I will tell you how I do this.

I use an iPhone with Siri activated, which I carry in a small pouch around my waist. It the phone settings, in the Display and Brightness area, I set Auto-Lock to “never.” I use the Apple Notes app which came with the phone. In the Notes app settings under “allow Notes to access” I have turned on “Siri & Search.” Also, in the Notes settings I have set the default account to iCloud. This means that whatever I record will be available on all of my Apple devices. And before I start riding, I open the Notes app and leave it open for the duration of the ride.

Next, I have the Apple AirPods Pro set up properly and paired via Bluetooth with the phone. I make sure that I have the best fitting of the rubber ear pieces (they give you four choices) and the pods securely placed in my ears. Very importantly I also use a safety lanyard which ensures that if an ear piece should fall out it will just hang loose and not get lost. I have also found that putting on my bike helmet AFTER the AirPods gives an extra layer of safety.

Now, speaking of safety, you may be wondering if it is safe to ride the bike with these things in your ears. Yes, it definitely is. I can hear everything around me just fine, including the faint sounds of approaching cars. The AirPods have four levels of cancelling external noises including one for zero cancellation. These settings are mostly for the benefit of people playing music, which I choose not to do while riding the bike. Just set the level to zero and you’ll be fine.

So, this is how it goes. A great thought hits me, and I say, “Hey Siri, take a note.” Siri says, “What would you like for the note to say?” And I dictate the note. When I pause, Siri will conclude the note. Sometimes she will simply say “done” and sometimes she will repeat the note. I have no idea why there is this variation unless she is sometimes too busy with others to repeat my notes. Ha! Ha!

You will find the text of all your notes listed right there in the Notes app after the ride, and you can do all the things you do with any text. Most times the transcription is perfect. A few times, especially with strong wind noise, a note may get cut off or even fail to work. You learn to recognize and anticipate these situations and just try again when things are calmer.

With this setup, you have other options besides recording to Notes. You can also say “Hey Siri, send a text.” She will ask who to send it to, and then have you say what you want to send. You can also send emails the same way with “Hey Siri, send an email.” But to text or email someone their names and information must be available in your contacts. You can also have Siri initiate a phone call. You can do this in one of two ways. “Hey Siri, call 301-511-2299” or “Hey Siri, call Joe Smith.” Once again, if you are calling Joe Smith he must be listed in your contacts, where Siri will look up his number. If he has more than one number in your contacts you can designate which one to call as “Hey Siri, call Joe Smith on his mobile.”

As I said, my rides are usually 1-3 hours. I have never had any battery issues on rides of this length. For longer rides I take a very small charging stick to connect just in case.

Just a word for users of Android phones like Samsung, Google, and Sony. You can definitely achieve this same functionality with your phone. You would use the Google Assistant instead of Siri, and you would get Bluetooth ear pods compatible with your phone, such as Google Pixel Buds Pro, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, or Sony WF-1000XM4. You would use the Google Keep note-taking app instead of the Apple Notes. It does take some messing around and testing configurations, but “Hey Google” can definitely get you there with the proper setup.

There is a new development on the way which will add greatly to the functionality of this bicycle setup. If you are set up as described above, you are ready for it already.

Siri is soon to be given the powers of artificial intelligence. Siri will then be able to do many more things than those described above. We should be able to get any information available from AI with hands-free voice control. So instead of making a note to look up some information when I get back home, I can get the information while riding. And AI will be storing the text of all questions and answers, so you have access to it for use back home. And the Siri/AI partnership will provide much more than simple Q&A. Here are some potential examples:

• Siri could provide real-time updates and suggest alternative routes if there are obstacles like road closures, heavy traffic, or bad weather conditions.
• As you approach towns or landmarks, Siri could give you historical information, interesting facts, or recommendations for local attractions, restaurants, or rest stops.
• Siri could offer tips on bike adjustments, repairs, and maintenance based on your bike model and current issues you face. For any necessary roadside repairs or adjustments you could get step-by-step instructions.
• Siri could inform you about the type of farming in the area, wildlife you might encounter, or geographical features you’re passing by.
• Siri could alert you to any local events or news relevant to your current location, such as festivals, community events, or local weather forecasts.
• In case of an accident or sudden health issue, Siri could immediately contact emergency services and share your location.
• Siri could seamlessly connect you to other cyclists or friends, share your location with family members for safety, or notify a contact if you need assistance.
• Siri could create and manage group chats, allowing you to communicate with multiple cyclists at once. This could be useful for organizing meetups, sharing route information, or discussing plans for upcoming rides.
• Siri could share your real-time location with other cyclists or a selected group. This feature could help in coordinating group rides, ensuring that no one gets lost, and providing safety updates on everyone’s whereabouts.
• Siri could control smart devices like bike lights, cameras, and navigation systems, allowing you to focus on your ride while staying connected with other cyclists.
• Siri could suggest and play audiobooks, podcasts, or music tailored to your interests, mood, or current location. I don’t recommend music while riding but you could enjoy some while laid out resting beside the road on a long ride.
• As you ride through different regions, Siri could offer educational content about local history, geography, or culture, turning your ride into a learning experience.
• And as a daily user of the AI subscription ChatGPT, I could add with almost no qualification, “anything not covered above.”

Stay tuned, as I certainly will.


You can email Ed Briggs HERE

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