Bike's Vibrating Handlebars Offer Turn-By-Turn Navigation

A Portland-based design firm has finally found a way to make turn-based smartphone navigation safe and feasible on a bicycle. It’s a rather ingenious solution: a bike that gives turn-by-turn directions through vibrating handlebars, so you don’t have to look down at your smartphone while you’re biking. What’s more, it’s sustainable — the bike’s on-board electronics are pedal-powered.

The project was dreamed up by a partnership between Industry, a design firm, and TI Cycles, a bike manufacturer. The result was the Solid, a bike that uses Bluetooth connectivity, on-board electronics and multiple apps to communicate directions to the biker without the use of a screen. Each handlebar vibrates to indicate a turn in one direction or another; faster vibrations mean you’re getting closer to the intersection in question, and simultaneous buzzing of both handlebars indicates that you’ve missed the turn.

But haptic feedback is only the beginning of it, because the Solid does a whole lot of other things that every bike should probably do nowadays. For example, one of the apps nestled in the bike’s body monitors its component parts and lets you know when the tires, chains or other aspects of the bike's machinery require maintenance, while a sensor on the outside automatically turns the bike’s lights on and off depending on the external light level.

Sadly, the Solid isn’t available, and there’s a chance it never will be. Its design was entered into the Bike Design Project, a contest that tasked development teams in five cities with crafting the best new bike for use in the modern urban environment. A public vote will be held on the designs, and whichever wins will be manufactured by Fuji. But Fuji is only making a limited run of 100, so even if Solid is the eventual winner, you’ll have to get it while it’s hot.

It has some stiff competition, too. San Francisco-based designers came up with a bike with easy snap-on mounts on both the front and the back of the frame — once again, something that should be already be standard in bikes. The Seattle team came up with a bike with turn signals, break lights and handlebars that double as a lock, while the New York City entry features an internal USB charger.

Described by its promoters as “a battle of pride, not just design,” the contest will run until Aug. 2. You can vote here.

Image: The Bike Design Project