LeEco, the eccentric maker of TVs, phones, cars and bikes, has a new pair of high-end smart bikes to show off here at CES 2017. The company hasn’t even brought its original Super Bike to market yet, but it’s already refined the concept to make its new offerings more practical for serious cyclists. Gone are the heavy dynamos and size limitation; this year’s vehicles come in two flavors, and are more lightweight. The new, somewhat blandly named Smart Road Bike and Smart Mountain Bike pack a new version of LeEco’s Android-based Bike OS software that now supports a small selection of third-party sensors. I jumped onboard a prototype road bike that the company was showing off for the first time here in Las Vegas, and so far find the idea of a smart bike slightly questionable.
Like its predecessor, the smart road bike has laser-emitting lights on the ends of its handlebars that shoot out lasers to mark out lines three meters away from either side of you. This creates a sort of faux bike lane on the road so the drivers around you know not to get too close. This is a sound safety feature that I can get behind.
What makes the road bike smart is its integrated Android system that tracks your speed, distance traveled, and route, among other metrics. Between the handlebars sits what is basically a four-inch tablet with a color touchscreen that is equipped with a Snapdragon 410 processor and 4G LTE radio. This performs functions that a normal cycling computer would, such as track your distance traveled, route and speed, as well as your pulse and power via third-party sensors.
Unlike a cycling computer, though, the system also offers a walkie-talkie feature that was also on the Super Bike. During my time on the smart road bike, the tablet was slower to respond to my taps and my swipes than I’m used to on today’s flagship phones. The delays got a little frustrating, and frankly very distracting, which is a significant problem when you’re biking. You don’t want to have your head down looking at the screen when the software is stalling while you’re riding at top speeds on the road.
Still, this is only a prototype, and it’s possible that the system could get much faster. You’ll appreciate that speed when you’re swiping through the new Bike OS 2.0, which is less stock Android than before, according to a LeEco representative. It has a custom settings menu that looks simplified, offering straightforward options such as Home, Music, Track and Settings. You can play online or local music, or tune in to FM radio stations during your ride via a headphone port.
The bike itself is made of high-end materials, said LeEco’s rep, including carbon fiber for the frame, handlebars, seat post and wheels, while other parts of it are made of SRAM. Serious cyclists will appreciate the new 1x drive train system for getting high speeds or power by piling more gears on the rear wheel instead of having them on both, which makes the bike lighter and simpler.
LeEco has no information yet to share about how much the bikes will cost, but says the vehicles will be released in the second quarter of the year. Until then, cycling aficionados have to make do with our plain old’ dumb bikes, or strap on a cycling computer to feel better.
Chris Velazco contributed to this report.
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