Now that warm weather is here again, some cops are getting out of their cars and onto bikes. Cycling is popular enough in the United States and Canada that there is a vital industry of innovators producing new gadgets and gear for bikes.
Some of this stuff is designed specifically for cops, and some can be adapted for police use.
Here's some of the items I’ve heard about over the past few months.
The Holster Light is a full-size flashlight carrier designed to be mounted on the front fork of a bicycle. The inventor, Scott Spillane, is a bike cop in Southern California who felt a need to carry a big flashlight on patrol, but found it didn’t fit conveniently on his duty belt or in a gear bag.
He and his colleagues tried to improvise a handlebar carrier with PVC pipe, but they had the same problem as with the standard duty belt holster. When the cop went down a staircase, off a curb, or some other bumpy route, the light would bounce out and hit the pavement.
The Holster Light mounts to the front fork of the bike and secures the light with a silicone ring that has to be lubricated occasionally to keep the light secure. They include a pack of grease for this purpose.
Spillane promises the Holster Light won’t damage the fork, and will keep the light in place over any terrain. On hearing about this product, my first concern was that some urchin would steal the flashlight at the first opportunity.
Spillane replied, “That has been brought up but anything on the bike could be taken. We work the ghetto and at night, as does the Border Patrol. Most feedback has been carrying the light safely and securely has outweighed that concern.”
The Holster Light fits a full-size Streamlight SL series, Pelican 8060 LED, or other D-cell size flashlight. Price is $70.00 delivered, ordered from their website.
Most bikes don’t have fenders or mudguards, and riding on wet or muddy roads puts a plume of gunk up your back. A Kickstarter-fueled project called Plume provides a solution in the form of a collapsible mudguard. In good weather, the Plume coils up inconspicuously underneath the seat like a metal tape measure. When the rider wants the mudguard, he extends the Plume to its full length, and it floats above the rear tire.
A quick click returns the Plume to its coiled-up form. You would think the guard would collapse and roll up the first time you hit a bump, but the inventors have thought of that and included features in the design to prevent it.
At this writing, the Plume is still on Kickstarter, but it’s obtained funding way past the threshold necessary to begin production. $35 sent there will get you one of the first models off the production line, expected in October.
The Halo Belt makes cyclists, joggers, and other potential road pizzas more visible. The device is a lightweight belt with reflectorized material, but also incorporates a glowing strip illuminated by internal LEDs and piped through a fiber-optic conduit.
It comes in red, blue, or yellow, will illuminate in a steady-burning, flashing, or strobe pattern, and will run for 75 non-consecutive hours on two CR2025 button-cell batteries.
Retail price is $69.99 plus shipping. A similar product with a larger battery pack and longer running time is available from Nite-Ize for $27.79 plus shipping.
Space Age Stuff
A product in development would take the guesswork out of selecting the best gear to use while riding. Cambridge Consultants is working on an automatic transmission for bicycles, controlled by an app running on the rider’s smartphone.
Sensors on the bike would collect and transmit information on the rider’s cadence and the wheel speed to the smartphone, which would be keeping track of the route via internal maps and GPS, and possibly of the rider’s vital signs.
On approaching a hill or when noting that the pedal cadence was slowing, the app would shift the bike’s gears for the most efficient use of the rider’s muscle output.
It’s interesting technology, but probably not likely for police bikes. The electronically-controlled automatic transmission available from Shimano, which doesn’t yet have the smartphone link, sells for about $2,300 all by itself.
Further down the wish list — or maybe not — is a sticker for the bike helmet that senses a crash and alerts a pre-programmed emergency contact. The helmet impact sensor from SenseTech LLC detects motion and changes in force and impacts.
After a countdown designed to prevent false alarms, the device instructs the rider’s smartphone to call or text someone for help, providing GPS coordinates of the phone. This isn’t a product yet. The designers have partnered with ICEdot, an emergency identification and notification system.