When you need to ride your bike to an unfamiliar destination, you have a few options to get you there. You can memorize your route in advance, which means exercising a part of your brain that has probably rusted over in the years since Mapquest first launched. You can put on headphones – which is rightly illegal to do while cycling in many places – and ask Google Maps or Apple Maps to give you voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. Or you can do what I usually do: Glance briefly at the directions on your smartphone, embark on your journey, and then pull over several times to consult the map application after you’ve lost your way.
Needless to say, these are not great options.
That’s why smrtGRiPS, a new accessory developed by Boréal Bikes ( www.smrtgrips.bike), strikes me as a clever and sorely needed innovation. Billed on IndieGoGo as the “world’s first connected bike grips,” smrtGRiPS are pencil-width rods that are meant to be installed inside each of your handlebars and connected via Bluetooth to your mobile device. They then take cues from your map app to give you touch-activated feedback to tell you where to go, with several seconds’ warning: Your left grip vibrates to tell you to turn left, your right grip vibrates to tell you to turn right. You can also set custom alerts to tell you about hazardous road conditions and traffic conditions ahead.
The folks behind smrtGRiPS also tout their product as way of keeping track of your bike in the event that it get stolen, but this function seems potentially flawed – won’t thieves notice the logo on each grip and figure out how to remove the GPS-connected rod in each handlebar?
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Nonetheless, as an alternative to repeatedly pulling over and squinting at your phone, smrtGRiPS seems, well, smart. SmrtGRiPS packages start at $59 on Boréal Bikes’ IndieGogo campaign, which ends March 12.