3 magical powers urban cyclists need

If you could had a bicycling 6th sense, or magical power – what would it be?

Here are some suggestions, and a few examples where technology has made an attempt at creating them in reality…

fly6 rear light cameraEyes in the back of our heads

It would be really helpful to know what was going on behind us. For example, to see when a driver is about to overtake, and have a better idea how much room they are about to give.

One of the best bits of advice that cycle trainers give, is to glance behind you regularly, to avoid surprises from cars creeping up on you and to establish eye contact with drivers.

You can get a better idea of what is going on behind you with bicycle mirrors, but they don’t give an absolute full view as one might get from a second pair of eyes.

In the case of wanting to re-live your ride, or even make an insurance claim in an accident, Fly6 have got you covered with a video camera which is embedded into a rear light – and we’ll be reviewing one of those next week.

Flashing arrows to indicate with

As I explained in the Morning Routine piece last week I live at the bottom of a pretty steep descent.

Now, I do a bit of yoga, I’ve got a kettlebell – I try to look after my core, and my balance isn’t too awful – but from time to time I do struggle riding down the hill, and taking one hand off the drop for long enough to indicate for a good period of time when travelling at 35pmh. I’d blame this on my own ineptitude, but my road racing fiancé has just as much struggle and I’d say his riding skills are decent. My general approach is to quickly indicate left, then cock my head to the left, then point my knee to the left – generally trying to make it as clear as possible that every part of me is going left.

If I had little flashing arrows that could appear from my shoulders – well, that would help.

There was once a SEIL backpack that displayed indicator signals seeking Kickstarter funding – but sadly the project never reached the target – and I have to admit, if it had, for the one single junction where I don’t feel able to indicate easily, I’m not sure I’d invest.

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 12.15.05

Of course, if you’re just looking for more visible hand singnals, there is an option – with Limin8a gloves – these display arrows when directed by the rider and could be a help in the dark.


Leading on nicely from my ‘everything left’ approach to making my intentions clear – the ability to just speak to drivers through their aluminum boxes would be nice.

I could say “thank you” to the driver who didn’t rev their engine as I took up more road than usual when ploughing down my 15/20 per cent hill, and I could ‘have a word’ with the one who passed with about 2mm room just as I approached the omnipresent pot hole (which, in fact Mr Driver, was the REASON I was taking said position).

I’ve yet to see technology make any attempt at this one – and I can’t say I blame the professors, it’s probably quite tricky.

My only answer to making this one a reality is to use the tools you do have available – body positioning, gestures (of all kinds, waves and selected figures includes) and voice. For more advice on that, we’d always recommend a free cycle training course, where you’ll learn how best to ride in an urban environment safely.

What magical skill would you want?

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10 Responses to 3 magical powers urban cyclists need

  1. Dimitris 27/05/2014 at 9:28 am #

    I will settle for the Cloak of Visibility and being able to cast the Spell of Patience. The second is much, much harder.

  2. James 27/05/2014 at 1:06 pm #

    You can get flashing signals for bikes


    Have to say they’re a bit heavy, and the bracket needs work. I had two front brackets break over a year or so of using them, but they’re actually pretty decent.

  3. Josh 27/05/2014 at 4:33 pm #

    The ability to vaporise offending vehicles with a glance – though without injury to the occupants.

  4. Tony Durham 28/05/2014 at 9:51 am #

    The ability to summon a motorcycle escort of angels with flashing blue lights.

  5. tony parrack 30/05/2014 at 10:25 am #

    my magical power would be to have been able to talk on Wednesday to the M&S lorry driver who sat on my tail for several hundred yards and then hooted me twice – the first blast almost blew me off my bike and scared the shit out of me, the second blast was just malicious bullying.

    No, on second thoughts, my magical power would be to take away his licence for evermore.

    • Hugh 02/06/2014 at 10:14 am #

      Have you thought about writing to/emailing M&S to complain? I believe most of M&S vehicles are actually operated by Gist, an outsourced logistics specialist, and I am pretty sure that most of Gist’s vehicles are equipped with telemetry, meaning that even if you did not get the vehicles registration number, if you tell M&S where you were and when, they should be able to trace the vehicle and give the driver some feedback.

      This is well worth doing – most fleet operators are well aware that their drivers are driving around with a bloody enormous sign on the side of the vehicle which identifies the brand, and particularly if the logistics are outsourced, the brand owner will be super-sensitive to any behavior which might damage their brand. And who knows, the dolt behind the wheel might just become a more cyclist-friendly driver?

      As a footnote, I was once followed at a very safe distance for almost a mile by a very patient Howden’s driver who waited until we got to a safe place to pass. I was so impressed at his driving that I emailed Howden’s to ask them to pass on my thanks. Karma works both ways.

  6. Eddie 30/05/2014 at 1:20 pm #

    Would love to have an invisible force bubble around me and my steed. And every time a car, truck, even people got too close they would just come to a stop. Well I can dream of the above.

    • Wolfman 30/05/2014 at 3:38 pm #

      Eddie, you took the words out of my mouth. I was about to post exactly that, an invisible force field. Imagine be able to cycle on any of London’s mentally busy roads without any fear of being hit?

  7. David Cohen 31/05/2014 at 10:25 am #

    There have been so many attempts at some form of signal device, but nothing has ever taken off. This is a classic case of trying to automate something that really isn’t worth doing – your hands are your best bet. As humans we always seem to think that a techno fix will help / be better, but in this case, I don’t think that is the case!

  8. Hugh 02/06/2014 at 10:15 am #

    My magical power would be a Spell of Tranquility.

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