Predictions are swirling that 2014 -- thanks to new innovations in cycling fashion and technology -- will be cycling's biggest year.
Bike commuting is expected to get a serious boost, thanks to major cities around the globe launching bike-sharing programs, adding to today's already more than 500 city-wide programs in 49 countries, according to the Earth Policy Institute. While Europe has been an early adopter of bike sharing programs, US cities Portland, Austin, San Diego, and Seattle are soon joining the ranks.
Plus in some cities, urban infrastructure is making the commute even sweeter. Copenhagen commuters can ride to work following a "green wave" of signal lights timed for bikers, while China's Hangzhou offers separated bike tracks carved out on the city's major roadways, Earth Policy Institute reports.
Outside magazine also points to cool bike technology, particularly smartwheels, which can transform regular bikes into electric ones, making bike commuting even easier. Look to companies FlyKly and Superpedestrian, which plan to sell battery-powered, smartphone-enabled rear bike wheels next year. Plus, a new device called Rubbee, which wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign this summer, can convert your standard bike into an e-bike by attaching it to your bike's seat post. A friction drive module sits on the back tire while a built-in electric motor turns it, giving you a top speed of 25 km/h.
Design innovations in fashion and helmets have upped the ante, with Swedish airbag helmet the Hövding promising to spare riders from embarrassing helmet hair. Billed as "the world's first fold-flat helmet," the new Morpher is made from completely recyclable materials and plans to hit the market in 2014 as well. Plus cycling lifestyle brand Rapha enjoyed an 80 percent boost in sales early this year, Outside reports. Even LED sports jackets are getting more sophisticated and stylish, including the new Eclaireur jacket, which integrates LEDs into an urban-chic jacket that's meant to blend in casually with normal life while keeping you well-lit when pedaling at night.
Around the globe, the taste for bikes is only expected to grow this year, thanks to flagging economies in some regions, rising energy prices, and urban congestion as well as a growing fitness consciousness. Market research company Research and Markets reports that the global bicycle industry is expected to reach an estimated $64.1 billion by 2018.