July 1, 2014

Backtracker, a rear-mounted radar detector for bikes, might keep cyclists safe from distracted drivers.     Photo: Courtesy of iKubu

Giving Cyclists Eyes In the Backs of Their Heads

Bike-mounted radar unit warns cyclists of approaching cars

A recent Bike League report found that 40 percent of cycling fatalities occur from rear-impact collisions. With help from electronics design firm iKubu, cyclists might soon be able to outsource their fear of being sideswiped to radar Backtracker.

Backtracker’s rear-mounted sensor, which has a range of 153 yards, monitors how close cyclists are to cars in their rearview, as well as how quickly those cars are approaching. That information is conveyed wirelessly to a handlebar unit that notifies the rider through light pulses: Slowly blinking lights mean cars are approaching, while frantic pulses mean you might soon see bright lights from inside a dashboard.

The South African team behind iKubu (composed of hobby cyclists with high-tech day jobs) is looking to raise $226,000 through crowdfunding and manufacturing startup Dragon Innovation and hopes to ship Backtrackers as soon as December. The first 92 funders can get their setup for $149, after which point the Backtracker costs $199.

If it works, the Backtracker is well worth being able to keep your eyes on the prize instead of behind you. However, endurance cyclists should take note of Backtracker’s eight-hour battery life. Ask if they'll give you a discount for buying three.

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Is your smartphone smart enough to save you on a mountain?     Photo: Clive Darra/Flickr

Your Dumbphone Is a Lifesaver

Why over-the-hill mobiles are saviors on the mountain

Your decade-old tank of a cellphone can provide you with more than a nostalgic game of Snake. That brick can save your life faster than Apple can release an iPhone 6.

A Taiwanese hiker can thank his 10-year-old Nokia for facilitating his rescue after being stuck in a ravine for five days. Liu Quanming, 70, became lost after he was separated from his fellow hikers on June 20 when he was unable to keep up. According to NBC News reports, Quanming slipped and fell down the mountain and into a ravine while trying to find his way.

Two-hundred-fifty police officers were sent out on a search mission, but it took only one phone for the rescue. Quanming’s Nokia held its battery charge for the entire five-day search period, and its signal was picked up by GPS triangulation. Rescuers heard the phone ringing; Quanming was lying nearby. He was immediately transported to the Taichung Metro Harbor Hospital, where police reported that he was being treated for superficial scratches.

The phone suffered no injuries and recharged as usual.

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As a way to demonstrate his enthusiasm for Team USA, D'Amico (not pictured) dressed up as old TR.     Photo: Paul Taylor/Flickr

Teddy Goalsevelt Is Our Hero

Meet Team USA's most outrageous superfan

This afternoon, the U.S. men’s soccer team will take on Belgium in the Round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup. Led by Outside’s July cover guy, Clint Dempsey, Team USA has sent the nation into an unprecedented state of frenzied football fandom. If this exuberance could be distilled into one superfan, that fan would probably look something like Mike D’Amico’s alter ego, Teddy Goalsevelt.

D’Amico, 31, is a Chicago adman and longtime soccer enthusiast. Part of a fan group called the American Outlaws, D’Amico traveled to Brazil to support Dempsey and company while attending matches dressed as the original Rough Rider himself, Teddy Roosevelt. 

Had things gone differently, D’Amico would have remained another anonymous, if flamboyantly costumed fan, but after ESPN cameras showed him celebrating Jermaine Jones’s spectacular strike against Portugal on June 22, Goalsevelt became an instant celebrity.

“I’m just the lucky schmuck they cut to when he was losing his mind on ESPN,” D’Amico told ABC News.

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Southwest takes off for three new Caribbean destinations today, with six more to come by November.     Photo: motox810/Flickr

Your International Flight Is About to Get Cheaper

Are the travel behemoths ready for the Southwest Effect?

Today, three flights will depart from U.S. cities for the Bahamas, Aruba, and Jamaica, marking the beginning of Southwest Airlines' huge new venture into international travel. During the next few months, Southwest will roll out nine Central American and Caribbean destinations, and the company has already identified another 50 possible new arrival cities, mostly outside of North America. 

The coming months are more of a toe-dip than a full-on cannonball into international waters. The mostly Caribbean destinations are "like going across the pond," Michael Boyd, president of aviation consulting firm Boyd Group International, told the Baltimore Sun. But travel bloggers and major publications alike seem to think that further expansion to Europe and beyond is inevitable.

That's probably good news for anyone frustrated with steep airline prices (so, everyone). There's a phenomenon called the "Southwest Effect," coined by the U.S. Department of Transportation, amounting to the idea that when Southwest brings its planes and lower prices to a new city, other airlines start sweating. What often follows is lower fares from other companies to keep up with the new competition. It seems clear that Southwest wants to maintain its usual lower-price strategy outside of the United States. "Most of these routes are overfared," Southwest's executive vice president Bob Jordan told reporters.

The jury's still out on where Southwest's planes will end up and whether international airline prices will drop accordingly, but it's likely only a matter of time before you're elbowing your way to the best seat on a flight to Paris.

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