The COBI handlebar dashboard and thumb control. COBI

COBI lets you control your route, listen to music, and make calls without letting go of the handlebars.

Conventional wisdom holds that when biking, the safest place for your phone is out of sight.

Unless, of course, your phone is actually making your ride safer. That’s the point of a new navigation technology, COBI, which bills itself as the “first smart connected biking system.” While that’s a mouthful, it really is all of those things.

The way it works is simple: with the app open, you load your smartphone onto a handlebar docking system, which charges the phone as you ride. The app gives turn-by-turn directions and a weather forecast for your whole route; it also integrates with any fitness app (Strava, Fitbit, etc.) to track your workout. With a thumb control also mounted onto the handlebars, you can toggle through a list of contacts to make calls, and set a playlist for your trip from any music app. There’s a theft alarm and a bike light, too. Watch a video of COBI in action below:

From the COBI team’s perspective, it’s only fair that cyclists get a shot at the same tech-enabled, hands-free connectivity that drivers take for granted, says Scott Kaier, a spokesperson for COBI. (It makes sense: some of COBI’s founders got their start at Audi.) COBI is based in Frankfurt, and unlike in America, cycling in Germany isn’t so much the preferred mode of transit for a small, countercultural subset as it is just another way to get around, says Andreas Freitag, COBI’s chief marketing officer.

Even though in Freitag’s mind, all modes of transit are equally valid, he sees COBI filling a pretty glaring technology gap for cyclists. While some apps like MapMyRide have route planning and tracking handled pretty well, there’s no system that so comprehensively connects all aspects of your smartphone existence to your bike commute. As biking has increased in popularity, the lack of advanced technology around it has started to become more obvious. COBI should be a welcome relief. As Frank Aldorf, the chief brand officer at Specialized Bikes, told the Los Angeles Times:

It’s less about the bicycle and more about the riding experience. The bike hasn’t changed a lot...but the experience of riding a bike has changed, and now it can be richer if you want it to.

COBI, $249, at

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    CityLab University: Inclusionary Zoning

    You’ve seen the term. But do you really know what it means? Here’s your essential primer.

  2. Equity

    Mobile Home Owners Find a Lifeline Against Displacement

    When a landlord sells a mobile home park, it can upend an entire community. Through co-ops, residents are finding a way to stay where they live and control their rent costs.

  3. Life

    Don’t Throw It Away—Take It to the Repair Cafe

    This series of workshops aims to keep broken items out of the landfill, and it might help you save a few bucks, too.

  4. A view from outside a glass office tower at dusk of the workers inside.

    Cities and the Vertical Economy

    Vertical clustering—of certain high-status industries on the higher floors of buildings, for example—is an important part of urban agglomeration.

  5. POV

    What ‘Skyscraper’ Doesn’t Get About Skyscrapers

    The Rock’s new movie should have gotten more thrills out of high-rise design, an engineer argues.