Up to now, bike computers have all been about speed, cadence and power...

A research team from the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) has developed a sensor and display system that "significantly improves the safety and comfort of cyclists" but is compact enough to fit on a bicycle's handlebars.

The as-yet-unnamed system collects data from the rider's surroundings — temperature, humidity, ultraviolet rays and air quality — then processes it and if necessary issuing warnings or suggestions to the cyclist.

For example, the sensor system is able to flash a signal or "speak" - in Chinese currently - to remind the cyclist to ride in the shade when the weather is too hot, said associate professor Chang Hsien-chung, who led the research team.

According to Chang, "It can even spray mist over the cyclist’s face and torso to cool the cyclist down, or issue warnings when air quality is poor.

"These functions could be especially useful in places like Taiwan where cyclists are easily exhausted by strong ultraviolet rays and sweltering heat in the summer."

The proposed system has won a merit award in the Taiwan Ministry of Education-sponsored micro-computer research and development competition and is awaiting a patent from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Chang said.

In an addition that will feel more familiar to existing cyclists, the sensor system also helps users navigate safely at night. It comes with a special vest for the rider to wear equipped with flashing LED lights that indicate whether the cyclist is turning right or left, braking or slowing down.

If the system’s ultrasonic distance sensor detects an approaching car at night, it sets off the flashing LED lights as a warning to the motorist.

The system comes with two small batteries which store power from sunlight and, as the report in the Taipei Times puts it, "the friction created when pedalling."