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Dear bike tech brands who insist on crazy proprietary chargers and cables: here’s a better solution

Being driven mad by the number of different connectors all your gadgets have? Us too, and we think we have a solution

Makers of bike gadgets, listen up. We need to talk.

Now, if your gadget charges with one of the standard versions of USB, you can tune out. Go back to working on the next generation gizmo that monitors blood adrenaline so our Garmin bike computers can provide evidence that we really were terrified when that cabbie almost killed us and casting profane doubt on his family relationships was perfectly reasonable, despite what the police say. Or just tell us when our ride was really gnarly and we should be properly stoked. 

Four metal contacts on the back of this Garmin watch – Garmin's clever but non-standard USB socket

The rest of you still with me? Polar, Garmin, Wahoo Speedplay, CooSpo and everyone else whose devices have unusual or proprietary interfaces to get power in and data out? Listen up. These wacky cables, cradles and what have you are a monumental pain in the arse.

2022 Polar Verity Sense Optical Heart Rate Sensor - mount and charger.jpg
The cradle for Polar's Verity Sense Optical Heart Rate Sensor plugs straight into a USB charger – if you can find it

Look, I get it. You want to make your device as tidy and compact as possible. There just isn’t room for a USB-C plug to go a whopping 6.65mm into it, so your connections are instead tiny gold-plated panels on the device surface, or if you’re Garmin making a watch you have a special low-profile socket for a custom cable. In terms of making Nice Things™ it’s a perfectly sensible approach.

2022 Wahoo Powrlink Zero Pedals - charging clip 2.JPG

The charging clip for Wahoo Powrlink Zero Pedals

But in terms of whole-life usability, it’s a bloody disaster. Can I find my CooSpo heart rate monitor cable? Can I hell. Do I know where the cable for my Garmin watch is? Well, yes, but only because it’s literally tied round my bedside lamp so I can charge the watch overnight every few days.

In two months’ time am I going to be able to find the tiny charge cradle for the Polar Verity Sense heart rate monitor I’ve just been sent to test? Only if I hot-glue it into a USB extension cable and attach a big label to it that says POLAR. And the only reason I know where to find the charge cables for my Assioma power pedals is that they're permanently resident on charge cables zip-tied to the bike stand in the garage where that bike always gets parked. As editor Jack Sexty put it when I showed him the first draft of this piece "Amen, I say as I look for my Assioma pedal chargers…"

I know, I know, we should be better organised and having too many bike widgets with odd charge cables is the epitome of First World Problems. But widget makers are missing a trick here, so here’s an idea that benefits both them and us poor occupants of St Zita’s Home for the Tragically Disorganised.

Ribbon cable - Rnewkirk7954 under CC BY-SA 3.0 on Wikimedia Commons

Like this, but bright pink with a large bike computer brand logo on it (Rnewkirk7954 under CC BY-SA 3.0 on Wikimedia Commons)

Ribbon cables. Attach your cradle, plug, magnetic interface or whatever to a honking great flat cable, the wider the better. When you order the cables get your company name printed on them over and over again. And make them any colour you like as long as it’s NOT black. Yellow, red, bright blue, green, pink, purple — all these alternatives exist and will make it easier to spot your cables among the nest of black infesting everyone’s desks and drawers.

You get free marketing, your products get to be Nice and we can find your wacky cables. Everyone's happy.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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