Adjusting tyre pressure while cycling
With its continuous alternation between asphalt and more than 50 km of cobbled lanes, the cycling race 'Paris-Roubaix' is a prime example of a situation in which you would like to adjust the tyre pressure as you cycle. After all, you cycle better with high tyre pressure on a tight road surface. And on cobbles, unpaved roads or in the forest, low pressure certainly gives you a better ride. HubTech, a company that focuses on high-tech mechatronics, has developed a solution for easy tyre pressure adjustments. The GRAVAA KAPS wheel set allows you to adjust the tyre pressure on the go. This is possible thanks to a pump that’s located inside the wheel hub, with the pump being connected to the valve by means of a hose. At the same time, a wireless control unit on the handlebar allows you to control the systems. A unique solution that consists of a smart combination of mechatronics, hardware and knowledge of cycling.
Mobile App combined with Bluetooth Low Energy
Whereas HubTech has a wealth of knowledge in the domain of mechatronics, the company lacked knowhow of the specific software required to make this system communicate easily with a phone and various cycling computers. And this is the reason that they engaged Fourtress, a specialist in software for innovative technology in technical automation and embedded software. After all, HubTech wanted an app that could control the tyre pressure system via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The app allows a cyclist with a smartphone or bike computer on the handlebars to monitor the current tyre pressure and instantly adjust it when transitioning to a different road surface.
Development in two phases
The system development project was divided into two phases to achieve the ultimate main goal: to use the system during the famous cycling classic 'Paris-Roubaix'.
The goal of the first phase was to demonstrate a fully working version during the EUROBIKE fair in Germany with the idea of allowing visitors to cycle a few laps on the spot and to adjust the tyre pressure while cycling. No one had ever seen or done this before. During this phase, Fourtress worked hard to develop the Android app. Meanwhile, partner company Sensorfy developed the firmware for the hardware embedded in the hub of the wheels. The project started with creating an outline of the design as well as the baseline for the BLE communication. The BLE specification had been prepared in advance and was based on an existing ANT+ protocol for wireless communication. This technology had previously been implemented in the system in order to communicate with devices such as a Garmin cycling computer.
It goes without saying that the ambitious goal of the first phase made the project rather hectic, but the good news was that the work was completed successfully. HubTech was able to show a fully workable demo model that was enthusiastically received by the exhibition visitors, and the Android app was launched in early 2023. So with a successfully completion of phase 1, phase 2 entered the track!
Strong interest from professional cycling teams
In order to market it as a product, the current system was adjusted and fine-tuned. In addition to improvements in the Gravaa Android app, Fourtress developed a Gravaa Garmin Connect IQ app. This app can display the current and desired tyre pressure in addition to the current speed, distance and other available data. The huge advantage of this solution is that cyclists don’t need a smartphone while they are cycling, which of course made the system even more interesting for professional cycling teams.
With the spring classics approaching, serious interest in the product quickly emerged from several major professional cycling teams. Around this time, HubTech made the choice to join forces with the well-known Dutch cycling team Jumbo-Visma, and the team immediately decided to start using the system for one of the biggest races of the year: Paris-Roubaix. Naturally this was the best possible test as this race consists of an alternation of (irregular) cobbled strips with "normal" smooth roads.
The ultimate goal: Parijs-Roubaix
Sunday 9 April was the big day: the cycling classic 'Paris-Roubaix'. Three out of seven members of the Jumbo-Visma Team (Dylan van Baarle, Christophe Laporte and Edoardo Affini) rode with the KAPS technology (Kinetic Air Pressure System) of the GRAVAA KAPS system and the Garmin app. On average, the riders were able to deliver more power and their arms were less painful after the race. The good news was that all cyclists were positive about the system – both before, during and after the race. Of course there was a lot of interest in the new technology and this triggered the interest of the entire cycling world.
This is a prime example of a successful collaboration between two high-tech companies that caused a stir within the entire (professional) cycling world due to a revolutionary innovation. Mission accomplished!