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Innovating the cycling industry: Safety and E-Bikes leading the way

By Keisha Michael, Trainee Patent Attorney

The bicycle is often considered one of the greatest innovations of all time. It has endured through the years with a design that has remained remarkably consistent. Unlike some inventions that have undergone significant transformations, the bicycle has retained its recognisable form since its early iterations.

Despite facing ongoing challenges such as the fluctuating demand brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the cycling industry continues to evolve, presenting new opportunities for growth.

Image from Pierre Lallement and James Caroll’s 1886 patent for the Velocipede

With gyms closing and commuters hoping to avoid public transport during Covid lockdowns, 2020 saw a boom in bike sales with growth of 60% between March and December 2020 [3].  However, the subsequent decline in sales as life returned to normal prompts an exploration of areas for development within the cycling world. Businesses taking the initiative to identify and capitalise on these opportunities could not only drive the cycling industry forward but also lead to broader applications across various different sectors beyond cycling.


Safety will always be a top priority for cyclists, especially with the increasing number of cars on the roads (the number of cars on the road in the UK increased by 10% between 2021 and 2022! [1]). The need for innovation to help protect riders is more pressing than ever.

Helmets, a fundamental safety component for cyclists, have seen significant advances since the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) made helmets compulsory for professional riders in 2003. Swedish company MIPS are at the forefront of these developments.

MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, a technology which was established when researchers discovered that rotational motion during collisions is a common cause of brain injuries. MIPS enhances the safety of riders by reducing this harmful rotational motion.

This is achieved by using a moving layer to prevent the rotational forces of an impact from passing onto your brain as demonstrated by the Figure below taken from US patent US201917277622. When a frontal oblique impact, I, creates a rotational force on the helmet, it causes the energy absorbing layer (3) to slide in relation to the attachment device (13).

This is a technology applicable beyond cycling, finding relevance not only in other sports, including snow sports and equestrian activities (or any sport where a helmet is required), but industries such as construction and mining.

Leading patent filers for impact-absorbing shells, e.g. of crash helmets include:


Although sales of mechanical bikes dropped by 22% in 2022 [2], e-bike sales have remained consistent. As a company consistently within the top filers across a number of categories, SRAM are a big contributor to the continued success of the E-bike.

SRAM’s patent EP4098534B1 describes an automatic gear shifting controller for electric bikes:

By identifying a rider’s pedalling cadence and comparing it with a target cadence, an actuator can automatically shift the gears to a more appropriate selection. It also enables modification of the automatic shifting criteria to prevent unwanted shifting of gears, resulting in a better experience for the rider.

In the world of e-bikes, the balance between weight and power is a delicate one. On one hand, the use of small batteries and motors is favoured to keep weight to a minimum, but this compromise results in reduced power. Opting for larger batteries and motors enhances power but introduces the challenge of increased weight, which can negatively impact on the handling of the bike.

Addressing this weight versus efficiency dilemma, SRAM’s pending US patent (US20220332389) describes a new potential solution. Their approach revolves around a compact e-bike motor, strategically repositioned within the bicycle frame. By positioning the motor and the energy storage device around the bottom bracket, the centre of gravity is lower and further back which is useful to prevent rollover (when a bike tips forward as a rider brakes) and improves the overall handling of the bike.

On the whole, filings in relation to e-bikes are increasing year-on-year:

As the cycling industry navigates changing landscapes, the focus on safety innovations and the continued growth of e-bikes as a sustainable and accessible transport choice stand out as pivotal drivers of progress.

Many of our patent experts are also keen cyclists (nearly a quarter of us in our Bristol office commute by bike!) and would be happy to have a chat about your IP needs, or indeed about bikes!

This is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. Should you require advice on this or any other topic then please contact or your usual HLK advisor.

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