The New York Times today has a piece on Trek's new automatic Lime bicycles. No, "automatic" here doesn't mean the bikes use fuel or battery power to get you up a hill, but they do shift between three gears for you automatically, using a system powered by pedaling. The bikes also have backward pedal brakes instead of handbrakes, hence their industry name, the Coaster (typically, only kids' bikes have these old-fashioned brakes).
The Coasting bikes' gear-shifting technology was innovated by Shimano, a bike-component manufacturer that convinced Giant and Raleigh to sell lines of these simplified bikes along with Trek. With prices starting around $450, the bikes are a pricey for entry-level models, but the cycling industry hopes that these simple, streamlined bicycles will get lapsed cyclists back on the road. In the cycling world, the bikes with the most advanced technology now look lower-tech than their complex-seeming counterparts. We smell a trend, and eagerly anticipate the battery- and solar-powered Model T turbo.