The University of Pennsylvania decided to give a group of five mechanical engineering students a year, and what looks to have been a pretty significant budget (with the help of some sponsors), to design and build what has to be one of the most technologically sophisticated bikes in existence.
This bike is called Alpha, and it incorporates a whole suite of advanced features that make traditional bikes with those clunky gears and cables seem like ancient history. For starters, the drive train itself is completely enclosed within the frame. The rear wheel hub contains a three speed planetary gearbox, and there's an electronically controlled clutch that lets you switch between fixed gear and freewheeling modes. An LCD mounted in the custom handlebars displays gear, distance, speed, and cadence, and you can download your stats off of a removable SD card . There are also LED lights in the back, and all the onboard electronics are powered by a dynamo in the front wheel hub.
Alpha's frame is mostly carbon fiber, along with lugs custom machined from solid blocks of aluminum. The clutch is titanium, with laser sintered steel pulleys for the belt drive, and the handlebars were created with a rapid prototyping machine and then impregnated with carbon fiber.
Needless to say, Alpha isn't for sale, but if we're lucky, we'll see some of this stuff make its way into bikes that are. Don't miss the gallery below for a little extra high-quality bike pron.