• Baidu's smart bike, dubbed DuBike, has onboard navigation and rider activity features that also include a tracking system.

Baidu's smart bike, dubbed DuBike, has onboard navigation and rider activity features that also include a tracking system. (Photo : www.slashgear.com)

Chinese startup and Internet companies are trying to take their place in the fledgling smart bike market, with Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp. (LeTV) becoming the latest and most active company to join the bandwagon.

In a press release sent to the Global Times on Tuesday, Aug. 11, LeTV unveiled plans to sell its intelligent urban bicycles under the brand name "Buzzard," which will be sold simultaneously in the Chinese mainland and the U.S. this October.

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During the press conference in Beijing conducted via video, Jia Yueting, LeTV CEO, expressed confidence in the smart bikes developed by LeTV's sports unit, which he said have adopted the self-developed operating system BIKE OS that can track riders' movements, recommend music according to their heart rates, record speed, and be automatically locked or unlocked through smartphone or fingerprint recognition scanner technology.

Internet giant Baidu Inc. has also launched a smart bike R&D program, dubbed "DuBike," in April 2014. The company developed the first generation concept design, which functions similarly as LeTV's bike. The company, however, did not disclose when the product will be sold to the public.

He Wenyi, executive director of the China Institute for Sports Value under Peking University, said that the smart bike industry would have great potential in China if companies could offer smart bikes with killer features that will attract bike users.

Data from Bosi Data Research Center, a Beijing-based market consultancy, showed that sales of bicycles in China reached 62.11 million in 2014, up 3.1 percent year-on-year.

Analysts, however, noted that the existing high-tech bikes in the market are not smart enough, which most consumers are looking for in the next generation of bicycles.

"Connected with extra smart gadgets such as smart bike pedals, an ordinary bike can also offer most features which the so-called smart bikes in the market have. And most features such as road navigation and recording heart rates while riding can also be realized via smartphone apps," Zhang Qing, CEO of Beijing Key-Solution Sports Consulting Co., told the Global Times.

Yu Qing, a white-collar worker in Beijing, said that she is discouraged by the high price of smart bikes, usually costing around 4,000 yuan ($626.40).

"If a smart bike only cost between 1,500 yuan and 2,000 yuan, I would consider buying one," Yu said.

On the other hand, Li Cuihua, a long-distance biker, said that price is not a problem, but he questioned the necessity of putting smart features for bikes.

"Those showy revamps may make the bike heavier. I would rather choose a bike brand that spends every penny on the development of tires, frames and pedals," Li told the Global Times.