A Cyclist’s Best Friend

Going on long cycling tours or even cycling regularly, people come to rely on and appreciate how important a cycling helmet is to their safety. Swedish car manufacturers Volvo have seen this and are looking to tap into the mobile market and cycling sector with one foul swoop.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month, they launched a wearable technology prototype that allows two-way communication between cyclists and nearby drivers. The helmet has been designed to help eliminate the risk of accidents on the road involving cyclists who are ill-protected against vehicles when surrounding by ever-changing external variables.

Volvo worked with sports equipment manufacturers POC and telecommunication heavyweights Ericsson, to design the helmet that will sync with their vehicles. Together they have created a complex “cloud-based system to alleviate the growing number of cycling-related collisions and deaths,” annually according to online design magazine Dezeen.

The helmet will also allow cyclists to research certain roads through the sharing of user information and experiences regarding territories they have cycled in. When cycling, the device will send alerts to drivers when they are too close to the cyclists. Volvo’s vice president had this to say about the helmet:

“The partnership between Volvo Cars, POC and Ericsson is an important milestone in investigating the next steps towards Volvo Cars’ vision to build cars that will not crash.”
“But now, by exploring cloud-based safety systems, we are getting ever closer to eliminating the remaining blind spots between cars and cyclists and by that avoid collisions.”
The cyclist will be located by the driver’s cloud system via the cyclist’s smartphone through apps such as the hugely popular Strava. The cyclist will then be notified of the driver’s presence and the driver of the cyclist’s, via a heads-up notification projected to the display system. If a crash is imminent both parties are signalled immediately.

Volvo says, “the system will become even more useful when visibility is at a low or when road conditions aren’t ideal.” Although still in its early stages the trio of developers believe the prototype will be ready for the market later in 2015. By jumping on the surge of smartphone usage globally, which the developers of Pocket Fruity say is at an all-time high of 17% globally, they believe that this will become the ideal gadget to help keep cyclist and motorists safe on the road for the smartphone community across the world.

You may have read my earlier post on the cardboard bicycle that was being developed by Izhar Gafni and his new company Cardboard Technologies.  Back when I wrote that post, Mr. Gafni was moving forward on the presumption that he could make his bicycle for $20.  That may very well still be his goal, but if you would like to get in on the action today, that same bicycle is going to cost you $95 + $40 for shipping and handling.  A bit steeper than the original stated price of $20.

But, consider this.  Cardboard Technologies needs facilities to produce these bikes and their lofty goal of $2,000,000 on IndieGogo is intended to use crowd funding to get them to their goal.  With 34 days left and $1,970,354 to go, it seems that they have their work cut out for them.

Personally, I would love to see this company take off.  I think that the concept and unique use of materials is an interesting combination and would love to see the idea of a bicycle made of inexpensive materials be readily available to those that need it.  If you think about the number of people that need access to cheap transportation and don’t have the means to maintain an automobile, this would be a great solution.

Check out the IndieGogo page below if you are interested in contributing to this game changing technology.

See more at Cardboard Technologies website.

The Seattle Times reported last week about Washington State’s proposed transportation plan.  In the proposal are the typical gas tax hikes and increased car tab fees (more details here).  The increased taxes and fees would hopefully raise $10 billion dollars over 5 years to use towards highway improvements (many of which I think are needed).

The interesting aspect of this proposal is the inclusion of a $25 fee for any bicycle that sells for more than $500.  This was apparently included in the proposal because there were people that ‘who complain that bicyclists don’t pay their fair share’.  You know what, though?  They’re right.  Us cyclists don’t pay our fair share.  I’ve never once had a tax imposed on me for riding my bicycle.  I’ve also never been charged a fee for a bike tab.

But why should we?  There aren’t any studies that I have found that support the fact that bicyclists wear roads down by cycling on them.  I can’t see how bicycles would harm roads anyhow.  The real reasons that roads get damaged are heavy trucks and cars and the weather.  The other aspect to this is the fact that most of the roadways that are being pegged for improvements have hardly any cycling traffic on them.  When was the last time that you saw a cyclist headed up I-90 over Snoqualmie pass?  It’s a rare sight.

Setting aside my opinion as a cyclist, there is another voice being left out of this.  Small bike shops are going to hurt because of this proposal.  Sure, they could get creative and get around the new law by selling the bike in parts or by just not reporting sales correctly.  But why put them through that?  I think that it is unfair to try and come up with a measly $1 million dollars of a $10 billion proposal and put the bike shops in this corner.

I think that a tax on cyclists is not a bad idea, however.  I would not mind paying some sort of a sales tax or bike tab fee if I knew that those funds being collected were going to improve the roads that I rode on.  If those funds are going to go someplace else, let me ride tax free.

Other blogs have sounded off on the proposal, all questioning the reason for the bike tax.  I would love to hear your opinion.

120926_Bike-ProjectShot_legs_atmo_RS3

I’ve been on a frame material kick lately and came across this concept bike that is being pushed into production.  As an avid rider, whenever I think of the perfect frame I think of something light, strong, slightly flexible and durable (doesn’t break easily on impact).  Steel is a good fit for these qualities and has sufficed for me in many of the bikes that I have ridden over the years.  Carbon has its place and aluminum has done a good job at proving that it has a (rather large) spot in the frame industry.

But what happens when something truly unique comes along?  The picture that you see above is the new Clarity Bike designed by designaffairs STUDIO.  It’s a bike frame made completely from plastic.  The original polymer was developed for military use and has some surprisingly good specifications for a bike application.  Impact strength is continually mentioned first on their blog.  I find this interesting as a first mention instead of strength.  They are not the same thing!  This is a critical point for a frame material.  In fact, reading through the post, I don’t see any mention of strength.  Impact strength in bike frame materials is a good specification to have highly rated.  No one wants a cracked frame.

They mention that it is ultra lightweight, but they don’t really give any hard numbers, instead merely mentioning that it has a lower density than polycarbonate or acrylic.  Acrylic is less dense than polycarbonate (33 versus 34 lbs/cubic foot), so this new material is in the low thirties.  Steel is around 150 which makes this material nearly 5 times less dense than steel. Not bad!  Keep in mind that this frame is injection molded, however, and the volume of the material in the frame is going to be higher because the tubing will be solid compared to the hollow, extruded tubing you’re used to in bikes.  If a bike were made of this material at some point in the future, you shouldn’t expect it to be 5 times less weight.

20120831_Bike_01_AR1

designaffairs STUDIO mentions that the material has a ‘gentle flexibility’ to it and this is something that I appreciate as a regular commuter.  I need my bike frame to give a bit rolling over the road.

The cooler aspect of the potential of this material is the fact that you can just injection mold it.  This opens up a surprising range of design options for frame designers.  You can start integrating components into the frame or you can start adding modular systems to the bike to give it more functionality.  Aerodynamics would be easy to just design into the frame and wouldn’t create a difficult manufacturing process.

I think it is cool to see companies pushing the envelope with new materials and would be excited to see something like this make it to market.  If you’re still digging the idea, check out the picture below.  You can see the wall cracks continue through the frame.  Neat!

120926_Bike_ProjectShot_RS1

Revolights sideview

Revolights sideview

Revolights started as a Kickstarter campaign and has since gone into full production.  The lighting system is a unique approach to providing your bike with side lighting to increase your visibility during night time riding.  This is an inherent problem with night time biking.  Typical bike lights focus the light that they are putting out front and back instead of to the side.  Even if the light that you have has a design that allows light to come out the side, it is most likely a minimal amount.

Revolights intends to change that with a unique lighting system.  The whole system weighs a bit under 13 ounces per wheel and can mount to any 700C or 27″ rim with the provided hardware.  The battery mounts to the hub and cables run up the spokes to the LED light strips.  A magnet mounted on the fork provides positioning information to the system so that the LED’s know when to turn on/off.  All in all, this is a great idea and the look that it provides is cool enough for even hipsters to enjoy.  🙂

As unique of an approach it may be, I think that the current offering of reflective strips around tires may be a better option.  For one, the reflective strips are offered on a fairly wide array of tires these days.  This makes for a much less expensive solution to this problem.  A bikers main concern at night is being hit by a car at night.  The only way that I see a car not seeing you from the side with reflective strips is if they are driving with their lights off.

Initially the Kickstarter project only allowed interested parties to purchase the entire set and Revolights are now offered separately as front and rear units.  If you have some cash laying around and do a lot of night biking, you can pick up a single set for $139.

This isn’t the only way of drawing more attention to yourself at night with LED’s on your wheels.  If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative and don’t care about the clean lines of the Revolight, you may want to consider looking at the offerings of MonkeyLectric.  They offer two alternatives in different varieties of colors for $75 and $50.

Despite this drawback of cost, I still think it is a cool idea.  Check out the video of the product in action:

Revolights. Join the revolution. from revolights on Vimeo.

For FAQS and additional information check out http://Revolights.com.

The Upstand Bike Stand playing it cool...

The Upstand Bike Stand playing it cool…

I like how the word kickstand gets avoided here.  There is nothing to kick.  You don’t use your foot like some neanderthal to stand your bike up anymore!  Welcome to the 21st century way to support your bike vertically.  The Upstanding Bicycle Company has created this brand new support method for all of us that either hate kick stands or are just too cool to burden our bikes with something so ugly.

Weighing in at only 35 grams total, the Upstand Bike Stand consists of a tab that sits behind your rear wheel skewer and a carbon fiber post with a rare earth (axial) magnet stuck to the end to keep the post in place if you move your bike around and still want to stand it up.  If you happen to want to get back on your bike and no longer need the Upstands assistance to keep your bike from falling, simply grab the post, fold it in half (think of it as a tent pole that has a shock cord in it) and stow it in your riding shirt pouch, cycling bag or other storage system.

For $39, I think that this is a great alternative to the tried and true kickstand.  It’s also not too bad of a deal considering that you get two tabs in the package so that you can install them on your two favorite bikes.  If you feel that your other bikes will get envious, you can buy just the tabs.

Check out more at the Upstanding Bicycle Company’s website.

I was browsing Kickstarter and came across this very cool idea by Bryce Edmonds.  In the video below, Bryce describes his passion and interest in creating the world’s first bicycles out of recycled aluminum.  Everyone knows that aluminum recycles well.  You’ve probably donated your fair share of empty PBR cans to your local recycler.  Bryce is saying that he wants to use your love for the consumption of malted hops for something more and turn all of that recycled aluminum into something fun to ride.

I really like the fact that Bryce and the ReCycle team took the time out to take a new design approach.  The frames are very eye catching with their lack of a seat tube.  Your eye immediately sees that empty area and starts questioning the rigidity of the design.  I think that this is a great approach and a really cool way of letting people immediately see that this is something different and not your typical bike.

So that’s the fun stuff.  What I don’t completely understand is the cost.  Take a look at the pledging options and you’ll see that the least expensive bike option is a single speed for $2,000.  I’m not saying to not support them, by any means.  I’m merely pointing out the fact that you can get a good aluminum road bike for half this cost.  And if you want to save the earth, bring this less expensive bike once you’re done with it to your local recycler and make a bit of cash off the frame.

It’s a cool idea and the designs are nice.  If you’ve got some spare change in your couch and are looking for something fun to support, check out ReCycle.  You can check out and follow the the statistics from their Kickstarter page on the right.

Subscription services.  Generally associated with magazines that have their wonderful glossy pages and greet us in our mailboxes, subscription services have matured to delivering products to our doorsteps.  The more infamous subscription services deliver products used on a daily basis for the general public.  Who are we kidding?  We’re not interested in that kind of stuff.  Give us biking shwag!

In a box, too.  Which is exactly the idea behind ShwagBox.com.  You can sign up for their services and you are promised to receive some bike goodies in the mail.  They say that you will get four to five items each month to enjoy.  Handpicked by associates of BikeRumor.com, this service will only set you back $10 each month.

Product sampling from SchwagBox

As you can see above, they are anticipating a nice variety of biking related goodies for you to try out.  10 bucks isn’t much and if you’re a little down on your dough, you should cancel your Netflix subscription for a month and see if this is any better!

Sign up here.

Another contender is about to enter the growing market of action sports wearable cameras.  Drift Innovations will be releasing the HD Ghost action camera on November 19th for the (seemingly) standard $399 price tag.

Drift HD Ghost Action Camera

The HD Ghost will feature the ability to record your follies in crisp 1080p.  There is a 2″ screen on the side of the camera unit protected by Corning’s Gorilla glass which has proven itself in the smartphone market as a very resilient, scratch resistant glass.  Drift has decided to build some connectivity into this unit to allow it to communicate with your smartphone via an app over WiFi.  This will give you the ability to adjust shots before recording via the app or to download recorded videos to your phone for further editing or storage.  Drift is also claiming the title of ‘longest standard battery life on the market’ with a 1700 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

Check out the video below or visit Drift for more information:

Drift HD Ghost: Share Your Vision from Drift on Vimeo.

Share Your Vision

Baz Ratner / Reuters

Forget carbon fiber.  The next bike that you ride on may be made of cardboard.  An Israeli inventor, Izhar Gafni, is moving closer to mass producing his cardboard bicycle.  18 months of development has led Izhar to discovering a ground breaking bicycle design.  Once in the market, it will sell for close to $20 and weigh close to 20 pounds.  65% lighter than most metal bikes.  The tires are made of reconstituted rubber and the ‘chain’ is a car timing belt.

How will it hold up in weather being made of cardboard?  According to Gafni,

“Once the shape has been formed and cut, the cardboard is treated with a secret concoction made of organic materials to give it its waterproof and fireproof qualities. In the final stage, it is coated with lacquer paint for appearance.”  

All in all, this makes for a truly ground breaking design and something that I am interested in looking at more closely once it comes to market.  Check out the video of Izhar constructing the bicycle below.

UPDATE: More pictures of the bike and a link to Izhar Gafni’s Cardboard Technology website.

Mr. Gafni preparing a wheel.

 

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