Friday, October 16, 2015

9 more Kickstarter inventions for your bicycle

Looks like it may be time for another Kickstarter cycling inventions review, Vol. 3 (See also Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). Kickstarter is a tremendous resource for someone with a bright idea who seeks funding to turn his/her concept into reality. However, as with all ideas, not many of them are actually bright.
"Gi FlyBike is an electric, smart, maintenance-free, folding bicycle with full size, 26” wheels that we created for the future of urban commuting." At least that's what inventors say. 

Because we live in 2015, as most "novel" bike concepts, it's smart, which means it requires a smartphone to operate. I won't comment on that or other FlyBike's features except one (OK, two) - this bike folds in half to save space in storage. The folding mechanism seems simple to operate but unfortunately, if you were looking for an electric Brompton, look elsewhere. Flybike's seatpost nor handlebars don't fold and it doesn't look like it would stand upright on its own when folded.

Also, I'm not super excited about "airless, solid tires". Yes, they may be puncture-resistant but usually, ride quality on such things suffers a lot. Maybe that's why FlyBike needs a shock-absorbing seatpost.

My verdict: Perhaps some people will get excited about this thing (120 backers bought it!) but I'm not. It looks like an over-engineered vehicle. If I wanted puncture-resistant tires, I would go tubeless. If I want to share my bike with a friend, why do I need a smartphone app for it? If I wanted a folding bike, I would likely buy a Brompton.

Parkis is "a unique mechanical bicycle lift for parking bicycles in small spaces". The idea is sound - for those of us who don't own a large house with even larger basement, storing (many) bicycles may be tricky sometimes. Unless you are fine with your bicycle living outside year-round, you would need to come up with some designated space where you can keep it safe and out of your way.

Parkis is supposed to help with it. It grabs a bike by its front wheel and automatically lifts it up into upright position. My biggest problem with Parkis is that... it doesn't really solve the problem! Yes, it frees up a bit of space on the floor but it's far from the space you could gain by simply hanging your bike on two wall hooks.

Also, if you wanted to store more than one bicycle with Parkis your space savings look even less exciting - you can't install two Parkis close to each other because those wide handlebars will get in the way.

My verdict: Wall hooks are way cheaper and don't need electric power.

The two first inventions could actually be useful for some people but this one seems just plain stupid. It's a pedal that has a built-in locking cable, auto-retractable and with a combination lock. Oh, and an alarm. Because we all know that alarms are extremely effective in deterring thieves. Right.

There is so much wrong with this thing that I don't even know where to start. First of all, it has a thin cable, easy to cut. But let's say it's supposed to be used to lock your bike in places where thieves don't use cable cutters (in deep woods of Montana, maybe?). Then, you are limited to these crappy pedals with lousy grip surfaces. Then, there is an alarm, which usually has only a psychological effect of you feeling more secure. Not to mention that putting a lock in a pedal seems a bit strange. Pedals get dirty, either from mud or even some dog shit.

Having said that, I understand where inventors are coming from. They designed it to be used on beach cruisers. Their pedals may have to be used barefoot (hence the design) to occasionally lock your bike when you stop to refill your Pina Colada. There must be a lot of Pina Colada fans out there as inventors managed to get over $27,000 already for their pedals.

My verdict: A retractable cable lock in a pedal? Come on, seriously?! If I wanted to design something like it I would put it into a small housing that can be frame-mounted and leave my pedals alone.

These are simply bar ends like the ones you had on your mountain bike in the early 90's, but they can be quickly rotated on handlebars for different riding positions.

Inventor claims that his Revolver Bar Ends are "finally a way to change hand/riding positions WHILE you ride". Apparently, he has never heard of anything like road drop bars or multi-position touring bars. Seriously, if I had a problem with aching wrists, neck, back, etc. I would rather look into a different bicycle/handlebars/stem length/etc. first, instead of developing something that is a solution to a non-existent problem.

My verdict: If you need these, you are probably simply riding on a wrong size bicycle, with wrong handlebars or other components. Go to a local bike store and get help. You won't need any revolving gizmos.

Geez, what the hell is that thing? It's a "bicycle specifically designed for runners" (Can you still call it a bicycle?). It suspends your body to create an effect of "weightless running". You see, in order to run in XXI century you can't just use a pair of sport shoes anymore. Now you need a complex exoskeleton too!

But if GlideCycle is supposed to reduce your fatigue during your morning jogging, why go jogging at all? Isn't getting a good workout and getting sweaty the whole point of running? If you wanted to make sure you won't get too tired, why not just ride a regular bicycle instead?

My verdict: Unless you are handicapped and have some kind of back trauma that prevents you from normal running, stay away from this thing. A pair of sneakers is all you should ever need.

Now onto something I could actually like. Stellight is a simple bicycle light with powerful LEDs that can be configured as front (white) or rear (red) light. It comes with a handful of features: is nicely packaged into a small housing, uses large knob to control light output, communicates with a second Stellight through Bluetooth so you can remotely control your rear light from the front one, and is easily adjustable/removable.

However, the main selling point of this light seems to be the ability to use hundreds of different light patterns - a way you can "express yourself". I honestly think there are better ways to show the world how cool you are than spending hours with a smartphone, fine-tuning your light patterns. But kids will probably like it.

My verdict: The design is nice. Many light patterns are not. Instead of them, I would rather have the inventors to add a good beam reflector to the front light. Powerful lights are great as long as they don't illuminate tree tops, blinding everyone around.

Another bike light. Unfortunately, this one is pretty dumb even though it's "smart". FAST Tail Light is supposed to be your guardian angel. It will call home (send message to your wife's phone) when you place your bike flat on the ground. This way she can call you back and remind you that you may damage rear derailleur by doing that. Smart!

FAST will also let you create many rainbow-like color patterns. Now you can confuse the hell out of drivers and other cyclists who universally understand that rear lights are red, not purple-yellow-green. Or give them epilepsy. Smart!

My verdict: I don't really see much point in this thing but if you are an 8-grader, you may like it on your BMX.

This thing is awesome! But it should be larger so that when you stick out your middle finger towards an aggressive driver, it would display a welcoming, well-visible F-message.

TurnCycle is a display panel that shows to drivers behind you (using LEDs) your hand gestures (turn signals). It recognizes your arm position using a wristband-mounted accelerometer.

I understand the idea and motivation behind it but honestly, there are several problems with TurnCycle. One, it's too small to be well-visible. Two, drivers don't expect to see any flashing turn signals on bicycles and are likely not going to pay attention to them. Three, a simple flashing arrow on a small screen in the middle of the seatpost won't be very effective. There is a good reason why turn signals in cars are installed as off-center as possible. This way they can be easily understood as right/left signals. But a bicycle is too narrow to do that, hence hand gestures are used. If you want to use flashing turn signals, put them on your wrists.

My verdict: Nice try but no. At least not in this form. Actually, $10 reflective wrist bands would likely be more effective than TurnCycle.

This little gadget is a micro trailer with a complete electric motor kit. It's supposed to turn any bicycle into an e-bike.

Clearly, Wheezy has several advantages. You can use it on many of your bikes, moving it between them as needed. You can also use it with any bicycle - your kid's bike with 24" wheels or your large city bike.

However, some of inventor's claims are certainly inflated. I don't know how Wheezy is supposed to solve problem with storage of an electric bicycle. An e-bike would take less space than a regular bike plus this trailer.

My verdict: It's very difficult to tell how effective Wheezy is without testing it so I am not going to call it a hit or miss. It may work well in urban environment, on well-paved and snow-free bike paths.

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