Smartphone on Two Wheels

Cycling by electric drive is no longer enough. Startups now working on networked, smart bike. Now jump also the big players of the industry in the saddle.

Is it still a bike? Or even a Smartphone on two wheels? Ali Zahid is the co-founder of the Canadian start ups Vanhawks and manufacturer of according to self-promotion “first networked carbon bicycle”. The proof that there are still large market gaps in the richly stocked bicycle segment along all the city – mountain -, racing, travel, cross-, cruising-, trekking – and transport wheels, he has already provided: the most successful Canadian Crowdfunding campaign succeeded in the company.

About Kickstarter, 800 supporters have pre-stretched already 800,000 dollars for the “Valour” coming this spring on the market. In addition professional investors put so far again start up $1.6 million in that. Now, Zahid is busy, constantly on the move and call chronically difficult to achieve. At the moment he drives around to much in San Francisco, where he meets with other investors.

The valour to 1,250 dollars and be an ideal commuter bike: light, fast and above all constantly online. Is reported a wheel over the corresponding app as stolen, it can locate the network of Valour. Via Bluetooth can send navigation app data from your Smartphone on the bike, colored lights on the handlebars then indicate the direction to turn.

Ultrasonic sensors report on the rear axle when another traffic participant comes too close; the handlebar then vibrates as a warning. And motion sensors register potholes, send them to the valour network and thereby continuously improve the guidance for all other owners of Valour.

Experienced cyclists like to keep something for bells and whistles. But you are not the target group. “30 percent of the supporters have a bike at all,” Ali Zahid is reported. The striking design of the carbon framework and the smart functions first lure them on the wheel. Something else attracts professional investors: the underlying software that Zahid somewhat cocky describes as “Operating system for the bike”. “Imagine us as the Microsoft of the bicycle industry. We deliver the software on which the manufacturer can build their products,”says Ali Zahid on the phone and asks for apology, because he must make a further call urgently.

Vanhawks is thus a trend moving just the entire bicycle industry. After more than hundred years, in which the wheel has hardly changed his inner life upside down startups now. Models have the ability to get help at accidents, developers design electronically controlled suspensions, wheels get sensors to raise fitness data. But hardly a provider is so consistently as Vanhawks, and makes the whole model to the computer. Still, a gap exists between vision and reality though. The manufacturer what to build on the Vanhawks operating system?

The few smart features, providing the networked wheel already exist in every Smartphone. But the door is open for numerous further incursions. The idea to offer several intelligent functions from a cast and that not every time your phone out of your pocket to have to fumble, seems tempting.

In the slipstream of startups like Vanhawks the big players in the industry catch up now. Sebastian way Alder is the manufacturer Canyon for the area urban & fitness responsible. Together with Deutsche Telekom, he’s the smart evolution of the bike and take inspiration from the automotive industry. At the CeBIT, the partners presented the concept wheel MRSC connected. Leitmotif is the seamless integration of electronics. GPS sensor and a computer with an integrated mobile radio module are firmly built into the frame.

There are motion sensors on the handlebars and the spring elements. Unlike in the valour they can not only recognize a jogging track, but actively respond to them. So-called magnetorheological shock absorber make this possible: change the orientation of magnetic particles in the shock fluid in electromagnets and vary their viscosity so. The cushioning is softer or harder depending on the road -. Also, the electronics stores the loads of the bicycle and reports, including in the car, when the next maintenance is due.

In a crash, she automatically get help, and in case of a theft, it reports the position of the wheel. The first concept bike was a sporty road, the development should rather go towards everyday model – for cyclists who may not miss certain functions of a car.

But the interested must buy new a whole wheel. What is the manufacturer, will appeal to the customer of less. Andreas Gahlert therefore a number makes it smaller and developed a retrofit solution. The starting point was that he liked not dispense in the saddle on his Smartphone. If he commutes mountain E bike from the Taunus to Frankfurt, he like to phone while driving. So until recently, the handlebars of his bike looked like a decorated Christmas tree. From left to right: iPhone, on-board computer, battery lamp, Bell. No driver would accept such a mess.

And as the owner of a large Internet Agency Gahlert works deal with automakers on the issue of connected car. He knows what is possible in the automotive – and what’s wrong with the bike: the seamless integration of components. For Gahlert had the complete wheel reinvent, but only the handlebar. He called his controller for the smart bike Cobi as an abbreviation for connected bike. She was a huge success with kick starter as the valour. 1,872 supporters pooled more than $400,000.

The base is a kind of docking station (“hub”) for the Smartphone. It is firmly mounted on the handlebars and includes lights, speakers, a battery and connections to the motor control of E-bikes. But the real innovation is a Smartphone app, which connects via Bluetooth to the hub. Integrated approximately 100 features, so far their own devices or apps were necessary for: navigation, weather forecast, telephoning, music, fitness functions and, and, and. The cyclists can use everything over the thumb switch without removing the hands from the handlebars.

“We make accessible the smart bike for all”, says Gahlert. Its retrofit solution available from 159 euro. With “all”, he means but also the bicycle industry. He hopes to be able to establish Cobi as original equipment on new wheels. Shortly after launch the Crowdfunding campaign in December 2014, he and his business partner over 240 requests received from drive and bicycle manufacturers – including virtually all large.

In March, the company announced the first partnerships. A mountain bike manufacturer offers autumn Cobi as an equipment option for E bikes, a city bike manufacturer does the same for his classic bikes. Gahlert is sure that there will be many more over the course of the year. (Hans COD) / (bsc)