Kickstarter and kickstands: Bike innovators aren't shy when it comes to asking for money online
Story by Jun Nogami
Photos of Jun by Danny Guthrie, other photos supplied by manufacturers
Crowdfunding has been an interesting way to get a wide variety of goods to market. For those interested in bicycle gadgetry (such as myself), it is always interesting to search websites such as Kickstarter to see if there are any interesting new things on offer. I've bought a variety of things from Kickstarter vendors, ranging from a bike helmet with integrated lighting, a headlight with a laser to a complete cargobike (pictured above.) In each of these three cases, I have been happy with what I got, and both the helmet and light vendors have continued as bike accessory companies since their Kickstarter campaigns.
Here are three new products that have been brought to my attention recently.
The first is the Airsupply, a bike pump that takes the place of your seatpost. Although having a pump hidden away in your seat post is not a new idea (some Dahon folding bikes have had this feature for years), Airsupply is different in that it can be retrofitted to any bike with the appropriate seat post diameter. It is an interesting idea, and all of the information on the campaign page makes it clear that a good deal of development has been put into this product, but I would be concerned about the durability of the lockout feature. If this fails, not only are you out a bike pump, but your bike is not necessarily rideable either. It will be interesting to see if this pump finds a market at the price point, and weight that they advertise.
The second project is actually a preview of an unusual bike bell from Knog. In this case, the seller is a well established seller of bike accessories, but they appear to be attempting to use Kickstarter as a platform for promoting a new product. The bell itself looks quite attractive, and it looks like it takes less real estate on your handlebars. I’d be tempted to buy one, depending on the price. The one thing that I’d like to know ahead of time is whether the bell still sounds in the rain; many conventional dome shaped bells are muffled when they get wet.
It reminds me of another pretty bell that debuted on Kickstarter: the Spur. The main selling point for the Spur was that it was made in America.
The third product is a complete cargo bike stroller solution by Wike called the Salamander (below). With this campaign, the buy-in price is very high, but you are getting a pretty unique machine.
This reminds be of two prior Kickstarter campaigns that originated in Toronto: the Vanhawks Valour, and the Helix folding bike. In all these cases you’re making a significant investment on a bike without having the opportunity to ride it, or even to see it ahead of time. In these cases, only you can decided whether it is worth the risk.
Both the Vanhawks and the Helix campaigns attracted a fair amount of attention because they raised so much money, and this publicity just fed on itself. In both cases, you were dealing with an outfit that had never made or sold bikes before. The Vanhawks Valour appears to have been shipped this past fall (about a year and a half later than promised). The Helix is promised for March 2016. It will be interesting to see how these bikes do in the market, and whether the sellers can make the transition to a regular bike company.
This is not to say that I would absolutely not buy a bike off Kickstarter. I bought a Bike Friday Haul a Day cargobike from Kickstarter, and saved several hundred dollars off the retail price. I have been very happy with it. On the other hand, I knew that I was dealing with an established bike manufacturer, and I was very happy to support their company as they produce everything in the US.
Perhaps the Salamander Cargo Bike is in this latter category of being a new bike from an established vendor. If you are really interested in this bike, it will be on display at the forthcoming Toronto Bike Show, so you can check it out before deciding to buy. (dandyhorse will soon have a review of the Salamander here on the dandyBLOG, as well as a recap of the Bike Show.)
The benefits of buying something from a crowdfunding site are that you getsomething that no one else has and you get a price break from the eventual retail price. The downside comes with being an early adopter of any new product; it is sold in a manner that it is not returnable. If you are unsure from the information on a campaign page, one thing you might consider is to pledge a low level award (many campaigns offer a sticker or something similar) which will give you access to the comments from the other backers. Although you are committed to the amount that you pledged, most sites allow you to upgrade your pledge to a higher amount if you do decide to buy. My experience with crowdfunded products has not been 100 per cent positive, but I’ve ended up having some nice things that you don’t see on too many bikes riding around town, like this helmet with integrated lighting.
Related on the dandyBLOG:
What's new in foldie technology [COMING SOON!]