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  1. #1
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    Start-up bicycle company advice

    Hi guys, I'm looking to get some advice on a company that I'm starting up with a couple of friends. Sorry for hijacking your forum, but I will hopefully post regularly over the coming months.

    A bit of background about myself. I'm 24, living in London, England. Have been into downhill biking since I was 11, mountain biking since I can remember and unfortunately into the commuting side since I got a 9-5!

    We are taking a huge leap and developing our own road bicycle, however with a significant twist. The bike will include integrated handlebar, rear seat tube and bar end lights, navigation display on the handlebars, GPS tracking and alarm system for additional security (nothing beats a good lock and chain!). The bike will come with a mobile application which will be utilised for navigation, accessing the bicycle features (e.g light brightness, alarm setting etc) and recording performance metrics of rides)

    In terms of design, navigation is illustrated via an LED array along the handlebar stem and an inch and a half either side of of the bars (think T shape). Bars will be an integrated bar and stem design. We have found a way to route internal cables through the handlebars, frame and seat tube - a major coup. The design is very simple, unless you are very close to the bike you will be unable to tell what's under the hood.

    We are currently in the planning stage and have been short listed for a government innovation grant. Have planned to put in 4-5000 in metal work and same again in software and hardware.

    We are targeting an RRP of 550 or $900 but this is very likely to change.

    Thanks for reading. Any questions,suggestions, advice, abuse is more than welcome and would be much appreciated.

    Happy holidays!

  2. #2
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Welcome to the Forums

    First thing I gotta say is to remind you of the Solicitation GL (found in the FAQ)- so long as you aren't out to drum up investors or customers, we should be cool.

    Now, since you've asked for input... it sounds like you've mated the Hammerhead to the Helios.

    A couple of potential problems that I see right off:

    1. Not sure of what type of shape your handlebar is (drop, flat, butterfly/other), but people have different proportions and need different sizes accordingly.
    2. Same holds true for the stem- it is one of the easiest things to change to fine tune a fit, because they come in a wide array of lengths and degrees of elevation.

    In other words, unless you intend to create a wide spectrum of sizing in your integrated bar/stem, you'll likely not have too many repeat customers due to the (perceived on my part at the moment) lack of adjustability.

    As to the necessity of a smartphone to access/control the built-in techno-toys... poor idea, IMO. What happens if/when the phone battery dies? A bunch of the features won't be functioning or controllable? Your GPS- is that based off of the cell phone towers or off of true satellite nav? If it is bouncing off of cell towers, what happens when you don't have cell service?
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  3. #3
    Senior Member bmontgomery87's Avatar
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    Nomad had some solid points. And aside from bar sizing, people have different bar preferences as well. you may like drops, I like bullhorns.

    Next, building a quality bicycle with all of those features is going to be very hard to do with the pricepoint you're talking about. It's hard to find a really well built bike in that price range, much less one with all of these fancy gadgets.

    No hate, just something you may want to consider.

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    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmontgomery87 View Post
    Next, building a quality bicycle with all of those features is going to be very hard to do with the pricepoint you're talking about. It's hard to find a really well built bike in that price range, much less one with all of these fancy gadgets.
    What is your target market? Road riders? Dedicated casual riders? Utility riders? That will affect the price point you can achieve and how you want to design the bike.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

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    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    So this a one size folding bike ? with 'the Knowledge' of the London Cabby driver ?


    We are targeting an RRP of 550 or $900
    sort out the line of credit for funding and take your CAD plans and drawings,
    to the next Taipei Cycle Trade show , I cannot imagine how you will hit that
    price point at the dealer margin included level , paying London Overhead and UK labor rates.

    thats why so much of the Bike Industry has gone to subcontractors.
    customers dont have the money to buy a 2K product, so the jobs go abroad,
    and the goods are re imported .. to hit the 1K price point.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 12-24-13 at 11:26 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member bmontgomery87's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
    What is your target market? Road riders? Dedicated casual riders? Utility riders? That will affect the price point you can achieve and how you want to design the bike.

    I'd almost think they're have to market for casual riders (in which case why do you need a gps on your bike) or utility riders.

    Serious road riders are probably going to have issues with the added weight and aren't going to drop a grand on a bike they've never heard of, unfortunately.

  7. #7
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    It sounds to me like the controls and sensors, including GPS, are integrated in the bike and the mobile app is more of a user interface and navigation processing. This is a good idea; I can't really fault it. The LED array navigation, excellent! I hope that the lights at least have a physically activated on/off switch - many of us sometimes just want to get on and ride, no phone, no setup, just flip the switch and go.

    I imagine that not many people here have personally started a bicycle company, so you're on your own about that. But I can tell you that one recurring mistake that I've read about is taking a good idea and then specializing the end product so much that the business won't scale. So my only suggestion is to make sure that the bicycle is designed for as general a market as possible. I think that means that you'll have to pay as much attention to the bike's design as you do to the innovations. The bike has to be suitable to ride, no matter what else you do to it.

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    Along the lines of wphamilton's suggestion of scalability: How about sellng the components/electronics systems separately?. Good unique frames always seem to have a niche market appeal, and if you'd make it adaptable so your modern systems (gps, LED displys and other electronics), current systems (Di2, etc), or old school cable/hydraulic systems would work on it, you'd maight have a broader market. Also, can you make electronics systems that'll be usable on current bike lines, and not just your brand?
    Are we having fun yet?

  9. #9
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
    What is your target market? Road riders? Dedicated casual riders? Utility riders? That will affect the price point you can achieve and how you want to design the bike.
    ^^ This!

    Speaking for myself (recreational cyclist, long distance cyclist, cycletourist, and occasionally a commuting cyclist) ... I've purchased a lot of bicycles, but have never had any desire to have all sorts of electronics integrated into my handlebars.

    I like to select my own components and accessories.

    However, I'm just one person ... Chelseaboy ... what has the reaction been when you've suggested this idea to your target audience?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    My advice: Don't put any of your money in and draw a nice salary. When it goes belly up, take what you've learned and move on to the next venture...

  11. #11
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    It sounds like the biggest feature you are offering that you can't get on other bikes is the navigation functionality in the stem. And as previous posters mentioned, it's really important to be able to customize stem heights and lengths. So what about starting with a stem with integrated GPS? That could potentially also be a good way to get your ideas and your brand into the hands off real riders, which would then make it easier for folks to take the plunge on your whole fully-integrated bike. You can extend the clamp area to both sides to make more room for your display.

    If I understand the concept of your navigation array, it's basically arrows telling you which way to go, right? On one hand, I like the idea of having a simple, easy-to-see arrow telling you where to go so that you can keep your eyes on the road. But on the other hand, in the real world, you often need details like street names and a visual map because GPS directions can be ambiguous and your position can be off sometimes. If you just have arrows for right and left, what happens when you have a choice between a right and a hard right? Do you have to stop and pull out your smartphone to look at the map?
    For that matter, will you have maps preloaded, or will you access Google map over the cell network?
    I'm not criticizing, I'm just trying to understand what you're doing. If you can do it in a way that really works for the way people use GPS devices for navigation on bikes and solve some of the problems, I think you'll really have something.

    Lastly, you didn't mention how you plan on powering all this stuff. A dyno hub is the obvious choice, particularly since you're planning all this integrated wiring anyway.

    But yeah, I think you really will have to sell the components separately. One reason is that you can start with a smaller project and get a product to market sooner that people can actually buy. That will afford you the time to make sure that each part of your system really works and pulls its weight. Then your fully integrated bike can be your flagship offering that people can buy after they've already tried your fork or your stem or whatever.

    I think you do need to be really clear about who your target market is, too. Partly because cycling has a tendency to be compartmentalized and people often identify with one or two "tribes" and then don't buy stuff they don't feel is marketed to them. But also just because its generally good advice if you want to reach the people who might actually buy your product.

  12. #12
    Ding! Bandera's Avatar
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    Electronics are short-time use and generally disposable as technology rapidly changes, unlike a well made bicycle.

    I've had three generations of cyclo-computers with more functionality upgraded on the same bike over twenty years and am due for #4 .I'd not want anything integrated into a bike that will be obsolete before the 1st set of tires are worn out.
    Guys like me aren't your target market, but who is?

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  13. #13
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bandera View Post
    Electronics are short-time use and generally disposable as technology rapidly changes, unlike a well made bicycle.

    I've had three generations of cyclo-computers with more functionality upgraded on the same bike over twenty years and am due for #4 .I'd not want anything integrated into a bike that will be obsolete before the 1st set of tires are worn out.
    Guys like me aren't your target market, but who is?

    -Bandera
    +1. Integrating fast-evolving things like Nav/GPS (or even the security) with the bike has a lot of risk. It's a cool idea, but I don't see it working as a commercial venture. Sorry OP.
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  14. #14
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    One of the riders on my ride today was complaining about the Garmin battery gradually losing it's ability to hold a charge. She'll pay $200 to replace the Garmin unit, she says, the bike is roughly a $5,000 bike. So I agree with the points above, that the electronics are prone to get outdated, wear out, etc., and you need to be able to replace or update them at will and keep using the bike. The taillights on my bike are Planet Bike Superflashes, if one dies, you throw it away and buy another for $25.

    Something to consider very carefully: The Number 1 problem I see with people inventing anything new in the field of bicycling is that they are not the ones actually using the product. Typically this comes up when students in an industrial-design class dream up concept bicycles, electric bicycles, whatever, but they aren't really experienced cyclists themselves. So be very very sure that you don't fall into that category. In particular, if you're fairly new to bicycle commuting, and inventing gadgetry for bicycle commuters, you fall into that category.

    Something to consider: Does an actual cycling commuter need any kind of navigation system? I would think after two weeks you'd have your route memorized?

    Is all this electronics going to be absolutely positively waterproof, where you can leave the bike out in torrential downpours without ill effect? Don't assume everyone's going to drag the bike inside, and if you can't remove the electronic gizmos from the bike, you have potential problems.

    If you can incorporate off-the-shelf electronic systems into the bike, you'll be way ahead on cost of development.

    Typically, on a road bike, you can vary handlebar width, and stem length and angle, independently of each other. If you integrate those items, you either lose a lot of flexibility, or have to stock an awful lot of different handlebars.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  15. #15
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    It's a good point that integrating electronics into the bike makes it more difficult to update or repair it, which is why I assumed that the integrated portion is only the display device (LED's) and the GPS unit since OP mentioned security tracking. The actual electronics and application would be the cell phone or tablet, which eliminates that problem and why I thought it was pretty clever. But I could be wrong that that's the actual plan. Is it?

  16. #16
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    But I could be wrong that that's the actual plan. Is it?
    Unfortunately, we'll never know because it is highly unlikely that the OP, Chelseaboy, will ever return to this thread.

    It's happened before with other so-called entrepreneurs and survey-takers who are making something new and wonderful for us cyclists ... they post one message ... and disappear ... instead of engaging in a discussion with us.

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