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Friday, May 16, 2014

The First-Ever "Smart Bike" Will Call You If It Gets Stolen

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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The Vanhawks Valour claims to be the "first ever connected carbon fibre bicycle."

I have a few questions: First off, what is it connected to? And why is fiber spelled like that?

The Vanhawks Valour might be what we could call the first "smart bike." Like the smart phone before it, the Vanhawks Valour takes the venerable bike -- complete with two wheels, pedals, etc. -- and adds "smart" stuff. This must be a massively appealing prospect to many, many cyclists, because the Vanhawks Valour has already raised over $440,000 on Kickstarter -- that's more than four times its original goal. If you want to get in on the first run of the bike you'd better hurry, because almost all of them are gone.

The Vanhawks Valour doesn't just read you your emails or whatever cars do these days. In fact, you can expect the bike to "remove discomfort from the commute and replace stress with delight." I'm not totally sure what that means, and on a sidenote: if your commute is painful, maybe you need to ride a bike that fits.

In any case, according to the Kickstarter, the Valour is "engineered for comfort." So you should be riding a wave of absolute bliss all the way to work. But more importantly, you'll have to use an app to ride your bike. Just like your phone provides anonymous usage data all the time (or not so anonymous sometimes) the Vanhawks Valour is aimed at providing a cycling utopia for all through the internet of things, the mesh, or whatever we're calling it these days. It can send data about road conditions and traffic to the cloud for the benefit of all Vanhawks Valourians, and it can phone home if it gets stolen.

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The bikes talking to each other about road conditions is pretty cool. Automakers have been working on things like this for a while (it's generally called vehicle-to-vehicle communication). It can help congestion and help avoid accidents. The problem with this idea -- whether it's bike or cars -- is that you've got to have enough user data to actually reflect the conditions. If the Vanhawks Valour hits a pothole in the road do all versions of the bike steer around that road? Can there be enough saturation of Vanhawks to produce useful information?

Maybe the coolest part is the turn-by-turn navigation and the blind-spot monitoring system. When the smart bike is connected to your smart phone, and you punch a destination into the Vanhawks Valour app, it will steer you via signals on its handlebars. That's a whole lot easier than pulling your phone out to check Google maps while trying to steer. It will also vibrate if it detects cars approaching from behind or if you start to turn into traffic. Those features are definitely useful.

The Vanhawks Valour app will also do a bunch of things that other tracking apps, like Strava, do already, including give you elevation and distance information as well as count your calories burned during your ride. It will also track and record your times.

All of this sounds just peachy. But one thing about the bike that really bothers me is the absurd geometry. It won't take a bike nerd more than a quick look to know that this bike can't be comfortable to ride for anybody and it won't handle well in any case. With negative bottom bracket drop -- bottom bracket rise, even -- it's built like a BMX. A BMX isn't built to be sat on or ridden long distances, and a BMX certainly isn't going to ride the way most regular commuters want a bike to ride. It also doesn't look like anyone adjusted the saddle height for any of the press pictures. God forbid anybody try to actually ride the thing before it goes into production.

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But who knows if any of the original design will make it through to production. The pictured bike doesn't even have brakes. One of its stretch goals is disc brakes, and I hope that the creators didn't plan on selling it without any if they didn't make that.

But, all said and done, with a price of around $1,000, the Vanhawks Valour, with all of its technology, looks like a steal, compared to most of today's bloated bike prices. If the Vanhawks Valour people can deliver all of this functionality at that price point, kudos to them. I just wish they'd get somebody to help them with their branding so I don't have to feel silly saying "Vanhawks Valour" over and over again.

Vanhawks Valour will offer its app for iOS, Android, and Pebble.

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.


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About The Author

Leif Haven

Leif Haven

Bio:
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill — literally and metaphorically.

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