OpenBike has not designed an electric bike. Let’s get that straight at the beginning. The company reimagined what should be standard equipment in pedal-powered bikes in an age of battery-powered-mobile-networked-everything.
Anybody who rides a bike to commute to work, or in a serious recreational way, probably has battery powered clip-on bike lights (and has forgotten to recharge them). He or she likely has a handlebar mount for a smart phone—that also needs recharging. And that phone might connect to a fitness bracelet or other kind of monitor, and send data about the ride to the cloud.
OpenBike cofounder Randall JacobsPhoto: Tekla Perry
OpenBike cofounder Randall Jacobs says that lights, phone mounts, cloud communications, and more, should be standard on bicycles today, not a hodgepodge of add-on equipment. His company, OpenBike, launched at the Highway 1 hardware accelerator earlier this month, has designed a power and communications network to be built into bikes. At the center is a single battery recharges through pedal power. A USB port in the handlebars lets your phone charge as you ride; the battery also powers head and rear lights, an automatic brake light, and turn signals. The company intends to offer more sophisticated gadgets—like theft prevention and fitness tracking—as options, and expects more gear to be available for the system in the future.
Jacobs says the first products with the company’s technology will start coming out from Marin Bikes in 2017, adding about US$300 to the price of a model. Given that a set of good bike lights costs about $80 and a smartphone mount is about $20, that’s not crazy. And not having to remove and recharge those lights? Priceless.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.