About this project
You may have had the same thing happen to you: jump on your bike for a quick ride to the store, lock it up, run in, and on your way out - your lights are gone. Or maybe it rained and now your lights are fried. Or maybe you're sick of stripping your lights every time you lock your bike to a post, stop in for a pint, toil in the salt mines, or attend a black-tie gala. Or maybe you simply left your lights at home as you scrambled to get out the door with bike and bag this morning.
These lights were designed from the ground up to improve your ride. The lights integrate seamlessly with the visuals of the bike and the routines of daily cycling. We've taken extra effort to vet every element of these products to function not just well, but optimally. Their die-cast aluminum casings are nearly invincible and their mounting method assures they'll stay on your bike. They're solid, sealed, tamper-resistant, and stupidly bright.
We call it the Spacer Light since it sits beneath your stem in the stack of spacers. [The light fits both 1" and 1 1/8" steer tubes]. This integration makes it extremely difficult to steal. Indeed if someone is stealing the light, they have already stolen your bars, brakes, shifters, and stem. This integration also keeps the light pointed in your path of travel, visibly seated above the shoulder line of cars, and generally out of harm's way.
The source of illumination in the Spacer Light is a 3 Watt white LED.The output comes to 130-220 Lumens depending on how you measure it. (Lumens are a bit of a bogus measurement - don't get us started) It is bright.
The Spacer Light has 3 modes, On, Off, and Blink. The 'On' state is bright enough to light your path ahead. The motion of the 'Blink' State makes you very visible to anyone on or near the roadway.
The Tail Light slips on and clamps down on your seat post. It fits the most common seat post sizes - anything from 20mm - 31.6mm. There is no way to remove the light without removing the seat post.
The source of illumination in the Tail Light is a series of board-mounted red LED's - 4 face rear and 4 to the sides. In total, they add up to 1 Watt of output (about 30-50 Lumens). This array yields a super-wide spill to keep you visible and safe.
The Tail Light has 3 modes, On, Off, and Automatic. The illuminated state is a steady 1 second cycle of on/off. In the automatic mode, the light will begin flashing whenever the bike is in motion. It will stay blinking for 1 minute or until it is triggered again. This will keep you visible while you wait through the longest stop light.
Our lights are constructed from die-cast aluminum, not plastic. Once installed, they are part of your bike. They won't jostle, rattle, or interfere with your cables. The metal chassis is joined by a double-lens, sealed with a silicone gasket to keep everything dry inside and working for a very long time.
Both lights are fueled by a rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery like the one in your phone. We're designing for a 4hr charge - enough to get you to and from work for a week, before you park the bike in the vicinity of an outlet and refill the battery. We're shipping the lights with a 6' micro-USB cable and wall-adapter to supply the power.
We're currently several months into development. We've designed, made, and ridden dozens of prototypes. We scouted and vetted a number of factories. We made a deal with the best one. We submitted finalized designs to them and they have returned to us pre-production samples. These are the lights you see in the video. These are from the factory but they are not yet mass-produced.
What Will Change
Pre-production samples are a step in development. We expect one more round of samples before we cut tooling on the final product. We've identified a set of changes that will move forward before we release the lights.
- Lenses. A reflector pattern will be applied across the interior of the lens face. This will diffuse the light to light up the face as well as act as a reflector for the bike when the light is not on, The internal lens of the spacer light will serve as a total internal reflectance lens to more efficiently aim the majority of the spill in front of the rider.
- Battery. Our batteries are custom. They will be sliced and sealed for the production model. Currently, the samples have off the shelf models in place.
- Waterproofing. Gasketing will be added to seal in all lenses. The lights will be sealed to IP-4 standards.
- Internals. We've cleaned up the guts of this thing. The internals are now all nicely laid out with unified colors. We care.
- LED's. We've changed our spec from what you see in the video. The new LED's are board-mounted. They're smaller, sleeker, and more powerful.
- CMF. We are finalizing color material and finish patterns on the objects right now.
Products take time, money, and expertise to develop and launch. Here are some areas where the pledge money helps to make the product a reality.
- Tooling & Development. Our tooling and development will be approximately $30,000 based on the current designs.
- Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs). Factories often require MOQs thousands of units per design. This is a huge investment for a startup. Kickstarter can validate and fund these first runs.
- Patents. The patents we have filed protect these lights from being knocked off by everyone with the means. While we wish safe and fun riding for everyone on the planet, we need a little cover before every other light producer jumps on board.
- Development Trips. Over the next several months we will need to go to Hong Kong again to oversee development, tooling, and the initial run. The devil is indeed in the details.
With your support we aim to have these products in your hands in March. We hope that you are inspired and excited by the idea and choose to support the project. Either way, please spread the word and share with your friends.
"In our occasionally humble opinion, they're the most thoughtfully and beautifully designed cycling illumination ever." -Artcrank
"Sparse has created one of the best looking and functionally safest bike lights we’ve seen yet." -Bike Rumor
"Sparse, a start-up brand of cycling lights based in San Francisco, makes a clean and refined product that truly lives up to the company name." -Cool Hunting
"San Francisco's Sparse Lights has designed some great looking, theft-resistant and durable front and rear LED lights that, once installed, become as much a part of your bike as the brakes, grips and seat." -Gizmag
Risks and challenges
It's not a matter of if something will go wrong, it's about: when, of what nature, and how you respond. We know; we've done this before. Our team has developed literally hundreds of products for other clients. We're product designers by trade (and a couple of us are professors of product design). We are new to Kickstarter. While, this particular entrepreneurial effort is just hatched; product development is something we've done before - professionally. We are not claiming that it will be smooth sailing (it never is), but we think we'll be able to handle any disruptions between now and when we get parts off the line.
This is a list of things that have the potential to go awry in the product development process:
Factory failure to supply - Rate of risk 15%
Current factory is state of the art, located in one of the more stable regions of China. No history of worker strike, Hong Kong based engineering and liaison support, history of timely supply-chain with previous clients. Long term history of supply with other closely related products.
Engineering failure to product - Rate of risk 20%
With a series of working prototypes already tested, a second set of pre-production samples in the works, and pilot production scheduled for long-term use tests, we are confident of the production models meeting our goals. Team-based engineering has been used to solve the problems in design, manufacturing, and production. The entire team has expertise with electronics, lighting, and product manufacturing. Engineering failures would most likely be in battery life, duration of lighting, and charging interface - all of which would be evident in pilot production prior to production release.
Waterproofing - Rate of risk 25%
Waterproofing at a 100% certainty is always a challenge. All efforts in development have been made to ensure water-tight construction. Tried and true sealing methods (used on other water tight products made with our factory) have been deployed for a higher level of confidence. However, long term testing is still in progress with water resistance and proofing. We believe we have solved much of the potential water intrusion issues to confidently move forward with the production designs. Design modifications to the sealed areas (should they be required) would be minimal in dimensional changes and only slightly impact tooling costs if all new tooling for the gaskets is required.
Acts of God - Rate of Risk less than 5%
Typhoon at sea could potentially cause delays or massive loss of entire
shipments of product. However, we are not scheduled currently to ship through Typhoon season.
Yes it does. On a quill stem, it mounts between the binder bolt and the adjustment bolt. See it on Remy's Miyata in 00:06 - 00:12 of the video.
Yes, you do. These lights work much like charging your cel phone or laptop. Unlike your cel phone and laptop, our lights should keep most folks pedaling a week at a time without the need for a charge.
Yes, you can change the battery, but this procedure intentionally involves deinstalling the light. The batteries are Lithium Polymer - just like your cel phone and the lifespan - several years - should be similar. So ideally you should not have to change them out through the normal course of use.
We are also hard at work on charging solutions. These lights represent the best useable, efficient, and reliable technology available at this time. We hope to have new and efficient supporting charging technology in place over this next year.
The Spacer Light has worked well with the dozens of bikes we've tested. The Spacer Light, however, does not work with straight-pull cantilever brakes.
The light does shine past the cable in some configurations, but this isn't a major occlusion due in part to the way the light fans. Check the last shot in the video for reference.
No it isn't. Head tube angle differentiation on road bikes is a tiny 3º range and for (non-novelty) bikes in total only 5º. If you're rocking the pedal-powered Harley this isn't for you, otherwise you're good.
Yes, that is correct. They're designed for a particular rider and meet some specific needs. That means they're not for everyone. We're ok with that.If you're not in a city with sticky fingers, you could probably get by just fine with lights that exist on the market. There are many fine companies out there. If you like the design, but if these particular lights aren't for you, stay tuned - the team is developing a range of stuff based on what we've heard while talking with a wide range of riders.
The Spacer Light replaces a 5mm spacer on a threadless (1 1/8") stem. For threaded, quill stems (1") it has an extra shim that takes it to 6mm.
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