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Review: Koala Magnetic Waterbottle System

We didn’t send anyone to this year’s Sea Otter, but writers from our sister site Mtnbikeriders.com went and covered a lot of goodies in the mountain-biking world. One of the items our pal Art spotted was Koala Bottle — a magnetic bottle/cage system for bicycles:

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Here’s a bit straight from the manufacturer’s website:

Koala Bottle is The Magnetic Bottle (TM) that attaches to your bicycle, tethers to your aero bars and much more.

Koala Bottle is designed for safety and ease of use! The magnetic ring on the bottle provides 360° of contact and is designed so that you can easily drop the bottle into the cage when you are finished drinking. When you hear the ring click and engage the magnets you know that the bottle is firmly attached.

A magnetic bottle, you say? Why, didn’t another company try this a while back? And probably a couple before that? Yes…the concept has been tried before, and while the idea has its merits, most of the previous incarnations were hamstrung by proprietary bottles or other glaring problems. Not so with Koala Bottle — they really seem to have this thing figured out!

First off is Koala’s choice of bottle — the industry-standard Specialized BPA-free bottles with a soft, high-flow valve. They are branded with the Koala logo. No proprietary bottles here — so if you lose it or the bottle becomes uncleanably funky, you can toss it and replace easily (more on that in a bit).

Second is the cage itself — it’s of a fairly minimalist design, with stubby arms to help support the bottle. Up near the top of the cage are two very strong magnets that cling to the steel ring around the bottle itself when the bottle is inserted/dropped into the cage. Koala thoughtfully molded the cage with holes and long slots (and even provides longer-than-usual mounting screws) to fit almost any bike with brazed-on waterbottle mounting points. You can see the magnets and the mounting options in this photo:

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Back to the bottles for a bit — the secret is the steel ring that fits around the neck of the bottle.

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Koala sells replacement rings or complete bottles…or you can install the original one onto any standard Specialized bottle by following these quick steps:

Pretty slick, eh? Those Specialized bottles are everywhere, too — many bike shops and companies who have their own branded waterbottles start with Specialized “blanks”.

For those of you who might be concerned with the retention aspects of the magnetic cage, fear not. I filled up a bottle and rode my mountain bike up and down local stairways, curbs, deeply potholed streets and other urban hazards. The bottle never once shook loose. In fact, the magnets in the cage are so strong that an empty bottle is a bit of a struggle to remove from the cage! When it’s time to replace the bottle in the cage, you don’t even really have to line it up…just get it in the vicinity of the cage and let those powerful magnetic fields do their thing. Snap! This is definitely a benefit when you’re sipping in traffic on your commute; the last thing you want to do is fuss with your bottle.

Why would someone choose such a bottle system? It doesn’t really save weight; the cage comes in somewhere around 55 grams, which is a bit heavier than other plastic cages and similar in weight to typical aluminum/steel cages. Where this system shines is on bikes with limited clearances, like on small frame sizes. Since the bottle can come out of the cage sideways, no clearance above the bottle is needed. This also shines in the offroad world, when frame triangles on suspended frames are too tiny for traditional waterbottles and cage systems.

The Koala bottle is designed and manufactured right here in the U.S., and sells for $27.99 (21 oz size) or two dollars more for the 24 oz. size. Not a bad deal at all. This system definitely has a home on a couple of my bikes — I am sold on the concept!

Check out Koala Bottle by visiting their website.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

MonkeyLectric launches Kickstarter campaign

You may have noticed that we don’t pitch very many Kickstarter campaigns here — and lord knows we field a TON of them every week. It’s sort of an unwritten rule here at Bikecommuters.com…you want crowd funding? Take it somewhere else.

There are exceptions, of course, and here’s the latest from MonkeyLectric, which happens to make really great bike lights and has been good to us over the years, letting us test prototypes, shooting the breeze with us at Interbike, and advertising here to help us keep the site running.

Along with the lights we’ve reviewed here, MonkeyLectric also makes a “Pro” series light (mostly a prototype/custom-orderable) that is, well, frighteningly expensive. Enter the Kickstarter campaign — seeking a way to be able to mass-manufacture this light system at a better pricepoint:

MonkeyLectric Kicks Off Funding Production of Revolutionary New Bike Light via Kickstarter
Monkey Light Pro gives bike riders a novel way to express their unique individuality in a dazzling manner

BERKELEY, CA. MAY 22, 2013 – MonkeyLectric announced today the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to fund manufacturing efforts of its new product, the Monkey Light Pro, a unique bicycle light that utilizes cutting edge technology to allow users to display images and animation on their spinning bicycle wheel. The Pro series is for people who want to get their message out, express their individuality and be seen. The company is using the crowdsource fundraising efforts of Kickstarter to finance the manufacturing, which can be found at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/minimonkey/monkey-light-pro-bicycle-wheel-display-system?ref=live.

The Monkey Light Pro, a more technologically advanced version of the popular Monkey Light Mini and the original Monkey Light models, features 256 LED lights and 4,096 colors that can be customized into designs uploaded via Bluetooth. Monkey Light Pro also allows users to upload up to 1,000 photos or 90 seconds of video. The Pro series is mounted to the bicycle wheel where it is easily viewed from both sides and multiple angles; the Pro is shock resistant and weatherproof.

Driven by MonkeyLectric’s eclectic backgrounds, the lighting art featured in their namesake product are designed by various graphic and psychedelic artists, including the well known David Ope, and provides riders the ultimate way to express their creativity. When the bike is in motion, it uses the “persistence of vision” effect to display the images that come pre-loaded or created by the users through its open source API.

Previous prototypes and models of the Monkey Light Pro are currently on display at major shows, in museums, as well as in Japan in collaboration with the Fukushima Wheel Project. This particular project utilizes a modified Monkey Light Pro attached to environmental sensors, where light patterns adjust to the levels of environmental pollutants in the area. The Kickstarter campaign hopes to make the product more accessible to developers, artists and the general public.

“Our first Kickstarter campaign allowed us to establish our own manufacturing line here in the USA,” said Dan Goldwater, MonkeyLectric’s CEO. “The success of that campaign helped us create 3 new jobs, make fixed capital investments in machinery, and relocate to a larger facility. With this campaign we hope to continue to invest in our manufacturing capabilities and make the world’s most advanced bicycle display system available to the market.”
During the campaign, Monkey Light Pro will be available to the first twenty pledges for $495, forty at $595 and 100 at $695. The price point after the campaign will be $895.

The Kickstarter page for the new Monkey Light Pro can be found at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/minimonkey/monkey-light-pro-bicycle-wheel-display-system?ref=live

About MonkeyLectric, LLC

MonkeyLectric was founded by Brown graduate and MIT scientist Dan Goldwater in 2008 and is the leader in fun and visible bike lighting. Based in Berkeley, California, the small company aims to make cycling fun and visible. They created the Monkey Light to be make to make riding at night just as fun as during the day. Over the top creativity and tongue in cheek marketing campaigns have put MonkeyLectric on the map, and all products are proudly made in the USA. Learn more at http://www.monkeylectric.com.

Just to give you an idea of how amazing the Pro light system is, check out this video that showcases the capabilities:

High school science students, Obama, and a bike-powered invention

Here’s a cool news article that one of our readers pointed out to us. A group of Florida high-school students developed a bicycle-powered water purification system, entered it into the White House Science Fair, and got President Barack Obama to give it a spin:

What started out as a science assignment turned into a political science lesson on Monday, as two Northeast High students got President Barack Obama to try out their bicycle-powered invention.

Obama “test drove” the project, created by about 30 students at the Oakland Park school to help provide clean water to developing nations after a natural disaster. It was one of 30 projects on display at the White House Science Fair.

Senior Kionna Elliot, 18, and junior Payton Kaar, 16, showed off the contraption to scientists, journalists and White House officials. A photo of Obama on the bicycle was picked up by media nationwide and has become one of the most popular images from the science fair.

Read the full article by visiting its page on the Orlando Sentinel website, and take a look at this video:

I LOVE bicycle-powered inventions, and I love high school science fairs (having helped judge a couple in a previous career). These kids not only came up with something useful and smart, but they will also cherish their interaction with the President for years to come.

Any inventors among our readers? We’d love to hear of some bikey-powered schemes you’ve come up with!

LoJack/OnStar-like system for bikes?

We’ve written about fighting bike theft with GPS devices before, as well as posting about a cool web series called “To Catch a Bike Thief” where the producers set out “bait bikes” equipped with GPS trackers. It’s a neat technique to use new technologies to combat an age-old problem.

And now there’s a very interesting Kickstarter project gaining some traction. Called The BikeSpike, this device purports to:

•Monitor your bike’s location on a map using your phone or computer
•Grant temporary access to local law enforcement, helping increase the chances of recovery.
•Digitally “lock” your bike and receive a notification if your bike moves from it’s geo-fenced location or if someone even tampers with it.
•Collision detection system can alert key members of your contact list and share the location of an accident.
•Share your stats (distance, speed, and courses…) with friends, coaches and spectators.
•Monitor your children and get notified if they ride out of their safe zone.
•Our open API allows developers to create gaming and fitness apps that you can download and use with the device or use the data created from the BikeSpike to integrate with the existing apps you already love. Export a GPX file.
•PLUS, with the Hacker Pack, you can connect it to a motorcycle or other on-board batteries for a continual charge.

The website Mashable calls it “like LoJack and OnStar for your bike.”

Here’s a video that helps illustrate the workings of the device:

What do you think — a gadget worth pursuing, or is investing in a strong lock a better strategy? We’d love to hear your thoughts on BikeSpike as much as the developers would like you to help fund their project…just leave comments below.

A tip of the ol’ foam dome to longtime reader/commenter Raiyn Storm for pointing this out to us.

Smartphone allows auto shifting?

Photo: Cambridge Consultants

 

Manual or auto?

–a question that people often consider when buying a car. In these times of high gas prices, a lot of people do consider giving up the comfort of an automatic transmission for the sake of an extra couple miles per gallon. But what about bicycling?

I prefer to ride a single speed because they have cheaper parts to replace and are easier to maintain than a multi-geared bike but sometimes I do ride my road bike. I’m not sure if I feel like there’s a need for me to shift automatically or electronically but nonetheless it is an interesting concept.

I recently read an article on Wired.com about a smartphone that enables automatic shifting via bluetooth with Shimano Di2 shifters. It was encouraging since it seems like bicycle technology is progressing and although I don’t think a lot of the technology introduced is needed, I do appreciate it because the contributions of anyone does lend to making bicycles ultimately better.

Here’s an example of what the engineers are trying to do:

“The prototype has been tested on a simulated “rolling road” with few complaints from riders, who can customize the shift points depending on what’s most comfortable. Already, engineers are working to improve the setup, with plans in the works to use the accelerometer in a smartphone to change gears in the event of emergency braking. A similar system could also prevent locking up the front wheel.”

In Bluetooth “manual mode” (I’m not sure if touching a button is any easier than “tapping” a basic shifter on a typical bike) but the system does allow collection of data to make trial runs better. The engineers also want to use GPS to inform the system of upcoming hills which enables the system to shift before you need to.

To the average commuter, a system like this would be outrageously excessive but imagine being more efficient with your commuting time. I used to take pride in riding 5 miles in less than 20 minutes but I would be sweaty from pushing myself. Not considering cost, a system like this, I think, would be welcomed on my commutes that are more than a couple of miles since I could probably commute in less time without having to push myself so hard.

To read more about it, go to Wired.com