Category: technology


The app is called Prey. It’s similar to Lojack.

You may know Lojack as the service that locates lost or stolen cars. But what about bicycles? I’m not sure if people care nor have a need for such a device, but as someone who has had a bike stolen, the Prey app for phones, laptops, and tablets is intriguing. It was created for use with an old smartphone in mind but should you have left your new device on your bike, that new device can also track the bike.

I’m sure plenty of other apps are similar to this. And other theft-deterrant options are available like ReuiniteIT by Lojack. Be sure to mention them in the comments below if you know.

Is it necessary to use an old phone? No. But the idea is, if you’re going to lose a smartphone, it might as well be your old one and not the new Iphone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S III.

Click here, to find out more about this open source anti-theft project, Prey.

Editor’s note: We have an unofficial policy here at not to publish articles about “crowdfunded” bike gear/trips/accessories…we field about 10 or 15 a week, on average, and frankly, very few of them are all that compelling. The following, however, is a project that is quite compelling and we are bending our own rules to let you know about it. Read on:

We got an email and presskit from Jonathan Gates, designer at They are currently in the midst of developing a very novel setup for bicyclists, outdoorspeople or anyone else who may need such a device. Basically,

The Crash Sensor is a slim device that will mount as an aftermarket device onto any helmet. When paired with the ICEdot app on a smart phone, the system is able to detect motion, changes in forces and impacts.

In the event of an impact, the device sends critical data to the app which sounds an alarm and initiates an emergency countdown. Unless the countdown clock is stopped, the app will then notify your emergency contacts and send GPS coordinates of the incident so that appropriate follow up actions can be taken.

ICEdot is conducting a fixed funding campaign via Indiegogo. You can visit their funding page by clicking here.

The first component is a small “puck” (the sensor itself) that attaches to the helmet:


And, of course, there’s the smartphone app it communicates with via Bluetooth:


As we mentioned, this could be a very cool device, especially for bike commuters who have to travel the “unbeaten path”, or commute at night…in the event of an emergency, ICEdot’s sensor and app could save lives. We’re all hoping ICEdot is successful with their funding campaign, and if you want to help out, swing over to their Indigogo page and do so.

Not too long ago, I met up with the folks at Motiv Electric Bicycles. They gave me one of their bikes to test out for the site. But before I get into that, I wanted to talk about how you could customize your very own e-bike.

If you were to visit Motiv’s website:, you can actually pick and choose the colors for your frame, rims, tires/cockpit and battery pack size. Below is what I went with. I had thought about going for the hot pink…but decided to stick with something more conservative.
motive shopping

Here she is in all her glory. Not bad eh? Ya I noticed that the tires didn’t quite match the photo above, but I was pretty happy with the overall look of it.
Motive Electric Bike

To view the specs of the bike, click on this link: Specs

Motiv comes with a lifetime warranty on the frame (as long as you are the original owner). The battery carries a 2 year warranty as well. More warranty information can be found by clicking here:Warranty

Originally Motiv Electric Bicycles set me up with a 36v battery pack. This actually rode well — very smooth — and gave me distance of 23 miles per charge with a top speed of 20mph. Then, at the 3 week mark, they provided me with their bigger battery pack, the 48v. According to Motiv, this pack would let me go faster. Sure enough, they were right! I hit a whopping 31mph and traveled 21 miles in one charge.
Motive Electric Bike
Rear motor has good torque and mated with the 48v battery pack, I was cruising up the hills un-assisted (no pedaling).
Motive Electric Bike

Motiv’s frame is pretty unique when it came to the battery placement. Other e-bikes we’ve tested either have the battery pack in the back or between the head and seat tube. The problem with the rack pack design is that your center of gravity is…well…off centered. To me, those types of bikes feel less stable. But Motiv placed their pack directly behind the seat tube, which basically sits it in the same location as the rider would. This in turn gives the rider (me) a more natural feel. Having the pack in this location makes it feel less squirrely when riding.
Motive Electric Bike
Motive Electric Bike

I think the best thing Motiv did was spec their bike with 7″ disc brakes. With the added weight of the motor and battery pack, you’ll need decent braking power. Again I dare compare it to the other E-bikes that I’ve tested. The 6″ disc brakes on the OHM Urban XU700 was ok, but not great. But these 7″ rotors mated with Tektro levers and calipers…this bike literally can stop on a dime. Just think about it, when you’re rolling at 27MPH and need to stop right away, you NEED those big brakes!
Motive Electric Bike

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and answer a few questions you may have. “How does it ride?” Well, it rides like a beach cruiser. The upright riding position is great for leisure riding. It surprisingly corners really well with its Schwalbe Fat Frank tires. No flat tires during the testing period, wheels stayed true and no mechanical issues ever occurred. Oh did I mention it comes with a bell? Ding Ding!
Motive Electric Bike

How much does it cost? The test bike I had retailed $1929.99 (with 48v battery pack). Though it may look like a beach cruiser, the Motiv Electric Bicycle can easily be outfitted with fenders and racks since the frame has eyelets and mounts for them.
Motive Electric Bike

Who should buy this bike?
The Motiv Electric Bicycles actually sell more to Baby Boomers than any other demographic. Truth be told, this e-bike is a ton of fun. Not only is it cheaper than the Ohm XU700 and Urbana Current that we tested, but it’s faster too!

Our review disclaimer.

As many of you may know, we here at are huge fans of the creative geniuses behind Monkeylectric. We’ve been lucky enough to test out their original M132/133 wheel lights, and we’ve visited with the Monkeylectric crew at Interbike over the past few years.

When they announced the new M210 “Mini Monkey”, we clamored for a chance to get a review sample. Lo and behold, about a month after Interbike 2011, one appeared on my doorstep. I’ve been running this thing ever since and am ready to share my thoughts and photos with you.

First off, a bit about the new M210:

– 10 Ultra-bright color LEDs
– Hub-mounted battery pack
– Stainless steel anti-theft strap
– Waterproof!
– Up to 40 hours runtime


The M210 comes in simple packaging — a bag for the light head and battery canister, a smaller bag for the hardware and a simple header card that unfolds to reveal complete instructions in a variety of languages. While the light head is smaller than the original M132/M133 (10 LEDs — 5 on each side — down from the 32 LEDs on the original model), it still packs a nighttime punch. This new model addresses most of the concerns some of us had over the original model — particularly waterproofing, balance, and theft prevention.

Here’s the light head — covered in a thick, rubbery waterproofing material that seals all those chips and circuits from the elements. The switches are beefy and easy to manipulate:


Here’s the battery pack — a canister that straps to the hub with zipties and a soft rubber cradle. The battery canister holds a cartridge of 3 AA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable) and seals up tight:


One cord travels from the light head to the dongle on the battery canister, and the connection between the two is waterproof. And this connection is TIGHT — it is quite difficult to separate the two parts once they’ve been connected.

Splitting the light head and battery compartment into two components over the original’s “all on one” approach has greatly helped with the overall balance of the light. With the original M133 installed, I was able to discern some faint high-speed wobble on lightweight wheels (that wobble was mitigated when I installed the unit on some heavy disc wheels on my Xtracycle. With the new unit, I didn’t notice any wobble, even at relatively high speeds. Score a win for the folks at Monkeylectric!

Another plus of the split configuration is this: back in Florida, I was forced to traverse some DEEP rain puddles from time to time. Old streets, heavy rains and a substandard drainage system meant that some of the roads on my commuting route were flooded. Some of those flooded areas were nearly hub-deep, and my old unit would get submerged. I had to be diligent about cleaning the battery contacts to keep them from rusting. I don’t have to worry about that anymore — the truly sensitive parts are encased in waterproof materials and the contacts are inside the sealed canister at the hub.

The light can be programmed to display up to 15 different 8-bit patterns (skulls, hearts, and many more) in a choice of colors, or you can do as I did and skip the button-pressing and let the light cycle itself through all the choices. As with the original M132/M133, the M210 has two intensity modes — regular and “turbo”. The “turbo” setting blows through batteries much more quickly and is eye-searing in brightness, but the regular setting is bright enough on its own to spill out a pool of light to either side of the wheel. I took some still shots so you can see just how intense and colorful the M210 is when spinning:


And, as is my style, here is an unedited and rather crappy video of the Monkeylectric light in action — believe me, the “real life” effect is vastly more stunning. It doesn’t help that my neighborhood is lit up like an airstrip (streetlights every 50 feet or so):

Mounting the light head is a breeze — it sits between spokes and is held in place by rubber pads and zipties. Getting the battery canister mounted on the hub is somewhat more difficult…the more spokes one has, the more difficult it can be. Even with my long fingers, getting everything set and cinched up took a few tense moments. Once the canister is mounted, you will only have to worry about changing the batteries from time to time, and that isn’t as difficult…screw off the cap and replace the cells. Here’s the canister mounted to my front hub:


I was happy to see the addition of the stainless steel “anti-theft” strap — basically a metal ziptie — in the package. While I’ve never had a Monkeylectric light stolen, I am sure others in more urban areas might have to worry about such things. The steel strap is surprisingly difficult to cut with wire cutters (I sacrificed mine in the name of science), so it really does provide a measure of theft deterrence.

As I mentioned earlier, the instruction sheet foldout is detailed and easy to follow. And, it comes in several languages:


As we’ve discussed over and over again here, there are not enough products on the market to help with that crucial “side visibility” — while many front and rear lights spill to the sides, additional safety for nighttime commuters is always a good thing. And this is where Monkeylectric’s products really shine (pun intended). The M210 provides an incredibly effective means to get you noticed out on the darkened streets where you live, all the while having fun with patterns and colors! The Monkeylectric M210 retails for around $50.00, and is worth the price of admission. Another hit from a great bunch of creative folks!

Now, if we can only get the crew to let us borrow one of their “PRO Series” models….

Visit Monkeylectric for more details, images and video of their lights in action.

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

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of receiving a review copy of It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels by Robert Penn (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010). The book is the retelling of the author’s quest in obtaining a custom, handmade bicycle, and I hate to gush so early on in a review, but I LOVED the tale.


Many of us, myself included, have long dreamed of a bicycle handmade to our exact specifications…with just the perfect geometry and handling, the hand-chosen parts, and the overall aesthetic hammered out over months and years of fantasizing. Even for a longtime bicycle collector like myself, the following passage resonated with me…Penn has just described his current fleet but:

With this small troop of hard-working bicycles, my bases are covered. Yet something fundamental is missing. Like tens of thousands of everyday cyclists with utilitarian machines, I recognize there is a glaring hole in my bike shed, a cavernous space for something else, something special. I’m in the middle of a lifelong affair with the bicycle: none of my bikes even hints at this…I need a talismanic machine that somehow reflects my cycling history and carries my cycling aspirations. I want craftsmanship, not technology; I want the bike to be man-made; I want a bike that has character, a bike that will never be last year’s model. I want a bike that shows my appreciation of the tradition, lore and beauty of bicycles. The French nickname for the bicycle is La Petite Reine — I want my own ‘little queen’.”

And with that, Penn sets off on a whirlwind journey to get his “little queen” made: alighting on the doorstep of renowned bespoke builder Brian Rourke Cycles, traveling halfway around the world to procure a set of wheels from Steve “Gravy” Gravenites (and getting to ride down Repack with Gravy and MTB legends Charlie Kelly and Joe Breeze!), getting rare factory tours at Chris King Precision Components in Portland, Continental in Germany and both Cinelli and Campagnolo in Italy, among other stops. At each stop, Penn delves into the history of bicycles and the development of various components and technologies that we now take for granted. Penn’s coverage of the history and lore of the bicycle never bogs down the story; in fact, these tidbits enhance the tale and show that Penn truly respects everything having to do with these two-wheeled wonders.

It’s All About the Bike is a quick read…”engrossing” is a word that comes to mind. Perhaps the idea of a custom bike can be seen as an extravagance, and I can understand that. Penn’s tale is more authentic than that, however. Never once did I feel that Penn was simply a wealthy man looking for something expensive to incite jealousy among his peers; rather, here is a man who put in the miles on many other bikes and earned the privilege of being able to fulfill his dreams of a handmade, perfectly-fitting machine that he would then ride with abandon all over the globe. Penn’s storytelling skill is refreshing and honest and his love for the bike carries throughout the book. I’ve recommended a lot of books over the years; in fact, sometimes it is hard for me to remember a book I really disliked. Nevertheless, It’s All About the Bike stands out as a passionate, fact-rich and thoroughly enjoyable read for anyone who loves the artistry, history and craftsmanship of a good bicycle. Pick up a copy for your favorite cyclist for Christmas…they’ll thank you for it!