Sleek Bike Charges Its Own Headlights And Your iPhone

The Starke by Silverback converts your effort into energy.

The math on your bike doesn’t seem to add up. The sweat from all those thigh-burning, hill-climbing miles evaporates into thin air, as you change batteries in your bike light and drag your GPS inside to charge it. Now a German bike company says it can transfer all those pedal revolutions into energy you can actually use.

Starke by Silverback is a new series of innovative bikes that hope to offer equally innovative solutions for their riders. While the Starke bikes definitely look sharp—think sleek adonized metal with colors like "exotic spice"—it’s one particular feature that’s getting the most attention: a front hub that converts forward movement into power for your iPod.

"Our goal was to offer something new, something different and totally awe-inspiring," founder Deon Retief tells Co.Design. In looking how to best serve the contemporary city rider, Retief and his team noted a proclivity for using tech-savvy devices while on the streets. They fitted the bike with a tiny hub dynamo—basically an electric generator built into the wheel—which can produce enough power to light two bike lights (one in the front, one in the back), plus the USB port situated on the handlebars. Retief says that a speed of 7 to 9 miles per hour is enough to charge iPhones, iPods, or a GPS, and the lights will stay illuminated for up to 5 minutes after you stop pedaling.

While some bikers add their own dynamos to their wheels that can power their devices, and a few bikes are equipped with dynamo-powered lighting, this might be the first bike we’ve seen to offer both lights and USB as a standard feature. The benefits of the lights are obvious as they solve a huge issue for bikers when it comes to safety. How many times have you ended up somewhere after dark, only to find the last bit of juice flickering from your light, or worse, find that you left your light at home? Making leg-powered lights standard and automatic on bikes could drastically increase the visibility of bikers by compensating for our own stupidity and forgetfulness.

While a USB port packs plenty of gee-whiz convenience, it doesn’t quite guarantee the same level of increased safety, although a constantly charged navigation system or phone might mean you’re less likely to get lost and can call for help if you need it. But it does open up some pretty awesome possibilities for more cool peripherals we can attach to our bikes. It’s aspirational, of course, but that’s exactly where Silverback wants to be, says Retief. "We want to be the Apple of the industry."

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  • Der_Golem

    Was wondering why they picked such a flexible and heavy frame design to house all this in and unfortunately bears a family resemblance to the $99.99 "mountain bikes" sold by the discount chains. 

    That design means you'll  waste a lot of your own energy because of the  mechanical inefficiency of the frame, and it takes effort to turn a generator hub, even when you are not using the output.  

    I know pricing is not yet out on these, but have seen figures like USD2,500 and up suggested - and they weight about 30 pounds: more than a fully kitted downhill bike with full suspension.
    So: looks cheap when it isn't, doesn't seem that good to ride and complicates an elegantly simple device....

  • Ken

    Good for Silverback in making energy generation an automatic part of bicycle riding.  Progress!
    And, nice article, Alissa.  Thank you.

  • Patience Ellis

    I love these Co.Design emails - this bike is a great idea - my friend has a great idea - dunk all frames in reflective paint! Patience Ellis

  • Maggie Aglow

    Marvelous, and will perhaps encourage folks who don't seem to think they need lights when it gets dark! I seriously think it is fab. Well done folks. 

  • Guest

    This is interesting, although I couldn't stop thinking about how the photo is reversed.