Imagine Ford attempting to sell a car without lights. No doubt, they’d be bucking all sorts of laws, but consumers would never buy it, either. Who would fork up a few hundred bucks a month for a car with no lights? Who would settle to drive a car only during the day? Absurdity!
But expensive bikes are sold without lights every day.
Sparse is a new Kickstarter-backed company that wants to reimagine the world of bike accessories. As silly as that car/bike analogy may seem to a serious biker, Sparse agrees: There’s way too much to worry about when you hop on a bike these days.
"Getting on a bike as your primary mode of transport is more complex than getting in your car—you have to be mindful of weather, distance, attire, and all that stuff that we all need," CEO Colin Owen writes. "The checklist is simply a bit longer when on a bike vs drive. It’s an underserved and under-considered region of the market."
The company’s first product will be the Sparse Bicycle Lights. They’re a pair of die-cast aluminum LED bike lights, two standouts in durability, subtle style, waterproofness, and even security. The rear light fits on most popular seat posts, and it can’t be stolen without removing the seat. The front light doesn’t just fit on your handlebars, it replaces a spacer in their stem, integrating to actually become part of the bike itself. On top of the theft-deterring design, the company plans to announce some further security measures coming in the future.
For Sparse, it’s one of countless low-hanging pieces of fruit in the bike industry. Despite just launching their first successful Kickstarter campaign, Sparse already has 450 potential product sketches sitting on a wall. 450! That’s not just a lot of ideas, that’s sheer absurdity. You have to wonder, how any company can come into a major, established market and immediately bring with them such a massive pile of disruption? Sparse sees opportunity in the industry because of the lack of regulation stemming from a misunderstood customer.
"There is a shocking lack of standardization in the industry. One quick example: seat-post sizes. There are currently 22 (22!) different seat-post sizes in use (and that’s not counting the non-round aero posts). Some folks slam their seats against the frame. Others ride them such that the clamp can barely hold them," Owen explains. "People attach bags, reflectors, lights, pumps, chains, and who knows what around these posts. From a manufacturer standpoint, addressing that space (and this could be said for almost every region of the bike), is just a difficult problem and one whose solution will have countless exceptions.
"Culturally, the bike industry is stuck in a rut of optimizing for performance in racing. Most folks in the industry are, by our own highly unscientific survey, hard-core bike nuts. They port that interest over to the job and optimize the bikes via metrics that aren’t fully aligned with the daily rider."
In other words, bike manufacturers are selling highly customizable performance to the masses—treating the entire world like their geekiest contingent—killing usability and peripheral standards in the process. Sounds like the PC industry about a decade ago, right? And we all know what happened there.
If you’d like to order Sparse’s first pair of lights ($120), the Kickstarter campaign has ended, but you can no doubt inquire on their site.
[Hat tip: Core77]