As a cyclist, you're always only a blind spot away from being maimed or killed. As such, making yourself as visible as possible (especially at night) is your first line of defense against being reduced to a gelatinous smear in some automobile axle rod. Making your bike as bright and shiny as possible, then, is of tantamount importance, yet unfortunately, many of the accessories that make a bike more visible to drivers also make it more visible to thieves.
Enter Mission Bicycle. The San Francisco-based bicycle maker has just launched the Lumen, a bicycle that looks sleek and black during the daytime but lights up at night. The secret sauce is retro-reflective paint, just like the kind that illuminates the stripes on the highway when your headlights hit it. But painting a bike to be as reflective as a street sign wasn't easy. As it turns out, the process used to make street signs and line markings on the road isn't made for 3-D.
"The solutions that are usually used to make elements reflective at night—decals, stickers, tape, and vinyl—are actually developed for 2-D surfaces," says Jefferson McCarley of Mission Bicycle. "Even the reflective stripes that we see on roadways are not painted with a liquid paint: They're just strips of tape that have been ironed onto the pavement." Mission Bicycle could have simply covered the Lumen in retro-reflective tape and called it a day but understandably thought that such a design lacked finesse.
To make their vision of a sleek black bicycle that glows white at night a reality, Mission Bicycle turned to Halo Coatings to create an entirely new painting process to give the Lumen the same effect as retro-reflective paint on a stop sign. The coating contains hundreds of thousands of transparent spheres, which are applied with an electrostatic charge to bind them to the rims and frame. When light enters each sphere, it boomerangs right back to the source, just like a cat's eye.
The result is a bicycle that is dark charcoal, almost black, during the day, but at night, looks as white as the moon when hit by ambient light, at a distance of up to 1,000 feet. Even better? Since the process is invisible, it doesn't make your bike a target for thieves the way an expensive LED or electrical lighting solution would.
Now on Kickstarter, the Lumen will require $15,000 of funding to reach manufacturing minimums. ($499 gets you the frame and fork; the complete bike costs $1,245.) Surely, there's that many people in America who want a glow-in-the-dark, stealth black bicycle to qualify the Lumen as a sure thing?
[Images: The Lumen via Flickr user Mission Bicycle]