Bike fanatics often view their environmentally friendly transportation choice as part of a larger lifestyle that avoids using up fossil fuels and other resources unnecessarily. But Slava Menn, co-founder of bike-light maker Fortified Bicycle Alliance, discovered a downside to the biking lifestyle while interviewing more than 1,000 cyclists at 50 bike shops.
"What amazed us is most of the people that we were talking to were telling us that they were replacing gear"--like bike lights--"multiple times a year." They either got stolen or would break, part of the throwaway culture that we've come to expect from things made of plastic and other cheap materials.
"Why do bike accessories have to be this way?" Menn wondered. "Why are they not designed to withstand harsh urban environments?"
Menn and his partner, Tivan Amour, decided to design and make bike lights with a "forever-no-matter-what" warranty. They are aluminum, water-proof, and shock-absorptive. The products, the Aviator front light and the Afterburner back light, lock "firmly and irremovably to handlebars or set posts" with custom security screws locks. "If it gets stolen we replace it. If it breaks, we replace it," Menn says, describing their simple warranty policy.
That extreme commitment to service sounds like the kind of idealism that could bankrupt a young company, but Menn says they've projected out the losses over the next 10 years and are capable of coping. (And if the design is as tight as they hope it is, they won't need to replace too many.)
FBA, formerly known as Gotham Bicycles, was started by the Menn and Amour in 2012 after meeting while they were both at MIT. When a friend got hit by a car while cycling home in the dark after his lights were stolen, the two decided to design a theft-resistant bike light and brought it to production after raising $84,000 on Kickstarter. Now their products are in more than 130 bike shops in North American and Europe.
Banking on the success of their last Kickstarter, the duo is turning to the crowdfunding site again to raise $24,000 in capital to bring the Aviator and Afterburner into production. Donors can score the bike lights at a $10 discount before they eventually hit the market between $55 and $100, depending on the wattage. That may sound pricey for a bike light, but not if it's the last one you ever buy, which it just might be.