Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Keeping Bikes Dumb

Bike companies and Kickstarter entrepreneurs have been pushing the concept of the "smart bike" for awhile now.  Consider for example the VanMoof SmartBike, which incorporates such features as theft tracking and keyless entry:


The smartest thing on wheels.

The VanMoof SmartBike is unlike any other bike. Not only will it ship with anti-theft parts and tracking that make it terrifying to bike thieves. If a thief is brilliant enough to get past all that, we promise to get your stolen bike back to you in two weeks, or we'll replace it. We call this the VanMoof Peace of Mind Service, and every SmartBike gets it totally free of charge for the first two years.

Not only is the SmartBike a nightmare for thieves. It's also been designed to be the ultimate city bike. Unlike most bikes that get rustier with time, this one will get smarter over time, thanks to all the tech packed inside the frame and a dedicated smartphone app. It’s totally keyless, and can be unlocked with the tap of a finger on a smartphone or even the touch of a hand on the bike.

While I do have certain retrogrouchical tendencies--I don't care for the crabon, I think rim brakes on road bikes work just fine thankyouverymuch, and I prefer a quick release skewer to a thru-axle even on my mountaining bikes--the truth is that in real life I embrace technology.  More than that, I believe that as a species we're in the process of digitizing not only the things we use in everyday life but consciousness itself.  Just hand a toddler a smartphone, watch how adeptly they use it, and it becomes clear that this is all part of our evolution.  Some may find this creepy, but I find it inspiring, and I for one welcome our new technological overlords and eagerly await next phase of human existence:



Wow, I better take it easy, after all it's only Tuesday.

Nevertheless, having said that, I believe in keeping all that crap off your bike.  Consider the theft-tracker.  Sure, it sounds good, and having your bike stolen definitely sucks, but how effective is this thing really?  Well, according to an article from February of this year, VanMoof has recovered ten (10) bikes since they implemented the system in 2016:

Instead of putting its customers at risk of a standoff with bike thieves, though, the company promises it will handle the grunt work. And while VanMoof has recovered about 10 stolen smart bikes since they went on sale in 2016, this past weekend the company hired the first employee of a new new dedicated “bike hunter” team and started chronicling the adventures on Medium.

That's not very much.  In fact, I'd wager that in any decent-sized city 10 stolen bikes are recovered in a single week by their owners, who find them under the nearest highway overpass or being peddled on Craigslist.  That's not to say that plenty of bikes don't vanish, never to be seen again, but at the same time a service such as this is probably more a content-generating PR campaign than anything else.  I don't want to call it a "gimmick" because that seems a bit unfair, but at the same time the truth is relatively few people are actually going to take advantage of the anti-theft guarantee so there's little risk on the part of the company in terms of offering it.

Oh sure, once in awhile they may have to follow a truck to Brussels or something:

Spending half a day scouring a city only to have to travel to another country is a rather inefficient way to recover a stolen item. It’s also not sustainable for a small company like VanMoof. But this James Bondian approach isn’t without reason. In fact, it has to do with the compromises associated with tracking something using a GSM signal. VanMoof says the bikes’ cellular signals are easier to track when they’re moving, meaning they’re always going to expect a bit of a chase on a search-and-rescue mission.

But it pays for itself in terms of publicity.

Then there's the other aspect of the "smart bike," which is communication and data consumption, and there's no shortage of bike, helmet, and accessory makers who want you to be able to access all manner of data safely while riding your bike.  Consider "GObyLIVI," which recently appeared on the Kickstarter:



It's got the usual assortment of features, including the increasingly common "crash detection" whereby in the event of a spill it supposedly calls your emergency contact to notify them that you may or may not at that very moment be dead:


Like the theft-tracking feature, there are precious few reports of this actually working in the wild.  In fact, as I've mentioned in a previous post, I've been unable to find a single report of such a system coming into play--and that's saying a lot, because cyclists love to crow about stuff on the Internet.  Mention that you think helmets are ineffective and 100 people will immediately tell you the story of how one saved their life; mention that crash detection is a gimmick and all you hear are crickets.

But what about the other features, such as being able to get directions or place a call or text while you ride without having to handle your phone?  Surely that's a convenient safety feature, right?

Nah.

Just as I've gotten over toddler handling smartphones with aplomb I've also gotten over people using their phones while they ride.  If anything, I think someone texting while riding is a sign of a healthy society in which people are comfortable and adept enough on bicycles to engage in everyday behavior.  Sure, the boogeyman in this scenario is the incompetent cyclist who Mr. Magoos it through an intersection causing a six-car pile-up or takes you out while texting, but like the successful theft-tracker or the life-saving crash notification call this is something that mostly just exists in theory, an image conjured up by concern trolls.  The fact is an incompetent cyclist is an incompetent cyclist whether or not they're using their phone, and for a competent cyclist using your phone while riding is about as dangerous as reaching down your pants to adjust your [insert your specific genitalway here].

And if you don't believe me, keep in mind I'm typing this entire blog post while cycling and nothing bad has ha



59 comments:

dancesonpedals said...

That man is non-plussed with a vengeance

Augusto Mori said...

Oh again

boys on the hoods said...

podiodio

boys on the hoods said...

doesn't a James Bondian approach involve an Aston Martin or a parachute?

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

5th Scrani!!!

Schisthead said...

RIP, WCRM, ye shall be missed.

Please come back to haunt Mike Sinyard.
TIA

janinedm said...

One of the top 5 things about being born with lady parts is never having to adjust my junk. It's pre adjusted. Oh my god. Do I have Smart Junk(TM)?

HivemindX said...

Seems like you have a whole "no true textyclist" thing going on there. Those morons who are wavering all over the place because they are on facebook while cycling? Not proper textyclists. The guys I can see approaching my road who have their head down because vital Pokemon need catching and I can't tell if they are going to look up before they blunder out in to my path? It's not the phone that's the problem, proper phone cyclists would never do that.

Doesn't this logic apply just as much to phone using drivers? It wasn't that he was on his phone when he swerved his Lexus in to my side of the road it's just that he's the sort of idiot who would do something like that.

You haven't convinced me. I'm going to keep thinking every wanker I see texting on their phone while cycling is a moron who is likely to do something moronic which might have a negative effect on me. That's a lot easier than your apparent plan whereby I have to guess whether they are one of the idiots who text while cycling or one of the cool ones who know what they are doing. Using a phone while driving or cycling is enough evidence for me that the user is an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Why is psychedelic Clarence Thomas controlling my mind?

dancesonpedals said...

It's annoying to adjust ones junk while out riding..it would be humiliating to explain how I managed to fall on a flat level road...as I won't spend a fortune on an Assos Cuckoo Penthouse , and I don't want to wind up like Long Ball Larry , I will continue drop out of the paceline and make a discreet adjustment by the side of the road.

At least I don't have a period.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Hivemindx,

But the texting isn't causing the salmoning.

--Wildcat Etc.

theEel said...

weed.

Mike in Dallas said...

Hey WCRM, save it for Wednesday! I'll have my, uh, accoutremonts ready.
"Wow, I better take it easy, after all it's only Tuesday."

Anonymous said...

I have been using a keyless bike for decades.

GreySpoke said...

'Mr Magoo' is now part of your lexicon to describe those who blow through red lights.
I'll be using that soon. It's perfect for drawing attention to their misdeed and showing my age.

Buffalo Bill said...

True story - the police called me last month to tell me they recovered my stolen bike. It was a totally dumb bike, but I happened to be smart enough to have recorded the serial number.

janinedm said...

dop, every smart product has a design flaw.

Hill Slayer said...

Hey Bike Snob.

I will be in NYC this summer to study Yiddish. Will be commuting from Prospect Heights to Greenwich Village/SoHo ish and back every day. Any spots to avoid, or avidly pursue?

Chazu said...

So you're all-in on Bitcoin, then?

James said...

Nothing is free. They still charge a $98 "recovery fee" to cover costs of their free recovery or replacement service. (insert sarcastic tone here and continue) That's equivalent to a car insurance deductible so we should be ok with that...

BikeSnobNYC said...

Hill Slayer,

That route features most of the newest, shiniest infrastructure. Vanderbilt Ave. was definitely a place to be careful when I lived in Brooklyn, don't know if it's gotten better or worse. Manhattan Bridge to Soho is a breeze thanks to new Chrystie St. bike lane.

Chazu,

Generally bullish on the cryptos.

--Wildcat Etc.

McFly said...

janinedm,

What are the other 4 things?

Anonymous said...

Last year I tried out the Vanmoof even smarter bike which they claimed would get me anywhere with much less effort. It was rubbish and ground to a halt on the slightest incline and even though it was packed with the same smartytech as their Smart bike, it came with no theft recovery.

The battery hardly lasted any distance and only a fraction of that suggested, how long would the signal last to let them track it? It was supposed to be covered with anti theft nuts but came with standard!

Back it went pronto.

R2-D2

Grump said...

Anti-theft???......Back in the day, when I was a kid (when bikes were made from solid bronze), I had the prefect anti-theft bike. It was a Schwinn cruiser with 26" balloon tires and a locking springer fork. It had a built-in horn between the double top tubes, and a generator powered headlight. Once the fork was locked, at a 45 degree angle, the bike would have to be carried away.....(difficult to do, because the bike weighed over 40 pounds)

Anonymous said...

the vanmoof is ugly as fuck. my Vamoots on the other hand a thing of beauty.

leroy said...

I don't mean to brag, but my dog claims all my bikes are smart bikes compared to the rider.

Of course, he may just be feeling magnanimous after we read about the hassle of junk adjustment and I reminded him of my assurances that some day he'd thank me for having him ride with fixed gear.

Hill Slayer -- Vanderbilt has gotten better. There's even a bike lane on part of it. Still, always be careful around Atlantic Ave. Dean and Bergen Streets are relatively quiet and have lanes.

Get a free NYC bike map at any bike shop. There are several nice routes.

Anonymous said...

At one apartment, we would have problems with car stereo theft. After our car stereo went missing, we bought a new one with anti-theft features: once it was disconnected from power, it wouldn't work again without the right key (which we kept at home) being re-inserted. Making it useless to the thieves, who would presumably know this and avoid stealing our stereo.

They stole it anyway, entitling us to a FREE replacement from the company; rather than getting it stolen again, I sold it on CraigsList. From then on, we had a big hole in our dashboard.

But that didn't stop the thieves either. One day, we came out to find our car had been broken into --- again --- and they had stolen... some candy.

Enjoy the Smart Bike. Best way to keep a bike from walking is a big, heavy dumb lock.

Blade_Rockwall said...

Crash alert = Comedy gold.

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

Kudos to JanineDM for deptly handling the girlieJunk issue. I was going to say something silly.

How many D batteries does the top tube of the VanMuff take?
When the batteries run out to the anti theft thingies kick in and the bike becomes immobile at like 30 mph on a down hill turn?

Bike recovery team bla yada bla, ... here's your new bike that we didn't think anyone would want to steal in the first place.

Did we mention to you about the good cup of coffee?

Here's to comfy girlieJunk!

vsk

N/A said...

To be SmartJunk™, you have to charge its battery and connect to it via an app.

I... was going to make a dumb joke, as is my wont, but I realized that something like that probably exists for reals. JFC, you can't even adjust your genitalways without an app any more.

Die free said...

That VanMuuf has a sweet fender. I could stare at that all day...

N/A said...

The VanMoose bike recovery team got 10 back. Cool. How many were stolen? How many were sold altogether?

Also, I like how they really emphasize how much of a nightmare that bike is for thieves. Can you imagine somebody jacking a VanMice and, uh, throwing it in their garage for a day, thus killing the battery-fed GPS? Jeez, that's going to be a real bane to the criminal masterminds out there stealing VanMooks bikes.


Also, is ugly bike.

janinedm said...

Aggghhhh, N/A remember this?

janinedm said...

I realize that I didn't explain the connection to the conversation. I'm not sure there is one, it's just terrible and fascinating.

leroy said...

Just when you thought it was safe to get back on the rivet.

N/A said...

"terrible and fascinating" is right in my wheelhouse!

Steely Danzig said...

when I hear "Bond," I think "Cipo."

dancesonpedals said...

The best thing to do with that terrible and fascinating saddle would be a full anthropomorphose...give it a pair of glasses & a fuzzy mustache

John Philip Sousa said...

The Catfish are marching.

Chazu said...

ヾ(*⌒ヮ⌒*)ゞ

Chazu said...

(dancing ascii text emoticon)

Dooth said...

"cyclists love to crow about stuff on the internet'...I installed Bullseye pulleys on a Campy Nouvo Record derailleur today! Yes, yes I did.

dancesonpedals said...

I can't believe you did and I didn't.

babble on said...

Heh.

That was good. Two things: A. I helped a friend buy a replacement when his two year old bike was stolen the other day, and within 24 hours he recoverede the old one, which someone found about a block from his place. He was able to return the replacement model, so all's well that ends well.

and 2. The reason texting and driving is so evil is that cars kill. Cyclists don't tend to do that, not even the incompetent ones, so I'm with you on that. ps. Sure hope you're recovering well, and that your next post isn't going to be from hospital as you await surgery.

babble on said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
babble on said...

chazu - huh. Jus' looks like boobies to me.

babble on said...

Fuuuuuuuck...!!
I just can't wash off the stooopid. :-l

N/A said...

Have you tried soaking it in Dawn?

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

On my three-wheeled recumbent trike texting, taking photos, watching porn and even solving algebraic equations on my smarting phone is a breeze. Junk adjustments is also accomplished with ease.

Anonymous said...

If you want to text and bike, ride a bike with a coaster bake - no crashes, one can brake and signal while texting (you do have to interrupt for signalling but come on)

BamaPhred said...

I was so hoping the VanMuff top tube was a stealth missle launcher.

Catfish are Jumping said...

Janine at 11:05 . The adjustment of junk, while on the fly (must be a pun in there) is an art form. Not as easy as it would appear (usually not done with an appearance}. The Game of Thrones Dragon has a natural way of laying around (like electrons falling into their natural orbits), think of Smaug laying on his gold. Sweat looks great on the photo of a nude bathing beauty (actually sprayed on H2O) but sweat actually can make it harder to move the dragon (beware of snorting dragons, many women find them distasteful). And all of the moves involved are preformed while riding. "Harder" than it would appear to be (if you're peaking).

Bazooka Toptube said...

Why do smart bikes have to look so dumb?

bad boy of the sooth said...

That is one scary saddle.

Anonymous said...

Turn your phone to silent,schmoke a bowl, ride on almost perfect roads for hours with little to no traffic...that's what you guys should do,you're invited to rural WI. WCRM- love the books man,keep it up please.

JLRB said...

I like my bikes in the Amish range of innovation

Hill Slayer said...

Nice tip. Thank you.

Dooth said...

My in-the-gutter mind makes me think "Dutch Reach" is a prostitute's technique.

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