About a year ago I decided that I wanted to make the safest transportation bike on the road. This is the result.
It has a dynamo hub in the front, which powers the LED headlight and daytime running lights. It also has a special tail light that monitors the voltage coming from the front wheel, and when it senses that you’re braking, it lets cars behind you know by getting momentarily brighter. That’s right, this bicycle has a brake light.
The brakes themselves are fully enclosed, which means they’ll work just fine in any kind of weather. Instead of a derailleur, it has an 8-speed internally geared rear hub. It’s a bit heavier than an externally geared drivetrain, but it’s also simpler, more compact, and much lower maintenance. Most importantly, a geared hub allows for shifting while stationary—a valuable feature when you always stop at red lights.
It also has full fenders for rainy commutes, puncture resistant tires and tubes, a double kickstand, and a chainguard (because I don’t like strapping down my pant leg).
This bike would be pretty cool if the features stopped there. But they don’t. There’s one more component that makes this the safest bike on the road, and you can’t buy it in any bike shop. I’m talking of course, about the retro-reflective coating.
This coating is different from anything available on the market today. When headlights hit it, the whole bike glows bright white, making it next to impossible for drivers to miss. I’m convinced that this sort of high visibility technology can save lives and make biking safer and more appealing for everyone. That’s why I joined the company that makes it—I want to be a part of the next frontier of bike safety.
Since last November, I’ve been working with a company called Halo Coatings to bring their patented products to the bike industry. Founded in 2008, Halo started out as a highway company, focused on developing a retroreflective powder coat for guardrails and signposts.
Unlike existing retroreflective tech that’s produced as a laminate (think 3M Scotchlite), Halo came up with an ultra-durable reflective coating that can be applied to just about anything (metal, plastic, rubber, etc.) at a fraction of the cost of reflective tape.
My first ride. Look at the joy!
So how does it work?
To understand this revolutionary technology, you first need to understand the principles behind reflection. (Please note: I am not a physicist, and part of the reason I went to law school was to avoid maths. Science people, have mercy.)
When you shine a light on most surfaces, the result tends to be either “diffuse reflection,” where the reflected light is sent out in all different directions (ex: a matte chalkboard), or “specular reflection,” where the light is sent out in a single direction (ex: a mirror), or some combination of the two (ex: a glossy whiteboard).
This illustration shows how light reflects when shined on most surfaces.
A retroreflective surface does something different. Instead of diffusing light that’s shined on it, or sending it out in another direction, a retroreflector sends the light back in the direction of its source.
The light enters the retroreflector and is sent back towards its origin.
By directing light back to its source rather than scattering it, the returned light from a retroreflective surface can be seen at a much greater distance in low light conditions.
That’s why the reflectors on your bike glow to drivers at night: the light from their headlights hits them and is sent back in the direction of the car, making the reflectors appear to shine much more brightly than surrounding objects.
Yup, my shoes and glasses are reflective too. Why not, right?
Halo Coatings has developed and patented a method to achieve this effect in a durable, UV-stable coating. It looks completely normal in daylight, so it only works when you need it. The formula can even be compounded in different colors.
Halo’s coating has some definite advantages over the reflective tape that’s currently available in bike shops and online:
-This coating will last for the life of the bike (and possibly beyond). Halo’s origins as a highway company means that all of their products have been rigorously tested for use in the harshest of conditions. Developed to meet these industrial standards for durability, it will never chip or flake off. In case you’re familiar with salt spray testing (ASTM B117), Halo’s coating is rated at 4,368 hours. Seriously.
-It’s entirely UV-stable. Unlike existing reflective laminates, which gradually break down and lose their brightness when exposed to sunlight, this coating is completely unaffected by ultraviolet light. That means it will always look great, and won’t fade or lose reflectivity.
-100% Green. Though it might not seem like anything that creates such an otherworldly glow could be environmentally friendly, this coating is actually more green than other retroreflective solutions. No heavy metals, VOCs, or HAPs are used in its manufacture or application. Halo’s systems are even designed to reclaim all sprayed and/or applied materials, potentially bringing waste well under 1%.
So when can I get it on my bike?
Soon. This technology has been generating a lot of excitement in the bike industry, and we’re currently in talks with a number of bike manufacturers to bring Halo’s coating to the everyday biker.
Of course, big companies move slowly, and this isn’t going to happen overnight. But I’m hopeful that my new bike will help people see the possibilities that this technology can provide. Safer bikes will get more bikers on the road, and I think we can all agree that that’s a goal worth investing in.
In the meantime, if you work for a company whose products might benefit from this technology, feel free to get in touch. I’ll be around—I’m pretty hard to miss these days.
UPDATE: The contest to name this bike is currently underway! The Grand Prize is a hand-built wheel set with Halo-coated rims. Check out this post for details, and good luck!