March 28, 2014 - San Diego, CA
The Five Coolest Motorcycle Projects on Kickstarter
Kickstarter is the web's most popular crowd-funding platform, where anyone with a great idea can get investment capital through small donations from individual supporters. There are some truly innovative ideas on the site, but we looked through all the ones that would appeal to riders to bring you the five coolest!
1. MotoPeds - A Honda XR50-Powered Mountain Bike
What do you mean, you've never wished you could take a full suspension mountain bike and plop a 50cc pit bike engine into it...hasn't everyone? These guys have taken the dreams of lazy mountain bikers and pit bike hooligans everywhere, and created this exciting combination of mountain bike agility and combustion-fueled power with the MotoPed – and if you've ever thrown a leg over a mountain bike OR a motorcycle, you know you want to ride it!
The kits come with various levels of componentry, from bare bones to high-performance, and contain all the parts you need to modify a 50cc pit bike into this killer adult toy all by yourself. It uses the heart of a Honda XR50 or one of its Chinese clones, and adds downhill mountain bike parts to a custom fabricated frame and swingarm. Quieter and less obnoxious that most two-stroke powered mopeds, the MotoPed claims to get up to 100 MPG with a 50cc engine – but the kit can accept engines up to 190cc for tire-shredding power.
Bottom line, the MotoPed isn't just a moped – think of it more as dropping a motor into one of the most badass mountain bikes you can find, to make a toy that is sure to make kids ages 10-80 jealous. If you like attention, my friend...then this would be the way to get it!
2. Nuviz - Modular HUD System for Motorcycle Helmets
You've seen it on fighter jets, in the movies, and even on a handful of production automobiles, but having a heads-up display on a motorcycle has never really been practical; not to mention, the technology always been too expensive to even think about making for mass production!
But that was before Nuviz, a joint venture among a group of motorcycle riders working in the optical device industry, decided that it was time to bring this technology to the mainstream. Using their experience working on HUD devices for the US military, they developed a compact device that mounts to any full face helmet, and projects information on a tiny, transparent screen in front of the riders eye. The screen is clear so the rider can see "through" the image without having to refocus, and it displays all sorts of information such as GPS navigation, weather, telemetric data, communication, and even data acquisition for racing!
I believe this device could become the most useful display technology ever seen in the motorcycle world. And because it displays so much information in a way that allows the rider to see it without taking his eyes off the road, I think it could be a leap forward in safety as well. There is some competition in this emerging market, but based on the interest generated on Kickstarter, it looks like Nuviz may have a winner on their hands. My favorite part - it will work with the helmets I already own!
3. VoloLights - Brakeless Deceleration Indicator
Have you ever thought about the fact that, when you slow down a bike by engine braking or downshifting, your brake lights don't come on? Like many riders, I actually use engine braking to slow down a lot more often than I hit the brakes. This means that most of the time there is no visual indicator that I'm doing so, unless the driver behind me happens to be paying a lot of attention to my speed (and as we all know, most drivers don't pay attention to anything a motorcycle does on the road.) I haven't yet had a close call that I'd blame on my brake lights not coming on, but the thought has definitely crossed my mind.
Well the creator of VoloLights did have a close call, and same thought crossed his mind - but he decided to do something about it. By creating a brake light that illuminates using an accelerometer to detect a reduction in speed, this product lights up the brakes any time the bike slows down, not just when the brakes are actually being applied. And the lights don't just come on; utilizing fast-illuminating LED technology, they flash more urgently the harder you stop, to indicate to drivers behind you how quickly you're slowing down (up to 5 times per second.)
As hard as it already is to get seen on the road when you're on a bike, this product is a brilliant enhancement to visibility; and it seems like it would be especially useful in areas where you aren't allowed to split lanes, where the chances of getting rear-ended are higher. VoloLights makes sense, the product is subtle and clean-looking, and it uses technology that's already out there, but in a more intuitive way; think of it as a "smart" modulating tail-light. Pretty bright idea I must say!
4. Fix It Sticks/T-Way Wrench - Innovative T-handle Tools
When your first thought when you see a new invention is "Darn it…why didn't I think of that?" then you know its something good. The Fix It Sticks and the T-Way Wrench are just that - so useful they’re ingenious, but so simple you'll wonder how they've never been invented before.
The T-Way wrench is simply a T-handle wrench, one of a motorcycle mechanics favorite tools, with magnetic sockets for bits on either side of the handle in addition to at the end of the "T" where it normally is. This allows for one of a number of bits to be used in the T-handle, but also for you to move a bit to one of the shorter sides and use the long side of the T for more leverage. Use a couple of bits on your bike more than any others, like I do? No problem - just keep the bits inside the ends of the T and switch sides as needed. Pretty brilliant.
But even more brilliant are the Fix It Sticks, a version of the T-Way Wrench that pulls apart into two "sticks" so it can be collapsed and kept in a tool pouch for traveling. They use the same 1/4" bits, and provide the same function and versatility, but with more portability - perfect for an under-seat tool kit! Best of all, both tools are made in the USA, machined to tight tolerances from quality steel with big magnets for rock solid bit retention.
Neither of these will replace a nice set of shop tools in your toolbox, but I have the feeling they're the kind of tool you might find yourself reaching for a lot - if for nothing else than because they're just so darn cool!
5. Ratchets Away - DIY Motorcycle Shop, Portland, OR
Imagine a motorcycle shop in town like this: you can pull your bike in and work on it yourself, you've got access to all the tools your little heart desires, you work alongside other riders working on their own bikes, and all under the watchful eye of experienced mechanics in case you get jammed up on a job. Sounds pretty cool doesn't it? I know I'd probably rather do my maintenance at a spot like that than at home alone, and I'd definitely like it better than paying for a shop to do it.
Well, that sums up Ratchets Away, born in the very do-it-yourself environment of Portand, Oregon, where like-minded riders can come to learn from others, teach to others, or just use tools they don't want to buy. I personally think a business like this will thrive, not only because of the access to tools and knowledge that many riders don't have at home, but because - as we all know - the only thing motorcycle riders love more than riding is hanging around and talking about bikes!
Give them a place to do that while showing off their motorcycle knowledge while wrenching on each others bikes, and it'll attract more bikers than a 50% off tire sale. And who knows, it might just cut down on the amount of dumb noob questions you get on your favorite motorcycle forum, so you can get to the important stuff - showing off pictures of your latest mod! So my only question is...when is one opening up around here?
What do you think of these projects? Do you know of any cool ones that you think we missed? Join the discussion through Facebook or Disqus below!