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The Top 4 Cycling Crowdfunding Misses

August 10, 2019


The Top 4 Cycling Crowdfunding Misses

On the whole, crowdfunding websites have brought thousands of useful products to the marketplace. But for every success, there are many more near misses. Here is the top four when it comes to cycling products.

Backing crowdfunding projects on platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo can represent a great way to get your hands on cutting-edge—and otherwise unavailable—cycling products.

Unlike when buying from an online retailer, though, you don’t purchase a complete product during its crowdfunding phase. Often, you might hand over your hard-earned money for nothing more than an idea, with no plans in place for production, distribution, and so forth.

This means that when it comes to some of the top cycling product crowdfunding misses, they’re not necessarily scams. Often, after you dig in and read more about their stories, you find that the founders were well-intentioned, but simply way in over their heads.

Regardless of the reasons, the reality is that cyclists all around the globe have lost phenomenal amounts of money by backing crowdfunding projects that never quite materialized. Here are the top four, based on a combination of popularity and the numbers they raised.

Crowdfunding Miss #4: Crono Bike

MSRP Total Raised f/Crowdfunding Total Backers
$840+ $67,303 111

Back in 2017, the Crono Bike promised to eventually feature a Gates carbon drive paired with a SRAM Automatix rear hub, a bespoke dropout, a unique hexagonal top tube, carbon fork, an ultra-light aluminum frame, and a taillight integrated into its seat post.

Together, the project’s creators advertised that the bike would deliver a “simpler, more efficient way to ride,” without cyclists having to worry about rust, grease, oil, dirt, or even cables.

And while shipping came five months later than expected, it appears that most backers received their bikes—many of whom commented that it was well-packed and delivered a smooth ride.

On the other hand, multiple comments on their Indiegogo campaign indicated more than one backer didn’t receive their Crono Bike, while others remarked that only their carbon handlebars arrived. Some ultimately received their bikes, but after paying $100 in duties and fees, found the wrong color frame inside their box.

Additional complaints picked from the campaign’s comments section:

  • Brakes – The front brakes were less-than-stellar (one backer even referred to them as “garbage”) due to excessive flexing. Furthermore, one of the most common questions posed in the comments section is how to remove its coaster brake.
  • Sizing – The bike’s frame featured much smaller-than-normal sizing. One detailed review noted that the difference between Crono and standard frames was so significant that it made their bike “marginally rideable,” with no real ability to change stem length, add spacers, etc. without replacing the fork.
  • Seatpost – Many had problems activating their seatpost lights, and some riders were surprised that they had to raise their seatpost to recharge the light.
  • Drivetrain – Noisy hub and belt/drivetrain.
  • Weight – Heavy (22+ lbs advertised for size large, two-speed) compared to similarly built bikes from third-party companies.
  • Support – The bike’s packaging didn’t include assembly documentation.

Of backers who reported a value, multiple stated they were all-in at $1,000+ for their Crono Bike, before making sizing or fork adjustments, when relevant. Which is probably much more than cyclists would pay for a similar model from a different company.

Since the bike shipped, comments on their Kickstarter campaign have slowly trickled to a halt, with no recent responses from the company. We didn’t encounter any third-party online feedback for the bike at the time of our research.

Crowdfunding Miss #3: RIDEYE Black Box Camera for Bikes

MSRP Total Raised f/Crowdfunding Total Backers
$149 $83,793 558
RIDEYE’s Black Box Camera for Bikes 2014 campaign advertised a lot of bang-for-the-buck, including high-definition video, 120° field of view, one-touch operation, long-lasting lithium-cell battery, an onboard accelerometer, and CNC-machined aluminum construction. And all of it aimed at helping cyclists ride without fear of “hit-and-runs and false claims.”

RIDEYE initially expected to ship their HD cycling cameras by March 2014, although the campaign’s creator indicated that it wasn’t until early 2015 that all orders were fulfilled. Still, several backers said they hadn’t received their RIDEYEs as of late 2016, with no response to their multiple requests for additional information.

Still, the project’s creator went on to produce four additional RIDEYE manufacturing runs after their Kickstarter campaign, across more than 30 countries.

Among 12 Amazon reviews, customers gave it an average rating of three stars, though. Granted, multiple mentioned that—at least on paper—it represented a great idea that offered everything they could want in a cycling video camera.

But, common complaints referenced high price (it cost more than some GoPro models at the time), lower audio quality than expected, mounting difficulties, and that their RIDEYE simply stopped working after just a few months of regular use.

Crowdfunding Miss #2: Helios Bars

MSRP Total Raised f/Crowdfunding Total Backers
$199 $120,106 678

In their Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, Helios Bars advertised they could “transform any bike into a smart bike” with:

  • Built-in GPS tracking
  • iOS Bluetooth connectivity
  • Integrated headlights
  • Customizable proximity and ambient lighting
  • Rear LEDs that acted as turn signals, and also functioned as visual navigation and speedometers

Backers initially expected to receive their Helios Bars in December 2013, although the last post (January 2016) from the campaign’s creator cites “flaky” manufacturers in China as the culprit for ongoing shipping delays.

The seller also set up a store on Amazon, although no customer feedback was received and the bars are no longer available.

Based on hundreds of comments left on the Kickstarter campaign, though, it appears the vast majority of backers never received their Helios Bars. And those who did frequently cited lower quality than expected, including overall fit and finish, as well as durability issues. Some stated their bars never worked, even right out of the packaging.

Many without these problems claimed Helios’s app was too buggy to use, which has since been removed from iTunes and is no longer supported for their few remaining users.

Crowdfunding Miss #1: SpeedX Leopard & Unicorn

MSRP Total Raised f/US Crowdfunding Total US Backers
$1,699–$5,299 $6,794,715; add’l $2M via Chinese crowdfunding 2,065

SpeedX’s Leopard and Unicorn bikes aimed to deliver smart controls, integrated electronics, built-in sensors and touchscreens, aero designs, and carbon frames, forks, handlebars, and aero wheels at much lower prices than competitors like Specialized, TREK, and Cannondale.

And after finding a great deal of success between Kickstarter’s and Indiegogo’s platforms, they initially seemed poised to deliver. In fact, the Leopard remains one of Kickstarter’s top 50 projects in history.

SpeedX’s sister bikeshare company, Bluegogo, also rocketed into success at the same time. At one point, combined, they had more than 500 employees and a valuation of $150 million. It all drained away in less than six months, though!

What happened? Following a months-long investigation, Iain Treloar at CyclingTips wrote an in-depth article cataloging SpeedX’s monumental rise and catastrophic fall. I’d strongly recommend reading it to get the full scope of what happened, as well as why.

In a nutshell, though, the company had to deliver thousands of bikes to backers in an impossibly short time, even for experienced bike manufacturers who already operated with worldwide reach. After some ill-timed social media promotions, they were also investigated by the Chinese secret police.

SpeedX never delivered any Unicorns to Kickstarter or Indiegogo backers, although some Leopards—which received horrendous reviews from the likes of and BikeRadar—remain in public use. It’s only a matter of time before their unsupported software (or some other component) fails, so their ride time is limited.

What Do You Thinking About Backing Cycling Products via Crowdfunding?

The truth is that we all roll the dice with our money every time we purchase new cycling equipment, which may or may not work out. The difference, of course, is that we can return most retail items that fail to meet our needs and get our money back—or at least exchange them for something that does.

But, do you think that the cutting-edge designs and limited supplies associated with crowdfunded cycling products make up for this risk? Or, do you simply stay away? Is there a crowdfunding project you think we missed in this list?

Whatever it is, let us know in the comments below!

>> Keep rolling: 7 Tips for Choosing Your Best Bike Pump

Derek has more than two decades of experience as a cyclist, and is the founder of TreadBikely. He currently travels full-time with his family via RV, enjoying the country's best biking destinations. A secular Buddhist, Derek frequently explores the intersection of cycling, mindfulness, and compassion in his writing. #rolloutblissout
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