"Smart" bicycle by Vanhawks gives directions with
flashing lights and vibrating safety alerts


Valour carbon fibre bicycle by Vanhawks_dezeen_1sq

The Canada-based creators of the Vanhawks Valour claim to have designed the "first smart, connected bicycle", which gives riders directions as well as alerts to prevent them cycling into dangerous situations.

The carbon-fibre-frame bicycle was designed specifically for urban commuters and uses bluetooth to connect to the GPS on a smart phone, relaying turn-by-turn directions to the rider using LEDs built into the handlebars.

The bike also uses ultrasonic sensors to detect objects in a rider's blind spot and sends alerts via vibrating handlebars when it detects a potential threat – a security feature the designers say is an industry first.

"Imagine looking for your blind spot in your rear view mirror, it's exactly the same concept," Vanhawks cofounder Ali Zahid told Dezeen.

Valour carbon fibre bicycle by Vanhawks_dezeen_6

"All of us were commuters and we hated riding a s***ty bike that is super unsafe on the road. We created something that we wanted ourselves when we were bikers," said Zahid.

"We started to build the bike up with the commuter in mind, to keep them safe on the road and have a bike that looks sexy."

Valour carbon fibre bicycle by Vanhawks_dezeen_3

Sensors built into the bike generate real-time ride data – including speed, distance and time – which is then collated in an app which can also track best performances over routes and calculate the number of calories burned.

A dynamo hub on the front wheel charges the in-built electronics, and an hour-long bike ride will fully charge the bike.

Valour carbon fibre bicycle by Vanhawks_dezeen_8

The bike is compatible with iOS and Android phones as well as the Pebble smart-watch. If the device's battery dies it can be synced post-ride.

"If your phone dies your bike still keeps a track of where your going, the route you took and calories burned, but the turn by turn navigation won't work – that relies on your phone," explained Zahid.

Valour carbon fibre bicycle by Vanhawks_dezeen_7

Data collected with a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer picks up any unusually bumpy movement over potholes or rough road surfaces to create a Google Maps overlay that tells subsequent users of the app whether a route is bumpy or smooth.

This data can also be used to show steep hills and the map integrates information on designated cycle lanes and traffic flow. As the numbers of riders goes up and more data is collected, the information in the app will become richer.

Valour carbon fibre bicycle by Vanhawks_dezeen_2

Each bike is connected to a network of other bicycles with a mesh network powered by Vanhawk's servers.

"All the Valours communicate with each other," explained Zahid. "Let's say I lost my bike and I report it stolen on my app, it lets all the other bikes on the network know that the bike is missing."

All the bikes on the network can then search for the missing bike and, if they detect it nearby, relay the location back to Vanhawks and the original owner.

Valour carbon fibre bicycle by Vanhawks_dezeen_5

The frame of the bike is made from a carbon fibre material originally developed by one of the Vanhawks founders for UK and Netherlands based hockey stick manufacturer Dita Hockey.

Each bike frame is moulded as a single piece, but instead of creating a hollow frame of the kind commonly used for carbon fibre bikes, the structure features internal walls at stress points for added strength.

This feature is modelled loosely on the structure of human bones and is one of many elements of the design influenced by the medical background of a member of the Vanhawks team who dropped out of a PHD in biodynamics to focus on the project.

Valour carbon fibre bicycle by Vanhawks_dezeen_4

The lightest model of the Valour – a fixed gear bike – weighs just under 16 pounds, while  the heaviest model with an internal gear hub weighs under 20 pounds.

The initial prototypes were created using a single size mould and the project has now launched on Kickstarter to enable the team to create the bicycle in multiple sizes and take the design into production.

  • Bobby D

    Interesting concept for improving cyclist safety, especially for people new to commuting. There’s a big need for more innovation in easing this transition on London’s roads for sure. Too many people aren’t very comfortable looking over their shoulder whilst cycling and either go for it anyway, or severely swerve when doing it.

    I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure It’s illegal to sell a bike designed for the road without front and rear brakes as standard? In the UK anyway. You can remove these brakes afterwards if your feeling brave, but not before purchase (from new). Track, or ‘fixed gear’ bikes are exempt as they’re not officially designed to be ridden on the road and can be sold without brakes.

    • moreappthanbike

      I agree but I’m sceptical if the signal from the handlebar is enough to make a good decision. Looking over your shoulder is probably still necessary.

      • Bobby D

        I totally agree. Also, would you be able to decipher the warning vibration produced by the bike as a warning through the constant road vibrations of a carbon bike with fully inflated road tyres? Not likely. Maybe on a good road?

    • Multi

      No. The straight forward thing would be for people to drop their ego and sign up to FREE cycle training offered by every borough in London. Too many agree training is a good thing but in the same breath turn their noses up to it.

      The classic response: “I’ve been riding for years, I don’t need it.”

      Problem is practise doesn’t make perfect, it only makes permanent. You shouldn’t be getting on the roads if you can’t look back. Mirrors are ok but those behind are not aware of where your eyes are thus have no clue about any potential manoeuvre you’re about to make.

  • Brad

    Super smart and super sexy for city riding. As we increasingly flock to our bikes, ideas like these need to seriously considered.

  • moreappthanbike

    To avoid dangerous situations handbreaks, lights and reflectors would have been a good idea.

    They speak of a front-wheel dynamo to power the handle bar but in the images there is none to be seen. Strange.

  • As somebody who has had to look at an iPhone for directions when riding, I think its a great concept. Although, I’d like to see how the LED navigation would work in the mess of streets that is Downtown Boston.

    • Bobby D

      Or London for that matter!

  • jason

    Who put the chain against the white sofa?

  • Martijn

    Great bike! Only thing I don’t get is, with all the emphasis on safety, why aren’t there any lights integrated in the bike?!

  • pachipachi

    That bike has been designed to be nice to look at, not to be used as a city bike as it lacks all the basic equipment one would expect from it.

    I hope the lights are hidden.

    I would like to see some basket for instance, because from time-to-time one has things to carry in tow. That bike would also need a mud-guard as it sometimes rains out there, and one doesn’t want to show up at work covered in mud.