my issues with crowdfunding

Posted by: Ian on 26 July 2014

Note: In this post, I use ‘Kickstarter’ as the generic term for crowd-funding websites, the same way that all vacuum cleaners in the UK are referred to as ‘hoovers’.

Crowd funding platforms have been around for a few years now – allowing someone to propose a project, and for the general public to ‘back’ these projects with up-front cash in exchange (typically) for reduced price products if and when they are backed and developed. I don’t have a problem with the majority of projects, and have backed several myself, including the Mio Alpha, Misfit Shine, LIFX, See.Sense, Kensei Fantasy Creatures and the Scanadu Scout. There are however plenty of Kickstarter products I have issues with, or more accurately, i have issues with how they are using these crowd funding platforms.

For Market Research

I see plenty of products on Kickstarter which, frankly, seem to be solutions desperately looking for a problem. This one is for some lights that you fit to your helmet and depending on which way you tilt your head, they flash as turn-indicators. With 10 days left, it had raised 0.4% of its goal. So rather than risk spending your own time doing market research, you can put it on Kickstarter. If it gets the funding you probably had a good idea and you are on your way, if it sinks like a stone then your idea was probably rubbish, but you saved yourself money with free market research and you can get on the next project.

For Risk Avoidance

Someone on Twitter linked this project today. I was amazed to see they have made 10x their goal, for an alloy framed belt drive bike. Really. The tagline is “Maintenance-Free Bicycles that Make Cycling Easy”, so I looked carefully. Does it have bearings made of ceramic or some other advanced material? No. It has a belt drive, like some bikes have had for years. Also, looking at the traditional (rather than A-head) headset, that is one part that will be anything but maintenance free, especially when you consider the complete bike is ~$4001. So, why is this bike on KickStarter? It offers exactly nothing innovative or new. Its a cheap bike with a belt drive. Rather than risk their own cash on the venture, Kickstarter allows the project creator to get someone else’s money to fund the project, even if the bank won’t give you a loan. Why risk $30,000 of your own when you can get it funded with backers money.
One thing to remember – these are often projects that venture capitalists have passed on.

As a Business Model

Revolights were originally funded on Kickstarter in September 2011, getting roughly 5x their target funding. The first Revolights were a kit that you could fit to your bike wheels so the front half of the front wheel was white, and the back half of the rear wheel was red.

They were back on Kickstarter again in May 2013 with ‘Revolight wheels’ – wheels with permanently installed lights and with which they achieved 6x their goal, and once more in April of this year with ‘Revolight Arc’ – a light-up mudguard, which failed to get its $100,000 goal.

Given that the idea of Kickstarter is to get an idea or business off the ground, you would think that going back for a second and third round with new products was a bit much. If the first product was funded, surely they should be using profits from those to fund new projects. It is worth noting that Revolights raised $215,000 with the first round of funding and $85,000 for the second – surely enough to get a company running, if you have a functioning business model.

Essentially, Revolights model seems to be that rather than risk revenue raised from existing projects, running another crowdfunding round allows them to get free market research and offset the risk of launching a product that might fail.

To Pay for a Holiday

The Printing Bike Project is trying to raise funds so they can build a cargo bike with a printing press on it, which they will then ride from Bristol in the UK to Mainz in Germany, where Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Apparently they are going to print postcards on the way and do some outreach when they get back, but to me it looks like they want someone else to pay for a holiday in the name of ‘art’. They are looking for £8,000 and I’d just like to point out that you can get a Bullitt Cargo Bike for around £1,500 and the press for £600. I guess the leftover £6,000 covers alot of holiday.
I do like Kickstater and the other crowd-funding platforms – they certainly allow small startups to have global exposure for little cost (much like iTunes and small artists), and the natural selection process helps the good ones and doesn’t harshly punish the less good, they just don’t get funded.
Of course, once a project is actually funded, there is a whole world of issues from then onwards in terms of timely delivery and promised functionality, but those are project management issues which can apply to almost any project.
  1. To put $400 into perspective, a Chris King headset (generally considered the best), retails for around $250.?

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etape 2014

Posted by: Ian on 25 July 2014

This years L’Etape du Tour was run on the classic Pyrenean stage route from Pau to the ski station of Hautacam, a total distance of 145km.


Before the half-way point, the route starts to ascend the fearsome Col du Tormalet, crossing the 2,115m summit with 50km of the stage remaining. A 35km descent into Ayros Arbouix leaves just the 15km climb back up to 1,520m.


In the ‘amateur’ race, Frenchman Loic Herbreteau crossed the line four minutes ahead of second place, with a time of 4 hours 47 minutes and 29 seconds. Vincenzo Nibali won Stage 18 of the Tour in 4 hours 4 minutes and 17 seconds, almost three-quarters of an hour faster.

The Tour organisers, gave todays stage a coefficient of 5 as a ‘very difficult short stage’, which, given Nibali’s average speed allows riders an additional 17% of the winners time to avoid elimination. So for todays stage, the elimination time was 4 hours 43 minutes and 29 seconds – this year, none of the Etape riders would have survived the ‘broom wagon’.

Lampre-Merida rider Davide Cimolai was the last TdF rider to cross the line, safely inside the elimination time by around 9 minutes.

You can see how the riders got on in 2012 here and last year here.

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the view

Posted by: Ian on 18 July 2014

the view

via Instagram

Picnic in the park today; fresh bread, good cheese and a Spice Weasel.

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protour chefs

Posted by: Ian on 16 July 2014

In recent years, there has been a move within cycling away from plain pasta and energy gels towards ‘real food’. I’m not sure if it started with, but has certainly brought to the fore, by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim of SkratchLabs and the FeedZone book series. While watching coverage of this years Criterium Du Dauphine, commentator Anthony McCrossan mentioned some of the team chefs were on Twitter, so I went searching and found a few. Incase you want to follow any of them, my list of Sports Chefs can be found here.

Hannah Grant (@dailystews)

Hannah is Chef for the Tinkoff Saxo team and has been making delicious looking food for the riders, including this roasted chicken.
Roasted chicken with thyme and celeriac

Roasted chicken with thyme and celeriac

Chicken is always popular as its high-protein and low in fat. It also tastes great and lends itself to a multitude of variations – perfect when you’re needing upwards of 6,000 calories per day in a Grand Tour.

She is also the author of the Grand Tour Cookbook, which looks absolutely amazing, but is sadly only available in Danish at the moment, so hopefully the translated version will be available soon. However, given I have been watching original language versions of The Killing and The Bridge recently I guess I could give it a go1.

Søren Kristiansen (@teamskychef)

Cheffing for Sky Pro Cycling, Søren creates food for some of the top Grand Tour riders such as Richie Porte, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins (though not all at this years TdF). As well as great looking main courses, he seems to have a particular thing for deserts and his plating style rivals that of Hiroyuki Sakai (Iron Chef French).
"Beetroot" cake with almond/cardamom rhubarb compote and mousse

“Beetroot” cake with almond/cardamom rhubarb compote and mousse

For his main dishes, he again uses a lot of fish and turkey/chicken to give the riders good quality and high protein meals. I think I’ll take a shot at a version of his roasted turkey breast and oyster mushroom/small leeks/champagne cream and tortellini with ricotta in the not to distant future.

Kim Rokkjær (@kimrokk)

Team Chef for Trek Factory Racing, Kim is responsible for ensuring Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt and the Schlecks get their racing calories. He doesn’t post food-pics as frequently as some of the other chefs but what he does show looks pretty good!
Tomato with buffalo mozzarella and basil

Tomato with buffalo mozzarella and basil

Jesper Boom (@jesper_boom)

The brother of Stage 5′s race across the cobbles winner Lars, Jesper is the Tour Chef for the Dutch Team Belkin. No wonder Lars did well in the wet and cold with food like this to keep him warm!
Pork? with mixed roast veg

Pork? with mixed roast veg

Tom Caubergs (@TCaubergs)

Tom is the Team Chef at the Belgian team Omega Pharma Quickstep. He doesn’t tweet many pictures of the team meals, but he does do a nice presentation.
Beef Carpaccio with parmesan, rocket and balsamic dressing

Beef Carpaccio with parmesan, rocket and balsamic

Nicki Strobel (@Nicki_Strobel)

Providing the daily meals for Simon Gerrans and the rest of the Orica-Greenedge Team, Nicki has been serving up some fantastic looking meals, with salmon and pork appearing frequently in his dishes. His deserts don’t look half-bad either.
Pan seared salmon with a creme of green peas

Pan seared salmon with a creme of green peas

Apparently, he’s such a good chef that Simon Gerrans re-signed for 3 more years just to enjoy more of it.

Sean Fowler (@Larryvich)

Sean and his wife Olga are the cooks for riders of the Garmin Sharp Team. Evidently there are some special dietary requirements to cater for in the team as gluten-free meals make regular appearances, but hey are not averse to getting fancy either with dishes like this though.
Roasted quail served over saffron paella and steamed hake

Roasted quail served over saffron paella and steamed hake

Henrik Orre (@ChefOrre)

Henrik works as a freelance chef for Team Sky, but during the Grand Tours he can be found on Norway’s TV2 channel doing a daily cooking show following the route of Tour de France using locally sourced ingredients.
Henrick on TV2

Henrick on TV2

All these chefs are pretty active on twitter, often chatting amongst themselves and sharing loads of food and behind-the-scenes photographs. I really hope that with the extra interest they are garnering this year, that some new cookbooks will be forthcoming.
  1. After all, I do own a book on cooking with Matcha, completely in Japanese.?

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cycling shorts

Posted by: Ian on 11 July 2014

The Belkin team car gives an insight into their training regime to get ready for this years Tour de France. I’m not sure this would work so well in less cycling-fanatic countries where the teams are less famous.

A few weeks before crashing out of the Tour, Chris Froome became the first person to ride from the UK to France. I think this would make an interesting TT stage, although there might be some challenges to overcome regarding live broadcasting.

You can also watch the making-of video here.

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britain’s first TdF winner

Posted by: Ian on 6 July 2014

More than half a century before Bradley Wiggins secured the first overall Tour de France win for Britain, Yorkshireman Brian Robinson was pioneering the way on the Continent to become Great Britain’s first Tour de France rider and also the first British stage winner.

In 1958, Brian was second across the line on Stage 7 into Brest. However, following relegation of Arigo Pavan for an incident at an earlier intermediate sprint, he became the first British stage winner. The following year on Stage 20, Brian attacked and took line honours by some 20 minutes; although he’d pay a heavy price the day after and narrowly avoid elimination1.


Brian Robinson in the 1959 Tour de France.

Today, at the age of 83, Brian still rides a couple of times a week, and was planning on riding some of the route of Stage 2 between York and Sheffield.



Year Palmares
1952 1st British National Hill Climb Championships
1954 Stage win, Tour d’Europe
1955 1st Tour of Pennines
1957 1st Grand Prix de Nice, La Forteresse
1958 Winner stage 7 Tour de France
Stage win Tour du Sud-Est
1st pursuit and omnium, de Guecho, with Jacques Anquetil
1959 Winner stage 20 Tour de France
1960 Stage wins Tour de l’Aude and Midi Libre
1961 1st Criterium du Dauphine Libere
Stage win Circuit d’Auvergne
  1. There was a rule that prevented elimination of the top 10 riders, Robinson was in 9th

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Posted by: Ian on 6 July 2014


via Instagram
It was really disapointing to see Cavendish go out on Stage 1, so here’s my Rich Mitch/ Rapha Cavendish who is watching with me tonight.

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Posted by: Ian on 8 June 2014


via Instagram

Miracle World in World Square never fails to deliver; not sure if these aid memory, reduce the need for sleep or something else a student needs.

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Posted by: Ian on 7 June 2014


via Instagram

I, for one, welcome our new giant Leporidae overlords.

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post apocalyptic

Posted by: Ian on 1 June 2014

via Instagram

I picked these guys up on San Francisco last year, but never posted a picture. Designed by Huck Gee, who’s stuff is awesome, but unfortunately mostly out of my price range (and I have no space!). These ones are Feral Girl, Copter Boy and Robot Geisha.

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Posted by: Ian on 26 May 2014

About a year ago, the See.Sense bike light popped up on my radar and I decided to back it on KickStarter. Last week, some four months later than originally advertised, it finally arrived at my door.

What’s in the box

Inside my DHL- delivered parcel is a rather nicely designed (recycled cardboard) box with the light visible through a little cut-out window. Not quite from the Apple design school, but aesthetically pleasing and gives all the information you might want if you were shopping for a new light.

SeeSense 1

After you undo the little sticker keeping the box closed and inside you’ll find the light along with two bungee-fasteners, instruction sheet and the worlds shortest USB cable. My light has green bits as it was one of the options for KickStarter backers.

SeeSense 2

The front of the light features clear plastic with fresnel lens built in for focusing, which is joined to the black back section and sealed with the green rubber strip. Under one side of the sealing strip is the USB port which will help keep it away from the direct water spray from the rear tyre.

SeeSense 3


See.Sense is essentially an ‘augmented’ light with a few sensors built in to adjust intensity and flash patterns depending on what data they receive. I’ve been using a 1W SuperFlash for a couple of years but thought that this looked (a) brighter and (b) more waterproof.

SeeSense 5

One thing of note is that there is no switch to turn the light on or off. Instead, you rotate the light left and right four times, at which point it will display the battery level before starting to flash.

[Via the See.Sense site]

To mount the light, you just grab one of the rubber bungees and strap it around your seat post. There aren’t any alternative fittings for seat stays or aero-posts, so if you don’t have enough space beneath your saddle or ride something with an aggressively aero design, you might have some issues.


Flashing Patterns

Its rather hard to evaluate the lights response to conditions as when you are on the bike it is underneath and behind you! From the testing I’ve managed to do, I’ve found the following:
  • Daylight running – slow flash every second
  • Low light – faster flash
  • Stopping/turning/car headlights – fast flash for 10 seconds.
  • Car Headlights – full on disco flash.
It was hard to assess the light in true darkness – doing laps of the unlit Centennial Park, it would settle down to a slow flash but would sometimes kick up to full disco. I’m not entirely sure why, but it might have been from stray light in the area.


I figured it would be tricky to get representative video of the flash pattern (due to too much light flooding out the camera), I decided to try and illustrate the brightness using a timed exposure instead, where the f-stop and ISO were also controlled.

The animation below shows the control condition (10 seconds, f3.5), a PlanetBike 1W SuperFlash, and finally the See.Sense. It should be fairly apparent as to which is which!


This animation probably down-plays the brightness of the SuperFlash – it is pretty bright from behind, it just doesn’t throw a huge amount of light downwards.

One aspect that I hadn’t really appreciated to start of with is how much light is thrown downwards, letting you ride in a pool of light, helping make you extra visible.


The See.Sense lets you adjust some of the settings (sensor use, brightness and flash on/off) to fit your preferences – It’s possible that if you ride in a bunch then full brightness might be a bit much for your riding partners. Again, since there are no buttons, a series of gestures are used. I found it a bit awkward at first but made more sense after a while and it seemed to work better once I started holding it upside-down for customising. It’s similar to changing the settings on a GoPro – lots of doing the same thing to step through menus. Maybe the See.Sense2 will include a BTLE chip and allow configuration through an app.


In the words of a famous tech-reviewing sporting blog writer, the average crowd funded project ‘will be late and under-deliver’, so is this true in case of See.Sense?

Late? – Yes. Shipping slipped around five months but at least the developers kept backers up to date with regular notifications and reasons for the delays.

Under-deliver? – Kinda. It wasn’t till recently I discovered that is no physical on-off switch as you turn it on with a series of gestures. The big upside of this is no switch to get wet and go wrong, however the downside is you have to physically remove the unit turn it on and then refit it – No reaching down behind you while riding if you feel you need some lighting as you go down a woody descent. The second feature that didn’t make it is the ‘time-out’ function were the light would work out you’d stopped for coffee or hung your bike up at the end of the ride. This is very disappointing – I guess I’ll just get used to fitting the light before every ride to turn it on. I’d really hoped to be able to grab it down from the wall and not have to faff.

SeeSenseNight 3


  • Very bright (120 lumen model) – approaching the levels of a Dinotte 300R
  • Good flash patterns
  • Rechargeable with 12 hour+ battery life


  • Have to remove to turn on and off
  • Limited fitting options
  • Not especially group-ride friendly
  • Website could really do with a ‘how it works and how it responds’ section.

From what I’ve seen so far, the See.Sense is a really great light. I feel that the lack of on/off switch and the time-out functions are annoying but not major drawbacks (the original Ay-Up lights lacked any means of turning them off as well). I really hope a later version introduces these functions and includes smartphone connectivity for changing the settings.

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shiny things

Posted by: Ian on 24 May 2014

via Instagram

Making money last as long as possible at the moment meant that the last chain suffered through some 10,000km of abuse. The wear-gauge showed it was between 0.75% and 1.0% stretched, so a new cassette was in order as well.

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