When Aaron Latzke and David Delcourt launched the Kickstarter campaign for their "Siva Cycle Atom," they gave themselves a month to amass $85,000. Two days later, they'd raised more than $58,000.
The masses (at least, those among them willing to send money to strangers on the Internet) have spoken: charging your iPhone with your bike is an idea worth throwing cash at.
But it's easy to understand the response. The concept behind the Atom is so obvious and obviously useful, it's hard to believe nobody has thought of it before.
On a business trip in Belgium, Latzke kept seeing these "bottle dynamos" — small electrical generators, often connected to the front light, that spin along the sidewall of a bike tire. As a cyclist, he said he was drawn to the low-cost, low-tech solution to riding at night. And as a mechanical engineer, he said he was convinced he could make it better.
After quitting his job to develop a prototype, Latzke met David Delcourt, who suggested taking the idea one step further — putting the kinetic energy of a spinning back wheel toward powering a battery pack or any USB device directly.
For those who lean toward a more absolutist notion of what cyclists and cycling should be about, the Siva Cycle product (and its campaign to ship free Atoms off to low-income countries) may reek of solutionism or commercialism or Apple-grade trendiness. Just watch the Kickstarter video. See three hip dudes riding down 17th Street, charging up their iPhones at they go. Cut, and now they're occupying the reclaimed wood of the Four Barrel parklet, hungry for Kouign-amanns and ready to tweet.
But it proves that bike culture is increasingly seen as just another part of mainstream commercial culture. And that's a good thing.
"We wanted to design [the Atom] in a way that wouldn't be intimidating to people," Latzke says. "Though a high-performance rider who used Strava might really benefit from this, it can be valuable to the commuter city rider, too."