Posts in the category How To

#BIKESTARTUP: Five Deadly landmines to avoid when building bike products

Bicycle Landmines

Myriad landmines on the way to production. Source: especesmenacees

In the first three articles in this series you’ve learned to solve a customer pain with a bike product, build prototypes, and hunt for a quality contract manufacturer (CM) to build it in volume.  If you’ve done well in steps 1-3, you’ll have 3-5 viable CMs.

Now you get to choose one and mass-produce your dream product, the success of which will ultimately hinge on your ability to navigate myriad landmines. Watch out for these 5 in particular:

Landmine #1: Your CM Isn’t Excited About Your Company

You’re not IBM. You’re a tiny company no one’s heard of and your CM doesn’t care about your $100K first order. They do care, however, about your big, future orders. You MUST start by selling the big vision of your company and show them the product roadmap with their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In our case, every CM knows our vision: we are on a mission to protect city cyclists and “while we’re only placing this small, 5,000 unit order now, next year it’ll be 25,000 bike lights plus three new products.”  And it’s true.


Reader’s Rides: Building your Own Suspended Rollers for less than $150

ASJ suspended rollers

As cyclists, I know there are a lot of do-it-yourself types out there. Why spend your hard earned money on something on something you could build yourself, for less? If that sounds like something you would say and you’ve been looking for a better way to train indoors this Winter, here you go. If you know what rollers are, you are probably familiar with the Inside Ride E-Motion rollers which are fantastic. Basically, the roller frame floats back and forth on a separate frame which combined with additional support rollers for the rear wheel and front wheel bumpers makes roller use easier and more enjoyable. While the Inside Ride version will ultimately be more portable, not everyone has $900 to drop on something they only hope to use on the worst days of the Winter months.

Ever since suspended rollers became a thing, there have been DIY versions but few have the detail of the plans sent into us by Adam St. Germain. Compiled on the Short Handled Shovel blog penned by ASJ and Noah Jacobs, the DIY instructable takes roughly $125 of raw materials plus a set of rollers and transforms them into an impressively functional set of suspended rollers…


Home Workshop Series – Part 5 – The “Non-Standard” Tools


Having been a mechanic in other industries, it is a bit strange that cyclists are so attached to only purchasing and using tools made by bicycle tool companies. There are lots of great tools out there that may do the job better, cheaper, or different than the more specialized tools available from Park, Pedros, Lezyne or other cycling-specific tool companies.

One thing we all agree on, everyone should get a simple ratchet and socket set. Available for insanely low prices at places like Harbor Freight or other discounters, they are a great tool to have around, and most bicycle-specific fitments such as bottom bracket tools will have a fitment to be driven by a standard 3/8″ ratchet.

Take a look inside to see what other things we have adopted from outside the cycling industry to get our bikes on the trail…


#BIKESTARTUP – The First 3 Steps to Slaying the Manufacturing Dragon and Mass-Producing your Killer Product

Fourteen factories in three weeks: some incompetent, some inhumane, some overpriced, and one excellent.

Fourteen factories in three weeks: some incompetent, some inhumane, some overpriced, and one excellent.

Slava Menn is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Fortified Bicycle. He loves biking, building, entrepreneuring, and teaching. In this monthly series, he shares his team’s hard-learned startup lessons with aspiring entrepreneurs.

Our first articles showed you how to ease a pain with a product idea and how to go from idea to prototype. Assuming you’ve proven the concept viable and have a working prototype, it’s time to hit “go”on the production line and manufacture en masse, right? Not so fast – you first have to slay the meanest, nastiest dragon in the startup world: volume manufacturing.

We’ll get into price negotiation, quality control, and supply chain optimization later, but first we must learn to source an honest, quality manufacturing partner to take you from prototype to thousands of products.

Home Workshop Series – Part 3: Basic Tools & Kits To Start Working On Your Bike


Now, we start to dig into tools. Probably the most needed item in your home workshop, and the most common first purchase, a good set of common tools are needed for about 75% of your bike repairs. There are a lot of starter kits out there which might work for your needs. Or you can create your own kit from the suggestions here.

There are a lot of great tool companies such as Park, Pedros, Lezyne, Birzman, plus some lesser known ones like Lifu, IceToolz and Spin Doctor. And tools don’t have to come from a bicycle-specific maker. There are also tools that are worth buying the top-end right away such as the Park professional chain tool above, and some where the basic tool works just fine.

Both Zach and I have been professional mechanics in the past, but do all of our work at home now. Take a look inside as we discuss what works for us in building the starter tool kit for your home workshop….


Home Workshop Series – Part 1: How To Build A Home Workshop To Match Your Skills


As a cycling enthusiast, once you venture into the realm of owning more than a few bikes, it usually becomes time to work on them yourself. In this series, we are going to cover the idea of building your own home workshop, matched to the mechanical skills or limits that you have. Most of us will have a limit to the work or maintenance that we want to perform ourselves, leaving the more difficult tasks to the professionals that have the right tools. As we move through the series, we will cover all the areas of bike assembly and maintenance, and the tools needed for each task.

Part 1 will be about the primary tool of a home shop, a space to do the work. Working on a dirty bike in the kitchen will probably not win you any favors from your housemates, so it is important first to establish a place to set up shop. Jump in to the story as we discuss space, work benches, and storage…


#BikeStartup: 3 Steps to turning your big idea into a product cyclists will love

The various prototypes of the Fortified Defender

The various prototypes of the Fortified Defender

Slava Menn is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Fortified Bicycle.  He loves biking, building, entrepreneuring, and teaching.  In this monthly series, he shares his team’s hard-learned startup lessons with aspiring entrepreneurs.

Last month we discussed how haters will tell you not to start a company and why you should do it anyway.  Then we covered the first three lessons for launching your business:

  1. Turn your pain into a product idea
  2. Figure out if others need this product
  3. Do so qualitatively first (talk to people) then quantitatively (surveys)

Now that you’ve completed the first three lessons, you’re so confident the world needs your product that you start mass-producing thousands of units, right?  Not so fast…


DIY Video Shows You How to Give Your Bike the Tron Treatment

Victor Does is a web series based in Sweden that posts DIY tutorials for various projects, from building a beer can lantern to electrolysis rust removal. This particular video shows you how to turn your bike into a “Tron Style” glow in the dark vehicle. The point is to make your bike not only look rad, but also to add another safety component while riding at night. The glow in the dark paint portion of the video is simple, but the UV LED soldering component is a bit more complicated. For those of us with no electrical wiring knowledge, this video might not be completely comprehensive; you may have to dig around other sites to learn how to connect Ohm resistors in a parallel circuit. That, and making the wiring a bit cleaner. But if you’re able to get the required items and have the time to put them together, this could be a really great weekend project that would add another level of safety to your nighttime rides.

Bike Startup: Why They’ll Tell You Not to Launch Your Own Company, and How to Do It Anyway

Fortified Bicycle Defender theft proof six gun commuter bike light

Original Theft-Proof Defender Bike Light

I bet you have a really great bike product idea. Cleaner gear shifting, better pedals, lighter shocks, glow-in-the-dark tires, tastier supplements, smart-phone performance tracking. You watched countless Shark Tank episodes and Kickstarter videos and thought, “Hey, I can do this.”

When we launched Fortified Bicycle in 2012 we had lots of ideas, too. Like most ideas, ours were borne out of a problem. In our case the problem was bicycle gear wasn’t designed for urban cyclists. Our first bike light product came after a friend had his light stolen. Riding home that night he was hit by a driver who couldn’t see him. So we made the world’s first anti-theft bike light and it got our company off the ground.

Everyone told us not to do it, and they had genuinely good and persuasive reasons: the bicycle industry is really tough; making products in the U.S. is too expensive but if you make it overseas the Chinese will copy you; and so on. Our favorite came from an industry veteran: “How do you make a million dollars in the bike industry? Start with $10 million.”

Well, we did it anyway. And because we’re teachers at heart, we’ve shared our battle-learned lessons during guest lectures at MIT and Boston University, and in past articles. Now, we’re teaming up with Bikerumor to bring these lessons to future bike entrepreneurs in a new series. Let’s get started…