There looks to be no slowing down of the trend to more and more connected bikes on the roads, and the VanHawks Valour is the most recent to hit the streets. We had a quick look at the bike a year and a half ago when it was just a Kickstarter in its designers eyes, but just before the holidays the first shipment of bikes was making its way out to US customers, so now it’s time for a closer look. Touted as the first smart bike, the Valour is packed full of all kinds of sensors and pairs with your smartphone to help navigate through the city streets, log all sorts of ride data, and keep both its rider and itself safe. Roll past the break for a closer look at all of its tech…
What sets the Valour apart are two main features: its integrated navigation setup and its wealth of sensors. The Navigation works with a series of subtle LEDs integrated into the bar. They simply flash in the direction of the necessary turn, in a manner similar to the SmartHalo we’ve featured recently. It is meant to be fairly intuitive but not intrusive, and can even signal a u-turn as in the .gif above.
As for the sensors, it includes: a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, speed sensor, GPS receiver, and blindspot detection sensors. Power all of that with a dynamo front hub and pair via Bluetooth to a smartphone and you also have access to, of course routing, but also Vanhawks’ mesh-network of other connected bikes. The whole system build on collection and integration of data. The rear proximity sensors for example scan behind you up to 3m/10′ and signal the bar with a haptic feedback alert that vibrates the bar under your grips if something enters your blindspot.
The Valour bike itself is built around a fairly straight-forward carbon fiber frame and fork, setup for city riding with a Gates belt drive and sliding rear dropouts. The bikes are intended for city riding and come spec’ed with 32mm Vittoria Randonneur tires and premium Ergon contact points. Base bikes come with a singlespeed hub for $1250, but a internally geared Nuvinci N360 setup adds just $250. All bikes get Avid disc brakes, BB5 standard and BB7s as an upgrade.
The Valour collects a lot of data, but it is your smartphone and the Vanhawks companion app that do all of the crunching. Their Smart Routes learns your favorite routes and even detects which ones have the smoothest surface, least traffic, and fastest times to suggest new routes, plus it adds in the data collected by other Valour riders. The Ride Metrics tracks all of your basic ride performance data for use in training and fitness. No word yet if or how it will mesh with popular sites like Strava. Lastly the Mesh Network works to keep your bike safe. Its crowd tracking system keeps an eye out for other Valours with the idea that it can track down your bike if it ever happens to be stolen.
The first production bikes were actually being delivered a little behind schedule. But looking back at it, that was actually a smart move on the part of Vanhawks. In the switch from small batch prototype numbers (white) to full production (black), they uncovered a reduction of the waterproofness of the all-important handlebar with its integrated electronics. Instead of shipping out an untested production part, Vanhawks had spent the time and effort to retest their sealing system and it didn’t live up to their desires. So they communicated the issue directly with their early backers, went back to the factory, and figured out a revised solution to deliver the performance they wanted. While that is something we can expect from a big brand, it’s a good indicator for a young start-up or their quality and attention to detail.
The first limited run of 52 bikes was delivered to early backers a few weeks ago, with the next run of around 500 still limited to crowdfunders expected to ship anytime now. But even if you buy now, Vanhawks expects to deliver current orders to North American and European customers as soon as February 2016.