Bicycles are subject to many of the same rules of the road as cars but without the same protections.
You can upgrade a bike with lights and mirrors, but many cars come equipped with things like backup cameras and collision avoidance systems.
In 2013 there were an estimated 494,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries, according to the CDC. The Cedar Rapids startup AMP’d Cycles is looking to create a safer and smoother ride for cyclists using tech.
How AMP’d works
CEO Kyle Gatzmeyer got the idea for what became AMP’d while riding on RAGBRAI, the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. When he would stop for the night, he and a friend noticed people rushing to charge all the tech strapped to their bikes. He started toying with the idea of developing a more all-in-one design that could be built into the bicycle frame.
The idea was tabled for a few years while Gatzmeyer returned to Washington D.C. where he worked at the Pentagon. A commuter cyclist, Gatzmeyer was hit by cars three times in as many years.
“As a result, it became even more of a personal issue to increase bicycle safety,” Gatzmeyer said. “I’m a motorist too, and I want our products to help on both sides. When I retired from the military last fall, I started talking more with my friend from RAGBRAI, and it seemed like it was time to maybe give this a shot.”
One of the key components of AMP’d is a more intuitive lighting system, including turning signals and brake lights with a bright, steady light similar to a car’s brake light system.
“There are lights out there now, but they don’t really talk in a language that’s common to what motorists on the road understand,” Gatzmeyer said.
AMP’d is also developing a virtual rearview mirror that wirelessly communicates from the company’s device to a mounted smartphone, giving cyclists a real time look at what’s happening behind them. The device could come in handy by providing video evidence in case of an accident, as well as providing fun footage to share on social media.
Working with the Iowa Startup Accelerator
AMP’d is one of six teams participating in this year’s Iowa Startup Accelerator program at NewBoCo in Cedar Rapids. Gatzmeyer said his main focus with the accelerator is developing a solid foundation to build AMP’d off of. He’s already found resources, including pre-production and manufacturing, that he didn’t know were available in Iowa.
Over the course of the accelerator, Gatzmeyer hopes to complete a first minimum viable product to demonstrate functionality of the gear.
“We’re certainly on the path to be able to convey the tech we want to build,” Gatzmeyer said. “I think it will resonate when people see it.”
Farther down the path
For now, the plan is for AMP’d to start as a compact kit that can be added onto any bicycle fame. But the company’s full name, AMP’d Cycles, provides a hint for long term plans.
“The ultimate goal down the road is building our own frames to fully integrate this tech, as well as having the bikes generate power to support the systems as well.
“In five years, I’d love to see AMP’d have its own line of fully integrated bicycles, especially for city and utility commuters. I want to help people have a safer experience getting to work or the grocery store. The city bicycle market is something that is definitely growing, but it doesn’t have a huge market like roadside and mountain biking. We want AMP’d to help initiate its growth.”
Joe Lawler is a freelance reporter based in Des Moines.