Interview with Jim Houk of Revolights
- by Christopher Jones
- Published: 22 March 2012
If your eyes light up when ever you see bike gadgets and technology, you have probably already spotted the Revolights. The trio, Kent, Jim and Adam of the San Francisco Bay Area took on Kent’s idea for a new type of bike light and developed further. Launching it on the crowd funding portal Kickstarter, the team was aiming to raise (US) $43,500 start capital.
So what happens when you raise $215,000 instead? I asked Jim Houk of Revolights a few questions for Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) to find out how their plans have evolved after such successful funding as well as discussing technical and safety details.
If you are not yet familiar with Revolights, the quickest way to understand how Revolights work is to watch the short video (below).
BNA: With the success of Revolights on the US based crowd funding portal KickStarter where you raised $215,000, five times your goal – does this make Revolights a full-time project for your team?
Jim Houk: This has been a full-time “project” since we began our kickstarter campaign but the ultimate goal is to make this a full-time job! We have not achieved this goal yet but are in the midst of a large transitional period for the founding team and the company.
BNA: Do you see the Revolights as a replacement for lights at night or complimentary?
Jim Houk: We believe that one of the unique aspects of the Revolights bike lighting system is that it satisfies all of a cyclists lighting needs. It provides traditional headlight and taillight illumination as well as 360-degree visibility. This is an all-in-one bike lighting solution.
BNA: Have you come across any safety issues or regulations that affect or limit how the Revolights can be used on the streets?
Jim Houk: Our goal is to increase safety for cyclists and have not encountered any safety issues with our bike light system thus far. We are very aware of safety concerns and consider this the number one design priority. There are various regulations that bike lights must comply with across all jurisdictions. This is a huge undertaking that we’ve done a ton of research on. At this point, we are working to address the US regulations prior to our US launch in late June ’12. We plan to tackle international regulations as we move into those markets.
BNA: Without any doubt, the Revolights make a cyclist at night visible, are there any concerns that other road users could be distracted by cyclists with Revolights – considering how different they are to other lighting systems?
Jim Houk: That is something that has been brought to our attention and we think is a fair question. We feel strongly that our bike lights do a great job of identifying the location and direction of cyclists by mimicking other vehicles on the road. We really want to bring awareness that cyclists share the road with all other vehicles. Distractions are a reality on every road and the added visibility created by the Revolights bike lighting system help make the roads safer for everyone.
BNA: Often bike lights are shielded so that the rider sees the beam rather than the light source – with the Revolights, the light source will be directly in the field of vision – could this affect visibility (hotspots that close the riders pupils, and mean the visibility of darker / non-illuminated areas is poorer)?
Jim Houk: Another great question! The lights are actually timed to only illuminate the forward and rearward arcs of the wheels which eliminates this issue. In addition, while projecting 134 lumens from headlight, it is a more diffuse light that creates a “big picture” view of the road ahead as opposed to traditional lights which can be a little more like having “tunnel vision”.
BNA: The battery has a projected life of four hours – could this be a rechargeable battery and do you see the possibility for longer life batteries or even hub dynamo power?
Jim Houk: The current version uses a Li-ion USB rechargeable battery which is a very efficient energy source for powering LEDs. We have plans to incorporate the wheel rotation as a power source in the future but don’t have a solid timeline for that version at this point.
BNA: The launch is due mid 2012 – are you however still thinking about phase 2 ideas or completely new ideas.
Jim Houk: We are working hard to finalize this version and get it to the market. While this is our primary focus, we do have phase 2 ideas (ie. wheel rotation as the power source) and different applications of this technology that will allow us to grow the business and address additional needs. We are very excited about the future.
BNA: Thank you kindly for your answers – we wish you ongoing success and a great start when Revolights become available.
You can keep up-to-date with Revolights on their website: www.revolights.com. The US retail price is $220 and will originally fit 700c (622mm) wheels. The wheels are planned to be released in the US in late June after which the team will look into overseas markets which is both in logistics (distribution) and safety standards compliance for each country.
Note: The lights won’t flicker as in the video, this effect comes from shooting with the camera. Also when stationary, the lights won’t rotate instead on the production versions will form an static arc.