HomeNews & FeaturesPedalling for (Solar) Power: Solar Cyclist App supporting people in disadvantaged regions

Pedalling for (Solar) Power: Solar Cyclist App supporting people in disadvantaged regions

Cyclists are a charitable bunch and Australia has experienced a massive boom in the last decade with solo endeavours and tours to raise funds and awareness for worthy charities and causes. One of the side-effects of the Corona pandemic is that many sporting and charitable cycling events were cancelled so it is perhaps timely that the Solar Cyclist App has launched with a new charitable approach to enable riders to ‘pedal for power’.

The premise of the Solar Cyclist App is simple, when you cycle and accumulate distance, this funds the installation of solar panels and solar powered equipment within disadvantaged communities in East Timor, Africa and regional Australia.

The brand ambassador, Stuart O’Grady describes Solar Cyclist, “Imagine going for a ride and when you got home there was one cell of a solar panel on your roof. The next day after a ride, there is another cell. Every ride creates a new cell and before too long you’ve got a whole solar panel on your roof. This is how Solar Cyclist works, except the solar panels appear on the roofs of those who need it most.”

The spokesperson for the Adelaide based initiative Luke Lombe spoke with Christopher Jones of Bicycles Network Australia to describe how it works and who pays for it.

Christopher Jones: The app requires a Strava account which connects to the Solar Cyclist App. While cycling, would a rider use the Strava or Solar Cyclist App as their active app? 

Luke Lombe: Strava would be the active app. Once you have linked Strava and Solar Cyclist you don’t need to open or activate Solar Cyclist for each ride. It will automatically collect the ride data from Strava via API.

Christopher Jones: A rider generates one Watt with 600km riding distance – which then is committed to solar power infrastructure. A paid plan allows a rider to reduce this distance and, for example, to ride 99km to generate one Watt. Can you outline the costs for paid plans. From a rider perspective, is a paid plan like a charitable exercise? 

Luke Lombe: The paid plans vary from free; Bronze $5.99 per month; Silver $9.99 per month; Gold $14.99 per month; Platinum $24.99 per month. We operate on a similar cost structure to a non-profit. Approximately 20% of revenue is projected for general expenses with the remaining 80% going towards solar panels for those in need. A rider can actually achieve a multiple on their subscription that effectively translates into a better than 1-1 return on their money if they consistently ride. However, if you simply subscribe and don’t ride, then this doesn’t hold true and you’re probably better off donating directly.

solar cyclist

Christopher Jones: For riders on the free plan, who eventually funds or pays the costs for the purchase/installation of solar panels? 

Luke Lombe: Other riders on the paid plans will fund the cost. As we incorporate sponsors then major bike brands will also help foot the bill. If everyone stays on the free plan then we will certainly encounter some challenges! But we are confident that in the same way Candy Crush is free for most people, there are enough people that are willing to pay a small fee to sustain the business model.

Christopher Jones: Can you discuss gamification? The app has a leaderboard, which highlights how many watts of solar energy a rider has generated.

Luke Lombe: Solar Cyclist relies on the competitive nature of cyclists to outdo each other and climb the leaderboard. We will also feature challenges and campaigns that may be linked to real world events, such as the Tour de France or Tour Down Under. These challenges will encourage a friendly competition and rewards while providing real world benefits for those in need.

Christopher Jones: How do riders apply or achieve the upgrades/boosts which in turn reduce the total distance to ride to generate / donate the 1 watt value. What is the total amount of boost possible under the free plan (and corresponding distance). 

Luke Lombe: The app has only just been released so we are still working on feature upgrades. We will provide an opportunity for riders to improve their ‘virtual bike’’ with upgrades such as a lightweight frame or high quality gears. These upgrades may be linked to real world brands and riders can even be sponsored. For example, if a rider is thinking about buying a new GIANT bike, they can ask for sponsorship from Giant. GIANT may request that the rider shows evidence of their purchase and then they will be sponsored and their virtual bike will be provided with a boost of 20% (meaning the rider has to travel 480kms instead of 600kms on a free plan to generate 1 watt). There are a number of other integrations such as this that will be iteratively added to the app. 

For cyclists it accommodates minimal effort so installing then simply riding will slowly but positively contribute. It also means cyclists and business can also make a bigger impact with a paid plan or sponsorship. While Solar Cyclist relies on attracting enough subscribers and sponsors and on Bicycles Network Australia caught our attention as it is a clever approach for helping and moving towards sustainability.

Solar Cyclist Website: solarcyclist.com (May now be broken / abandoned)
APP Downloads: Apple iOS (broken) | Google Android

Christopher Jones
Christopher Joneshttps://www.bicycles.net.au
Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a design agency, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.
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