Claiming your bike is the "smartest in the world" is a bold statement to make, but Visiobike founder Marko Matenda isn't all talk. His Visiobike, currently looking for funding on IndieGogo, is packed full of technology, from its design to its deep smartphone integration. I caught up with Marko to take Visiobike for a spin.
"I was studying economics and I saw that the e-bike market is growing a lot," Marko told me. "I recognised an opportunity. My dad had brought an e-bike over from China, but it wasn't very good."
"Most e-bikes have typical bike frames with a battery just stuck on and you can see even from a distance that it's an e-bike. We decided to change that. We have hired professional designers and we made this sleek, unique, unisex design. It's different. People have never seen anything like this before."
The bike is certainly striking. The frame is made entirely from carbon fibre which, apart from making it lighter than similar aluminium bikes, makes it incredibly strong. It's so strong in fact that it doesn't need a central column where the saddle would sit, which lends the bike an extra modern twist. In fact, our meeting on London's South Bank was interrupted on several occasions by passers-by who had wandered over to ask about the bike -- which wasn't at all annoying, when trying to take notes. Thanks, Londoners.
The bike isn't just a design statement though. "E-bikes today have very basic controls," explained Marko. "My other passion is technology and gadgets, so my logical conclusion was to combine technology [with an e-bike]."
The Visiobike relies entirely on connecting with your smartphone -- the accompanying app will be on iOS and Android. To even turn the bike's motor on, you'll need to connect your phone over Bluetooth and input a security code. Once in, you're able to use Google Maps, track your route over GPS (as well as receive an alert if the bike is moved when you're not on it), and increase and decrease the amount of assistance the motor provides. Best of all, you can see behind you using a rear-facing camera positioned on the back of the saddle.
That camera is crucial to the bike's safety features. Its position lets you see traffic behind you, without needing to physically turn your head around, allowing you to focus on riding safely through traffic ahead. If you do have an accident, crash-detection sensors will set off a 60-second timer, after which your GPS location and a message will be sent to an emergency contact, unless you're able to stop it beforehand.
Of course, all the tech in the world won't mean a lot if it's horrible to ride. Thankfully though, the Visiobike is anything but. During my tour around the South Bank, dodging between tourists, I found it extremely comfortable. The electric motor kicks in gradually, slowly increasing its assistance (you can use the app to set how much help you want from the motor) while the automatic NuVinci gears use moving spheres instead of cogs to provide a seamlessly smooth transition through the range of gears.
The motor means that there's very little effort required on your part to get round. The instant power of the motor makes setting off from stationary at traffic lights is extremely easy. Even going at high speed -- the motor can take you up to 45kph (28mph) with a range of 120km (75 miles) -- I didn't feel like I'd exerted myself. If you want a bike to cruise across the city in your suit, arriving at your meeting not having broken a sweat, the Visiobike will do the trick admirably. On the other hand, if you want a bike to help get some exercise, I recommend looking elsewhere -- the low effort involved in riding isn't going to help burn those calories.
The downside to all this technology, however, is that it doesn't come cheap. It's on IndieGogo now, with a lofty target of €180,000, to be met by 7 July. A pledge of €3,900 (£3,170, $5,300, AU$5,730) is the minimum required to secure yourself a stripped-down model, with a slower 24kph (15mph) motor and without the automatic gears and rear-facing camera. You'll need to shell out €4,450 (£3,610, $6,050, AU$6,540) for the complete package.
The first run of bikes is scheduled to ship globally at the end of August, with following models being delivered on a "first come, first served" basis.