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Reinventing The Wheel

Behind the scenes with Bike Engineers and Entrepreneurs. Fortified Bicycle Alliance.

Bruno’s Back from Shenzhen and He’s Bearing Gifts in the form of Bike Lights

The excitement level at Fortified HQ is reaching frightening new heights as we rapidly approach the best day of our collective lives.

That glorious day, of course, is the day that we get to deliver the world’s best bike lights to you, the world’s most supportive backers.

The big news of the day is that our rockstar Director of Ops, Bruno, has just returned from our factory in Shenzhen where manufacturing has begun.

In addition to brightening our office with his presence, Bruno came bearing wonderful gifts. No, we’re not talking about the traditional Chinese New Years masks we requested (although those are pretty nifty).

We’re talking about the golden samples of your new favorite bike light!

These magnificent samples are particularly encouraging because, unlike our prototypes, they were produced using the same molds and process that we’ll be using for mass production.

Check out the video below to see the samples in action and hear a brief rundown of the timeline for delivery.

 

Bike Light Manufacturing has Begun!

The current atmosphere at Fortified HQ can be best described as giddy. That’s because, after months of tweaks, banging our heads against the wall and exciting breakthroughs, manufacturing has begun!

Shipping is scheduled for the 2nd week of February. In fact, we’ve got Bruno, our rockstar Director of Ops, on the factory floor right now and he’s passed along some pictures to document the process.

We are always 100% transparent and want to show you everything, so check out the photos below and let us know what other parts of the process you’d like to see from the inside. As always, we’ll do our best to oblige.

Die cast parts just after they’ve been powder coated

Die cast parts just after they’ve been powder coated

Press fitting the parts together

Press fitting the parts together

Installing the printed circuit board with LED

Installing the printed circuit board with LED

Adding the lens

Adding the lens

 

 

 

 

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Charging and testing battery reliability

 

Sample on-site daily update from Bruno to Fortified HQ (click to enlarge)

Man vs. Machine: the (5000) Button Click Challenge

As city cyclists, we know that your bike gear is part of your everyday life and that’s why we obsess over every detail of our bike lights. Not just the big picture stuff like low-battery indicators and ensuring they’re theft-proof. We’re talking every detail, down to the fulfilling feeling of pushing an “on” button that feels just right.

Well, we’re proud to announce that after weeks of testing (that doesn’t affect ship date), we’ve nailed the button push. It features the perfect amount of give and produces an overwhelmingly satisfying “click.”

But how can we be sure that the button click will feel just as gratifying on its 5000th click as it does on its first? We could rely on theoretical physics or the promises of our manufacturers, but that’s just not the Fortified way.

Nope, the only way to be sure it feels perfect after 5000 presses is to actually press it…5000 times.

Slava Button Push

596 clicks….597….598…

Fortunately for Slava, one of our whiz engineers put on his MacGyver mullet and made a machine to do the job for us. Using an Arduino micro-controller, a servo motor, a C-clamp and lots of zip ties he hacked together this brilliant test jig.  He even added a light sensor to be sure the light was turning on and off.

Button Press Smaller

(Bonus feature: click here to see Will explaining how the jig works!)

Now we know that the 5000th button push feels just as good as the first : )

What other behind-the-scenes footage would you like to see? Leave us a comment and we’ll do our best to oblige!

Think You’re a Badass Cyclist? Meet the She Wolf Attack Team

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The She Wolf Attack Team (S.W.A.T.) is a women’s cycling club and development team based in Los Angeles committed to inspiring more women to ride, race and be a part of the cycling community. S.W.A.T. hosts weekly night rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays and co-hosts women’s night every Friday at the Encino Velodrome.  We met founder Susie Lowber at Interbike this year and were inspired by her love of cycling and her all out passion for leading rides though the dark streets of LA. The S.W.A.T. motto says it all: “The strength of the pack is in the wolf and the strength of the wolf is in the pack.”

Tell me a bit about S.W.A.T. How did it get started?

S.W.A.T. started from a monthly Tuesday day night Women’s ride (the C U Next Tuesday ride) where we explored the city at night, at a fast pace, often ending with donuts or beers.  Friendships grew and the idea to start our own race team was born. Over the course of about a year and a half a monthly ride turned into a cycling club with two weekly rides, and four race teams: Cyclocross, Track, Road and Street.

Who turns out for the rides?

We have a diverse group of women who turn out for the rides, ranging in age from 16 to 50 from different parts of town and all sorts of backgrounds.

How often do you ride?

We have two weekly rides.  A fast paced Tuesday night and a beginner friendly Thursday night. A lot of us also ride together on the weekends and Friday nights at the velodrome.

How do you get the word out about the rides?

It’s mostly word of mouth but we also use social media.  We have a Facebook group where ride details are posted, as well as a fan page

https://www.facebook.com/shewolfattackteam

Instagram http://instagram.com/shewolfattackteam

Twitter https://twitter.com/shewolfateam

What  sort of riding do you do, what sort of bikes/riders?

Tuesday nights are fast so it’s mostly modern road bikes and fixies.  Thursdays are a more casual pace so we get a bigger mix; hybrids, cyclocross and vintage road bikes mixed in with the road and fixies.

How did you find out about our lights?

We met the Fortified team at Interbike this year.  Most fun I’ve ever had in Vegas.  Bikes bikes bikes.

Do you have any long term goals for S.W.A.T.?

S.W.A.T. has a life of its own now, It keeps growing in ways I never expected.  My only goal is that we always stay true to our roots and always act as positive ambassadors for women’s cycling.

What person, living or dead, would you like to see show up for a Tuesday night ride?

Alfonsina Strada, a genuine badass.  In the 1920s she broke the rules and rode the Giro d’Italia.  She snuck into the race registering under the name Alfonsin and by the time the race organizers  found out it was too late.  Newspaper writers called her “The Devil in a Dress”.  On the third day she crashed and didn’t make the time cut but continued to ride and finished.  To this day she’s the only women to ride the Giro. She’s the definition of “so swat!”

Got questions for the She Wolf Attack Team? Leave it as a comment!

Manufacturing with One Hand Tied Behind our Back

Hi all,

Time for us to give you an update on how these lights are progressing.

Delivery Date: It’s mid-January now. That means you can’t give these as holiday gifts – and that makes us really sad.  Our advisors remind us, “that’s the nature of startups,” but such reassurances aren’t going to diminish our commitment to getting you the world’s best bike lights as soon as possible.

The Problem: The bike lights have 3 unresolved bugs:

1. Front housing is loose (recently solved! See below for details)

2. Lens on/off button is hard to push

3. Secret battery door is hard to open

The Good News: We know exactly how to solve each “bug.” 

The Bad News: We are limited in the changes we can make because we’ve already started the tooling (molds) for the bike lights.  We can tweak these molds, but the tweaks must be “steel-safe“.  While we’d love to create new tooling, this would push us back 60-90 days – and you can’t wait that long. Subsequently, our engineers are basically designing solutions with one of their hands tied behind their backs.

The Solution: Jonathan, our brilliant new MechE, came up with several workarounds. In short, he came up with a clever way to machine the parts after they come out of the mold, which enables us to test our various solutions to each problem.

Here are a couple pictures we wanted to show you of items we’ve recently machined.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 3.41.33 PM

Orange arrows point to the groove that controls the locking of the battery door.  These machined “jigs” are designed to dial in the battery collar locking/unlocking tightness. Too loose = water ingress. Too tight and it’s hard to open.  We wish we did these 12 months ago but each sample costs ~$1000 and we didn’t have enough money then.  Pennywise, pound foolish.  Lesson learned.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 3.44.30 PM

The front housing of the light was loose.  Jonathan, came up with a clever solution: he added “fins” (green arrows) that fit into “holes” (pink arrows) and keep the housing from moving.  We’ll explain the jiu-jitsu genius of this over a beer another time, but it is genius.

Next Steps: We’ve been on the phone with the factory from 9-10:30pm four night/week for the last 3 months in order to get these solution implemented. In the coming weeks, our factory will mirror these prototypes in preparation for mass production.  Once our solutions have been approved, our Director of Operations (Bruno) will be traveling to Shenzhen to oversee production.

Thanks for sticking it through with us – we can’t tell you how much we appreciate your support.

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