Introducing Product of the People: Help Design a Bike Light

Posted by Slava Menn

We were big fans of the theft-resistant Defender bike light, by Gotham Bicycle Defense Industries, when we saw it on Kickstarter. (So was everyone else; it surpassed its $18,000 fundraising target in about a day.) Now, company founders Slava Menn and Brad Geswein are starting work on their next product, and they want the GOOD community to help guide the process, weighing in on everything from design to name in hopes of creating an excellent crowdsourced product. We'll be posting occasional updates on the GOOD site. Below, Slava explains the challenge:

"Why did you come to America?" the reporter asked Dmitri, standing outside the immigration office in Boston’s Logan airport on a clear and cold February morning in 1981. Holding his 6-month-old son, Dmitri, who had fled the Soviet Union, cleared his throat and answered with the largest word in his English vocabulary, "opportunity." The baby in his arms was me.

Invention was a religion in my home—my father has been inventing since he arrived in America. Growing up, How Stuff Works was my bible, Nikola Tesla and Dean Kamen were my idols, MIT was my Mecca. Our suburban basement workshop was my place of worship, overrun with oscilloscopes, Audi transmissions, and intra-aortic balloon pump prototypes. 

But despite his years of work and many brilliant prototypes, my father was never able to bring a product to market because the deck is stacked against independent inventors. Huge corporations largely control what gets made. As a result, innovation is rare, and crap is common. Witness the Pontiac Aztek, Windows Vista, and those Kryptonite bike locks that you can open with a Bic pen.

But that's starting to change. Invention is being democratized through a number of forces, most notably the commoditization of rapid prototyping and the rise of crowdfunding. This is all part of what futurist Paul Saffo calls our new "creator economy."

When my business partner Brad and I invented our first product, a theft-resistant bike light called the Defender, we surveyed our friends to help us make decisions about the design, the locking mechanism, and even the material. The Defender was designed by independent inventors and approved by citizen cyclists.

Now we want to take that idea a step further. We want to make a true Product Of The People. We’re sick of crappy bike products. We’re sick of duct-taping, zip-tying, and throwing away poorly-designed bike lights, fenders, and locks. As city cyclists, we know what makes a good product. In fact, together, we can make a better product than the big bike brands.

Brad and I are just beginning work on a new product, a rear bike light, and we want you to tell us what to build. Over the next several weeks, we'll ask you to vote to help us figure out what features to incorporate, what designs look and work best, and what the thing should be called.

To kick things off, we want your thoughts on where the light should be mounted. There are three options below, with some initial thoughts on their pros and cons. Vote using the polling widget at the bottom of this post. Voting will close this Friday, May 11, at 9 p.m. EST.

Where's the best place to mount a theft-resistant rear bike light?

On a bike rack: If you have a rack, this is the farthest point back on your bike, so nothing can obstruct the light. If you don't have a rack, though, this is a nonstarter. And if someone steals your bike rack, they get the bike light too.

On the seat post: This is the most common place to mount rear lights because it's convenient and higher from the ground for better visibility. But if someone steals your seatpost, they get the bike light too. Also, a light mounted here might be obstructed by bike baskets or saddle bags. 


On the seat stay: Unlike the seat post, this section of the bike can't be removed because it's a part of your bike frame. But it’s lower to the ground and further from a driver's eye level and potentially obstructed if you have a bike rack.