Kickstarter campaign for bike with retro-reflective tech paintjob to get noticed at night (+ gallery & video)

San Francisco's Mission Bicycle Company teams up with coatings firm for what it claims is a world first

by Simon_MacMichael   March 23, 2014  

Lumen pic 1

San Francisco-based Mission Bicycle Company has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a city bicycle that reflects light back from its frame and wheels. The company says the innovation is a world first and one that improves safety while riding at night.

Called the Lumen and claimed to be "the world's first commercially available retro-reflective bicycle," the bike was inspired by hyper-reflective street signs and is available in five sizes and three versions – one is single-speed, while the other two have 8-speed Shimano Alfine or Nexus hub gears.

According to the company, “by day the Lumen is a deep charcoal gray, with a slight iridescent sheen. The embedded reflective material adds a unique visual depth."

It adds: “At night, with direct light, the Lumen's frame and rims glow with dramatic effect. There's no on/off switch, no batteries required. This integrated illumination helps identify the rider to surrounding road users.”

So how does it work? Here’s an explanation from Mission Bicycle Company:

Not all reflections are the same. Retro-reflection works by returning light directly to its source, rather than bouncing, scattering or diffusing the light.

Retro-reflection is focused, creating a signal that is brighter and more intense. By coating the entire frame and both rims, the Lumen has more reflective surface area than any existing bicycle solution. Each bike will be painted with hundreds of thousands of microscopic spheres. As light enters those spheres it boomerangs right back to the source. This effect - known as “cat’s eye” - is visible up to 1,000 feet.

The company says that the reason such technology has not been used in bicycles before is that up until now it has only been able to be used in two-dimensional form, such as for painting lines on the road.

Now, however, Halo Coatings has devised a way for it to be applied to three-dimensional surfaces – including bicycle frames. Prototypes were made, and Mission Bicycles says “the results were astonishing, by both day and night.”

The Kickstarter campaign is aimed at bringing the bike into production. The frame of which is
hand-welded 4130 double-butted chromoly steel, with full details of each of the three versions available here.

The bikes themselves, anticipated to be delivered in July, feature among the rewards for those backing the project on Kickstarter.

Those pledging $20 or more get a reflective moon phase decal, and for $35 or more you get a reflective t-shirt.

A pledge of $499 (plus $49 delivery outside the US and potential customs charges) or more gets you a frame and forks (single speed or internally geared version).

Meanwhile complete bikes start at a pledge of $1,245 for the single speed and $1,545 for the hub-geared version, in both cases with $119 for delivery abroad.

With 24 days left, the project has achieved $10,875 of its $15,000 Kickstarter target.

18 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

It's not a world first though, you can achieve a similar result using some reflective tape.

Do you think we should tell them?

posted by chokofingrz [381 posts]
23rd March 2014 - 20:09

27 Likes

The difference is the finish looks fantastic by day, and then reflective at night. Unlike reflective strips, which look like reflective strips.

posted by Hicksdesign [10 posts]
23rd March 2014 - 20:32

35 Likes

First? Cough, no.. Even Halo Coatings have been using this advanced, possibly alien, technology since 2009.

Better option, and one that means you can pimp your own ride - work with your LBS and a local powder coating company, source the reflective powder (oh go on then), and you can also use other advanced technology such as gears, brake shifters and disc brakes. Shh. Let's keep this between ourselves, eh?

posted by Argos74 [327 posts]
23rd March 2014 - 20:42

26 Likes

I've amended para two to include the claim from the company that it is "the world's first commercially available retro-reflective bicycle," which hopefully clarifies.

If anyone knows differently, please share Smile

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9026 posts]
23rd March 2014 - 21:33

14 Likes

That reflective powder looks great, I was thinking about getting a frame resprayed and that'll be perfect for a commuter.

posted by GREGJONES [191 posts]
23rd March 2014 - 21:39

18 Likes

Surely the smart thing to have done would have been to patent the paint process/technology so that it could have been licensed to all bike manufacturers?

Personally, I'd be interested in the option to have *my bike frame of choice* painted with this technique (and might happily pay a premium for it) ... but I certainly don't want to buy an entire bike from some people who have invented some fancy paint.

posted by Joeinpoole [371 posts]
23rd March 2014 - 23:54

29 Likes

Joeinpoole wrote:
Surely the smart thing to have done would have been to patent the paint process/technology so that it could have been licensed to all bike manufacturers?

Personally, I'd be interested in the option to have *my bike frame of choice* painted with this technique (and might happily pay a premium for it) ... but I certainly don't want to buy an entire bike from some people who have invented some fancy paint.

Retroflectives are not a technology exclusive to this company, so expect to see more of the same coming soon, including normal coloured/team bikes. Make it hydrophobic too and they are on to a real winner.


I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1613 posts]
24th March 2014 - 0:02

21 Likes

Just had a frame powder coated for building a commuter. Wish I'd though of this!

could always do it myself... http://www.instructables.com/id/Paint-your-bike-bicycle-gear-reflective/

posted by SpaceFlightOrange [6 posts]
24th March 2014 - 7:29

10 Likes

Raleigh had a bicycle with retroreflective paint c. 15-20 years ago so you can also scrub the "first commercially available" line. Wave

Carlton Reid's picture

posted by Carlton Reid [118 posts]
24th March 2014 - 10:11

13 Likes

The Planet X Kaffenback 2 already has reflective paint in part... Since the texture is a bit 'soft sandpaper' I'm assuming it's retroreflective beads embedded in the paint.

posted by jacknorell [853 posts]
24th March 2014 - 10:17

18 Likes

Why on earth are people backing them at the "decal" or "t-shirt" level? I can almost understand backing them at the frame level or above, but really, this is a KS for a not-actually-that-innovative special paint job on otherwise run of the mill bikes.

Plus, my personal credo of "anyone promoting a 'city bike' that doesn't even have eyelets for mudguards and panniers should be shot into the sun" comes into play. If it's a "city bike" mudguards, full length, should be standard, basic, kit.

posted by Al__S [785 posts]
24th March 2014 - 10:56

15 Likes

It does look brilliant (see what I did there...), but I agree that it can be replicated easily. This is the problem with Kickstarter - in the 'old' venture capital world, the VC would tell you that the product already exists and you don't have a business model. With KS, 'ooh look shiny' overrides sense. Still, if people are happy...

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [1115 posts]
24th March 2014 - 13:51

5 Likes

Seems like a really complicated way to achieve what lights can do a lot easier

posted by jarredscycling [457 posts]
24th March 2014 - 15:17

7 Likes

I don't think this is an original idea. And I have 'issues' with the political meaning of this lighting/reflective arms-race we seem to have on our roads. But I do actually like the aesthetic effect, personally (I've gone for reflective cloth and cable ties, myself).

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [885 posts]
24th March 2014 - 15:22

8 Likes

This project looks a lot more achievable at home, doesn't require a new bike and (might cover a few bits of flakey paint work too.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Bright-Bike/

Messing around with paint and glass beads seems like a faff destined to leave your bike a mess.


I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1613 posts]
25th March 2014 - 2:24

10 Likes

The reflectivity is nowhere near as good as my frame (which is completely coated in diamond-grade 3m tape).

posted by vbvb [380 posts]
25th March 2014 - 17:21

3 Likes

vbvb wrote:
The reflectivity is nowhere near as good as my frame (which is completely coated in diamond-grade 3m tape).

1. How much did that cost?
2. How much tape did you use? Dimensions?
3. Where did you get the tape?
4. How much does it weight?

Merci pour votre information!


I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1613 posts]
25th March 2014 - 23:31

0 Likes

Blue reflective tape for the frame, as it's blue.
White on the front of the drops. Blue on the back.
Red on the back of the forks and seat stays.
All off eBay for about a tenner.
Schwalbe's with the reflective walls.
Doesn't look quite as nice in the light, but in the dark........
Good luck to them though.

22649_1344737937096_4084480_n.jpg
monkeytrousers's picture

posted by monkeytrousers [65 posts]
26th March 2014 - 9:16

1 Like