Jacqueline Lopez and Brandon Smith of LED By LITE have pushed a product that illuminates bikes 360 degrees around cyclists for optimum visibility. Photo: Tacara De Tevis
Some days, biking on busy streets is fucking miserable: being constantly screamed at, cursed at, called a faggot and, on some occasions, being pelted with half-eaten food. To many drivers, bike commuters are an infuriating nuisance, and are certainly not taken seriously. It is hard to have a commanding presence on the road on your 25-pound Univega when two-ton cars are flying past you, forcing you onto the shoulder. Nighttime can be even worse—establishing a presence is a pretty tough task with two puny, blinking LEDs.
LED By LITE started with this conundrum in mind, their goal being to establish and emphasize a rider’s presence on the road. Approximately two years ago, Brandon Smith and Jacqueline Lopez began this project as a hobby, building lights for Brandon’s Peugeot. The eye-catching LED strips (which are selling at their beta-test stage, at this point) drew a great deal of attention from fellow cyclists, and Brandon saw a market and an opportunity: lights made to be seen (not necessarily for the rider to see the road), and that couldn’t be missed. Being visible is essential to a rider’s safety as well as an integral step toward helping even the most stubborn drivers accept the idea of sharing the road. “We are definitely targeting the everyday rider, someone who does a lot of traveling on a bicycle [who] uses major roadways—instead of competing with traffic—trying to share space, [and] be relevant,” says Brandon. With a product in mind, Brandon and his father, Rick Smith, got to work developing the light systems. “My dad has been a huge part: He found a way to make it portable and put it on my bike—without him, we wouldn’t be where we are,” says Brandon. After a couple years of hard work, Brandon, Rick, Lopez and Juston Smith (Brandon’s brother) had a finished product and eager consumers.
The light systems contain between 36 and 48 lights (depending on the package), one wireless controller and one battery pack. The battery pack boasts a 12-volt single-cell lithium ion battery, which is water resistant and chargeable via mini-USB. The battery lasts for about eight hours when in constant use, and the ability to recharge it means no more buying tons of expensive watch batteries (like with fucking Knog lights). The main draw and most significant and unique function is definitely the turn signals, which are controlled by a detachable, wireless remote. Along with increasing safety, the turn signals create a common ground between bikes and cars, and will hopefully change some drivers’ minds about a bike being a viable option on the roads. “That’s kind of why we integrated the turn signals: Giving people behind you a heads-up of what you’re doing, [so] they can anticipate where you’re going … The drivers around you definitely appreciate you a lot more,” says Lopez. The light strips also offer a few different settings for visibility, the most visible being a pulsating option inspired by the motorcycle industry. The system is intended to be used during the day as well as night, since visibility is always a concern. The entire system is easily removable and pretty small, so you can take it off when you go inside of the bar and not have to worry about some asshole stealing it. It is also pretty crash resistant (they tested the strips by running them over with a car), so even daily riders will have a hard time wrecking it.
After getting a working system and 100 units produced, they took it on the road to Interbike (an expo the size of Outdoor Retailer with just bike stuff) to prove the concept. Interbike gave them the chance to show off the lights to people involved in the industry from around the world, and people loved the idea. The 100 units sold quickly, with 90 percent going out of state, some internationally. After having to turn away customers due to lack of an inventory, LED By LITE is gearing up for another production run. “We had local electric engineers do our circuitry and a company up in Ogden do our molding,” says Brandon. They should have another 100 units in May with a 3,000-unit run available sometime this summer.
LED By LITE has a unique concept, and a well-built product. With rising gas prices in Salt Lake and the introduction of more bike lanes and bike-friendly infrastructure, bike commuting is becoming a more reasonable option for many people. The market for commuter-oriented products is continuing to grow, with safety as the biggest concern, and LED By LITE offers a unique take on an indispensible safety product. Brandon and Lopez have a strong presence in the local bike scene (taking part in many group rides and alleycats, and offering lights as prizes for Velo Weekend)—they have been generating interest at home as well as abroad. Looking toward the future, it shouldn’t be too tough for them to generate some word of mouth, with every customer becoming a moving billboard for the product. Join the 999 Ride or Midnight Mystery Ride this summer to get a chance to check out the lights in person. They range in price from $125–$175, which is way cheaper than being hit by a fucking car—check them out at ledbylite.com