SpeedX. Why I’m not buying into their hype.

//SpeedX. Why I’m not buying into their hype.
SpeedX Leopard... Rule 1 of taking bike photos, chain MUST be on the big ring.

SpeedX Leopard… Rule 1 of taking bike photos, chain MUST be on the big ring.

I’m not buying into the hype being put out there by SpeedX and you probably shouldn’t either.

If you aren’t familiar with the SpeedX story, SpeedX was a crowdfunding gem that launched in 2015 touting the “world’s first smart bike”, the SpeedX Leopard.  For $1700 USD today, prospective owners would buy themselves a carbon frame, Shimano 105 spec bike with an integrated bike computer and rear light, internal cable routing, and “competition level performance”.  From a value perspective, its a good deal.

The big problem is that as of the writing of this post, October 2016, the company has yet to deliver a bike to an end user or hand the bike over for a test ride to a respected bike publication.  Though there are a small handful of reviews out there from tech pubs like Engadget and TechCrunch  talking about how amazing the bike is, its feedback from folks who review electronics for a living, rather than bikes.  And in the year since the Leopard launched, they’ve also launched the Leopard Pro (a higher end bike with an Ultegra spec), the Leopard AL (an aptly named aluminium variant of the Leopard), and the Mustang (a hardtail carbon mountain bike).

First of all, I think its patently wrong for a company that has yet to deliver a product to continue selling bikes and collecting money from consumers when they’ve yet to demonstrate that they can produce a finished product. More to the point, some internet searching and forum posts will show you that backers for the project have seen delay after delay in the delivery of the products they’ve paid for, and that Facebook comments on company posts and sponsored posts are routinely monitored by the company and negative comments and deleted.

But I’m not going to focus on that any more than I already have.  Assuming you’re a prospective SpeedX owner doing some much needed internet research on whether or not you should shell out your hard earned bucks on a Leopard, I’m going to spend the rest of this post talking about just how well the rest of the industry already stacks up against what SpeedX offers.

The Computer

garmin-edge-820-overview_thumb

Garmin Edge 820 (Photo- DCRainmaker)

What makes the SpeedX bikes “smart” (allegedly) is the integration of a stem mounted bike computer.  The computer itself doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of cycling metrics and information. Nor is it anything special with regards to communication with other devices like your smartphone. That’s not necessarily a knock against it, but it shouldn’t be the key selling point.

The question I’d ask is why would a rider want to have a computer that can’t be moved from bike to bike, or upgraded in the future.  The Garmin Edge 820 is a comparably sized computer that can display more data fields, and features innovative new things such as crash notification that lets loved one know if something’s happened to the bike/rider, and rider tracking that lets you see on a map where your friends that you’re riding with are.

The Garmin Edge 820 was rolled out in the time since the SpeedX smart bikes were originally introduced.  The electronics industry runs on an even shorter product life cycle than the bike industry which is why companies like Garmin and Wahoo roll out new products seemingly at every new electronics (CES) and bike product expo (Interbike).  In that sense assigning so much of the bike’s value as a “smart bike” to the integrated computer is as much a weakness as it is a strength for SpeedX.

From what I can see of the computer, besides stem integration, SpeedX brings nothing new to the table.  As someone who owns four bikes, I’d actually be annoyed at having a single computer dedicated to a single bike (yeah, I know that having a single bike, let alone four bikes is a luxury). So I can’t help but feel that SpeedX has answered a question that no one asked with a stem integrated bike computer.  And I truly believe that by the time backers end up with the bike in hand, the computer is going to be pretty much obsolete anyways.

Size and Fit

Buying a bike without riding it is like buying a $2000 suit without knowing the size.  I can’t stress this point enough.  To search your size on the SpeedX site, the site simply asks you to check your inseam (without shoes, obviously), and then you’ll magically know your bike size.  And when you know your bike size, you’ll magically know your stem length.  If you go into a bike shop and tell them you have a 30 inch inseam and ask them to tell you what bike size you should ride, they ought to quickly correct you and take the time to educate you on how complex bike fitting actually is.

At the shop I work for, when it comes to road bikes, we almost always have the guest ride one or two different bikes in a particular model just to be sure what frame size is closer for them.  Recognizing that most riders can ride two different sizes we then ask what kind of riding they’re doing, how their flexibility is, how often they plan to ride, and how long do they see themselves owning the bike.  For example; a more experienced rider may ride a smaller frame in a more aggressive position; a less flexible or older rider will have a vastly different fit than your favourite yoga instructor; riding 30km a week will require a different fit than riding 230km a week; someone keeping the bike for three years will grow into the bike differently than someone just doing their local charity ride; etc.

After we figure out what size frame the rider needs, then we start to spend time dialling the bike fit in.  This can take 10 minutes, or it can take an hour.  I’ve been lucky enough to be made for Trek bikes and I can ride most of their bikes in my size straight off the rack with just a change of the seat height.  But with other riders we’ll change out the stem to put a longer or shorter stem on, with varying angles of stems depending on how high or low we want the stem to be for that particular rider’s preferences.  Additionally we can change the fore/aft position of the saddle, add/remove spacers on the heat tube to change the height of the front of the bike, and play around with tilt of the handlebars to make sure the wrists are comfy.

Looking at just the rider’s inseam really just gives us about 10% of the equation.  Beyond that, different bike brands and models fit differently depending on who the bike’s target rider is.  I ride a 54cm Specialized Langster which is a pretty upright, chill ride, and a 51cm Trek Madone which is a low, aggressive race bike.  Two totally different fits, for the same rider.

In tech terms, can you gauge how fast a computer is just based on how much RAM it has?  Would you bet your entire purchase on it?

Other, Better Bikes

defy-adpro-0-comp

Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0

A couple of years ago, a carbon frame bike for $1700USD with Shimano 105 components and a computer would have been a pretty legit deal.  Today, not quite as much.  Today you can walk right into you local bike shop and buy a bike like the carbon fiber Giant TCR Advanced 2 for $1650 with exact same Shimano 105 components as the SpeedX Leopard.  And while you’ll have to shell out a couple extra bucks for a bike computer like the Garmin Edge 520 for $300USD, I can guarantee you that you’ll have a bike that’ll fit so long as you go to a reputable shop for your purchase.

[Note: Giant Bicycles is the largest bike manufacturer in the world, manufacturing bikes for themselves, and other brands as well.  By taking advantage of economies of scale, they can provide hands down the best value on bikes, while offering top tier quality products.  I’ve owned Giant’s in the past and they’re fantastic bikes.  They aren’t my favourite bike brand, but they’re the real deal when it comes to value and quality.]

The SpeedX Leopard Pro is another bike in SpeedX’s quiver that offers higher end product specs with Ultegra Di2 electric shifting, and comes in at the $3200USD price point.  To be honest, thats quite an impressive deal and I foresee some individuals asking about what compares to that on today’s bike market.  The Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0 is a full $1500USD more expensive than the Leopard Pro for a comparable component groupset (but with hydro disc brakes).  But what consumers ought to realize is that bike manufacturers invariably provide higher end groupsets on higher end bike frames.  Where SpeedX differs from traditional bike manufacturers is that they’ve kept the bike frame the same and just swapped out the components, tacking on a full $1500USD to the bike price in the process (full disclosure; they also swapped out the saddle and handlebar).  You can see this for yourself right on their website on the specs sheets for the Leopard and Leopard Pro.  And what’s interesting is that you can go onto an online retailer like Wiggle.com and buy a full Ultegra Di2 groupset for under $1200USD.  Go figure.

Bike manufacturers put higher end groupsets mostly on higher end bike frames recognizing that a consumer ready and willing to shell out a month’s pay doesn’t want an entry level carbon bike frame on their high end purchase.  Higher end carbon frames use higher quality carbon fibre in different layup patters to change characteristics on the bike like vertical compliance (how much vibration the bike transfers to the rider), lateral stiffness (how flexible the bike is on the horizontal axis, translating to how much power is transferred to the road), weight (stiffer, higher end carbon means you can use less of it to manufacture the frame, making it lighter overall), and overall strength.

Not all carbon frames are created equal and putting a high end groupset onto a low end frame would be sort of like taking the transmission out of a Audi R8 and then putting it into a Jetta and telling consumers that the Jetta is almost as bad ass as the R8.

Other Costs

When another crowdfund bike, the Vanhawks Valour, came out, people were similarly stoked on the allure of a game changing carbon fibre, reasonably smart bike. The bike had everything including; a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer (don’t know why you need that on a bike), speed sensor, GPS receiver, blindspot detection sensors, and LED lights.  I know a couple people who were stoked to receive theirs and it genuinely was a unique bike in that there were very few high end commuter oriented bikes on the market at that time, certainly none with that level of component integration.

But when the bikes arrived at consumer’s homes, they arrived the same way they do when a bike arrives at the local bike shop, in a big brown box.  Which begged the next question, how on earth do you assemble a bike?  The answer is you don’t, your local bike shop does.  Assembling a perfectly tuned bike is closer to solving a 4×4 rubix cube than assembling Ikea furniture.  At first blush you’re pretty sure you can figure it out, but something always keeps you from getting it right.  And like that frustrating rubix cube, there’s always someone who can do it in just a few minutes and make you feel like an idiot.  If you’ve read this post this far and are still wondering about the SpeedX, I can guarantee you that you don’t have the technical aptitude to perfectly assemble a carbon bike with internal cable routing and an integrated rear light.

And how much does a bike assembly cost do you ask?  Anywhere from $100-$500 depending on the shop and bike.  You can sometimes pay bike shop mechanics in beer or cupcakes, but don’t count on that unless you’ve got a great relationship with the shop.  The more complex a bike is, the more things are likely to go wrong, and the more time consuming the build.  And while the Leopard is far less complex than the Valour was, or other much higher end bikes like the BMC Time Machine and Trek Madone, its still going to be a complex build thats going to set you back a few bucks.

This also isn’t to mention things like customs and brokerage charges, and shipping fees that you may have to pay if something needs to be warranted on the bike.  Speaking for myself and other savvy consumers, I know that the benefits of purchasing product online can quickly be eroded by unforeseen customs and brokerage fees that could climb into the hundreds of dollars depending on delivery service.

Closing Thoughts

Computer got me like... Meh...

Computer got me like… Meh…

If it seems like I’ve got an axe to grind with SpeedX, I do.  I strongly believe in supporting local brick and mortar bike shops and that certainly plays into my attitude towards SpeedX.  But those local bike shops genuinely want the opportunity to develop a relationship with you and they want to help you find the bike that really fits your needs.  And while not all shops are created equal, and some I love, and some I loathe, I believe local shops deserve the chance to earn your business if you’re shopping for a bike.

Now with SpeedX, competition breeds innovation, and I thank them for that.  But what I find genuinely disconcerting about SpeedX is how long its taking for bikes to be delivered to customers and how reluctant they are towards providing independent bike testers and publications with bikes for long term test rides, all the while paying for Facebook ads and releasing new products.  Its upsetting for me to see consumers who are legitimately stoked on a bike, shell out thousands of dollars and then be strung along with delay after delay.  If backers held SpeedX to the same standard as any other brick and mortar retailer, they’d be banging the door down and asking for their money back.  But under the guise of innovation SpeedX seems to be taking advantage of consumers, and at the time of writing of this post they’ve been unable to fulfill the commitments they’ve made.

SpeedX’s target consumer isn’t the avid cyclist who is shopping around for a new rig.  Its the entry level cyclist, who’s probably reasonably tech savvy, who wants to get out on a road bike.  There’s something alluring about a new road bike, or full suspension mountain bike, that just causes enthusiasts like me to gravitate towards the new and shiny.  I don’t like to see companies take advantage of that draw to sell products.

SpeedX’s latest bike, its fifth model despite not having fulfilled orders on the first model, is called the Unicorn.  Its literally named after a fictional spirit animal that doesn’t exist in reality.  They got that right.

By | 2017-01-15T11:44:57+00:00 October 20th, 2016|Bike, Featured|10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Sebastian November 23, 2016 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Raf thanks a lot for your detailed insights and thoughts. Some points are really good and interesting!

    In some points your research nevertheless is miserable. Two examples: You state that the company does delete negative comments – i am following quite close as i backed on Indiegogo – no they don’t. Sorry.

    Second and this is really bad. You are saying they are just selling the same bike with swapped groupset and saddle, handlebar and so thats not a good deal. You missed a carbon wheelset in your calculation. Changes it totally of course.

    But anyway, thanks for the points, really interesting to read.

    • Raf November 27, 2016 at 12:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the comments Sebastian. With regards to the negative comments, thats in specific reference to paid promoted posts that the company was using to advertise on Facebook. That being said, I suppose it may be different ads with different comments that have been appearing over and over in my feed. I have however seen valid backer inquiries regarding bike delivery timelines mysteriously disappear. But we can agree to disagree.

      With regards too the carbon wheelset, the specs pages for the Leopard (https://en.speedx.com/leopard/specs.html/) and Leopard Pro (https://en.speedx.com/leopardpro/specs.html/) both indicate that the bikes are equipped with a “SPEEDX 50MM WHEEL SET”. As a backer you may be privy to some information that I may have missed in my review. I’ll absolutely correct my review if you can point me to the spec sheet that says otherwise.

  2. Dave December 13, 2016 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Raf, this indiegogo page shows the carbon wheels vs aluminum for leopard pro vs leopard… inhttps://www.indiegogo.com/projects/speedx-leopard-first-ever-smart-aero-road-bike-bicycle#/ And BTW – as far as I know this bike is only one of three that has totally internal cable routing (the other two are the venge and madone – and those are at least 3 times the price). I think there is some value in that. As for the LBS, I plan to take my speedx there to have them true the wheels and such things before my first ride and will take it there for tuneups. So, I plan to continue to support my LBS as well. As for the wait, it’s been hard to be patient but I have a decent road bike now which I’m happy with so I’m not too put-out by the wait (some are finally hitting the streets in the US).

  3. scott February 24, 2017 at 3:46 am - Reply

    Raf, I own a Speedx bike & although I’m happy with it I wish I could have read this sooner I prob. would have reconsidered buying it took over 8 months after the promised shipping date to get it & the “smart” computer is still not working properly.

    • Raf March 5, 2017 at 3:49 pm - Reply

      Hey Scott, sorry to hear about the delays. But I’m heartened to hear that you’re happy with the bike overall. I just replied to a comment similar to yours suggesting that the overall road feel of the bike is actually quite good. In all honestly, had it not been for the significant delays in getting the bikes to backers as SpeedX continued roll out of new bikes, and the kinks with the integrated computer which was a major selling point, I don’t think that I would have been compelled to take such a critical stance on the company.

      Definitely hope you enjoy the bike though and let me know how the apps function once they’ve got that dialed!

  4. Jon Dawson February 24, 2017 at 5:06 am - Reply

    Hi Raf.
    I thought this was a well thought out and interesting piece. Aside from the obvious errors mentioned in the replies above.

    I am a UK backer and received my bike only last week. It was a risk and I knew that when I backed the project, but as a keen cyclist with a number of big sportive and triathlons under my belt I was intrigued.

    I’ve had a couple of decent rides on it so far and can honestly say it is a really nice bike. Assembly was straightforward, although I know there have been some issues with others. The bike is very quick and accelerates really well. Despite the risky fit system it fits me very well and as far as I am concerned was worth the wait. However, the company seriously need to sort out their communications as that is definitely where they will lose out in the long term if they don’t get it right.

    Jon

    • Raf March 5, 2017 at 3:44 pm - Reply

      Hi Jon, thanks for the comments. I’m really happy to read the positive feedback on the bike and a few of the press reviews I’ve read on the bike reflect an experience similar to your own, in that the bike is actually a fairly well performing bike.

      To be perfectly honest, and at the risk of sounding sensationalist (we all know there’s already too much of that in today’s mainstream media), the title to the piece that I wrote here is partly to entice readers to click and read through the article. In the first year or year and a half I simply found that there wasn’t a whole lot of content out there to balance out the well orchestrated marketing campaign that SpeedX was putting out there. And at the time of writing, I found it incredibly frustrating to see that backers who’d invested their hard earned money, had yet to see the fruits of their investment even as SpeedX continued to roll out new models. Recognizing that many of the backers to the bike weren’t making a fully educated purchase decision (unlike yourself), I felt that I could put a post out that would help to rectify that.

      I don’t think that the bike is significantly dissimilar from many of it’s industry peers, in that its a good bike, at a good price. And I think key to SpeedX’s success is going to be sorting out some of the communications issues as you said, dialing in their supply chain and distribution network, and adapting to the major European and North American markets. But any change in the industry to disrupt the status quo is essentially a good thing, and I’m glad that the bike is suiting you well!

  5. Fred February 24, 2017 at 8:50 am - Reply

    You lost me when You said you need a bike shop to assemble a bike, it’s a bike not an f16, not even a car. If you can’t assemble your own bike you really have no credibility to writing this article… #bikenerds

    • Raf March 5, 2017 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      Hi Fred, I don’t really have any experience with regards to assembling fighter planes and cars. I do however have extensive experience assembling bikes, and I recognize that for the majority of bicycle owners, having a quality trained bike mechanic is often the safest and best way of ensuring that your purchase performs exactly as its designed to.

  6. Marco November 23, 2017 at 11:27 am - Reply

    just in case you have not seen this It is on Facebook .
    ATTENTION – ALL SPEEDX RIDERS…
    I have just received the following from Chandler Xu …
    ===============================================
    Dear SpeedX Riders,
    I’m posting without the confirmation from SpeedX management because I can’t wait anymore. I don’t know the management decision for the future, but I could keep you posted on what happened.
    1. I was laid off last Monday, though a core team member. I’m not SpeedX employee now, but I volunteer to continue the communication job between SpeedX Riders and SpeedX management, which is approved. So I could still represent SpeedX officially.
    2. I could be 100% honest because I was just an employee. I don’t have any share or option in SpeedX. Actually, I have $7K reimbursement and salary unpaid from SpeedX. I have no reason to stand with the SpeedX management by sharing dishonest information. I’m the one you could trust, instead of the rumors spreading now. If you don’t trust me, you don’t have to read the messages below.
    3. I take the responsibility for the poor communication these 10 days, not the SpeedX management. We spent a few days dealing with creditors, police and property management. Though I was laid off, I joined all the operations together with the management team. I was completely exhausted last week and weekend. This week, I have some personal business and get back home very late, like I’m writing now at 2AM. What makes the communication worse is the VPN block. My VPN doesn’t work again. I will fix by renting another server on weekend. Before that, Paul could repost my emails.
    Just in case I can’t log on Facebook:
    • My mobile: +86 15210605019, which I’ve been using for 8 years. I can’t change it after all these years, so you know I won’t disappear as you could always find me. If you want, you could call me.
    • My personal email: I don’t use SpeedX email now. You may send email to xcjchandler@gmail.com. What is embarrassing is that I can’t use Google service because of the VPN block. So you could cc xcjchandler@126.com, which I seldom use, but it’s free from VPN block.
    • My WeChat: Some Chinese backers may use WeChat. You could find me via my mobile number. That’s the way to get the quickest response. If you text me in Messenger, I can’t receive notification in my iPhone. My VPN only works on the Macbook. Hope you could understand.
    4. What happened?
    SpeedX incubated a bike sharing project named Bluegogo, which became an independent company end of 2016. We share the office and the CEO, but the legal entity, management team, and staff are totally different. Bluegogo quickly became the 3rd largest standless bike sharing company in China, and successfully raised $63Mn from venture capitals. In the original plan, Bluegogo and SpeedX would help each other, which makes sense, as Bluegogo could save the R&D cost of digital lock, which is the most expensive part in a standless public bike, and SpeedX could make some profit from Bluegogo. From the market share perspective, Bluegogo was the 3rd largest, but from the user experience, Bluegogo is the no doubt the No1. It makes sense that VC will bet more on Bluegogo, and eventually Bluegogo will compete with the market leader MoBike. However, there’s a political mistake in a Bluegogo marketing campaign on June 2nd, which reminded people of the Tiananmen Square protest on June 4th, 1989. Usually, the week before June 4th is very politically sensitive in China every year. The next day, police and national security came to our office. It’s the most critical time for the next fund-raising of Bluegogo. In China, politics is always more important than business. If you make a political mistake, nobody would bet on you for millions of serious business. After that, Bluegogo lost the support from all venture capitals. I can’t say it’s all about that incident because the top two players OFO and MoBike are backed by Tencent and Alibaba, the most powerful two internet companies, but that political incident definitely made terrible damage to Bluegogo. You may not understand why it matters to get support from VCs. In China, Sharing bike is like IM App(WhatsApp vs Messenger), Taxi-hailing App (Uber vs Lyft), you have to burn tons of money to be the monopolist ASAP. It’s pointless to be No.2 or No.3. Typical examples are that Alibaba vs eBay and Didi vs Uber in China. Nobody cares how many millions even billions you lose, but only if you could be the largest player and make a profit in long-term as a monopolist. To buy more time for Bluegogo, SpeedX made some sacrifice, like the canceling of new products ( Falcon, an aluminum road bike, and Android-based SpeedForce). The absence of new products means no sales, which is the reason for the shortage of cash flow. We took multiple methods to lower the burn rate like laying off some staff. We thought we could make it through this winter, and it should be ok to deliver Unicorn. However, the Bluegogo news started to spread in industry, and it makes it difficult for us to find an assembly factory that we could work with. In industry, they take Bluegogo and SpeedX as the same company, and we can’t convince them. That’s the story. Bluegogo dragged SpeedX down.
    5. SpeedX is not bankrupt. All staff was laid off last week. Only management team stays and keep the company operating. This means the lowest burn rate, and operations, including R&D, are shut down for the moment.
    6. I guarantee that SpeedX is honest. In the last announcement, we mentioned the refund option. It’s real. Actually, it’s the most wanted option back then. According to the latest update, the management will try their best to deliver instead of the refund. It’s easier to deliver now because the fund-raising already turns into the parts and frames.
    7. You may hear all the news spreading about the Bluegogo bankruptcy, and think the CEO is irresponsible. I guarantee that he is a very responsible man. It’s the hardest time for him. I don’t expect you to understand him, but please give him more time.
    8. Again, this is not the official update, but my personal update. The official update will come on Sat. Please don’t share my personal update with the public, but wait for the official one.
    Thanks!
    ===============================================

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