Former students create first "smart bike"

Vanhawks company raises over half a million dollars in Kickstarter campaign to pre-sell Valour bikes

Niv Yahel, left, and Ali Zahid, right, are two of Vanhawks’ four co-founders.
Niv Yahel, left, and Ali Zahid, right, are two of Vanhawks’ four co-founders.
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Former Queen’s students have developed Valour, the first bike ever that connects to a mobile phone via Bluetooth.

Sohaib and Ali Zahid, Adil Aftab and Niv Yahel, all former Queen’s students, founded the company Vanhawks to create the first “smart bike”, they said.

The bike uses Bluetooth to connect to the GPS unit on the rider’s phone, and provides turn-by-turn navigation to get the rider from place to place.

Along the way, the bike provides blind spot detection through on-board sensors and guides riders to their destination by vibrating the handlebars. In addition, it provides the rider with information on calories burned, speed and route suggestions through a collection of data on any given city.

Ali Zahid, the chief operating officer, described Valour as “a sexy looking bike.”

“We construct our bike completely different than other manufacturers out there,” Zahid, ArtSci ’15, said.

“It is not hollow on the inside and has an internal structure, so imagine having bones in your bike.”

The company is currently based in Montreal and will move to Toronto this spring. The founders started working on Valour four years ago. The Vanhawks team said they believe global electronic communication is a growing trend. This helped them devise the premise for the bike, which is the first of its kind.

Vanhawks started a Kickstarter campaign on May 1 to promote Valour. Their original goal was to raise $100,000, but they’ve since exceeded their goal by over $500,000. At the time the Journal went to print, the team raised over $640,000.

They reached their original goal in 36 hours.

The company set “stretch goals” for themselves, which include offering new bike features after reaching targeted revenue goals. When they reached $200,000, Zahid said they added new frame colours as marketable options; at $250,000, new rim colours and at $400,000, disc brakes.

The last goal left is a carbon belt drive, which would be added if they reach $750,000.

“At the start, our vision was to first get better bikes on the road, and making it safer for riders,” Zahid said.

Vanhawks has received positive feedback from consumers and the media, including NBC News, which the team said they found encouraging.

Zahid said his experiences working in marketing at Queen’s were integral to the development of both the company and the bike, as they helped him improve his work ethic and time management skills.

Zahid was the former Web and Graphics Editor for the Journal. He also worked briefly as the AMS marketing officer.

Zahid dropped out of Queen’s in 2013 to pursue the company.

“We want to build Vanhawks into one of the biggest companies in Canada,” Zahid said.

“We want to make it as big as Google and Facebook.”

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