Mission Bicycle hopes to end bike theft with GPS

Cyclists who have had their bikes stolen might be familiar with a video of a San Francisco Police Department bike theft specialist luring a bike thief with a GPS-tracked bait bike. Well, if Mission Bicycle Company has its way, that kind of tech will be standard in bicycles of the future.

The Valencia Street boutique bike shop has launched a Kickstarter campaign to roll out the first of its new kind of bike. They’ve named it Lyra, and it incorporates GPS tracking and nearly 360 degree lighting in the otherwise fully customized design. The company is hoping to start a trend.

“This week we will announce the beginning of the end of bike theft,” Mission Bicycle general manager Jefferson McCarley wrote in an email. “Change starts small. We will be the first company to offer GPS tracking (in a non-motorized bike) to help put an end to bike theft.”

Knowing a stolen bike’s location is a huge step toward getting it back, McCarley said. Not every police department or officer has the time to track down a stolen bike, so being able to show where it is makes a difference.

“I’ve found that if you have reported your bike stolen and located it, the officers of the Mission Station have been extremely helpful in showing up quickly to ensure that you get it back,” he wrote. “The officers from the Mission Station have been particularly helpful when I have eyes on a stolen bike (usually it’s one of my customer’s).”

Trackers sold separately are already becoming increasingly ubiquitous, but to have a tracker be part of the bike is a bit of a different ballgame. It’s a similar story with lighting. Current cycling norms make lighting an accessory rather than a basic component. Different needs are one factor – not everyone needs a large enough headlight to illuminate their path, and not everyone necessarily wants to invest in a GPS tracker. Cost is a significant factor.

“If it adds $100 to the cost of a bike to integrate lighting, then the competitor’s bike is suddenly $100 cheaper than yours,” McCarley explains. “Because we insist on building our bikes from the frame up right here in the Mission District, using higher quality components, we’ll never win the price game. So we’re more willing, I think, to spend more money to get it right.”

Practical concerns are another barrier. Some tracked bikes need to be stored next to an outlet to charge, while others need their batteries regularly replaced. Mission Bicycle worked around this by making the battery that powers its onboard tech removable and rechargeable with a standard micro USB cable.

Ultimately, Mission Bicycle is hoping to stir up demand among cyclists for built-in tracking and lighting.

“I hope that the big bike companies will see that there is a demand for innovation and end up putting us out of business,” he wrote.

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