3D-printed carbon e-bike crowdfunds $1m in 24 hours: The real deal, or another SpeedX?

When it comes to finding new tech, crowdfunding campaigns are a hotbed of opportunity for entrepreneurs and consumers alike. The social - and occasionally viral - nature of crowdfunding provides an opportunity for start-ups to amass capital quickly and for consumers to back new ideas, usually in exchange for early-bird discounts and first access.

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This can often be a roaring success. Cycliq and Litelok are both household brands that have utilised Kickstarter to a successful end. However, the system can occasionally go awry.

As detailed in no fewer than 9,000 words by our friends over at Cyclingtips (opens in new tab), SpeedX is one company that crowdfunded its way to an astronomical rise before falling even faster. The first round of crowdfunding via Kickstarter amassed 1,251 backers to the tune of $2,319,876, to which the company delivered the poorly constructed SpeedX Leopard, which was reviewed as severely underwhelming by cycling media. 

Later, 200 backers pledged a combined $636,683 to the aptly named SpeedX Unicorn - a project that never delivered, leaving many without either their investment or the bike. 

Last month saw a terrible electric bike called the Babymaker - unfortunately, that's not a joke - which promised the 'sexiest e-bike out there'. The campaign was backed by over 9,000 people and currently sits at $13m. 

The next company, however, is threatening to change bicycle manufacture as we know it. But is it the real deal, or are we about to see another SpeedX rise and fall?

That company is Superstrata, which is offering the 'Terra', a made-to-measure, unibody carbon fibre bike at a current 'earliest-bird' rate of $1,299.00; or an equivalent 'Ion', an e-bike available for $1,799.00.

The claims

The Silicon Valley-based brand claims that its new bike is 3D-printed from a single, continuous strand of carbon fibre, successfully managing to omit all 'glues or screws', into a system that is claimed to prevent splinters - good to know - and be stronger than Kevlar.

With a marketing release void of any real specifics, the company behind SuperStrata - Arevo.com, a company specialising in continuous carbon fibre for aerospace - claims the bike is manufactured from 'next-generation thermoplastic materials', which not only makes it 'extremely impact resistant', but 'remarkably lightweight' too.

In fact, the frame is claimed to be lighter than two bottles of water - though fails to mention exactly how large said bottles are. Only having dug a little further do you find the frame weight quoted at 1.3kg (without fork) with a total bike weight, with 'wheels, parts, etc' included, claimed at 7.5kg - size-specific, of course. Not remarkable, but not heavy by any means, if true. 

The thermoplastic carbon fibre composites are supposedly borrowed from next-generation aircraft, and are claimed to offer 'unprecedented impact resistance', strength that puts aluminium, carbon fibre, titanium and steel to shame, and to quote the press release, will 'render yesterday's thermoset carbon fibre bikes obsolete'. 

Bold claims.

Made to measure

According to press releases and the crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, each bike will be completely made to measure, and thus is available in infinite frame sizes for riders between 4ft 7in and 7ft 4in tall. In fact, the page uses this very-helpful image to explain the differences between a short person and a tall person. Just in case you were struggling.  

Superstrata short and tall

Thanks Superstrata, real helpful (Image credit: Superstrata)

Arevo claims to use what it describes as 'advanced 3D-printing technology' to enable customisation on a per-part basis. 

"This bike was designed to leverage all the benefits of this new manufacturing technology to get the best of both worlds: strength and lightness," said designer Bill Stephens. 

The brand promises "bespoke down to the spokes" and offers this with a choice of standard spoked alloy rims or - of course - a similarly constructed 3D-printed carbon wheelset - which coincidentally is available to be backed as a standalone system, should the bike not be of interest. 

Groupset choice is stated as Shimano 11-speed, and from imagery provided, models look to come with Shimano's commuter-focussed Metrea groupset that uses either a 46/32T 2X chainset or 42T 1X chainset. 

Coupled with a choice of specs and colourways, this all combines to allow for over 500,000 possible combinations. From which, the one frameset is said to cater to multiple different riding styles, including 'racing, street, gravel and touring'. 

Bold claims indeed. 

The future?

Whether we're looking at the future of bicycle manufacture, or the next crowdfunding disappointment, we're yet to find out, but that's not stopped over 1,300 people from parting with a combined US $1,875,898 (~£1.5m) in a little over two days since the project went live. 

If this was the future of cycling manufacture, one would expect household brands and massive-budget manufacturers such as Trek, Specialized, Giant or Merida would be taking it seriously. 

Until they do, we remain sceptical. 

For those who are willing to take a more-than-thousand-dollar risk, shipping is promised to start in December of this year. Here's hoping they deliver. 

For the more risk averse, check out our guide to the best road bikes, which we've ridden and tested to ensure you're getting the best. 

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