Disclosure: This post was written as part of Progressive’s Apron Project, helping tell the story of people and their initiatives making progress towards a greater good. I have been compensated as a contributor to this project, but the thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.
Recently, I had the chance to talk to Tony Belmontes of Helios, a company that has created attractive, tech-powered handlebars designed to truly bring ordinary bicycles safely into the 21st century. With a CREE LED on the front that shines as brightly as a car headlight, Bluetooth connectivity, a GPS tracker, and rear-facing LEDs that function like automobile turn signals, Helios Bars have made it possible for any bike to become a smartbike!
The product is sound and speaks for itself (check out this Helios website for more information). I thought it would be more interesting to pick Tony’s brain for some of the motivation and philosophy behind the creation of Helios Bars and how they fit into the increasingly high-tech world of today. Here’s how our conversation went.
Q: How do you feel technology is changing our lives for the better?
A: Our mission at Helios is to bring the bike into the 21st century. Tech is slowly making its way into biking now, but when we started two years ago, the coolest piece of technology you could add to your bike was a bike computer. We think bringing innovative features and design to the bicycle will encourage more people to bike to work or use it as a more more primary piece of transportation than how they use their bikes now.
Q: Where do you believe tech will take our culture in the future?
A: Tech is everywhere now. Even things we didn’t want to be connected to the Internet are connected. The price of adding tech to a product, whether it be Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or GPS, is falling dramatically and thus everything is all of a sudden becoming more reactive to us. So instead of a thermostat with no intelligence, we now have one that learns our day-to-day, finds out how we like to feel, and adjusts accordingly. I think the future in tech is something we have no clue about, and that’s what makes it so exciting.
Q: When you were a kid, did you ever envision yourself doing (or being involved with) something like this?
A: I wouldn’t say I knew I was going to be out in China building things. In fact, if you told me I’d be in China for over 14 months even 20 months ago, I’d call you crazy. As a child, I was always interested in building things, though — particularly buildings/bridges and such. I wanted to be a civil engineer before I even knew what that meant. So in some ways, it was predictable that I’d be building something, but a bike product caught me by surprise.
Q: If someone wanted to pursue a career in your field, what would you recommend they spend their time learning and/or mastering?
A: I think it’s so awesome how we can learn literally anything we want online today. I think if you want to build something, you should do as much research as you can online to see if anyone else has tried it; oftentimes, people have open-sourced design files and information you can tap into. Then the next step is to just do it. I know that is so cliche, but I know too many people who tell me their great ideas and just never start on them. Seriously, just start the idea. In fact, some of the smartest people I know have dozens of half-finished ideas or products that they rotate on. It seems inefficient, but I think spreading your free time on all of them will give you the necessary time to think about all of the ideas you have — and ultimately, which one interests you most.
Q: Can you share a favorite / inspirational customer story around your product?
A: There are a ton, but honestly, my favorites are when customers tell me that they’ve dusted off their old bike just to put Helios Bars on them. It’s a product that is actually encouraging folks to bike more and bike often. Taking cars off the road and replacing them with bikes is really satisfying!
If you’re intrigued by the possibility of upgrading your beloved bicycle with a set of Helios Bars, you should find out more about them — and see if there’s a design that strikes your fancy — at this Helios website here. My thanks to Tony Belmontes for taking the time to talk tech!