On Monday Nectar and Elixir were featured on Bike Snob NYC. The Snob was brutally critical of the design in a way that only he can be. Is this such a bad thing, though? Absolutely not. The Snob brings up some very good points. As one who is professionally critical, it is his job to seek out flaws and lampoon them. To be honest, we actually chose to send our press release to Bike Snob NYC as one of our first contacts. Why? Two reasons. First, his is one of the most influential and visible blogs in the biking world. Second, so we could get some harsh feedback on the design, and start an open dialog about the design and features of Nectar and Elixir. Success!
So without further delay, we'd like to go through Monday's post on Bike Snob NYC and address each of his concerns. Read on for more...
Bike Snob NYC critiques us
Bike Snob opens by pointing out that the bottle opener actually points sideways. A sideways pointing bottle opener? How could Swarm be so bad at product development that they would get the proper orientation of a bottle opener wrong?
Well, sometimes good design is so simple in appearance that it hides a mountain of design research within. We consciously oriented the bottle opener sideways for 2 reasons- ergonomics and manufacturability.
Naturally when we started designing Nectar and Elixir, we designed it with the opener oriented like all openers- facing down. Here you can see one of our early design concepts. It is elegant, and you open the beer in the traditional fashion, by pushing it down.
The problem? On most bikes, the seat clamp is oriented just above the rear tire.
Now you have the top tube to deal with. Clearly the ergonomics of the bike are going to limit the orientation of the bottle opener.
One option we looked at is placing the opener on the side of the clamp. This would eliminate any interference with the bike, right? Yes, but now the opener will interfere with the rider. Imagine rubbing your leg on an aluminum hook every time you pedal. Ouch! That was out of the question.
The ergonomics led us to consider alternative orientations. We looked at several options, but the flash of genius struck when we realized that if we oriented the opener sideways, not only would it solve the ergonomic issues, but it would make the clamp a perfect candidate for a manufacturing process called near net shape extrusion.
How should we make it?
Extrusion is a wonderful manufacturing process. It creates a shape by squeezing aluminum through a die. Imagine squeezing toothpaste onto your toothbrush. That is an extrusion process. We just use a different shape die- one that is roughly the shape of the seat clamp- and we use hot aluminum instead of toothpaste. We squeeze out a really long tube of material, chop it off into 15mm sections, and load these blanks into a CNC milling machine to clean up all the surfaces, and add the details.
By making the opener integrated into the extruded shape, we drastically cut down on material waste. When you cut material away in CNC machining, it is scrap that either must be recycled, or disposed of. Either option is worse for the environment than not machining it away in the first place.
Can a bottle opener work sideways?
So we decided that the ideal solution, both in terms of ergonomics and manufacturability, that the opener should be oriented sideways. One question still remained, though. Can you open a beer sideways? Well, the only way to determine that was to build some prototypes and test it. We did just this, and recorded our testing. What you saw in the Kickstarter video was just that- our prototype testing. Take a look for yourself, but we think that it worked pretty well:
Really shouldn't open a beer while riding. This means that you'll be standing off to the side of your bike. When you're holding your bike up, it tends to lean toward you. This, it turns out, is the ideal position for opening a beer without any spillage. It is easy, feels right, and works perfectly. Try it for yourself.
Now, to be fair The Snob pointed out that we have a major explosion in the Kickstarter video at about 1:24. To attribute this to the orientation of the opener, though, is erroneous. I don't know if The Snob has ever opened a beer that has been shaken up, but it simply doesn't matter what orientation you have the bottle in, it will explode. You can see that the beer in this photo is not spilling because of gravity. If it were, you'd have beer pouring straight down. In reality, the beer is shooting everywhere. This indicates a carbonated explosion. Sad, too, because Epic's Cross Fever is a delicious beer!
PBR, Meth, and such
Next, Bike Snob NYC pointed out that some of our marketing materials talk about PBR, which comes in a can. This is an excellent point. Neither Nectar, nor Elixir is capable of opening a can of PBR. We will correct this mistake right away. Thanks for pointing it out!
He then goes into the finer points of "tweakers." Again, an issue that we are working tirelessly to correct. Soon we'll have a term less connected with drug use. We're consulting with our crack team of branding experts. Crack? Oh man. This isn't easy.
Now to the point of our request for $15,000. That sure seems like a lot of money for such a simple looking device. We thought that $15,000 was too much to ask, but any less wouldn't cover the cost of opening the tooling. Remember that we decided to use extrusion as a way to make the seat clamp sustainable. Well, extrusion requires tooling. Specifically, extrusion requires one die for every size. Since we are offering Nectar and Elixir in the 5 standard size, this means that we need 5 dies for the clamp, and 5 dies for the lever. Let's do some math:
($1,500 for a clamp die) x (5 clamp die sizes) = $7,500 for clamp dies
($500 for a quick release lever die) x (5 quick release lever die sizes) = $2,500 for quick release lever dies
So we have $10,000 just in tooling. Now we have to place the initial order. Let's look at those numbers
5 sizes Elixir (quick release), 5 sizes Nectar (fixed). That is 10 units just to cover each size. Multiply that by the 5 colors for each part, and you have 50 unique units. Add in factory minimums, and we are looking at an opening order of 2,500 units, just to prime the distribution pipeline. That is a lot of clamps, and when combined with tooling, pushes the starting cost of the project to over $20,000. We are putting in some of our own cash, but we still need to raise $15,000 to help cover the cost.
Manufacturing is expensive, so Bike Snob, if you can get your cash out of the bike lever, pizza cutter with pinball wheel technology, we'd love to have you preorder your own Nectar or Elixir! Try it, you might like it.
And thanks for helping us get our name out there. The post on Bike Snob NYC was awesome!