An app controlled bicycle called Volata

25 Aug 2016
  • posted by Veerle Pieters

With the iPhone and apps being around for many years you would think that technology would trickle down to most other industries. When you examine the bicycle industry there aren’t any of the mainstream brands exploring that area of technology just yet. There are many exciting things that can be done and that’s where the Volata comes in.

Integration of technology

You could buy a case for phone and put that on your bike but that’s a bit bulky and not always very practical. I’m more for something smaller like what Volata is doing here. If you are anything like me you want to keep your bicycle slick. Here’s what Founder Marco Salvioli says on that topic.

Some features, like navigation, tracking and forecast can be provided by a smartphone mounted on the handlebar, but this would require the user to mount and dismount their phone on the bike every time, open multiple apps, use the smartphone’s battery and it’s sensitive to weather conditions. We’ve followed an approach closer to Apple Car Play or Android Auto, where some logics run in the smartphone that stays in the rider’s pocket, and the bike’s built-in display shows such information without the user to turn anything on and off — without fragmenting the riding experience.

Integrated computer

Volata’s 2.4 inch screen 180dpi display is integrated into the CNC aluminium stem. Just like a Garmin or similar add-on computer it can track ride info such as speed, altitude and heart rate. Wasn’t clear if it tracks cadence too. Other inclusions are turn by turn navigation, weather, music and display any incoming notifications from your phone. It’s all (thumb) controlled by a joystick sitting atop the righthand handlebar grip to allow input while keeping hands on the handlebar and eyes on the road.

Automated GPS tracking

The Volata automatically identifies the beginning of a new ride and tracks it with its built-in GPS, so you can review it later on your smartphone. Wasn’t clear if you can upload to Strava directly if your ride is done. That same GPS locator is also used by the embedded anti-theft system that notifies you real-time of any suspicious activities, wherever you are. This way you always know where your bike is and it can show you if your bike is moving. A motion detector continuously monitors your bike for potential theft when you lock the bike and when there’s a theft attempt an alarm will activate and you will be notified immediately via your smartphone.

Censored lights, horn and self-charging battery

The aforementioned features need juice to function so there’s a need for a battery. There’s a self-charging battery that automatically charges thanks to a front dynamo hub if you ride your bike often enough. When that’s not the case you can charge it via micro USB. Battery level is shown on the display. The old school bell is replaced by a horn that features a 96 decibel sound. The Volata has integrated dual front lights with two bright LED modules that partially is oriented on the spokes to increase side visibility. The seven LED rear light is also designed into the frame and has a curved shape to increase side visibility.

Frame & drive train

The Volata has a 7005 aluminum frame that supposedly has the perfect balance between stiffness and comfort and the carbon fork is inspired by gravel bikes with clearance for tires up until 35mm and they claim its strength is enough to take you everywhere, no matter how rough the road is. Movement is done by a Gates Carbon Drive belt system connected to a Shimano Alfine Di2 electronic shifting rear hub for low-maintenance durability.

Thoughts

First thing that came to mind when I saw the beautiful integrated stem was; what about rider position? Geometry and riding position is a very important part when you want to ride a bike comfortably. At first sight it wasn’t clear but when I looked deeper they say there will be different versions of the stem available so you can adjust your riding position. Frame sizes come in S, M, L, XL and two colors, white and grey. Another thought was how much does it weigh? I was only able to find the weight for a size M frame, 10,6kg (23.37 lb).

I’m all for clean aesthetics but a commuter bicycle without mudguards or storage sounds quite illogical. However it looks like they are designing a series of extensions that won’t compromise its looks. It’s marked as coming soon. They claim it’s ready for any type of road but that’s quite hard to judge if you haven’t ridden one. Seems like a beautiful fun bike but without actually riding it on the Flemish Ardennes cobbles I wouldn’t buy it online. Love the idea and the looks of the Volata though, but there are many hurdles to overcome. Maintenance is another. Whatever you do, there will be some service needed as electronica isn’t flawless as we all know. The drive train parts can be serviced by a bike shop that understands Shimano.

So what about price? It’s not available yet but you can reserve one for $299 at www.volatacycles.com. That’s only the amount for a reservation though as you’ll need to pay $3200 upon delivery. Delivery is expected around July 2017. Price seems fair for that kind of technology and materials.