The most beautiful bike speedometer on the planet

The idea for the Omata one was conceived a few years ago. And the first production units should hit shelves early in 2017. Photo: Courtesy of Omata

The idea for the Omata one was conceived a few years ago. And the first production units should hit shelves early in 2017. Photo: Courtesy of Omata

Strava and other ride tracking apps for cycling killed the handlebar-based bike speedometer. Sure, there are still some great GPS units from folks like Garmin, but the cyclometer is dead and that's only partially because they had the same aesthetic appeal of one of those calculator watches from the '70s. Until now.

A few former Nokia engineers have reinvented the cycling dashoboard with a new unit called Omata One. Beautiful and high-tech, it’s enough to make many roadies mess their fancy $320 Rapha bibs.

Analog on the outside, GPS powered on the inside, the Omata reached its $150,000 Kickstarter goal in a few days. If you want one, the Omata One will set you back a cool $499 and is expected to sell for $599 when it hits the shelves in 2017.

The Omata One Classic edition is available for pre-order with a white or gray face and measures speed, distance, time and vert, and is slated to ship next February.

“It’s great to see people believing in what we’re doing, want to support us and feel that there’s something missing from their bicycles. We’re happy to go on this project and build that,” said co-founder Julian Bleecker, during a phone interview

Bleecker and designer, Rhys Newman, have been talking about the project on and off for years (back when they worked for Nokia together). The inception? Newman read a scientific paper published by Arizona State University that stated “from a human cognition point of view, 18 miles per hour is a very lovely speed to move,” according to Bleecker.

Is it just us or do smaller rider look tiny when they're on fat tubed frames? And what the heck is in that back jersey pocket? Photo: Courtesy of Omata

Is it just us or do smaller rider look tiny when they’re on fat tubed frames? And what the heck is in that back jersey pocket? Photo: Courtesy of Omata

By that, the paper discussed what a happy speed 18 mph was for human perception: the brain could take in the big picture of what was ahead as well as smaller details. This paper was a catalyst for Newman and the product designer started free drawing ideas like a bell that would sound at 18 mph. These illustrations were just “whimsical expressions of scientific research,” explained Bleecker.

As Newman explored, he kept coming back to speedometers, and he began to draft his ideal version that “almost looked like it belonged on the bike, as opposed to something that was very digital or a traditional smart device.”

Newman and Bleecker would talk about the perfect speedometer occasionally. Sometime during rides, other times over drinks and at now and again at lunch.

Because if you’re on your bike to take a temporary respite from the stress-producing world work emails, phone calls and the latest dribble from Drumpf, why would you want to stare at a screen that displayed emails, phone calls and Tinder messages? Okay, maybe Tinder messages.

When Nokia changed gears, the two passionate cyclists decided to pursue the product full time. Although it hasn’t been all tailwinds and fresh legs.

“Sometimes it’s tough reflecting our core conviction and our belief in the product. I think that has a lot to do with [the fact that] it’s not what people think about when they think about a start-up. It’s not an app … There’s no way of saying, ‘It’s the Uber of … ”

The Omata One is designed for "glanceability", so riders can get all the info they need in a jiffy. Photo: Courtesy of Omata

The Omata One is designed for “glanceability”, so riders can get all the info they need in a jiffy. Photo: Courtesy of Omata

Those are the shakes of disrupting the digital marketplace with an analog (at least analog-looking) product. And to get the Omata One closer to production they’ve been working with machinists at Japan’s Seiko Precision, to create a proprietary mechanism.

So far, the comment section on the Kickstarter page is going off. So much that some cyclists are more concerned with the next iteration.

When asked about this, Bleecker responded with an emotion that’s common with start-up success stories: equal parts exhaustion, humility, hold-your-horses and enthusiasm.

“We know that there’s a lot of work yet to be done for V1 … we would be doing a disservice to the people who have committed and believe in what we’re doing if we now started focusing on V2. There is no V2 without a V1, so focusing on [V1] with a ruthless attention to the details required to make it into a robust, durable, premium product is where all of our energy goes,” said Bleecker.

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