Tag Archives: navigation

Laurence on Cyclist-Centric Mapping

17 Jan


Hello all,

A good deal of the social side of our app is based around our belief that people want to share their favorite routes to get around, to train, and to avoid traffic. This all comes down to mapping, and our ability to communicate the complexities of maps in a way that is simple, elegant, and – above all else – relevant to cyclists.

First, before you do anything else – before you check your email, before you get up to walk your dog, even before you think of the health and safety of your family (okay, maybe not this one) – check out this map of crowdsourced bike knowledge from the New York Times. To me, it is absolutely incredible – and not just because of what we are trying to build at Hammerhead Navigation. I find it so awesome because it shows just how dedicated, practical, caring, and enthusiastic the biking community is. We look out for each other – we love looking out for each other. Telling our friends about rides they should try out or avoid, gear they should get, or just that they should get off their butts and ride. I seldom turn down the opportunity to research a bicycle purchase or gear recommendation for a friend. In fact, most of the time I spend far too long on this task and end up with an essay of opinion.

What makes me excited about this in the context of our company is that there isn’t yet a way to practically tap this deep well of crowdsourced enthusiasm – this somewhat tribal knowledge that seems to smolder around messenger bags, old chains and within those helmet clad heads.  What if you could access the data from this map as you rode around your city? What if you could trust our device to get you to where you wanted to go in the safest and most efficient way? Using these crowdsourced data points, the Hammerhead could quickly guide riders safely and efficiently around common obstacles – both long and short term. For instance, if there is a particularly troublesome cobblestone street, the Hammerhead could just always avoid that avenue if the rider had that in her preferences. Or, more immediately, if there is construction that blocks off a bike lane, or the President is in town and traffic is a snarl – riders could actually help the community at large by flagging these issues.

Sure, this is pretty pie-in-the-sky, but it is is absolutely possible with a little ingenuity on the app side. Unsurprisingly, this is a primary goal of ours. We are already building our app to rapidly respond to changes on the fly. From there, we just have to give cyclists a reliable, robust platform for inputting these variables. It is a challenge we are excited to tackle. That is why we are always looking outward in this process, turning over stones and old piles of punctured inner tubes. If we enable riders to flag hazards (or even things they really like!), we can not only build a deep & global database of great routes, but also ensure that these routes are founded on and filled with data relevant to all cyclists. The implications of this are incredibly exciting to us – both within the context of our business, and as cyclists.

Lots of work to be done so let’s get back to it!


Recent Cycling Deaths in London

12 Dec

Here at Hammerhead we receive interesting emails from customers all around the globe. Most are fun or exciting, but some give us pause. A message we received from Mr Milan Shah in London recently caused us all to think about just who and what we are doing this for.

In a two-week span in November, there were six cycling fatalities in London. See relevant articles herehere, and here. It appears that the usual outrage followed in the media and public at large. Blame, it seems, was directed primarily at drivers of large trucks as well as at cyclists. Truck drivers, for not keeping an eye out for cyclists; cyclists, for taking quick turns, wearing headphones, and often not wearing helmets. But blame is not the answer – and neither is outrage or fear. Certainly, as the bike-friendly laws of the Netherlands have shown, realigning legal incentive structures can make a difference. We are not passive people however. We owe it to ourselves to adopt the safest practices we can.

Bike safety is central to why we put the rest of our lives on hold to build Hammerhead. We are cyclists ourselves, we have seen such tragedy and resolved to try to make safe cycling more possible. The amount of meaningful contribution that we make remains to be seen. Once there are thousands of our devices on roads all around the globe we will be able to draw some conclusions about the efficacy of our product.

Biking, especially in cities and along busy roads, is a potentially dangerous activity. To do it safely, one must be aware of their surroundings, something difficult to do when there are hundreds of other people on the roads causing those surroundings to constantly change. Keeping one’s eyes on the road and other senses aware of the sounds and vibrations of passing traffic is a good rule of thumb. But it can be hard to follow when you are in a rush, are listening to directions via headphones connected to a smartphone GPS, or have your smartphone mounted on your handlebars.

We know we bike differently when we are stressed, are beset by traffic, or are distracted by unfamiliar territory. Our thinking goes – would we not be better off if we had a device that communicated simple turn-by-turn nav directions that we can follow intuitively? Our testing thus far has shown that the Hammerhead’s light array has an effect similar to a stoplight. Once you adjust to the patterns, you can read it almost without thinking – leaving your mind free to focus on the ride itself. This, we think and hope, will help cyclists be safer out there on the roads.



Regarding Schwinn CycleNav

8 Jan


Hello all,

We benefit from having a very engaged community of supporters, and we thank you for bringing to our attention the recent announcement of Schwinn’s CycleNav bike navigation device at CES in Las Vegas. We even saw multiple comments on different articles about the CycleNav in which people strongly articulated their support for Hammerhead.

We think that the announcement of the CycleNav is a great thing. We believe that the problem of creating safer, easier bike navigation is one really worth solving. The fact that there is going to be another device out there on the road that positively affects the cycling community is wonderful. We are excited to see that Wal-Mart might be carrying a product that could help a number of people – as this is the avenue through which many make their purchasing choices. Schwinn’s entry into this space further emphasizes that we are not alone in recognizing that bike navigation is an issue that needs to be solved.

Our vision however goes well beyond simply telling you where to go. We are building a system in which you will also be able to discover why you might want to go to a particular place. We are putting actionable human insight into what is a far too austere, disconnected experience at present. We are excited to be driving innovation within our favorite sport and we feel honored to see elements of our design in the Schwinn product.

Again, a big thank you to all of our fans who sent this our way.

Time to get back to work!

Piet & the Hammerhead Team

Bike riding: Evolving philosophy

1 Nov

The beginnings of Hammerhead navigation, came out of a frustration that we experienced as cyclists. We were always looking to tie together a series of roads and pathways into a fun bicycle ride and often ended up choosing the familiar. Each time before a ride it would require some thought whether it was a serious Sunday training ride, visiting a friend, planning a cross-country tour or heading into the mountains. However each time it usually ended up being a friend’s recommendation or just the roads where you knew you wouldn’t have troubles.

Cycling has evolved with technology and serious cycling is now associated with all kinds of data and technology. Companies such as Garmin, Polar, Shimano, Powertap, Cateye etc. have been a pioneering force in bringing better insights into how far, fast, high and efficiently we ride. In terms of our actual bike routes and destination we are more used to passively tracking our rides with a GPS device or our favourite fitness tracking apps such as Strava, Mapmyride and Endomondo.
This evolution is aligning with mobile technology and allowing us to open our fitness and sports data to our friends and the community. The notion of your daily ride becoming a little more social or competitive is a fantastic idea! Its about encouraging friends to get in shape, pushing that time-trial pace or just making you understand your own goals a little better. Our team took a broader look at the notion of riding a bike and where the mode of transport and sport is headed. The proliferation of smartphones has given us unprecedented access to what used to be considered instrument-quality GPS devices, processors and data management, advanced sensors and high-efficiency wireless technology. I will try not state the obvious but it’s phenomenal what these little bricks are doing for the future of sports. Our glaring observation came from a simple question: “How do you experience a great bike ride?”

The obvious things aside, like owning a bicycle, and leaving the house, as cliche’d as this is, its the journey.

The key to the journey is the path and yes, we got philosophical here. Cyclists get all this access to information, Google maps and at one stage Google Earth was a tool that we planned rides on. We would scour the mountainsides with the zoom maxed out, or look at Topo maps, trail maps, ask local gurus…. In fact, planning a bike ride usually entails a whole lot of luck, blind exploration and possible roadside loss due to the mental GPS failure. Thankfully we are all now able to use our little bricks of knowledge and pinch around Google maps to get home. In fact a great bike ride was a random occurrence or a recommendation of a friend. A chance finding and when it happened you would be damned if you forgot that route again. In fact that route would become a regular and you would recommend it to friends.

We wanted to make this process natural, intuitive, we wanted to let friends give us a sweet bike route and then just follow it. There are roads that are perfect for sunset cruises or early morning training rides, there are those beachfront boardwalks or secret singletracks. We just needed a map that gave us those options and then let us follow them. No stopping, or ending up on the 101 Highway. Hammerhead navigation was built on intuition, like finding your way and we aim to keep it pure. No synching or extensive planning, we didn’t want our turn-by-turn instructions invading our ride. Just a reminder of a turn on the broader journey that you can then use to improve others. 

We know that our business model can fit into this cycling data world and provide the community with a rich new layer. We see the cross-over of smartphones and cycling devices as a place where we can serve a great base aspect of cycling. The choice to ride and the ability to enjoy that ride.


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