Think Big

Think Big

The SpeedX Leopard is a new bike for which you’ve probably seen ads in social media. It’s the subject of the biggest, most successful bike-related Kickstarter campaign in history; albeit, Kickstarter has a short history. If you’re not familiar with it, the SpeedX Leopard is touted as the world’s first smart carbon aero road bike. It’s a carbon fiber aero road bike that integrates a GPS bike computer and headlight into the stem.

The copy talks big, making P.T. Barnum-like hyperbolic claims about cutting edge design, top-shelf materials, innovative fitting and other revolutionary ideas that have all been around for some time. The only new idea the bike displays is the integration of the GPS and light into the stem, and to me, that’s not really a selling point for reasons of serviceability and fit.

In episode #13 of the Paceline Podcast Fatty brought this up and the issues he has with the bike. We discussed it in some depth.

For experienced and knowledgeable bike types, it’s easy to criticize this bike. The fitting system is archaic, at best. The bottom bracket height is extraordinarily high for a normal road bike. It is misleading for them to talk about the TRP brakes in a way that makes it sound like they invented hidden aero brakes. They didn’t.

The point here isn’t to deride the SpeedX Leopard. I only mean to point out that nothing in its appeal speaks to the dedicated cyclist, which may be their smartest move. The marketing copy, which reads like it’s either a translation or was written by someone who isn’t a native English speaker, is aimed at people who don’t usually talk bike. It touts a great many features (lifetime warranty!) which even casual cyclists will take as givens.

I suspect the company is an existing Taiwanese factory with excess capacity after losing production of some bikes for known bike companies to China, or a newer Chinese factory that just hasn’t landed enough clients yet.

SpeedX Leopard Frame

So why talk about this bike at all?

They raised $2 million on Kickstarter. They raised $2M for a bike no one has ever test ridden. They’ve also managed to garner press in places like Fast Company and Stuff. They managed to garner press for a bike that other than its integrated stem isn’t better than the best work being done in aero road bikes. It’s isn’t faster, more durable, more comfortable or more affordable than other work being done.

So what gives? They thought big. The company has VC backing to the tune of $10M. As a real thing with the wherewithal to actually produce bikes, they have the pockets to pay for a top-notch PR firm to get those media mentions. They also spent on Jellop, a direct-marketing firm. They spent real money to talk to people who aren’t cyclists. They also discussed the bike, from production to testing, without assuming anyone has any existing background in bikes. They used video, lots of it.

It’s fair to wonder if what they spent on PR was a cost-effective way to recruit 1100 backers—give or take—but if they are making a profit on the bike (and with none of the traditional costs associated with sales and distribution, I’m guessing they’ll make a tidy margin), then the only real point of discussion is why the rest of the bike industry won’t think bigger and spend what’s necessary to promote the sport and its best products in a similar light.

I’ve got a lot of respect for the work the folks at SpeedX Leopard have done to get cycling mentioned in mainstream media. Imagine what we might achieve if the big bike companies made such an effort.



  1. Scott G.

    Open Mold bike + trip to Taipei International Cycle Show for parts + Branding via social media blitz
    = fave engineer free bike Company.
    SpeedX has a bigger ad budget than most companies with the same business plan.

    BG started SOPWAMTOS after see too many of them.

    1. Randall

      I like Kickstarter, and can probably explain it, as it relates to me and spending “hard-earned cash,” but it won’t help explain this bike’s campaign.

      I recently kickstarted a few board games. The great thing is that the person/company is an average-joe type, who like me, probably can’t afford huge production costs upfront with no guarantee of return. Also, a picture of the box a-la Target won’t get sales, they need to have a video explaining the game, put effort into the artwork, and have an original idea. This allows me to easily see if I like a game, see if I think the pieces/dollar creates a good value, and support an entrepreneur! Win,win, win.

  2. Jorgensen

    Obviously there is an audience for a bike that to the casual observer is trick and different. This venture and brands like Canyon ( not equal but similar in that the sales are more or less direct) appear to be the leading edge of bike sales and marketing. This threatens the local bike shop and the traditional brands both, current big brands still have a priceing problem due to the need to still make their dealers relevant. The future for local bike shops will be as repair, fitting, coaching and accessory installers.

  3. winky

    My default assumption is that all things on Kickstarter are a con, until proven otherwise. I see on their latest update they are recommending that Canadian buyers attempt to smuggle the bike into Canada without paying appropriate customs duty and sales tax, and will offer a partial “refund” if those buyers get caught. Very strange. I wouldn’t touch this this thing with a 30′ bargepole. Simply junk.

  4. David Feldman

    Hmmm, what happens when 1.someone buys the bike, 2.finds out it gives them back pain from hell, and 3. they go to a fitter who tells them they need a new stem, which is when 4.a $50 Salsa stem makes them feel like a moron for not buying a bike from a real (Trek/Spec/Cann/Bianchi, etc.) bike company at a real bike store?

    1. Steve

      Unfortunately I don’t think you can replace the stem because speedx has integrated their computer into a custom stem.

    2. Author

      Nothing on the Kickstarter page mentions stem swaps for the purpose of sizing. That’s a big challenge for them and for the acceptance of this bike.

    3. DTurboZ

      Actually, reading their site closely reveals that their smart fitting system will allow for sizing in 4 areas: 1) Frame size, 2) Stem for with three size selections 90mm/105mm/130mm, 3) Handlebar sizes in 400mm, 420mm, and 440mm and 4) crank length from 165 to 175 depending on frame size. Going through their fitting system provided the exact same sizes as my local bike shop did. No back pain here!

  5. Fuzz

    When I bought my last car, I made sure to get as few integrated electronic gadgets as possible. I didn’t want stuff that would be obsolete by the time I drove the car out of the parking lot. This feels much the same.

  6. DTurboZ

    I am a backer of this project, pledging $2100 to the company for the Leopard Pro. Why?
    1) Specifications – Aero carbon frame, 50mm carbon wheels, Ultegra Di2 components, fully integrated cabling, integrated lighting, and built in sensors/electronics. While this is not a professional riding setup nor the lightest bike, it has exactly what I would look for in a very good setup for weekend club rides.
    2) Value – I was going to build a “Chinarello” bike this summer that had similar specs to this one. However, my parts list cost was higher than my investment into this campaign. I didn’t feel it was in my best interest to purchase the parts, spend time trying to assemble and hoping everything would bolt together correctly. This deal was perfectly priced for me.
    3) Rooting for an under underdog – I didn’t choose an iPhone, I chose Android. I didn’t buy an Mac Book, I bought a Surface Pro. I have a propensity to chose what others aren’t picking in order to be a bit different and stand out. Yes I’m risking a bit of money, but I think it will be worth it.

    FYI, I’ve been riding for many years, averaging around 2500 miles per year on a Kestrel Talon. Yes, I am ready for a new bike and I can’t wait for the SpeedX Leopard Pro to be delivered!

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