I came across this device while trolling the floor at Computex and I stopped at a stand in the middle of the vast penny booths section because there was a cute bicycle speaker which clips to the handlebars, charges via USB and has two bags underneath to hold your wallet, keys, phone etc. It met all the fundamental Gizmag story criteria – new, better, innovative, genuinely useful (given that finding an orifice to put those things in when you're decked out in lycra and impersonating Lance Armstrong is either difficult or uncomfortable), different, facilitating enjoyment ...
Once I’d stopped and started taking pics, they insisted that I also try their new bicycle seat. A big guy in a suit with a European accent had been cajoled to try it just before me and he scurried away with a really strange look on his face, so I just had to do the Pat Dollard/Hunter S Thompson gonzo-journalist-living-dangerously-thing and see what it was about.
Now it might be called a “massaging bicycle seat” but for my money, it's akin to those massagers sold in department stores that are not there to soothe aching muscles so much as facilitate orgasm for females who don't want to have a sex store come up on the credit card statement rather than a legitimate reputable department store. The attachment is not so much a massager as a vibrator so “vibrating bicycle seat” would probably be a more accurate description.
Indeed, the vibrating/massaging bit bolts to the stem, so this device can fit any bicycle. It vibrates courtesy of the traditional rotating eccentric mass and for obvious reasons, you probably wouldn’t want a big soft seat or a gel seat because you’d be canceling out the vibrations with the cushioning which would defeat the purpose.
I didn’t get into the benefits of the device or the target market with the stand proprietors because English was not their strong suit, and the folk on the stand looked so "mom and pop" that I'm sure this usage had never crossed their mind and they genuinely thought that they were selling a useful therapeutic aid.
When I subsequently checked the company web site, I found that the seat is designed to "reduce hip and perineum pain & numbness" and is hence "beneficial for any rider." Bonus, that completely validates the product!
It’s of quite sturdy construction and strikes me as an industrial strength vibrator (it really hummed along in top gear) and it also has all the same microprocessor-controlled programming available on any top-of-the-range vibrator you'll find sold in sex shops – you can adjust the frequency and amplitude and length of pulses and the program can run up to ninety minutes for those who don't have readily accessible fun buttons. If there’s a weakness to the design it’s that you need to get off the bike and adjust the program ... as they have the device patented, might we suggest that this feature be considered for the next model. I feel certain that stopping, dismounting and fiddling with those buttons would spoil the mood after you'd found your rhythm on the open road but just needed to tweak the frequency a tad to get there.
Now I could easily be accused of having become a cynical journalist for this, but I simply cannot imagine using the "massaging bicycle seat" for any other purpose than as a sex aid, but that sex aids and bicycles aren't normally associated. Whatsmore, the design is hardly discrete. That control panel is quite distinctive, not to mention large, and it would not look out of place on a two-wheeled electric vehicle.
Indeed, I'm not so sure this thing wasn't designed by some evil genius because in the time-honored marketing tradition of turning a weakness into a strength, they've added red LED lights to take the dance beat you've created with the computer program and turned it into a tail-light for your bicycle. So who knows, in addition to broadcasting your favorite rhythm to fellow road users, you might even be able to induce a few epileptic fits at the traffic lights.
How much? Computex is primarily a sourcing show, and I'm still not sure that the Ample Star people understood I was a journalist rather than a bicycle store owner, but the pricing they gave me was so ridiculously reasonable that I am presuming they gave me the direct-from-manufacturer-in-quantity pricing. I'm not seeking to disclose any commercial secrets here but suffice to say that I'd be surprised if any of these items sold retail for more than US$50 after all the middlemen had taken a profit.
Probably the bit I'm finding it hardest to wrap my head around is once you know what it is, riding a bicycle fitted with one of these would be like advertising the fact that you've just wedged an industrial strength sex toy up your toosh while you've gone for your morning exercise, or while you go shopping, or you've gone down to meet the kids after school or ... by the time I left the Ample Star stand, my mind was doing cartwheels. Would people really buy this? Maybe, but could it be a killer app? Based on Maslov's heirarchy of human needs, maybe. Is perineum pain the next ADHD? Is this what we need to get the world back on bicycles? If you were busy getting your rocks off and caused a road accident, who would be at fault? When I got to the point where mothers were swapping computer programs while waiting for the kids outside school, I made a mental note to back off the coffee.