Even all the beefiest locks in the world won't stop a determined thief from stealing your bike.
But what if you got a smartphone notification as soon as it moved without you there?
Enter Snik Bike, a new app-paired tracking device that’s designed to sit securely in the head tube of any bike.
Co-founder Fraser Vaage – who grew up in North Vancouver and raced mountain bikes professionally in his late teens – had a bike stolen when he was younger and another just a few years ago.
“At that point, I was like, ‘OK. Enough is enough, there’s got to be something that can keep these bikes secure, right? This is a $10,000 bike,’” he said.
While locks can be effective in many cases, they’re too heavy to be carried in every situation. But Snik is lightweight and integrated directly into a bike.
Inside the head tube of any bike is a star-fangled nut. With a one-time installation – which Vaage said can be handled in five minutes by a savvy individual, or by a bike shop – Snik becomes a functional part of your bike’s steering mechanism. More importantly, it equips your precious ride with a rechargeable GPS device that can tell you its exact location.
Upon installation, a proprietary key keeps it locked in place. Constructed with dense polycarbonate, Vaage said a thief would need to severely damage the bike to remove a Snik device.
After an initial pairing, your bike is automatically registered with Project 529, an online bike registration service and community.
Then, anytime you ride your bike, it triggers Snik's accelerometer, recording the bike’s movement while knowing that you’re riding it.
“If I’m done my ride, I put my bike away, and I walk away unpaired from my Bluetooth, at that point it’s monitoring my bike’s movement,” Vaage explained. “If my bike moves at that point, I’m notified immediately. I can click it and immediately see the bike’s location.”
When tracking a stolen bike, a user has three options. You can share a web link to the location via text (which is updated every five seconds), share it with friends on the app or alert the community on the app – which alerts the closest 50 people to the stolen bike.
Vaage said the location link can be shared with police, who generally struggle when it comes to tracking down the high volume of stolen bikes.
“I’ve spoken with the RCMP and [Vancouver Police Department], and they’re all about it,” he said, adding that he consulted with police to make the Snik-provided intel acceptable for police use. An important part of that is the registration process, which happens automatically with Snik.
Bike tracking, not ride tracking
Vaage emphasizes that his system isn’t ride-tracking software, like Strava. But it will function like an odometer, tracking overall mileage, and the ability to perform firmware updates means new features will likely be added in the future.
Because the battery is only activated when a bike is stolen, Vaage said it’s unlikely Snik will run out of battery, but if it does, the device diverts to AirTag technology as a backup.
Currently, you can buy a Snik via the company’s website for $150. As the device requires a SIM card to operate, it comes with a one-year subscription to start. After that, users can pay $7.50 a month or $90 per year to pay for the service.
After growing up riding bikes on the North Shore, Vaage decided to stop riding competitively following a serious head injury. Because he had already spent time working with marketing staff as a sponsored rider, he said transitioning into that industry was a natural fit.
His last role before developing Snik was a marketing director at a tech company in Kelowna, which Vaage said gave him important exposure to the tech sector.
He also developed a key relationship with a well-known mentor, Lane Merrifield, a leading Canadian entrepreneur who's been featured on Dragon’s Den.
“I would really be in a different spot if it wasn’t for [him],” Vaage said.
Getting laid off during the pandemic was the last push that sent Vaage down his own entrepreneurial path. Now, Snik has 16 employees and has raised enough capital to fund an initial round of inventory and distribution. Apart from direct sales on the website, Vaage said Snik will be available in bike shops across the country.
At this early stage, Vaage said he’s encouraged by the amount of positive feedback he’s gotten for the product.
“It’s been a wild journey of validation and that’s kept us going, from people messaging us, to retailers … because it is such a relevant problem,” he said. “People want to be more connected to their bikes.”