Nick Bailey is the man behind the LaVita Boost e-bike retrofit kit. In a short space of time he has taken what he describes as a 'hobbyist' idea - for a kit that worked well with a road bike and preserved the bike’s appearance and riding characteristics - into production. And he has just attracted a lead investor in what he hopes will be the first step to scaling up production.
What is LaVita Boost?
From a fitting point of view, the Boost system consists of only two main components; a geared rear hub motor with a magnetic motion sensor integrated into the axle and freehub and a 216Wh bottle style battery, with a cable connecting the two that carries both power and sensor information. There is also a wireless handlebar control and an app which have similar functions with regards to altering power settings and data feedback.
It looks like a neat design that avoids the pitfalls of some other common kit configurations and is one of the most visually minimalist kits out there. Perhaps most striking is the fact that the motion sensor necessary for power to kick in on pedalling is totally integrated into the motor assembly - something usually found only on more expensive OEM motors available to manufacturers. Budget priced kits - and even some more expensive ones - usually have a magnet ring and sensor around the base of the pedal crank, necessitating an extra wire run.
The fact the display is wireless too means just one cable run is needed that can be pretty well concealed around the chainstay and bottom bracket. Weight is kept low down and away from the front wheel which helps preserve the bike's handling characteristics.
The battery bottle holder appears to be just that but actually incorporates control software in the form of a miniature circuit board (currently in it's fifth iteration) designed by Bailey - a Cambridge electronics engineering graduate - that comes with the ability to receive over the air software updates.
The kit is currently offered in 700c and 26" wheel sizes complete with gear cluster (7 to 11 speed available) for £575 - although it's likely that price will rise once the first batch of kits are sold. That price is for self-fitting, though LaVita work with bikeshops around the UK to offer a fitting service.
Investment for the future
LaVita Boost has just found themselves a lead investor who is said to value the company at £2m - an individual Bailey describes as 'an experienced UK road cyclist and CEO of a FTSE 250 company' who has invested to the tune of tens of thousands. The investment is part of SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme), a UK government initiative to encourage investment in startups by encouraging tax breaks.
The money will be used to help scale up production with some assembly work on the kit taking place in the UK and to build up stock levels as well as to promote the kit more widely. Bailey points out there is still potential for more investors under the SEIS scheme.