Garmin buys iKubu bike radar

GPS giant picks up South African R&D company

Garmin yesterday bought iKubu, a company that is designing computer vision and radar systems for cycling. iKubu has been working on Backtracker, a low-energy bike radar that lets cyclists track vehicles coming up behind them via a LED device on the handlebars.

The Backtracker uses a rear-facing radar that also has a flashing caution light, which flashes faster the closer a car gets to the cyclist. 

“iKubu has found a way to implement short-range radar into a low-power system that addresses a common concern among cyclists – identifying potential hazards that are approaching them from behind,” Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “We are delighted to add this technology to the Garmin portfolio.”

While Garmin has not yet commented on its intentions for Backtracker, it is almost a certainty that integration with the Edge cycling computers is planned.

The rear-mounted radar unit also has a dynamic light, which flashes faster as vehicles get close: the rear-mounted radar unit also has a dynamic light, which flashes faster as vehicles get close
The rear-mounted radar unit also has a dynamic light, which flashes faster as vehicles get close: the rear-mounted radar unit also has a dynamic light, which flashes faster as vehicles get close

Besides tracking vehicles with radar, the rear-mounted unit flashes dynamically - with flash rate increasing as vehicles approach

Years ago, Garmin bought a small company called Metrigear, which was developing a power meter that existed solely instead the pedal spindle. That idea eventually became the Vector power meter pedals.

Time will tell what form, name and function the Backtracker will morph into under Garmin, but one thing is clear: Backtracker just got a lot more resource behind it.

"Garmin gives us the resources to develop, bring to market, and showcase our products that we otherwise would not have," Franz Struwig, managing director of iKubu, said in a press release.

Most of the former employees of iKubu will become employees of Garmin’s existing subsidiary in South Africa, Garmin said, and will continue to operate primarily as a research and development center in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team, Trek Boone 5, Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4, Marinoni fixed gear, Santa Cruz Roadster TT bike
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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