SpeedX promised me a Unicorn and delivered nothing

The brand that stormed Kickstarter and then imploded spectacularly

Aero road bike in autumnal scene

Remember SpeedX? The Chinese Kickstarter brand made headlines worldwide with an outlandish crowdfunding campaign for its first bike, the Leopard, and the promise of clever integrated electronics.

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Starry-eyed buyers pledged thousands for a bike they believed was a game-changer, but the reality was somewhat different. When BikeRadar’s own Warren Rossiter got his hands on a Leopard and actually tested it, he scored it just one star, citing flaky tech, low-quality wheels and an underwhelming ride.

Nevertheless, SpeedX continued to grow and announced its second road bike, the Unicorn. Another round of fundraising saw over $600,000 raised despite the delays Leopard buyers experienced, and BikeRadar was promised a Unicorn test bike. I actually still have the email exchange with SpeedX’s UK PR firm from June 2017 where we worked out what size Unicorn I’d need.

That was the last I heard about the bike other than a cheery press release that August detailing updates to SpeedX’s tech.

SpeedX road bike
The SpeedX Unicorn, perhaps appropriately, proved to be mythical
SpeedX

If I’m honest, I’d all but forgotten about the brand, but it turns out that behind the scenes at SpeedX things had already got very, very messy.

All credit goes to our friends at CyclingTips for telling the story of how it all went wrong.

In a very long feature that’s really worth setting aside time to read, CT’s Iain Treloar charts the rise and fall of the company. It takes in China’s incredibly cut-throat bikeshare industry and a breathtaking PR disaster that garnered attention from the country’s secret police.

SpeedX is now definitively defunct as a company and backers of the Unicorn Kickstarter received precisely nothing in exchange for the large sums of cash they committed.

Riders who received the original Leopard were left with a completely orphaned product, a “smart bike” no longer supported by its app.

Somewhat poignantly, framesets purporting to be the SpeedX Leopard are available on eBay from a Hong Kong seller for the sum of $398, although we have no way of verifying if these are the genuine article. To quote the listing: “The smart stem isn’t include”.

Screenshot of ebay listing for SpeedX Leopard frameset
Are these the real thing? We can’t be sure
ebay
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The whole affair is a sobering reminder of the risks inherent to crowdfunding new products. Were you tempted by SpeedX?