Ellen Fletcher could neither live independently nor continue to enjoy her passion for cycling without Ridekick International's electric bicycle trailer.

Cycling has been the 83-year-old Palo Alto, Calif., resident's primary means of transportation for decades, but she now has lung cancer and can no longer pedal.

"The bike is my transportation to where I want to and need to go," Fletcher wrote in an email.

Fortunately for Fletcher, Fort Collins-based Ridekick had a solution.

The Rocky Mountain Innosphere tenant has developed technology that attaches to the frame of a bicycle, pushing it to a top speed of 19 miles per hour.

A throttle powering a 500-watt motor gives cyclists variable speed control. There's also a storage case with a combination lock on the trailer, with room for everything from a briefcase to groceries. Ridekick designed the product for stability in turns and for rides of eight to 12 miles before users must recharge it.

Ridekick also saves riders the trouble of fitting their bike with an electric motor. It can be installed on almost any bike in less than 12 minutes, and after that, users can click the Ridekick on or off their bikes in seconds.

Ridekick also pushes riders up hills. On particularly steep hills, riders may have to pedal, but not as much as if they were not using Ridekick.

It also has a diagnostic system for repairs and is designed to shut off before it overheats.

Ridekick co-owner Dee Wanger promotes Ridekick as a good way for people who want to cut their carbon footprint.

"The carbon footprint for the battery we use for the Ridekick trailer will take you 900 miles on the equivalent carbon footprint of a gallon of gas," she said.

Those miles won't come cheap. Ridekick costs $699 plus $39 for shipping if purchased on the company's website, Ridekick.com.

The company started in 2010, when Dee Wanger's husband and Ridekick co-owner, Mark Wanger, began working on ways to mimic Lance Armstrong's energy output.

Mark Wanger had worked at Hewlett-Packard in a variety of roles, including as an engineer, for 25 years. After retiring from HP, he developed the Ridekick technology at home.

He licensed a patent for a motorized trailer from his neighbor, John Bidwell, who had been selling plans online to do-it-yourself consumers.

No other company sells a similar product, Dee Wanger said. Vergent Products in Loveland manufactures the Ridekick, which is now sold in 90 bike shops in 26 states. Ridekick also has sold its product to people in Asia, Australia and Europe.

"People should be watching for the Ridekick trailers to have a stronger appearance on the streets this summer," she said.

The company also has developed a lithium battery that will ensure at least a 30-mile ride before cyclists like Fletcher must recharge.

As a Palo Alto city councilwoman from 1977 to 1989, Fletcher advocated bus bike racks as well as bike lanes and over-passes.

She began using Ridekick in September after a sales representative at a Palo Alto bike shop recommended the product. She now uses it to ride to the drug store or any trip, for that matter.

"I just use it for wherever I need to or want to go — just like anyone would use a car," Fletcher said.


CSU technology could benefit industry

Two Colorado State University professors want to commercialize a new method that shows whether industrial workers have been exposed to toxic heavy metals.

John Volckens, associate professor in Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, and Chuck Henry, a chemistry professor and CEO of Advanced MicroLabs LLC, created the straightforward, low-cost method.

The CSU Research Foundation is working with the scientists to commercialize the invention.

The professors hope to learn what tasks or locations related to certain jobs have the potential for highest exposure.

"Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to heavy metals, and if we can identify these exposures in a cost-effective manner, then we should be able to help mitigate the problem and protect the health of our industrial workforce," Henry said.

Other techniques take more time to process and cost more, Volckens said.

Henry's Advanced MicroLabs also has created technology to track low levels of contaminants in water used in electric power plants. The company has raised more than $3 million and is working to bring that technology to market.

Steve Lynn covers technology for the Northern Colorado Business Report. He can be contacted at slynn@ncbr.com or 970-232-3147.