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Nov 23, 2022

This week we sit down with Matt Conte, Co-Founder of Outbound Lighting. Matt discusses the origin story of the business and details the benefits of Outbound’s approach to lighting (hint: it has its origins in the automotive world).

Outbound Lighting

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Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos:

Outbound Lighting

[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport

I'm your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don't need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.

This week on the show, we welcome Matt Conti, one of the founders of outbound lighting. You may remember outbound from a number of years ago when they originally launched the company via Kickstarter project. I, for one, pay a lot of attention to Kickstarter cycling projects. For some reason, I'm a sucker for them, and I was sort of curious, you know, with so many industry stalwarts in the lighting business, how this company was gonna make a mark.

Well, they successfully funded the campaign and have successfully built a. Manufacturing in the United States, which is absolutely amazing. But what was equally amazing was Matt's description of the technology that he applied to the bicycle lighting industry. He came from automotive lighting and had a lot of, advanced engineering skills specific to how to light the world in front of you at night.

And it was fascinating to just hear his take on the existing bicycle light in. Further how he evolved the very specific lighting options that outbound uses and offers customers. Today I've been using their helmet mounted light as well as their bar mounted light and definitely appreciate a number of things about the design that Matt will get into you for you during this episode.

So I hope you enjoy it. And just a quick note, I apologize. A little bit of sporadic release of episodes these days. I've been traveling and had a ton on my plate, and it's been a real struggle to get to the editing and everything else involved in the podcast, so I appreciate your patience. There certainly will be another couple weeks towards the end of the year where I take off just to decompress, but look forward to getting many, many more great episodes out the door to you in the coming year.

With that said, let's jump right into my conversation with Matt. Matt, welcome to the show.

[00:02:16] Matt Conte: Hey, glad pleasure to be here. I'm

[00:02:19] Craig Dalton: excited to dig in and learn a little bit more about outbound lighting. Why don't we start by just letting the listeners know where you are in the world, and then let's talk about what led to you starting outbound light lighting in the first place.

[00:02:32] Matt Conte: Yeah, so we are located in just north of Chicago, Illinois in Skokie, just kind of a middle suburb and stuff. And then we got Tom, my co-owner. He's out in Olympia, Washington. Kind of the Mecca Mountain biking out there for him. Couldn't convince him to move to the city, unfortunately, but yeah, so we are, we got our headquarters here.

It's where we design, assemble, ship, every bike light that we make. And yeah, I guess from like far as what got us to start this company like you sort of mentions that kind of interestingly, like I'm not that kind of guy who. Hardcore biker who saw an opportunity to make something. I came from the automotive lighting ex world.

Used to design l e d headlights, off road lights stuff like that, like Baja trucks and things like that. And I was really into rally car racing where you're on gravel roads, slinging cars, and a hundred miles an hour at night through the woods to blast. But at the time I was kind of looking to how.

Basically branch out and take my experience from developing lighting products to something else. I just kind of wanted to do my own thing. And so I looked at experimental aircraft. I looked at exterior architectural lighting and all that kind of stuff. And wasn't until a friend of mine posted on Facebook basically a selfie of him writing at night Asia being like, Oh yeah, I heard night riding.

And I was like, Huh, that's. You got a couple headlights on your bike, like what is that? Like, what are you using? And oh, I got the night rider, 1800 pros, the best light out there, all that kind of stuff. And I looked it up and it was like 350 bucks and I was like, it's a flashlight. And talked to him for a bit, kind of like, Hey, can I come over and check this thing out?

Kind of seems like this is possibly an opportunity to take what we, what I've done in the automotive space and bring it to bikes. And so yeah, he took me out on a ride and I enjoyed it. Had a lot of fun and kind of was like, Yeah, I could definitely do way better than this. And from there I designed a prototype gave it to him.

He liked it, loved it. Ran a Kickstarter campaign, was able to wait enough money to pay for the initial tool in the product, and bought a bing, bought a boom. Five years later. Here we are and we've now got three different products. We've gone through a couple iterations of stuff and yeah, now the goal is basically just continue to build the best bike lights that we can using all of the experience that I used to have from the automotive sector.


[00:04:50] Craig Dalton: So that was, that goes back to, was it 2017 for that original Kickstarter

[00:04:54] Matt Conte: project? Yeah, just about I think I was starting to kick the idea around like 2016 or so. And then, They drew out some sketches, made some models pro, pretty printed a bunch of stuff, and I was doing this all like after hours from my normal job.

Kind of trying to keep those two things completely separate. And yeah, so it was about a six months, eight months of just prototyping, validating, doing a bunch of stuff until it was like, All right, we've got something that looks production enough. Let's make a Kickstarter campaign and let's see what happens.

I kind of use that as sort of that litmus test of either all my friends and family are wrong and it's not really a great product, or we do have something that other people who are outside of our little in sphere of influence actually find useful and want to have and all that kind of stuff. So that was kind of my testing ground just to see if this is what people wanted and turns out enough people wanted it that we were able to get that started and into production and all that kind of.


[00:05:53] Craig Dalton: such an interesting kind of validating ground for new products Kickstarter. It's, it's got both incredible advantages, but also risks in terms of like getting, getting your fundraising across the finish line, et cetera.

[00:06:07] Matt Conte: Yeah, it's certainly not as good as it used to be. Like I feel like Kickstarter usefulness, we were on the tail end of it.

Not as ma a lot of people have been burned in the past by products that just never came to market, all that kind of stuff, and. It was kind of a challenge to like advertise and get the word out that this is what we're doing. And it's even harder nowadays. I think Kickstart has sort of pivoted their entire model away from my products to artists and creators and games and all that kind of stuff.

So yeah, it's certainly not as, not as good as it used to be but it's definitely one of the best spots to kind of figure. Is this what people want? Yeah. And it's sort of a low cost, low risk kind of method before you go and dump two 50, $60,000 worth of tooling just to find out that you don't have a market, which I'm sure some people have done that, unfortunately, but that's.

The way it goes.

[00:06:58] Craig Dalton: I do remember when the product came to market on Kickstarter, simply because I sort of follow Kickstarter and certainly bike projects on Kickstarter with a lot of interest. And it had me thinking about the sort of decades of bike lights that I have experienced or have in the garage dating back to when you used to have the battery in your water bottle cage.

Attached by a wire to your headlight and if you could get 250 lumens out of that setup, it was sort of miraculous. Yeah. And then I remember the sort of escalation of lumens being the sort of main driver of innovation. Like the, the form factors weren't changing too much. I just kept seeing this escalation of lighting power so much so that you know, when you got up to even north of 500, 600 lumen.

You were getting outshined from behind. If the person behind you had a brighter light than you, it created this weird shadow, and it was worse than having your own light on the bike because they were so powerful behind you. And I think we'll get into this a little bit, but they were very sort of flashlight like and very directional in their beams.

So it's, it's interesting and I wanna get into it for sure, your form factor and how that evolved. But let's, let's start what, you mentioned that you had a cyclic fr cycling front. You kind of showed you his lights that were state of the art at that moment in time. What did you see in that light that, given your experience in the automotive industry, you felt was, you know, dramatic shortcoming and the thing you could improve upon very easily?

[00:08:32] Matt Conte: Yeah, definitely. So the first thing that. I kind of noticed just because a lot of the bike lights were kind of similar to sort of like the cheap off-road lights that I'd see in the automotive side where it was basically just an l e d sitting inside of a reflect bowl. It's kind of your most common, typical.

Standard flashlight type of optic. And the problem with that is that gives you one pattern. It's just gonna be a straight up circle. You're gonna have a tight hotpot from where all of the light was bouncing off through a reflector size and concentrating on the middle. And then you're gonna have like a secondary ring of all the spill light coming straight from the l e d.

So you end up. A very concentrated hotspot, an outer sort of just dimmer ring, and then a hard, sharp edge around the outside. And that's sort of what creates that sort of tunnel vision effect, like when you're riding quickly with behind one of those kind of lights. Basically we have not done that in the automotive sector since the sixties.

We've all been shaped light with lots of, I mean, if you look at any headlight on a car anywhere the ones that are super basic with just a reflective, even like the old hoens, they're all segment reflectors and they're all doing very little things to redirect the light into certain. Because the automotive lighting inject is so heavily regulated.

You have lighting targets that you have to hit, you have to get a certain amount of light at zero degrees, zero left and right, and zero degrees up and down. Like it has to be a hundred. I'm thinking off the top of my head, like 200 Ls or something like that, but then off to the left by 15 degrees up, five degrees down, you have to have a certain amount of Candela requirements to legally sell a vehicle.

So the D o T and all that kind of stuff have set up basically all these lighting standards for high beam, low beam turn signals, brake lights, every kind of lighting you can think of. It's been standardized for targets, but in the bike lighting world, Especially offroad kind of step, especially in the US It's kind of very interesting how Europe and US are completely segmented.

We can get into that later, but in the US there's absolutely no targets. There's no requirements. So the goal there was always just build a brighter looking light. Not always necessarily make it more useful. And I kind of feel like that segment was always so small and niche. Nobody was taking the advanced software packages that we use in the automotive side to bikes because I have personally designed reflectors and stuff for clients and things like that, and it gets expensive really quick.

The software package that we use costs 25 to $30,000 a year just to license because it's such a niche automotive specific lighting package. There's only maybe 50 companies in the world that are using it. But it is what lets us redirect and shape light the way it is. And so when I rode with those older night Rider lights, and I, I don't want to call 'em out specifically cuz pretty much every brand is almost the same.

That kind of what I noticed that these were all just flashlights. They were the same beam patterns that you would expect. From a flashlight that you're gonna use around your house, walking down the woods and all that kind of stuff. And I saw that opportunity to basically be like, All right, let me sit here as a driver.

Not so much a writer, but like, how do I, how would I approach this problem if I was doing this from an automotive perspective? I could, Okay, I'm gonna be my eyesight eyelines here. My lights mounted two and a half feet below me. Six inches in front. Okay. I know that I want to be able to see with a reaction time of 10 seconds while riding at 35 miles an hour, the fastest, like super fast downhill.

I know that I need I know that in order to recognize an object, you need three to five looks of light. Okay? If I know I'm doing 35 miles an hour. And I want 10 seconds, I can figure out that distance that I need to have something illuminated with three to five lus and then backtrack that to figure out how much cannella that I need.

And that sets my minimum target in the center. And then basically I can then shape the beam pattern so that we hit that minimum target so it feels bright enough. And then we take all the other lumens that we have and kind of spread that around so that we build essentially a wall of light. Which is exactly how we do it in the automotive sector.

A lot of fine tuning and figuring out what targets we wanna hit at what beam angles. All right, let's go into our software programs. Let's spend a couple weeks iterating, optimizing, simulating all these different types of beam patterns. Tweaking, reflect your facets individually until we get what we feel is inappropriate beam powdering for that Pacific type of light.

Then we can prototype it. Test. Make changes. It's a very iterative process there. But yeah, it was pretty much that first night ride that I had was very eye-opening as far as, yeah, like if this is the best we can do so much better. And there's so much more opportunity to develop good lighting, utilizing the automotive sector and bring it to bikes rather than being just another bike and enthusiast who's putting together a really bright l e.

Into an off the shelf reflector and calling it a bike light kind of thing. So, that's kind of how I see like our paths to arriving here being a little bit different than other companies especially in the logging space. But it does seem like a lot of biking companies start from bike and enthusiast, which obviously that makes sense.

And so that's kind of how we arrived to that point and got. Yeah, it's super

[00:14:12] Craig Dalton: interesting taking it with a kind of first principal's fresh eyes look and taking what you learned in the automotive industry. You know, one of the, the sort of hallmarks of the outbound lighting visual is it's sort of wider.

You know, you think of a lot of these lights and they're, you know, essentially akin to a flashlight or circular or just square light right in the center kicking out a lot of lumens. As you just described, the outbound lighting profile is quite a bit wider. What do you do with that extra space? You mentioned how you sort of can really fine tune where you want the, the extra lumens to go to, et cetera.

What are you doing across that big visual front plate of lights?

[00:14:51] Matt Conte: Yeah, so that's also kind of playing into the whole like physiological way that our eyes respond to light. Our eyes prefer very. Evenly lit spaces as you can kind of imagine, like when you're riding in, driving in a tunnel and you come outta the tunnel and you get that like big flash of brightness, how it takes a little bit for your eyes to like auto expose.

I guess like from a camera perspective. The same thing happens when you're riding a night. If you're riding behind a light that's like very bright, the center and has harsh edges, when that light is moving around, like your eyes are constantly trying to balance. This bright object moving around in front of you versus when you have a very wide even beam pattern, it feels a lot more like daylight.

And that's kind of like why we feel so comfortable right around in the day because everything is evenly lit from, not only from like where you're trying to look, but also all the ground in front of you from like where you're looking all the way out to the front of your tire. And so that is definitely like one of the biggest challenges.

And as far as like developing an optic. Is to set up the, the beam, and again, the, the surfaces on these things have to be so precise. The tooling for them is very expensive, but it's part of like, why it's so good. Basically what we're doing after we set that target hotspot that we want to hit, then like you said, we're taking all that extra lumens and stuff.

And then first of all, I'm trying to like make the lighting from the, where you're looking all the way to the front of your. As evenly as even as possible on the ground. So I'm able to basically set up like a sensor plane in my software for brightness and then set up like a driver perspective, or in this case a writer perspective.

But since we use an automotive software, we're always using driver. So I set that up and then basically I'm able to like do cross sectional curves and make sure that we don't have any like weird ripples or really. Peaks which you can kind of see if you study a lot of different beam pattern all over the spectrum from like the cheapest lights to the most expensive lights.

You'll see, like there's blotchy areas where lights just gets a little bit more concentrated. You might not notice it, but isn't until someone like me points it out kind of thing. But it's a really, really tough job to try and do that. And that's sort of like where I find the value in the software that we.

To be so valuable because yeah, once we set like the ground plane to be evenly lit from the front of your tire all the way out you're looking, then that's where I try to expand the width and then more importantly, try to taper the brightness so that it's, you get all this peripheral spill light to decide that never shows up in pictures, never shows up in video because it's just so.

That camera sensors can't really pick it up unless you start pull a Photoshop and brightening stuff and all that kind of stuff. But our eyes are incredibly sensitive optical in instruments, so our eyes start to pick this stuff up and then from the very outside corners, I very progressively try to ramp up that brightness to the center so it feels very smooth and progressive.

And that's sort of one of those things. . That's why like when you shine one of our lights, like against the garage wall or the back wall, it's not gonna seem as bright compared to some other lights because we spread it out so much. But it is one of those things like once you're on a trail, on a road pitch dark, and you turn on our step and you give your eyes a few minutes to adjust, and it's one of those things that people just never wanna go back to another type of light.

And it really is all those little. Details and days of simulating and tweaking and simulating and tweaking, and simulating, tweaking over and over and over that it really pays off. And I'm pretty sure that, I mean, I notice kind of like why our lives have been so well received. It's a, yeah, it's, it's something that no one else has really done before.

Because it is a very expensive it of process that if you try to hire that out to somebody, . Like you have to give them the targets. You have to say, I wanted to be this bright, I've got this much light I can do, make it work and that, and I'll give you 10 or $15,000. And that guy's gonna do two days, three days worth of work and be like, Oh, here you go.

Versus like us, we're obsessive about it. I've been up till two or three in the morning just simulating, tweaking. Cuz every time I simulate I'm like, All right, I'm gonna let this simulate. I'm gonna go to bed and be. Wait five minutes, like, Oh, but I'm so close. Let me tweak this again. And Right another five minutes, ah, if I just move this another degree to the left, it'll be all right.

And then boom, three o'clock in the morning. And my wife's wondering why I'm not in bed yet. It's, it's that kind of obsession with lighting is like, it's why I enjoy what we do. I love what we're doing, making lights and all that kind of stuff. And I think that really shows in the products. And customer.


[00:19:39] Craig Dalton: there's a lot of, there's a lot of detail we can get into on the lights. So after the Kickstarter project goes off, you've, you've amassed a little bit of capital to presumably pay for some tooling and get some of the basic products off the ground. What was your vision for how you would, you would assemble the product?

Where are the components coming from and did that change from the original Kickstarter first version to, to what you guys are doing now?

[00:20:02] Matt Conte: Yeah, so. At first, like the previous company I was at before, we did a lot of stuff overseas. Just cause like the tooling's cheap, all that kind of stuff. And so initially, like after we ran the Kickstarter, we raised like 30 grand.

I still needed like another 40, so I ended up getting a home equity line of credit against our house at the time. So I was literally betting the house on this working. Thankfully it did but. It was one of those things where I wanted to work with domestic tooling companies and all that kind of stuff.

But the problem is, is that you need a lot of scale. So these guys usually don't even wanna like start talking to you until you're doing like 5,000 units, 10,000 units. At the time I needed 500. I just needed enough to get going. So in order to get the company off the ground, we had to go overseas as far as like getting the tooling going because they'll do the tooling cheap and they'll do it with low minimum quantities, cuz all they really care about is the tooling.

While domestic suppliers are more for the recurring orders that come in every day or every quarter or whatever. And so we were able to get stuff started and make the initial shipments and all that kind of stuff. And the tooling, all the tooling was done overseas. The PCBs the actual printed circuit boards and the assembly was done still stateside.

At the time I was using a company out in Kansas City. We've always kept the electronics state side because that's, that's the part of developing these products. Needs a lot of hands on experience and needs a lot of like quick turn reaction parts will be out of stock and alright, quickly we gotta find another resistor that can drop into this and all that kind of stuff.

And that's where you need that good kind of communication lanes which don't always get going overseas, but when it comes to like a rubber strap or just a guy cast piece, like yeah, you can go overseas and do that kind of stuff. My goal was always to try and build the company up to the scale that we could do more domestic manufacturing.

And we finally have kind of reached that point where we're building 10,000 EVAs this year, well, I think we did about eight or 10,000 this year. And once you get to about six to eight to 10,000 units per year, that's when domestic manufacturing makes a lot of sense. Not just from, but the tooling's gonna be more expensive.

The lead time's a little bit longer, but the per unit cost is gonna be a little bit cheaper. And more importantly, you're gonna save a ton on shipping shipping, tariffs, all that kind of stuff. And so, as well as just being able to quickly react to different changes and things like that. So we now have a fantastic supplier out in Michigan.

They, they do automotive components as their bread and butter, but they also like working with small manufacturers like ourself and. , we're able to now utilize a lot more advanced materials. We're using thermally conductive plastics and everything, which I think is an industry first. We're able to get it.

It's one of those things, like the quality just gets so much better as you're able to bring things domestically, but you can't do that until you get the scale. And so it's kind of like a chicken before the egg thing where either you're gonna have a ton of money and you can do it right away and just make a big risk, which I couldn't do because we didn't have investors.

We didn't have anything. It. Me betting the house against some tooling that I hope works in an industry that I don't have a ton of experience in. But now we've gotten to that point where every single new product that we develop is almost a hun a hundred percent stateside developed. We do all the assembly and manufacturing in-house.

I've invested a lot into automation, robotics stuff like that. Mostly because I love playing with them. I'm an engineer and I love programming them and trying to figure out how to make things better, faster, quicker. Not just from lights, but also how we can build things better. So we're able to build 30,000 lights a year, which is one production guy overseeing three or four different robotics systems.

Wow. That autonomously dispense grease. They autonomously sold. I've got an order right now for a cobot arm, so we're gonna have like an arm that's picking up pieces, snapping 'em together, checking the torque on all the screws, checking the force to snap those pieces together. Basically, you can turn it on on an optical sensor, make sure that the light output is exactly what it needs to be.

If it's not great, kick it off to the side. Someone else will look at it. But for the most part, trying to do everything I can. Basically make this business run as smoothly as possible so that we can just continue to focus on building better products and as well as like the customer service and all that kind of stuff.

Cause yeah, for me it's one of those things that as if you build a great product first, everything else becomes easy. If you build a product that just works every time, you don't need a huge customer service department that's handling warranties and all this kind of stuff. Build a product that's just simple to operate.

You don't need complex instruction manuals telling you how to turn on the light. Like it's just turns on, it goes and all that kind of stuff. So to me it's kind of one of those things like we'll always spend the extra couple bucks on genuine components and all that kind of stuff automotive grade sealants and plastics so that this stuff just won't break.

And if it does break, we just fix it. We just. You know, if it breaks, it's an engineering issue, we'll be able to figure out how to make it not break and we'll be able to work with our suppliers quickly to modify the tool, and three months later we'll have the product with that problem solved. And so our stuff is incredibly iterative.

The product that you buy a year from now is probably gonna be very slightly different than what you would get today, just because we're constantly trying to stamp out every little issue that comes up. And so, Yeah. Yeah, I love

[00:25:41] Craig Dalton: that. I love that that benefit of us manufacturing and having that tight relationship.

So you can take the customer feedback if you're listening and just put it right back into the product. And sometimes it's minor, but it's always a step in the right direction, whether it's for performance, durability,

[00:25:57] Matt Conte: what have you. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And it's, yeah, it's one of those things that it sounds easy on paper.

It's shocking, like how many companies don't actually do that. Yeah.

[00:26:07] Craig Dalton: Listening to customers is surprisingly hard and actually doing something about it, I found.

[00:26:12] Matt Conte: Yeah. Yeah. It definitely is. But, you know, let's,

[00:26:15] Craig Dalton: let's, let's talk about the, the outbound and lighting lineup as of today. What are the different models?

And I'd love to just talk a little bit about the intention of the various

[00:26:24] Matt Conte: models. Yeah, yeah. So like, that's sort of another one of those things that makes us unique in this space is, We make a different light for each specific purpose. We're not just making one light at three different power levels or five different power levels.

We first, we've got our like bread and butter, which is more for mountain biking. Its so a trail evo that's like a handlebar mounted bike light that's designed to go into handle bars. It's pretty heavy, so it's not gonna fit on your helmet. And it's just an incredibly wide even beam pattern. So that you can be moving your handlebars, you know, 30 degrees to the left and you'll still be able to see where you're going.

And then we have our hangover light, which is an ultra lightweight, very slim, low profile helmet light that's designed to go on your helmet can work on the handlebar, but it's not great because it is a narrower spot. Because wherever your head is pointed is probably your eyes are looking. So we can kind of take that beam powder and narrow it down.

And still get, have half the lumens, but still the same peak output as I like handlebar light, if not a little bit more. That's so

[00:27:28] Craig Dalton: interesting and, and sorry to interrupt Matt, but I, I spent a bunch of time with the, the helmet mounted light. The hangover recently Loved it by the way. And hearing you describe kind of the very purposeful difference, honestly, my entire lighting.

I've stuck handlebar mounted lights on my helmet. Yeah, and there was no distinction between the two. It was just like, Okay, great. For the uninitiated night rider, like having a helmet light is important because as you turn your head, as you're going through sweeping corners, A lot of times, certainly with traditional lights, the the light on your bar can disappear.

All of a sudden you're going through this arcing turn and you're actually not seeing the trail you're seeing off in the woods. And, you know, you've touched on this in a couple different ways. One, on your handlebar lights you've described how you've tried to purposely widen that, that lighting profile mm-hmm.

so that you can turn that 30 degrees and still be in. But the addition of the handle, or sorry, the, the helmet mounted light just gives you that additional ability to kind of look even further. So from by my likes when I'm mountain biking, the ultimate combination is definitely that Evo Plus hangover helmet.

Helmet mounted light.

[00:28:38] Matt Conte: Yeah, definitely. And that's where those two lights, we also designed to work in concert with each other. So like, the exact same color tempera. Pretty similar being punched strain, so you're not like one light isn't overpowering the other, but it is once you're like looking off down into a hair pan or something like that, that's where it's like you get the brightness of the helmet light.

But we make sure that the peripheral spill blends well enough that you're not ending up looking at like two distinct lights. Like it's still feels like an unbroken wall. And so that was like a really important part of the design constraints that we set up when we set the initial lighting targets.

Both of these lights was they need to work well together, so, I think it was like 135 degrees off center is like what I aimed for. So basically you're looking your hand, the bars are dead ahead and you're looking like way back behind you. And I still wanted to make sure that there light was blending a little bit so it didn't feel like you saw a black hole basically in between.

Yep. Where you're looking and where your hand of eyes are pointing. So it always feels unbroken. Cause as long as you do that, then your eyes are not gonna like. I keep saying like auto exposure, but it's not really the terminology. But basically your eyes aren't trying to adjust for the blackness here and the bright intensity.

So as long as it keeps it unbroken. Yeah. Also it's like as you write with it longer, your eye, your pupils start to open up. Cuz they're so used to it, they're not having to contract and expand and contract and expand with the varying brightness levels. As long as it's consistent, you have people who can slowly expand and take in more light.

So even though we're working with Lower Lu. Because we wanna have a longer battery life. By just having that unbroken wall of light, it ends up feeling brighter as you get used to it because of the fact that you were, i your eyes are physically opening up more and able to take in more light. Just like when you sit in a room for five minutes in the dark, your eyes start to open up and you can start to see a little bit better.

The same thing effect happens with just dim lighting. And all that kind of stuff. And so that's sort of where that philosophy of make sure everything's evenly lit, ultimately ends up helping a lot more as far as like having to like feel a lot brighter, even though the numbers on paper don't seem that impressive.

But of course that's one of those things that you can't really, you can't break that down into a one line item on an ad. You can't show that in a picture. You can't show that in video. It's one of. . You just gotta get out there. You gotta ride with it. You gotta try it. And so that's why like word of mouth for us is our biggest yeah.

Seller pretty much. Well hopefully

[00:31:10] Craig Dalton: this deep dive in the podcast will be a good mechanism for people understanding like the depth of the. Engineering that go into these products and the thoughtfulness that you guys have put in there. Yeah. I think at, before I interrupted you, you were gonna talk about the third lineup, Third light, your lineup.


[00:31:28] Matt Conte: Yeah. So that's our newest light which is called Detour. It's basically like a road beam headlight. It's designed for gravel riding and road riding. The main difference is being, is that it's, it's basically like a low beam on a car headlight. It's got a cutoff. Where, basically a horizontal line where the light doesn't go above it.

So that way you can aim the light up and flat and still be able to see really far down the road where you want to go. Cuz you can put the brightest part of the beam right there, but you're not blinding oncoming traffic. Which is a big deal especially for gravel riders, road riders, or you're approach.

Other rider coming towards you, pedestrians and stuff like that. Definitely don't really need it for mountain biking. Cuz a moose doesn't really care if you don't blind him or not. He's still gonna be in the middle of the trail. So, so yeah, that's our newest one. Which again, it's a very specific type of light.

It's designed to be a hand of our light, designed to be front and center on your bike. And designed to be aimed in a certain way so that you're not blinding oncoming traffic and stuff. And that's still very wide beam pattern, very progressive lighting from where you're looking all the way out to the front of your tire.

I've got side market lights and stuff, so you have better side visibility for traffic or things like that. But yeah, it's just another one of those like. We're not gonna come out with a detour of 1500 or detour 2000 like it's, that's, this is the light. It does around 1200 lumens. You're able to get a lot brighter hotspot because the fact that you, you're not putting half that light in the sky, but to get the cutoff beam pattern so it feels brighter than actually is, you can get good run times and all that kind of stuff.

So, Yeah. Cause I was, it's still,

[00:33:06] Craig Dalton: it still boggles my mind as someone who started out with a 200 lumen light back then as being like the pinnacle of performance that now you can get 1200 lumens in this incredibly small package. No battery, no external battery. It's all right in there. It's, it's just

[00:33:23] Matt Conte: astounding.

And you still get an hour and a half, two hours of run time and weighs, was it 135 grams or something? Yeah, and I mean we've got some other designs in play right now that get set even smaller. I'm really, that's sort of like, you know, looking towards the future. Cause you know, like you said, it, it started out with like halogens and car batteries.

That was kind of how it started out 20 years ago, 30 years ago. And then IDs bulbs came in and they came out with a little really miniature IDs that again, they did 250, 300 lumens. But they were power sucks. As you waste most of that energy and just heat, like heat coming out of the lamp. But then in around 2005, 2006 is kind of when LEDs became a lot more mainstream.

You were able to get them cheap enough that you could build cheap products with. So you saw that explosion, not only the automotive side. Cause that was like when I was really into that, went. The H I d Offroad Lights to Rigid Industries coming out with all their LED D stuff. And the same thing, the bike side.

That's like when Night Rider came out, their first I think it was the new or the Lua, their first Lua, like 2005, 2006. Again, 300 lumens. 400 lumens maybe. All that kind of stuff. But then over the last 10 to 15 years, LEDs have gotten, I'd say there's about a five or 10 year stretch where LEDs just every year, just huge leaps.

Huge leaps, huge leaps, and then kind of slowed down and stuff. Now the biggest technological leaps in LEDs have basically come from the miniaturization of them. So, And that ultimate that's been driven by the automotive sector, that the automotive sector requires smaller and smaller optics, which means that you need a smaller and smaller source, AKA D L E D.

The l e d has to be as tiny as possible so that we can control the rays that are coming, the rays of light coming outta the l e d. So we can control that on a very small optic, and you can put that exactly where you need to. Cause if you put a huge l e. Inside of a tiny optic, you're just gonna get scatter everywhere.

It's not gonna be well optimized and all that kind of stuff. So the automotive sector has driven the LEDs to become smaller and smaller and smaller, and they come out like the lumen values don't look impressive on paper. They'll be like, Oh, it's only 300 lumens on this. But that's kind of like why our trail Evo has nine of these LEDs.

Cuz you can put these tiny, tiny LEDs into a tiny optic. And still get incredible beam control versus if you try to take like a Cree X H P 3.0 whatever, whatever the biggest l e D is that can do 1300, 2000 lumens, but it's massive. It's like a centimeter wide. You need a ginormous optical reflector to put that into for it to be of any use.

Otherwise, you're just scattering light everywhere, uncontrolled. And you see that a lot on a lot of cheap lights. You could tell. They looked at the data sheet, they saw who? 1300 lumens. That looks great. And they're like, Well, let's just, but we gotta fit in this little thing, so let's just taste this l e d, slap it into that.

Cool. We got a really bright light. And it's like, Yeah, but it doesn't do anything. Well, it's either extremely concentrated or it's just blown out. Uh um, and so, man, I kind of go off on tangents a lot if you can't tell So, yeah, like the technological jumps, LEDs have kind of slowed down a bunch. And now there's incredibly tiny, incredibly power dense and it's great for us, but there's not, there's not much more that LEDs can do.

Like we've kind of reached the final form, I guess you could say. But the next big technological leaf that's gonna be really interesting to jump into is batteries. You know, all these automotive company, again, automotive is leading the, the sector to kind of then drips down into bikes. All of the solid state batteries that every single automotive company is investing into companies like solid power, all that kind of stuff.

They're basically promising these batteries that can charge instantly, they can put out huge amounts of power. They won't be as affected by thermals as much. So you can run 'em really cold or really hot and they won't lose a lot of life. And just a lot more power dense. And so to me that's gonna be like the next big generational leap.

Not gonna happen next year. It's not gonna happen two years from now, but maybe like five or six years. We hope that we can get, you know, 21 700 cell batteries in a solid state battery for a reasonable price. And that's, These bike flights can either be twice as bright for the same run time, or last twice as long for the same brightness.

And that's gonna be, and also incredibly lightweight. Those graphing batteries, I think are like half the weight of a single 21 700 cell. Wow. So that's gonna be, that'd be refreshing. Yeah. And that's gonna be really exciting once those can start coming online. But again, that's probably five years until that becomes more mainstream.

They have these technological breakthroughs that they keep promising. Thankfully it's not as vaporware as like hydrogen energy, but we're getting close I feel like. And so a couple

[00:38:29] Craig Dalton: nuance things I wanted to point out before we let you go is correct me if I'm wrong, but you can actually charge the light while you're running it.

[00:38:37] Matt Conte: Yeah, that's, Yeah. Which of the,

[00:38:38] Craig Dalton: It may seem counterintuitive to people that, that doesn't exist across the board, but mm-hmm. , I'd say the vast majority of lights I've ever run. You could not have an external battery pack to kind of top it off if you needed to.

[00:38:50] Matt Conte: Yeah. Yeah, pretty much most bike flights, you do have your external battery pack that you have to plug in into, and once you unplug it, it dies.

Cause obviously you don't have any power or you plug it in, you can't turn it on because it's just simply charging. Or if you can plug it in and turn it on, it's just gonna be stuck in a low mode because the charging current going into the light isn't enough to like actually power the light. So what we've done knowing that we had a lot of customers who do 24 hour races and all that kind of stuff we do USBC pass through charging where you can basically plug in the light and sort of the way that we can do it is that the.

Is being powered off the battery, but we're charging the battery with an external power bank. So you can technically, if you're running like Evo on high with a sort of a low current battery pack, you can technically outrun the battery pack and end up running down. But if you're running like a medium or low, you basically the battery pack charging the battery faster than the LEDs are pulling the power out.

So we're not trying to do like a straight through, like the light isn't being powered by the external battery. The external battery package, charging the battery inside the light, which is then being used. So yeah, that was basically just kind of like, as one of those like customer requests, like, Hey, how can we use a cheap Amazon power bank to power my light?

Can I do that? And like, Oh yeah, we, we can, I don't see why not. Like you just set up the charging protocols and all that kind of stuff so you could allow that to happen. It gets really complex. Turns out USB stuff is not as easy as it seems. All these like handshakes that have to happen between two different components and it's a real pain in the us But Tom, my co-founder or co-owner out in Seattle, he loves that stuff.

So while I'm up at 3:00 AM tweaking beam patterns, he's up at 3:00 AM trying to tweak USB charging protocol. I love it kind of stuff. So yeah, that Love it. Unique features. Yeah.

[00:40:47] Craig Dalton: The final detail I wanted to talk about was just the mounting mechanisms that you guys have designed cuz I found them to be very clever and slick and unobtrusive, which is not something I could say about a lot of the mounting mechanisms I've had to endure from other lights.

[00:41:00] Matt Conte: Yeah, I mean, you should have seen some of the prototypes that we came up with before we landed on this one. They were large Oakley or Vinicky and not great. But the current one that we use for the Well, for Hangover, we just simply just use what everyone has used for the last 15 years, which is just a standard action camera.

I can't officially say GoPro anymore because now they clamp down on that, but it's a GoPro mal. So everyone's used to that. It works great. Low profile. A lot of bikes have, It was built into it, so why not just make sure our helmet light works with that out of the box, which is why Hangover has. Action camera tabs on the back of it.

But for Evo and Detour that mounting system was one of those like real hard design challenges because like, like we obviously buy like every single competitor light we can get our hands on. And all of them, they always have at least like one or two good design features. And I'm like, that's a good idea.

I'm gonna just take this and put this in mind. But when it came to mounting, I literally could not find anything. I was like, This is great. Cause a lot of the mounting things were, if they were secure, they were really hard to put on. Like, you could not take 'em off with like a pair of thick winter writing thick winter writing gloves.

Which for me, that's always been like a design standard. Make sure that we can operate anything on a light with a thick pair of winter writing gloves because most of our customers are ready at night in the. And it sucks to not have to be, not be able to turn on your light or mount it or anything like that.

So we went through a lot of iterations trying to figure out how in the world we're gonna mount this light so that it can quickly be taken on and off and all that kind of stuff. Until one of my friends not related at all the bikes or anything, he's a big camera nerd. He like, Hey, you should look at man photos, camera lights, or camera mounts that were the tripod stuff.

Super simple. People have used it for literally 40 years. I bought one of them. I'm like, Huh, this is a really good idea. Just a little, It's

[00:42:57] Craig Dalton: so interesting that you say that. Now that you say that, I'm like, Oh yeah, that makes sense. I've seen that before and

[00:43:02] Matt Conte: that's where I've seen it. Yeah. Yeah. So basically I took the man photo design.

I checked photo patents. They all expired in like the late nineties. They patented like in the seventies or 80. And so with basically a free for all you could use it you're not gonna infringe on anything. And basically I took what they did, miniaturized it and tried to make sure that it works so that no matter what, you could have it mounted bird according to light.

Disney just gonna fall to the ground. So we put in a little notches and stuff like that to capture it. But for the most part, it's a man foot camera. Designed for bikes or for bike lights. And so all of our lights or all of our handlebar lights have that basically standard n size on the back, a a man photo camera base plate that can slot right into our quick release mount and.

Click it in, push it back, closes the plunger torsion spring snaps it shut, and you just push down in the lever to really secure it in place. Little serrated teeth with a big thumb screw that can again, easily be operated when you're wearing a pair of gloves. So you can adjust the beam angle without having to over tighten the amount or anything like that.

Yeah, it's one of. The, that mount is on its third iteration. We've already got a fourth one in work right now cause we want to get rid of the, the he screw and all that kind of stuff. So we're gonna try to do like an overcame mechanism and everything. Yeah, it's, I don't know if you ever got to experience the first ones where I did 'em, amount of die cast aluminum and powder coding and ugh, that was one of those hindsight.

2020. I really wish I hadn't done that. But now, last fiber amounts. They work great. The smooth action, all that kind of stuff. It's again, goes back to that whole situation of like, every, let's just iterate. Let's quickly make changes. Don't worry that this cool tool cost five grand. Like we've gotta make the product good.

If it's not easy to operate for customers, then no one's gonna like it. Yeah, and all that kinda stuff. So,

[00:44:54] Craig Dalton: Awesome. Well, thanks for walking us through the lineup and that backstory. I love, I love hearing your journey. I love, it's sort of admirable to get out there and Kickstarter and put yourself out there on the line.

As a former small business owner myself, I, I feel your, I feel that pain of when you mortgaged your house just to get the, the product off the ground and congrats for. Ultimately bringing it back to the US for manufacturing, as you mentioned, so many advantages there, let alone helping the economy, but just advantages that you can continue to roll out better and better performance and take that customer feedback to heart every time it comes through.


[00:45:30] Matt Conte: yeah, definitely. Yeah, it's always the golds yeah, it's, it makes business sense from a money profit standpoint, and it makes sense just from. The product standpoint, we're able to, and it's, the goal is to just continually advance ourselves further. So like these thermally conducted materials it was something I wanted to use for almost a decade.

But we just never had the volume to justify it. Cuz I have to purchase three to 4,000 pounds of this material, just like the minimum order quantity, which is equivalent to like 10,000 units. And when you're starting out, you only have 500 or a thousand for the entire years, like, I can't, I can't justify that.

But that's sort of our business goal is like just continually advance and kind of pull away from the competition by integrating these technologies that is not as easy to integrate from the start. Or you need the scale. So, yeah, that's where, yeah, we've got a lot of fun things planned. We've got a long list of things we want to do.

We're trying to push into. Bike shops. Next year, like we finally, we've got our manufacturing dial. We've got the robots in place, like we can finally like outpace building from our retail website demand. So now we're kind of trying to expand into bike shops. We're getting like retail, this display developed and all that kind of stuff.

And so that's sort of what we're hoping, you know, if anybody shot you listening, you can always go to outbound and talk to us, get connected, get you all hooked up and everything. . Yeah. That's where if anybody ideas and stuff like that, always open to listening. If you email us, it's gonna be either come to me, it's gonna come to Tom, like there's literally four people in the company.

That's it. And so it's very personable. You're gonna talk to a real person. We don't have any bots running, thankfully. .

[00:47:05] Craig Dalton: Right on. Matt, thanks again for the time. I'll make sure everybody knows how to get in touch with you and super informative and congrats.

[00:47:12] Matt Conte: Yeah, I appreciate it. It's been great chatting.

[00:47:14] Craig Dalton: That's gonna do it for this week's edition of The Gravel Ride podcast. Big thanks to Matt for coming on the show. I hope you, like I did, learned a lot about lighting and the nuances around the lighting choices we can make as cyclists. If you're interested in supporting the show, you can visit buy me a gravel ride, or ratings and reviews are hugely important.

If you're interested in connecting with me, I encourage you to join the ridership. That's That's a free global cycling community. Tons of people, and interesting conversations going on in any given day.

So I encourage you to join that. Until next time, here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.