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Meet the “Orp” a new bike horn (and light) created in Portland

Posted by on December 13th, 2012 at 2:16 pm


Portland-based industrial designer
Toren Orzeck and his “Orp” bike horn/light.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Many people ride with bike bells; but the truth is, in the midst of traffic they are not nearly loud enough to be heard inside the cabin of a car or truck. That’s a problem that Toren Orzeck of Fuse, a product design firm located in southeast Portland, wanted to fix. “I’m not the best biker,” he said when I met him at his shop back in September, “but I love to solve problems.”

The “Orp” — which went live on Kickstarter today — is Orzeck’s solution. Orzeck is a former designer for GE Plastics and Nike whose brain seems to never stop working. He started thinking about the bike horn idea after the tragic, right-hook deaths of Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek in October 2007. He felt an even greater urgency to solve this problem when, in summer of 2008, the gas-price induced bike boom got him and his employees on their bikes.

“I thought, there’s got to be a way to make bikes more visible — or maybe more hearable.”

The Orp started as a “super loud bike horn” device, but Orzeck and his team realized they might as well add a powerful LED light to the mix.

The Orp has two sound settings; a 78 decibel “friendly sound” good for greeting friends or warning people that you’re about to pass, or a 96 decibel sound for emergency situations. For some perspective, 96 decibels is louder than a subway train at 200 feet away and it’s within the range that can cause hearing loss under sustained exposure. The sound itself is a rather unpleasant, high-pitched tone similar to a smoke alarm. You can hear both of the sounds and see a demonstration of the 87 lumen light in the video below:

As you can see, Toren and his team have packed a ton of electronics and circuitry into an impressively small and attractive package. Check out a few more photos below…

The Orp follows a general trend we’ve noticed lately of bikes and bike accessories becoming more like cars. It’s interesting that just in the past week or so, we shared a link to another bike horn on Kickstarter from Loud Bicycle.

What differentiates the Orp from Loud Bicycle or the Airzound (which is the only other loud bike horn I’ve heard of) is that it has an integrated light, it is significantly smaller, and it has (in my opinion) a much more sleek and modern design (not to mention it comes in lots of neat colors!). The Orp will retail for around $40.

To get the product to market, Orzeck is hoping to raise $90,000 via Kickstarter to fund engineering costs, injection molding tools and other equipment. If successful, Orps will be available in September of next year. See the Kickstarter page to reserve an Orp for yourself and to learn more about this interesting new product.

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  • Chris December 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    I’m planning on using the emergency sound for every time I get endangered by illegal behavior by motorists. So expect to hear it a lot.

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    • Big Truck December 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      I plan on using it every time bikers illegal behavior puts them endanger. You should buy ear plugs!

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      • Big Truck December 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm

        OK, that should be in danger! LOL

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      • A.K. December 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm

        So you’re going to use this thing against motorcyclists?

        They won’t even hear it, damn pipes!

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        • q`Tzal December 15, 2012 at 7:42 am

          “Loud pipes save lives”
          All those years I thought Harley riders were just @sshats but after my first emergency use of an AirZound resulting in my safety and the absent minded driver $#ittin their pants I realized there is some nuance to this issue.

          Your loud sonic safety device is someone else’s migraine inducing noise maker.

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      • Phil December 18, 2012 at 4:20 pm

        You should! Sometimes I feel like there are 2 kinds of cyclists, those of us who know how much it hurts to get run over, and those who don’t.

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  • Madeye December 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Be FOREWARNED, headphone wearers, the loud setting in the video demo could definitely hurt! Overall, I think this is very interesting and has a lot of promise.

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  • El Biciclero December 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    This product differentiates itself nicely by incorporating a visual alert along with the audio alert. My only concern might be that the emitted sound will take too long to be recognized by those it is intended for. It sounds a little bit like the parking garage exit alarms that sound to warn pedestrians that a car is about to come rolling blindly out onto the sidewalk–will drivers recognize it as a warning to them?

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    • Pete December 13, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      My concern too El B. Having used the Airzound, I’d recommend imitating the sound of a large truck horn – people recognize it instantly. Also there have been studies done of sirens used on emergency response vehicles, and some are designed so the direction of their emission can better be determined.

      My complaints with the Airzound were mainly that it didn’t work well with my pumps (to recharge it) and the horn button took a little locating and pressure. In the few emergency occasions I needed to use it I found the reaction time was too quick to use a horn anyway (my lungs worked though). LOVED it as a concept and in practice it was very effective at what it was designed for – instantly recognized.

      For the Orp, I’d love it if the light portion was easily toggled as a strobe. For night riding/commuting I use very powerful lights but vary their intensity as I ride. I’m not a fan of either insanely bright lights aimed at eye level (yeah, we see you, we get it), or strobe lights used continuously and singularly (especially bright ones). On my commute there’s one merge where I’m ‘sneaking’ up on traffic and switch to strobe, but I’d love to just have a second light as a strobe I could turn on and off while I use my bright light primarily to see the road.

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      • Pete December 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm

        I mention the strobe also because heat dissipation in this design doesn’t look like it would serve the purpose of a bright enough primary light (for my purposes anyway; I don’t ride in cities or under streetlights for the most part).

        Forget to mention… great idea, and good luck!!

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        • John Lascurettes December 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm

          I’ve never heard of the need for heat dissipation with high-intensity LEDs. Xenon bulbs, sure.

          I also worry about it’s non-hornlike resonance in either mode. In the polite mode, it would confuse the hell out of pedestrians and probably make them less predictable as they scrambled in unpredictable ways (I’ll stick with my bell thanks). And for the warbler mode – I just don’t know what to make of it. It is obnoxious. But would it work?

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          • Sunny December 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm

            That’s because these LEDs aren’t turning out 1000 lumens like the newest LEDs.

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          • GlowBoy December 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

            LEDs don’t generate as much heat per lumen as incandescent bulbs, but they are far more sensitive to heat, and heat dissipation is one of the biggest challenges in designing high powered LED based lights. A higher-powered LED like the 1000 lumen XM-L will burn itself out almost instantaneously without proper heatsinking.

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          • Pete December 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm

            I recently bought a 650-lumen NiteRider Lumina to replace an older NiteRider model that I think was stolen (from inside my house by a contractor). Both are LED-based. NiteRider claims the heat dissipation in the updated Lumina chassis design allows them to use brighter LEDs (and last longer), whereas the ‘ceiling’ on the older model was ~350 lumens. While mounting and aiming it I had it on high for a while and noticed the sides got pretty hot. In my estimate the ribbed metal panels on the Lumina design are for cooling, but that was just a guess. The older model was only 150 lumens and never got noticeably hot, and it made for a very handy work crawlspace work light (which I think is how/why it got pinched).

            So yeah, just assumptions on my part.

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        • Brian E December 14, 2012 at 9:11 am

          LED’s don’t really produce much heat anymore. I can hold a Cree XPG2 LED running at 200 lumen on my finger and it only feels warm. In stark contrast, if I place the beam against a piece of paper, it will bun a hole right through it.

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  • SilkySlim December 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Awesome. Count me in. I wish it could make different sounds though, for example a t-rex roar.

    I wonder if I can switch my paycheck to just auto-deposit in Kickstarter…

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  • Sunny December 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    With E.T. on my handlebar, what could go wrong?

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  • Case December 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Don’t forget the Hornit! http://www.thehornit.com/ 140db is, well, holy cow.

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  • Patrick December 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I used to have a loud horn but when something goes awry I am too distracted by the emergency to use it (either I forget I have it or I’m using my brakes and/or turning). I do however have a REALLY LOUD yell.

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    • Sunny December 13, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      How do you contort your hand to activate when you’re holding on for dear life? The horn would only be used as revenge against an offender.

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  • Anthony Moy December 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Hornit seems to have beaten Orp to the punch, minus the light — http://www.thehornit.com/
    The Hornit puts out a 140 db high-pitched warble. Although people seem to notice it, one problem seems to be that they don’t recognize it as a warning signal, and I suspect this is because it doesn’t sound like an automobile horn. Some people clearly hear it but don’t do anything–give me eye contact, even look my way! But quite a few others do and so I find it to be fairly effective. I just wish it sounded like a car horn. So, I suspect Orp users may experience something similar.

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    • ed December 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      The ORP seems to also light up when the horn is activated.

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  • joel December 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    i think im going to need to stop using williams as a route home during rush hour as soon as these come out, cause id almost rather get hit by a car than be surrounded with cyclists using these things.

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  • dwainedibbly December 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    More options are certainly better. I wonder if the Loud Bicycle horn will be more effective since it uses automotive horns, so it will sound like a motor vehicle. Even if it’s loud, I don’t know if Orp will get peoples’ attention. Car horns are pretty much universally recognized. If a motorist hears what they think is a car horn, they know what is going on and will react accordingly. If, instead, they hear strange high-pitched buzz/squeal of the Orp, they might think “wtf is that?” but not change their direction.

    The Hornit has similar issues, IMHO.

    I really like that Orp has settings for lower volume “friendly” sound and I like the integrated nature of the device. It’ll work really well with flat bars. A remote button might be a good idea for other types of handlebars, though.

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  • Johan Broad December 13, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    You can put all the lights, flashers, horns, bells, and sirens on your bike, and use ALL of them.

    You will *still* get hit by some idiot cager who will swear they didn’t see or hear you.

    And they won’t be lying- they couldn’t hear or see you because they had the stereo cranked up to 11, the AC blowing full blast and they were too busy texting their status on facebook to pay attention to the road.

    And speaking as a Motorcyclist, not every biker runs loud pipes, some are simply more assertive than others.

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  • GlowBoy December 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    I used to ride with an Air Zound for a couple of years. Then I realized the human scream is just as effective in waking up inattentive motorists, and requires no additional equipment.

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  • Joe December 13, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    I slammed on my brakes. haha

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  • Scott December 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    The HornIt is 140 db and has a remote trigger that can be placed anywhere on the bar. Be heard. Be seen.

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  • Pete December 14, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I don’t use a bell though they could be handy. Where I live, I’ve learned to say “on your left” in four different languages… 😉

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  • Pat Franz December 14, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Love the concept and the industrial design. I would definitely test the sounds with different groups of people. For me, neither sound worked for the their intended purposes. Unfortunately, I suspect lower pitched sounds more like the expected auto horns are too hard to do with a small transducer. The flash when honking is a great idea.

    I used to use an AirZound. I found it was great in lots of situations, and always better than yelling. I have a loud voice, it wasn’t the lack of volume, it was the social aspect of being yelled at. I found offenders tended to take offense at being hollered at, but tended to be sheepish when honked at. I quit using it because it was unreliable. I’d love to have something better.

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  • annefi December 15, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I’ve listened to all the horns mentioned in the links and they, and the blinding eye-level lights, are just plain rude to other bikers. Imagine riding around the city with people using these things; an obnoxious minority of users may feel emboldened to ride even more aggressively and selfishly. It could make biking an assault on the senses.

    Does giving in to the car culture and adopting car-like implements such as these horns and lights replace our struggle for a safer, less car-centered transportation environment?

    Seriously guys, an age-diverse population rides bikes and these horns have the potential to cause heart attacks in innocent, older riders nearby and in elderly pedestrians. A few shocks from hearing these things could get aging folks off their bikes and back into their cars. Not a desirable outcome.

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    • Hugh Johnson December 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm

      ha ha and so it begins…we will slowly become what we hate.

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    • Rick December 15, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      I’m a bit of an oddity I suppose because I always wear earplugs when I’m on my bike. It cuts the car noise down to tolerable levels. So these devices won’t bug me as much as someone else. I agree that it would be nice not to need these.

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  • Rick December 15, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    I suppose it could help in certain situations, but I could also see it startling someone so bad they end up doing something erratic.

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  • Barbara December 15, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    I really like the design, but I’m also worried about the sound. I alos think that a car horn type noise would be easier to understand for car drivers. This sounds more like a fire alarm or car alarm than a horn.

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  • Spiffy December 16, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I’m trying to make my bike quieter not louder…

    I like that the light strobes with the louder warning sound…

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  • rb December 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Can you reorient the mechanicals in a wrist watch package? It would be a great second market for walkers and runners after dark.

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  • rb December 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Can you reorient the mechanicals in a wrist watch package? It would be a great second market for walkers and runners.

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