In the battle between cars and cyclists, it is easy to see who wins every single time. Bike safety has always been a priority in Tempe and the rest of the Valley, where cyclist fatalities are a common occurrence.
Two ASU alumni are doing their part to keep cyclists safe while still being stylish. Charles John started CycleLights in his ASU dorm room, and with the help of his business partner, LaVell Dishmon, the two have been spreading their products across the globe.
“Once people see them, they fall in love with them,” Dishmon says.
CycleLights are colorful LED wheel lights that illuminate the road—and more importantly, the rider—making them much more visible to vehicles. The idea came to John, an avid cyclist, after not being satisfied with a screw-on LED valve cap being the only thing on the market to keep him safe. John would regularly ride between Tempe and Tucson, making a product like CycleLights a very real necessity.
Both Dishmon and John wanted to have their own business, and CycleLights was their passion. While they didn’t have any prior business experience, they both split the responsibilities. Dishmon refers to himself as a “full time tinkerer,” and with a background in mechanical engineering, he says they sometimes have to focus on finishing orders before playing with more designs.
CycleLights has only been growing in the past three years, and now John and Dishmon are focusing on branching out from online commerce to retail stores.
“We took a bike tour across the country last summer and we visited 60 cities in 60 days. We rode around each town when we got there on our bikes and took pictures and went to see if we could get our lights in different shops all across the country,” Dishmon says.
The door-to-door tactic worked and CycleLights is now sold in about 60 shops across the country, including plenty right here in Arizona. Dishmon says they recently sent a large order to Lima, Peru, but that Italy, France and Germany are big buyers as well.
While students at ASU, Dishmon resided in the Polytechnic Campus while John was in Tempe, studying to get his degree in biomedical engineering. The two are now working from a distance again, as John has recently moved to California for a job in biomedical engineering.
And while they’ve come a long way from hand-drilling holes into bike rims, Dishmon and John are always researching and redesigning their products.
Beyond simply lighting up wheels, CycleLights also offers FreeStyle lights and basket lights in a variety of neon colors. And because cyclists can’t have all the fun, they have also expanded their products to light up skateboards. CycleLights is now offering small “penny” boards, regular skateboards and long boards with lights embedded into them.