“My colleagues love them and love recommending them,” said Christopher Kisicki, a cycling associate at the flagship store in Seattle of REI, the sporting goods retailer. “We can’t keep them in stock,” he said.
Monkeylectric does $1 million in sales annually. There is the Christmas rush and in summer, the Burning Man bump.
“I hate to say it, but it’s almost mandatory to have them on your bike at Burning Man,” said Jefferson McCarley, manager of the Mission Bicycle Company, which builds custom bikes in San Francisco.
Monkeylectric’s market is a niche one, but growing: As of 2015, 885,000 people commuted on bicycles in the United States, up from 488,000 in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. And biking in the dusk or dark is clearly very dangerous. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, bicycle deaths occur most often from 6 to 9 p.m.
In an unscientific survey along San Francisco’s Market Street one night last week, most cyclists had front lights and weak red reflectors on the back (as required by law), but no side lights. Few bicycle lights are as eye-catching or noticeable to motorists as Monkeylectric’s lights. They are sold in 500 stores and on Amazon, which offers many similar-looking products for much less money.
Mr. Goldwater calls many of those products knockoffs. Every year, he said, he saw a half-dozen more companies based in China with look-alike lights that sell for $10 or $15. Mr. Goldwater, who holds five patents on bicycle lighting, refers to them as “toys,” although some consumers fail to see the difference.
Cheaper lights, Mr. Goldwater said, tend to be dim, not very durable and not waterproof.