Matt Garnett, director of BreezeBlockers in Newcastle, engaged Teesside University in a consultancy to test a product created to protect cyclists’ hands from the cold.
BreezeBlockers offers aerodynamic bike shields for competitive, leisure or commuting cyclists –to protect hands and feet in cold, wet and windy weather.
Matt commuted by bike and competed in road racing events at an amateur level. He often suffered from cold hands until he adapted a plastic milk carton to block the wind and cold air. 'I developed a prototype. My wife has experience in business start-up, so we researched patents and came up with the name of the product, which is now also the name of our business.'
Matt approached Business Link for help to get the business off the ground. After successfully winning an Innovation Voucher, BreezeBlockers engaged with two universities to develop its idea.
Durham University helped test the product’s aerodynamics in wind tunnel testing and Teesside University tested its functionality in its environmental chamber.
The environmental chamber can simulate almost any environment on earth, and is often used for athletes to experience extreme environmental conditions. It is also used to test clothing, equipment and occupational tasks in extremes of temperature in a scientifically controlled environment.
The tests at Teesside showed the product allows cyclists to train for longer by reducing levels of perceived exertion and lowering blood lactate levels – with no need for bulky gloves that reduce hand movement. Teesside academics also provided expertise in interpreting and analysing the results.
"Using the University’s facilities was instrumental in allowing us to prove the product’s benefits. Without access to the environmental chamber it would have been hard for us to claim the product kept cyclists warm. The test results proved the product to be very effective – users felt it provided a physical and psychological improvement to their cycling.
‘We now have products for mountain bikes and commuting bikes, and have developed a foot shield to keep feet warm. We’ve had product reviews in the cycling press and developed links with a UK distributor and one in Germany to branch out with the product across Europe.
'Feedback is that it’s a great product – people can’t believe how effective the shields are. We have been trading with a range of products since October 2010, and continue to develop new ones.'