The Blaze Laserlight, which gives advanced warning of the approach of a bike by projecting a bike symbol on the road ahead, has landed a £300,000 cash injection from venture capital firm Index Venture and Sam and Holly Branson, the son and daughter-in-law of Virgin empire billionaire Richard Branson.
Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, and the investment, Blaze is today taking orders for the innovative light, and designer Emily Brooke is planning a whole series of urban cycling products to follow on.
Brooke came up with the idea while studying product design at Brighton University.
“Three years ago I’d never been on a bike before,” Brooke told the Evening Standard’s Oscar Williams-Grut. “I decided to cycle the length of the UK for charity during my studies. I realised the countryside was great but the city was a nightmare.
“In my final year we had to design a product from start to finish and I gave myself the theme of urban cycling. I spent six months working with a driving psychologist, the bus company and a lot of other cyclists – one stat stood out, the fact that 79 per cent of cyclists hit are travelling straight ahead and the vehicle turns into them.”
She hit on the idea of a light that projected a bike symbol on the road several metres ahead of the bike.
Brooke told Elizabeth Anderson of Management Today: “Having a laser projection that serves as early warning could transform bicycle safety.”
Over a year of development, numerous prototypes and a crash course in starting and running a business later, Blaze is taking orders for the Laserlight, at a cost of £125.
For that you get the aluminium-bodied Laserlight itself, which is a 300-lumen front light as well as projecting a bike symbol on the road; a USB cable that charges the light via an Apple-style magnetic socket; and a steel mounting bracket with shims to fit handlebars from 22mm to 32mm.
With big-money backing, Brooke is already planning to branch out, with a focus on urban cycling and safety.
“We want to make Blaze a global urban cycling brand,” she said. “We’ve already got six other products we’re looking at, such as bike locks and helmets.
“Over half a million journeys are made in London every day but personal safety is still by far the biggest barrier to participation.
"We are very conscious that making cycling safer requires equal parts infrastructure investment, political will and a change in the attitude of a lot of road users, regardless of the number of wheels, but we very much hope that our light would make a difference.".”
Commenting on the deal, Holly and Sam Branson, daughter and son of entrepreneur Richard Branson, said: “We invest in entrepreneurial activities to help make a difference in the world and Blaze are a brand using exciting technology to make the experience of urban cycling better.”
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.