March 25, 2015
Posted by FLO Cycling at Wednesday, March 25, 2015
We were recently published on WeWork Magazine's website. The following article was titled "From Engineer to Entrepreneur: How I Discovered I Could Start a Business". Feel free to check it out here or read the full article below.
How I Discovered I Could Start a Business - by Chris Thornham
Like most engineers, I learned to think on my feet and execute plans fast. It’s one of the qualities that primed me for entrepreneurship. But despite my penchant for planning, I still walked away with a few bumps and bruises.
Venturing out of my cubicle and into the entrepreneurial unknown allowed me to flex the problem-solving skills I picked up as an engineer. It took a few botched attempts to finally get it right, but the failures only made me more resilient.
Surviving the first-year business woes with my twin brother was nerve-wracking. A typhoon hit our factory, a container ship stocked with our products crashed, and our web servers continually went down, among a string of other disasters.
We stuck it out in the end, and our passion and engineer ingenuity helped keep our heads up as we navigated the murky entrepreneurial waters.
In any industry, building a solid startup brings a distinct set of challenges. Here are four universal lessons we had to learn firsthand before triumphing with our business:
1. Follow Your Passion
A successful entrepreneur doesn’t only enjoy making money — everyone loves that. You need to have passion for your product or service. If your heart isn’t in it, you won’t compete at the level it takes to make it.
I always enjoyed designing and working on big projects, but after graduating from college, the thrill quickly vanished. I realized it wasn’t AutoCAD drawings that I hated; it was working the 8-5 grind for the benefit of someone else. Every waking hour at my day job was a vivid reminder of how badly I wanted out. When we finally pursued our passion with FLO Cycling, it no longer felt like work.
2. Devise a Plan B
You should always follow your dreams, but be smart about it. If you fall flat on your face, you need an exit strategy so you can move on to something else. Failing doesn’t mean you have to quit. Take those lessons learned and apply them to your next venture.
Our first business was a complete flop. We knew how to plan and design, but neither of us had the business acumen to run a startup. Without marketing expertise, proper accounting practices, and solid business operations and administrative knowledge, we simply couldn’t function. Recognizing when to cut and run gave us time to hone those skills before starting FLO Cycling.
3. Don’t Rush It
We took time to build FLO Cycling and nurture it the right way, but as an impatient person, this wasn’t easy. It took nearly five years of blood, sweat, and tears to get it right. People often go for low-hanging fruit, but nothing of value comes easy. You need to work hard, seeing minimal to no progress, before you can feel a hint of success.
Don’t quit your day job the moment your sales outweigh your salary. A secure paycheck is hard to come by, and the ebbs and flows of business can hit hard if you’re not financially prepared. Let a few steady paychecks come in before you cut off a source of financial support, especially in this tough economy.
4. Collaborate With Consumers
We’re so accustomed to hearing about confidential or proprietary company knowledge, such as Google’s SEO algorithm, that we try to keep our business a secret. But that’s counterproductive to your actual goal: to spread the word and build a base of potential customers.
If you have a great idea, ask people if they would buy it. Learn what features and benefits they look for in your product or service. Huge corporations pay an arm and a leg to collect and analyze market research, but you can go straight to the source. Gauge audience interest to determine whether you should build a prototype to show people a functional design.
It wasn’t until we sought consumer feedback and let people play an active role in the development process that we succeeded with FLO Cycling. By the time we went to market, we had thousands of interested followers.
With proper planning and a resilient mindset, my brother and I successfully steered our startup toward success. Our mutual passion for cycling motivated us to focus on the marketing and business skills necessary to bring our idea to life.
Executing those plans (and weathering the storms they created) is something only an entrepreneur can do. I couldn’t stomach another 40 years working in a cubicle. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
We hope you enjoyed this article. We'd love to hear your comments below.
February 24, 2015
Posted by FLO Cycling at Tuesday, February 24, 2015 Labels: Aerodynamics , FLO Research & Development , Tire Study
Over the last few days I've been able to get out on the road to test the sensors and my carpentry skills. Every thing has been going really well. Here is a quick update on what we've been doing.
The first ride was at a slow paced 8 mile trip. I wanted to make sure things were working properly before I spent too much time on the road. I wasn't using GPS or power for this ride. Below I've added a quick video clip of the ride.
The Results - Percentage of Time at Each Yaw Angle
The first thing I looked at was the percentage of time spent at each yaw angle. I started considering measurements at 3mph. The data logger records measurements every second so I counted the number of measurements in for each yaw angle. Once I had the number of measurements I could determine the percentage of time spent at that yaw angle. Finally I looked at cumulative amount of time in a yaw angle range. The bold section in the table below shows where the majority of the time was spent.
The Results - Average Yaw Angle at a Relative Velocity
The next thing I looked at was the average yaw angle for a specific relative velocity. I selected all of the yaw angle measurements taken at a specific relative velocity and averaged them. Here is what I found.
My first thought is that 8 miles is not going to tell us a ton. My second thought is that it looks like the rider/air interaction is different than I thought. Old studies we've read have shown the the average yaw angle is between 10-20 degrees of yaw. These results show something completely different.
We've already started gathering more data and are working on more specific tests to get ready for our tire study. Stay tuned for more updates.
February 21, 2015
Last year I spoke with Professor Georg Pingen from Union University in Tennessee. He mentioned that he had a class of students that wanted to study aero wheels on the road. I loved the idea and we sent a set of wheels to the university for testing. The results just came in and I wanted to share how they performed the test and what they found.
The Testing Procedure
Cyclists cycled along a 2 mile straight stretch of flat road. The bike was fit with the test wheels and an out and back was performed. When the cyclist returned to the beginning the wheels were swapped and the course was repeated. The order of the wheels was swapped from test to test to limit fatigue error.
Experiment 1 - FLO 60/90 vs. Alex 200
One student team (Team 3) compared the performance of FLO Cycling aero-wheels. At an average test velocity of roughly 20.5 mph, students found an aero-wheel advantage of approximately 15W with 95% uncertainty bounds of 14.96W±4.56W. Utilizing the equation relating velocity to power (P=Ka*V3+F*V), students were able to use the power savings to predict 40K TT time savings at difference cyclist velocities. The students’ experiments predict a time savings of 1.77 minutes at 20mph and 1.25 minutes at 30mph.
|Team 3 on the Course|
Experiment 2 - Front FLO 60 vs. Standard Front Wheel
One student team (Team 4) compared the performance of only the front FLO 60 against standard OE front wheels. The goal of the study was to determine if the front wheel makes a larger aerodynamic difference than the rear wheel, as often noted in the cycling literature. At an average test velocity of roughly 19.8 mph, students found an aero-wheel advantage of approximately 7.25W with 95% uncertainty bounds of 7.25W±5.89W. The average time savings over a 40K time-trial at that velocity was calculated by the students as approximately 50 seconds. This savings is roughly ½ of the savings obtained by using both wheels, thus not indicating larger savings from the front wheel.
Thanks to Union University
I love this stuff. I think it's great that Professor Pingen has allowed the students to learn by testing products in the real world. I want to thank Professor Pingen and all the students who were involved in the testing. Great work!
February 11, 2015
Order 18 - All of the Details!
It's our first order of 2015! Order 18 will begin Thursday February 12th at 10:00am PST. We will be selling FLO 30s, 60s, 90s, DISCS and FLO 30 rims.
Every wheel purchased within the first hour will receive a FREE Silca Valve Extender (FLO 60's and 90's) or a free Continental tube (FLO 30's and DISCS). The best way to get ready for Order 18 is to read the "General Information" and FAQ below. We can't thank you enough for your support and patience. Order 18 was slightly delayed due to all of the issues happening at the port in LA. This morning we received good news that our container should be arriving next week. If you have any question about Order 18 please let us know.
- Order 18 begins February 12, 2015 at 10:00am PST. Access the store here. You will need a store account to checkout. We recommend creating your account here before the order starts to save time.
- On February 12, 2015 the "Store" page will feature a countdown timer. When it hits 00:00:00:00 refresh your page to begin shopping.
- 700 wheels will be available during Order 18.
- We will have FLO 30s, 60s, 90s, DISCS and FLO 30 rims available.
- Wheels are estimated to ship by February 27th.
- There are currently 1,619 people signed up for Order 18.
- All sales are on a first-come-first-serve basis. We are working hard to eventually have stock. For more information, please read this blog article.
- Orders tend to sell out quickly. Popular wheels can sell in five minutes. We suggest being online at 9:55am PDT if you are interested in buying wheels. Please know there is no pressure to buy, we just want to be honest.
- Order 19 is scheduled to take place in late March/early April 2015 and is estimated to have approximately 700 wheels.
- You are not guaranteed a wheel when adding it to the cart. You must check out to confirm your order.
Questions About Order 18
Q1. How and where do I place my order?
A1. The store opens at 10:00am PST. On the morning of the order, the store page will have a count down timer on it. When the count down timer hits 00:00:00:00, refresh your page to access the store and begin shopping!
Note* You will need to create an account to shop in our online store. We highly recommend creating an account before next Thursday to save time during Order 18. You can create your account here.
Q2. Do we have live up to date inventory on our site?
A2. That’s sort of a yes and no question. When you select the product you will see how many are available under the “Bearings or Bearing/Build” pull down menus (The “Sticker Color” pull down does not show how many wheels are in stock.). If there is one left and you add it to your cart it does not mean you have secured the wheel. You must make it all the way through the cart before the wheel is yours. If someone else has bought the wheel in that amount of time, you will receive an out of stock warning when you hit the confirm order button.
Q3. My page is really slow. What should I do? (We hope this doesn’t happen!)
A3. We have done all we can to beef up the server to prevent crashing. That said there are no guarantees. When you click to add a wheel to your cart it may take a second or two to load. Please do NOT hit the "Add to Cart" button multiple times. If you do you will add more then one wheel to your shopping cart. If there are any technical difficulties during the sale, please be patient, we will be working to correct them as soon as humanly possible. If you page is slow after hitting “confirm order” PLEASE DO NOT HIT REFRESH or your card may be charged twice. If you do hit refresh by mistake and are double charged, please let us know and we will be sure to refund your second order.
Q4. About the Silca Valve Extenders and Continental Tubes?
A4. A FREE Silca Valve extender will be given for each FLO 60 and 90 and a free tube will be given for each FLO 30 and FLO DISC. Please see the pictures below.
Q5. When will the wheels ship to me?
A5. Wheels are estimated to ship by February 27th.
Q6. How much are ceramic bearings?
A6. Ceramic wheels are an additional $100 per wheel. Ceramic bearings support our Bike for a Kid Program and have excellent durability. Learn more about our Bike for a Kid Program.
Q7. Do you offer Shimano 11 speed hub bodies?
A7. All of our wheels ship with 9/10/11 speed compatible hub bodies. The wheels also ship with 10 speed spacers for people running 9 or 10 speed cassettes.
Q8. What payment methods do you accept?
A8. We accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. We do not accept PayPal.
We hope that this answers your questions about the upcoming pre-order. If we have left anything out please let us know.
Thanks again for your patience and support.
Jon and Chris
February 1, 2015
Posted by FLO Cycling at Sunday, February 01, 2015 Labels: Aerodynamics , FLO Research & Development , Tire Study
The wind direction sensor I have been waiting for has finally arrived from Germany. It's made by a company called Lufft and is accurate to +/- 1 degree. There are a number of wind direction options but most fall into the +/- 5 degree range. Since the yaw angle spread on a bike is narrow, the accuracy is very important.
I also took a look at my old wooden mounting system and noticed the supports had cracked. After listening to my brothers advice I decided to replace the support with aluminum. In the process I ended up rebuilding the entire support structure from aluminum and I am happy I did. There are a number of improvements.
Here is a picture of the old mount I had built from wood.
The rest of this blog article shows the building of the mount, the mounting and wiring of each of the sensors and finally a test of the wind direction sensor.
I used square aluminum stock in 1 inch and 3/4 inch and then 1 1/2 in aluminum flat bar for the build.
I had to make two 90 degree angles for the main support so I used L brackets. While I have a new welder sitting in my garage, I have no idea how to use it yet.
Here is the unit with the two 90 degree sections completed.
The next step in the process was figuring out how to mount the wind direction sensor. I used the flat bar with a hole drilled in it to hold the sensor. I also used a series of rubber washers to reduce road vibration. In the past I've mounted breadboards to the front of the bike for measurements and have quickly realized that the vibration from the road makes resistors bounce around like popcorn. You can see the rubber washers placed under the mount below.
Here you can see the mount bolted to the main support.
The next step was to build a place to mount the batteries that power the wind direction sensor. The wind direction sensor requires 24v so I need a decent sized battery set up. I placed a piece of flat bar on the main support to house the batteries.
The next step was creating a platform to mount the data logger and some of the sensors. I salvaged part of the old mount for the new one.
With the basic structure finished I had to create support legs that would mount to the front fork. The idea is that the mount will move with the front wheel since we are studying tires. Below you can see the support members that are holding the mount in place.
Then I was ready to start mounting the sensors. First up was the wind direction sensor. Below you can see it mounted out front where the air flow will be as clean as possible.
Next up was the wind speed sensor. This was mounted behind and above the wind direction sensor.
The Onset data logger was next. I used a couple of mounting screws to mount the unit above the handle bars. This way I can see if there are any warning lights going off.
Now to mount the batteries. Yes, that is duct tape. I thought about the best way to mount these and to be honest this was the best way I could think of. The Gorilla tape I used is the toughest tape I've ever seen. The batteries aren't going anywhere.
The wind speed sensor and the temperature sensor came with long cords and some additional hardware. I found an old project box and modified it to hold the cables.
This cleaned up the front of the bike a lot and also gave me a place to enclose the temperature sensor. I wanted to keep it out of the sun to prevent shifts in temperature as I moved in an out of the sunlight.
With the cover placed on the box I think you'll agree things look pretty clean.
The barometric pressure sensor came with a short cable and was housed in a small box. I used double sided tape to mount this on top of the project box. I also mounted the 4-20mA input on top of the project box. The wind direction sensor has a 4-20mA output and the input receives the info and converts it for storage in the data logger.
The final step was wiring the wind direction sensor to the battery and the 4-20mA input. The first go around I kept the wires a bit long incase there was a problem.
With the wind direction sensor wired up it was time to test it. I had not tested it since it arrived and was really hoping that it would work since I had spent so much time getting everything ready. Luckily for me it did. Below you can see the 4-20mA signal for various angles. When you see the jumps from 4-20 this is were the sensor is going from 0-359 or 359-0 degrees. To eliminate this when riding I will end up mounting the sensor so South is pointing forward. This will give me a range centered around 12mA instead of the break at 4 and 20. While it won't change the results, the graph will be a little easier on the eyes.
That's it for today. Now it's time to get this beast out on the road. For the first couple of days I plan on staying close to home. While I trust my carpentry skills, I am not sure I won't get chased off the road for being the biggest nerd in Las Vegas =].
January 30, 2015
Chris and I studied at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It's been almost 10 year since we graduate in 2006 with Mechanical Engineering degrees. Today a large part of what we do is thanks to our education at UNB. This month we were featured in the UNB Alumni News. The story can be found on the UNB Alumni News Direct website.
Originally posted on UNB Alumni News. Written by Natasha Rego
UNB alumni reinvent the wheel
Twin brothers and UNB alumni Jon and Chris Thornham (BScME'06) are making their mark on the cycling industry with their redesign of theChris (left) and Jon Thornham (right) have redesigned the ultra-light carbon fibre wheel.
Chris (left) and Jon Thornham (right) have redesigned the ultra-light carbon fibre wheel.
ultra-light carbon fibre wheel being sold to cyclists around the world.
The Thornhams began designing high-performance racing wheels after Chris, a triathlete, was asked for more than $2,000 to purchase a set of wheels.
“We felt there had to be a way to combine a high tech proprietary design with an affordable sales model,” Chris explains.
With a very demanding market and a computer software to measure the wheels’ aerodynamics, the Thornhams realized they had the ability to create an economical, high-performance product.
In February 2012, the brothers launched FLO Cycling, a web-based direct sales model.
It was an instant success selling 750 cycling wheels to 28 countries in the first half hour of sales. To date, the brothers have sold 10,000 wheels to 52 countries.
“The reviews of the products’ performance and quality has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Chris. “We are very proud of that.”
Jon and Chris are also making an effort to give back to the community through their ‘Bike for a Kid’ program, which donates a bike and a helmet to a child in need every time they sell a set of wheels with ceramic bearings.
The UNB mechanical engineering undergraduates credit much of FLO Cycling’s success to their studies at UNB.
“Ever since I was young I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” says Jon. “Without UNB we would not be where we are today.”
January 27, 2015
It's that time again. I love reviewing the year. 2014 was a great year for us. We had a number of operational changes. We went from our products being shipped from our house, to a dirt floor warehouse and finally to a fulfillment center. Time was becoming a big issue for the two of us and unloading the shipping to a fulfillment company gave us about four months of our lives back. I am going to follow the format from last year so things can be compared. Also, you can check out our "2012 Year in Review" and "2013 Year in Review" for comparison.
This article will be broken down into three sections.
Section 1 - Sales Data, Shipping Info, and Other Cool Stuff
Section 2 - Social Media and Website Growth
Section 3 - Our Thoughts for 2015
Section 1 - Sales Data, Shipping Info and Other Cool Stuff
Number of Wheels Sold
At the end of last year we said if we sold anywhere near 5,000 wheels we would be thrilled. In 2012, we sold 1,500, 2013 we sold 3,356 and in 2014 we sold 4,989. Yes, we are thrilled!
|The sticker tables at our new fulfillment center.|
Number of Bike for a Kid Donations
We continued our partnership with the Ironman Foundation this year. We were able to donate 357 bikes and helmets to less fortunate kids this year. Our total is now 758. We are excited for 2014 and have formed an additional partnership with More Than Sport. If all goes as planned we hope to pass 1,000 bikes and helmets donated in 2015.
Number of Orders Placed at FLO Cycling
Even though Chris and I had become pretty efficient and processing orders, the amount of time we were spending shipping wheels was taking away from running the business. An average order took 10 days to organize and each day we spent 12-15 hours processing. With eight orders in 2014 that was about 1,000 hours each. Considering the average number of hours worked in one year is 2,000, shipping was a major undertaking. We decided to hire an order fulfillment company, and in June of 2014 we handed our shipping over to eFulfillment Services. With 2,818 wheel orders received this year it was great to still have the time to run our business. Thank you eFulfillment Services.
Number of Countries and Territories Where FLO Wheels have Shipped
I get pretty excited when we ship a wheel to a new country or territory. This year we were able to add five.
Other Cool Stuff
Here are a few interesting facts about the year.
Top 5 Countries by Number of Order Placed
1. USA - 74.06%
2. Canada - 6.53%
3. UK - 4.76%
4. Australia - 3.97%
5. Sweden - 1.67% - Sweden bumped out Denmark this year and is new to the list.
Top Three Wheels According to Sales
1. Front FLO 60
2. Rear FLO 90
3. Front FLO 30
Favorite Sticker Color: Stealth Black
Max Number of Gigabytes of RAM our Servers used at one time: 150
Cumulative Number of Emails Sent and Received: 250,000
Number of Sushi Rolls Consumed During Shipping Weeks: We may have mercury poisoning. =/
Number of Cliff Jumping Sessions in Kona: 3
Number of Dogs Added to the FLO Cycling Team: 2 - Quoddy the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (left), and Ruby the German Shorthaired Pointer (right).
Section 2 - Social Media and Website Growth
As an online business that is run from our houses, social media is very important to us. Here is how our social media grew in 2014 along with a few fun facts.
By the end of 2014 we had 6,170 likers on Facebook. That's 41% growth from 2013.
Last year Andy Murray's Winning Wimbledon video took the cake for the most shared post on Facebook. This year AMC's Minions Holiday message was the winner. They are catchy little buggers.
Our Twitter followers passed 2,000 this year with over 40% growth.
She's the Queen of Twitter. Katy Perry takes the prize again this year for the most Twitter followers. If she keeps winning I am going to run out of pictures of her on a bike. =]
YouTube Subscribers and Video Views
I have to admit that our YouTube growth surprises me. This year our number of YouTube subscribers surpassed our Twitter followers. We are also getting close to 500,000 video views with 456,707.
It's the year of dogs. This years top YouTube video was a dog dressed up like a giant spider running around scaring people. Handsome fella!
FLO Cycling Website Visitors and Number of Page Views
Tracking the number of visitors to your site for an online business is pretty important. We've seen steady growth this year. The cool thing to me is that our page views per visitor is also growing. Below are the number of website visitors, website page views, and blog page views we saw in 2012-2014.
Can anyone guess who the king of the internet is with the most page views? Yep, it's still Google.
Countries to Visit our Website
Depending on who you ask, there are either 195 or 196 countries in the world. Funny enough, Taiwan - where our wheels are made - is the disputed country. At the end of 2014 we've officially had visitors from 179 countries. There's 16, or 17 to go.
App Session Views
A new addition this year is the number of app session our iPhone app has received. An app session means that someone opens the app to use it. We saw 41% growth this year with 98,218 sessions.
FLO Cycling Newsletter Subscribers
We are happy to see that people like our newsletter. Writing blog content is a big part of what we do. When people want us to share it with them, that's an added bonus. With just under 20,000 newsletter subscribers, it appears these engineers aren't too bad at writing. =]
When I read that our email campaign company mailchimp.com sent 70,000,000,000 - yes billion - emails last year, I wondered if that was the ceiling. How many more can you really send? Well, apparently you can send 100,500,000,000 in a year.
Putting stickers on wheels was my job for the last two years. This year I passed the torch to our fulfillment company. Before I finished I had surpassed 30,000 stickers in my sticker career. Here's to another 30,000 more.
Section 3 - Our Thoughts for 2015
At the end of last year we mentioned that we would be working on a new product. We did. While it's taken longer to develop then we expected, we are currently waiting for partial prototypes at this time. We hope to have an update for everyone soon. This new product means that 2015 will be a development year. We plan to discuss the development like we did with our wheel design back in 2010 and 2011.
We are also starting to study tires. At the end of 2014 we started to build an on bike data logger to tell us things we've thought about for years. We will be covering this process on our blog as well.