Future shock

A Sheffield University research associate has developed an innovative new type of shock absorber for mountain bikes.

A Sheffield University research associate has been recognised as one of Britain’s most promising young entrepreneurs after developing an innovative new type of shock absorber for mountain bikes.

Dr David Batterbee, from Sheffield University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, has received the Royal Academy of Engineering‘s ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award, for developing an innovative device that can uniquely detect differences in the terrain a mountain bike is travelling on.

Batterbee will be awarded the £40,000 prize at the Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Ceremony in June 2009.

The award has been established to identify entrepreneurial researchers working in UK universities in the field of electrotechnology who are at an early stage in their career and who demonstrate both considerable entrepreneurial promise and the potential to benefit the UK’s future prosperity.

Most mountain bikes have a shock-absorber system in place to absorb the impact of bumps and keep the rider in control. However, these devices often compromise performance and the rider has to manually adapt the shock absorber to suit different terrains, by turning a switch.

Batterbee has developed a rear shock absorber that electronically monitors the severity of the terrain and then optimises the bike’s performance automatically. On smooth terrain, a platform is automatically switched on to reduce rider-induced suspension movement and to maximise pedalling efficiency. On rough terrain, the platform is automatically removed for enhanced shock-absorption capability.

Batterbee and his supervisor Dr Neil Sims have been awarded a Yorkshire Concept Fund to develop a market-ready prototype of the device, as well as a proof-of-concept fund from Sheffield University Enterprises Limited (SUEL).

Last year, Batterbee participated in the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship´s FlyingStart Programme for Engineers, which supports graduates developing new business ideas.

The project has also benefited from the Connect Yorkshire Springboard programme, which provides free help to technology companies in all stages of development.

Batterbee said: ‘It is a great honour to have received this award, which will directly contribute towards the business start-up costs required to drive the first product to market – a magnetorheological mountain bike rear shock absorber.’