Bike-friendly cities line the United States from coast-to-coast. These cities, such as Boulder, Colo., San Francisco, Calif., and Philadelphia, Pa., provide excellent bike trails, bicycle lanes on roads and vibrant bicycle cultures, according to Bicycling Magazine.
One Boulder, Colo., company has set out to help this growing culture of cyclists.
Cat-Ears was founded in September 2012 after a culmination of several weekend bike rides. Cat-Ears founder Richard Weissner and his family felt there must be a solution to wind noise associated with cycling.
“As avid weekend cyclists, we were constantly annoyed with wind noise while cycling since it interfered with our conversations and occasionally made it difficult to hear approaching cyclists and passing vehicles,” Weissner said. “We thought for sure that there must be a product on the market to reduce ear-wind noise, but there wasn’t.”
This is the Classics I model of Cat-Ears. Credit: Cat-Ears website
“So we started testing our own homemade solutions. We then shared our prototypes with our friends who thought they worked great,” Weissner continued. “Since we thought other cyclists might enjoy our invention, we came up with a company name, created a website, and sold a product the very first day.”
Cat-Ears work in much the same way that cat’s ears work. “We thought about how animals avoid wind noise and then we thought about our own cat. Hmm, he has hairs on the leading edge of his ears that appear to dampen and deflect some of the wind. Hmm, he can run very fast and he can hear better than we can. Hmm, maybe we should take a cue from nature.”
Weissner and his family took a cue from his son’s cat, Kidu.
Credit: Cat-Ears webiste
According to the Cat-Ears website, the Classics Cat-Ears are made with about half an inch of faux fur. The fur is attached to the outside of the bicycle helmet’s strap, along the wearer’s ears. It is the faux fur that dampens, buffers and deflects wind noise. Cyclists have provided feedback that the Classics model can deflect wind noise between 40 and 60 percent.
The Classics model is available in the I, II and Pro versions, with sizes varying between versions. Pro is the smallest of the versions and was designed with competitive cyclists in mind, according to the product’s website. Classics II has a soft fleece backing. Cat-Ears range in price between $14 and $16. The Classics I is available in black, while the other two versions are available in black, white and gray.
From Idea to Reality
Although Weissner and his family came up with a product that would help with their weekend bike rides, it took several months and prototypes to arrive at their final product. “Some of our early prototypes sort of worked and some were complete failures,” Weissner said. “It reminded us of Thomas Edison trying hundreds of different light bulb filaments. Eventually we knew we would find an effective solution.”
“It’s a little embarrassing to mention all the different things we tried [in prototype testing]—duct tape, carpeting, open and closed cell foams, rubber mesh, aluminum, white gauze, fleece materials, short and long synthetic furs. You name it and we tried it,” Weissner said of the process. “I think we went down every isle in the local hardware store buying different things that we thought might work. Then came the testing, and I’ll admit that the things we attached to our helmets looked pretty silly at times.”
“It took about six months from initial testing to turning on our Cat-Ears website,” Weissner said.
Perseverance is what helped the family continue on with prototypes. “We knew we had developed a very good product, but it was basically an unknown item in the marketplace,” Weissner said as a form of advice to others that are looking to launch their own products. “It wasn’t a better this or that, it was totally new. Getting the word out and creating product awareness was a big initial challenge. I think it’s really a matter of believing 100 percent in what you are doing and selling.”
Other Products in the Family
There are other products in the Cat-Ears line—Fleece Fingers, Strap Wraps and Ear Covers. All three products deflect wind noise and the Ear Covers help keep ears warm on cooler days. The Strap Wraps and Ear Covers are available in youth sizes.
These are the Cat-Ear, Ear Covers. Credit: Cat-Ears webiste
“The fur-based Classics are the most effective, though the Ear Covers work great too and they keep your ears warm on colder rides,” Weissner said of the Cat-Ears line of products.
Cat-Ears are currently only available online, according to Weissner. “We have been approached by a company in Belgium that wants to test carrying our products. Given shipping costs, we like the idea of having a distributor located in Europe.” International shipping is available on all products with products being ordered by cyclists in the United Kingdom, Taiwan and Australia, to name a few.
Check out the full line of Cat-Ear products and product updates on the products’ website.
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