2013 Winner – Max Kettle, Bicycle Laser Alignment Tool
Max’s idea was for a tool that checks a bicycle’s wheel alignment. “I came up with the idea because there was a need in the group I ride in and there was no tool to do the job,” he says. The tried-and-true method of placing the bike’s front wheels between your knees to manoeuvre it into shape is still the best method to straighten the alignment, but until Max’s idea, there was no way to tell if it was precisely straight or not.
The tool is fitted to the handlebars, and a laser light on the wheel indicates whether it’s straight. Max’s home-made prototype sat in his shed for a couple of years before friends suggested he enter it into the Bendigo Inventor Awards. He says doing so was a great motivator to finish the tool. Only then did Max realise its implications. “I looked at it with my fiancé and said, this could be world-wide. This should be in every bike shop in the world.”
The judges’ decision was further proof Max needed to take his invention from the shed and into the marketplace. But it hasn’t been easy. “What it’s shown me is, to come up with an idea and invent something is easy,” he says. “What’s hard is the bit in between. Getting the marketing right, finding the right people to try to sell something that’s not in the market yet.” Max says the Bendigo community has played a big part in his success so far. For the prototype, local engineer Hugh Ralton drew up Max’s plans, then Keech 3D printing and NS Engineering helped build the tool. Max has since employed Stanford Marketing to help with the commercialisation process and he says even his employer, Dunlop and Pitson Earthmoving, has been behind him all the way.
Max says working with the Inventor Awards business experts was also invaluable. “They showed me the steps I needed to take to get the product through to the end result and they said ‘we’ll support you to get there and if you can use local business and help them thrive as well, that’s even better’. It’s amazing how many other people have come on board and believed in it.”
He also credits the support of his family for getting him this far. “The growth I’ve got out of doing this is massive, as well as finding the belief in myself.” Max currently has hundreds of orders for the tool. “It’s potentially a massive product world-wide because there’s nothing else available that does this.”