From concept to creation: U.K. start-up re-inventing the car mount

Mount Evo’s modular approach to mountain bikes and snowboards is transforming the cost of ownership, with the help of Solid Edge from Siemens.

Siemens has sponsored this post.

Solo bike rack mounted to a Porsche Taycan. (Image: Mount Evo.)

Solo bike rack mounted to a Porsche Taycan. (Image: Mount Evo.)

There’s a great quote from former Microsoft CEO and tech investor Steve Ballmer that accessible design is good design. It’s the idea that products need to be created in such a way as to make them easier to use and more practical for customers. Product design needs to solve problems and improve customer experience — otherwise, what’s the point?

It’s a question that many start-ups may ponder when faced with breaking into an established market. Competing with incumbent products, supply chains and customer histories can be daunting. How can a new product get the traction needed to make an impact? The answer is both simple and complicated at the same time: just do everything better.

For Matthew and William Hartley-James, founders of U.K.-based Mount Evo, this has become something of a mantra. It stems from real-world experience and frustration. Both keen snowboarders and car enthusiasts, they grew increasingly disillusioned with the inconvenience and cost of trying to carry sporting gear on their cars.

Matthew Hartley-James and brother William Hartley-James, co-founders of Mount Evo.  (Image: Mount Evo.)

Matthew Hartley-James and brother William Hartley-James, co-founders of Mount Evo. (Image: Mount Evo.)

“I had a car with a panoramic roof, and we couldn’t fit roof bars to it,” says Matthew Hartley-James, who, as a trained engineer, decided to do something about it.

The challenge, he says, is that so many cars today do not come with standard roof mounting points (they have to be requested at point of sale) and there is also a prevalence of panoramic roofs, especially in the types of cars that the brothers like to drive.

“It was frustrating,” says Matthew. “And costly, too, because every time we changed our cars we had to change our roof bars, with different fitting kits bespoke to each car.”

The brothers wanted to design and build a solution to the problem, to reduce the need to keep swapping-out roof bars but also to reduce costs. They came up with the idea of introducing modularity to a vacuum mounted roof rack.

“That would allow customers to have a standard mount — vacuum cups — and then mountings depending on the specific sports equipment. The standard mount would be suitable for any car.”

Building an edge

For the Hartley-James brothers, this meant using a software application Matthew already knew through previous work experience. Siemens’ Solid Edge, a CAD program for all aspects of the product development process, was a natural choice. It gave him the platform on which to play with the designs of suction cup mounts and racks, and to create 3D prototypes.

Roof racks modelled in Solid Edge.  (Image: Siemens.)

Roof racks modelled in Solid Edge. (Image: Siemens.)

“We used Solid Edge to mock-up ideas initially, with some minor simulation to work out what sort of flex we would see in the material, as well as the load it would be able to take,” says Hartley-James. “We then made prototypes by hand, not using fancy CNC machinery, but starting with hand tools and some HDPE sheets.”

The brothers have come a long way in a very short time. Incorporated just over two years ago, Mount Evo now boasts three bike mounts, a camera mount and mounts for surfboards and stand-up paddleboards. Hartley-James says there are plans for more mounts — snowboards in particular — but also ideas around improving usability of all the mounts.

Key to this is design experimentation and that means Solid Edge. Hartley-James says the software is integral to the company’s future plans and product direction, especially in how to remove the need for tooling during installation.

“We’ve grown with the software,” he says. “We use it to design the products and now we are looking at how to market our products on the website using the CAD software, which is invaluable. As it has KeyShot built-in to Solid Edge, it means that I don’t need a photo studio for the products, as the images and renders are such high quality. This means anyone can zoom in and look at the models of the products more closely on the website, building trust with customers.”

Render of Mount Evo E-bike vacuum bike mount, using Keyshot integration. (Image: Mount Evo.)

Render of Mount Evo E-bike vacuum bike mount, using Keyshot integration. (Image: Mount Evo.)

As the business expands and looks to optimise how it manages production and stock, the software will also play a key role, says Hartley-James. Of course, product STL files can be sent directly from Solid Edge to its U.K.-based machine shop, but the software has also enabled the brothers to reduce waste through knowledge of the manufacturing process.

“Using the software helps us also reduce waste as it helps us to map out how many mounts we can fit to a sheet, for example,” says Hartley-James. “This helped to dictate the original shape of the base mount because in theory it could be any shape. Having a right-angle shape has led to a more efficient manufacturing process, enabling maximum use of each HDPE sheet. This means less waste and lower cost.”

What this also allows is easier product storage, an issue the brothers needed to address for all of their mounts. Less awkward shapes mean that the mounts are easier to store in most models of car. Hartley-James says that understanding the needs of customers here is crucial and a big factor in how he approaches design and engineering challenges.

Tidal bike rack on classic car. (Image: Mount Evo/@trevmedia.)

Tidal bike rack on classic car. (Image: Mount Evo/@trevmedia.)

“The curvature of the car roof is the hardest to work out,” says Hartley-James. “You need enough flex in the mount so it will conform to the roof without damaging it but also have enough stiffness so it is able to hold bikes, which tend to be top heavy, securely. We’ve got some CAD models of cars, such as Volvos, and we fit the mounts onto the cars in CAD so we can get a virtual view of what it will look like and how it will work before we’ve even made it physically.”

Hartley-James adds that the Solid Edge software “is going to play a big role in our future,” especially in its ability to be multi-functional, key for a start-up product business. The brothers are confident though that they can scale and they are attracting interest, with cyclists Richard Eniffer and Monica Dew acting as brand ambassadors. It will be exciting to watch how this young business evolves hand-in-hand with Solid Edge.

Visit Siemens to learn more about the Solid Edge for Startups program.