In a workshop tucked away down a quiet country lane in south Cumbria, a young start-up business could be working on the next big thing in cycling engineering.

Ratio Technology grew out of the research Tom Simpson and fellow cycling enthusiast Felix Barker did as part of their engineering studies at Cambridge University.

Under the tutelage of Professor Tony Purnell - who formerly worked in technological development for British Cycling - they both undertook bike-based engineering projects, with Tom, from Kendal, looking into ways drivetrains could be improved and upgraded.

When they left university they began designing ratchets, cable fins, chain rings and gear shifters; equipment which can be applied to drivetrains on bikes to enable them to have larger gear cassettes.

In 2018, with the help of investment from Tony their erstwhile tutor, they formed the business, which designs, manufactures and ships the parts across the UK, Europe and America.

However, they are still focused on creating a much bigger breakthrough.

"For the first two years of the company Tom and Felix were doing a lot of maths and design work," says Will Weatherill, another Cambridge engineering graduate who joined the business in 2021.

"As we started to sell products we've moved into manufacturing and the practical side of it, but the development project is still ongoing.”

The team are shy about giving away too many details but are hard at work developing a new system which could enable cyclists to change gears much more smoothly and quickly. They hope to be able to launch the new innovation by the end of the year.

In the meantime, the products they make are proving popular with devotees of gravel biking - which has boomed in recent years - where access to the wider range of gears offered by a larger cassette helps with the steep, rough climbs and on and off-road terrain riders encounter.

The equipment is designed to work alongside existing parts made by larger companies, but is filling a gap in the market which more established businesses have yet to plug.

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"When the market is shifting so quickly it's hard for them to keep up so it leaves room for companies like us,” says Will.

"It's all about keeping your old parts going and upgrading them for compatibility with new equipment and better performance.”

The products sell particularly well in America, where there are large networks of gravel roads for enthusiasts to play on.

"The gravel can be pretty technical and with really steep climbs, so you want that mountain bike gearing that's super low, but then you might go on a group ride on the road and you want to be able to keep up,” says Will.

After Cambridge, which is Felix’s hometown, Tom - who is also a keen fell runner - was desperate to return to the hills of his native Cumbria and so they located the business to his family’s workshop and barn just outside Kendal.

It is home to an array of equipment including lathes and CNC machines.

With the help of investment from the Government’s Made Smarter initiative, the company has also purchased a Brother three axis milling machine which allowed them to begin producing the aluminium derailleur cages they sell.

The trio now all live in Cumbria, alongside a fourth team member Louis Simpson, who is Tom’s cousin.

"It works really well,” says Will.

“We're all cyclists and so it's a great place to be based.”

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Will himself has cycling innovation in his blood, as the son of Ian Weatherill, whose company Hope Technology, based in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, was instrumental in the development of disc brakes for bikes, an innovation which now comes as standard.

He hopes the project Ratio is working on could herald a similarly influential change.

"The interim products have been great, because they fund all the development for our main project," he says.

"It means that we're not in as much of a rush to launch the product, so we can afford to be thorough with the development and make sure we've got everything really sorted.”

The current range of products already sell thousands of units every year, around 15 per cent to the UK and the rest to the United States and Europe.

They are doing so well that the team are considering taking on another member of staff to handle admin and shipping.

Will says shipping to Europe has become more problematic since Brexit - with customers facing an unpredictable cost for items to clear customs. The business is also buying aluminium at higher prices due to inflation following the pandemic.

However, as a business which began manufacturing when the metal price was already high and Brexit was a done deal, he says these challenges seem like the norm.

“We never knew what normal was like before those things happened,” he says.

As a small team they are all having to take a crash course in a range of different skills, whether it is web design, online marketing, PR, customer service or logistics.

"We all get to do different things every day,” he says.

“You've just got to learn how to do all sorts. I think it's super important to have an appreciation for it all. We're all talking to customers, designing the product and doing lots of different jobs every day and there's advantages to that because you learn about every aspect of the business.”