Wind-Blox Business Practices
A company by the name of Wind-Blox makes a 'wind and noise blocker' product that attaches to the leading straps on a cycling helmet and, as the name suggests, blocks wind. Introduced about a year after Cat-Ears, Wind-Blox originally measured 'a 47% reduction in (wind noise) loudness'. Shortly thereafter, the advertised effectiveness increased to 'up to 80%'... and then a miraculously accurate 80.2%. Having performed exhaustive wind noise reduction testing, we knew that the 'too good to be true' 80.2% claim was either a mistake or a marketing ploy to sell products...
Elise Fajen, Fred M. Fajen, Adrienne Fajen
Listed below are numerous Wind-Blox business practices / claims that we find troublesome:
Wind-Blox claims to have received the 'Most Effective Wind Noise Reduction' award.
<= There is no such award
Wind-Blox uses fictitious names on cycling forums to promote their products (or discredit others). Below is one of many examples. When caught, moderators closed / banned / deleted accounts. On more than one occasion, IP address searches (by the moderators) validated the source of the forum comments.
After getting caught, it appears that Wind-Blox stopped making fictitious comments.
Fake Twitter Followers
Wind-Blox purchased over 11,000 'fake' Twitter followers. A form of social media fraud.
New York Times (July, 2018) | Twitter Cracks Down on Fake Followers
"Twitter will begin removing tens of millions of suspicious accounts from users’ followers on Thursday, signaling a major new effort to restore trust on the popular but embattled platform. The reform takes aim at a pervasive form of social media fraud. Many users have inflated their followers on Twitter with fake accounts... buying the appearance of social influence to bolster their business endeavors." Over 8,000 fake Wind-Blox 'followers' have already been deleted.
After getting caught, Twitter deleted >8,000 fake (Russian) followers / suspended W-B.
Friends / Family Reviews
Numerous friends and family (and re-seller) product reviews:
“The new Wind-Blox Pro is a welcome addition to my kit.” - Tyler Gilmore (family friend)
"Heard the sweetest little birds chirping on my ride to work today. Thanks Wind-Blox!" - Drew F. (son)
Amazon Review: "Works great, not 'furry' and easy to install. Terrific, look high tech (not furry). Work fine.
Don't have to remove straps." - Ted Finch (purported VP, Marketing for Wind-Blox)
"The new design of the Wind-Blox Pro made riding safer and more stylish as the product became easier to use."
- Tyler G. (another review by the same family friend)
Amazon Review: "I have about a 12 mile ride to work that I take 2-3 times a week. I purchased these wind-blox
and put them on my helmet. Now... I can hear much better. Very helpful." - relation name withheld
Amazon Review: "Amazing how much more I hear while biking. Wind-Blox work amazingly well! I'm stunned at what
a difference it makes to ride using this product. I can hear SO much more." - Ben L. Fajen (brother of Wind-Blox CEO)
Amazon has a policy against friends / family reviews. Some of these have been removed.
Paid Product 'Endorsements'
Wind-Blox: "The Hearing Health Foundation chose Wind-Blox and featured us as an 'Editor's Choice'"
<= Original W-B advertisement
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, the claimed 'endorsement' was actually a paid advertisement.
"Thank you for bringing this advertisement to our attention. We will reach out to Wind-Blox to ask that they remove or amend their wording as it is misleading.
Again we appreciate your bringing this to our attention as part of your due diligence working in the same field. Cycling safety, noise reduction, and hearing protection are all very worthy goals... but we would not want to be party to misleading consumers. Thank you again!" - HHF
<= Corrected advertisement
After getting caught, Wind-Blox corrected the blatantly misleading 'endorsement' claim.
Misleading Use Of The 'Velcro® Brand' Name
Wind-Blox: "The bi-directional Velcro closure takes seconds to attach"
Velcro® aggressively protects its brand name when a company utilizes imitation materials.
After getting caught, Wind-Blox removed the untrue Velcro® Brand hook and loop claim.
Wind-Blox Are 'Made In America'... Or Are They?
It appears that the "Made in America" advertisement was intended to mislead consumers.
Wind-Blox eventually deleted the "Made in America" post / claim on their Facebook page.
Questionable Wind Tunnel Testing Claims
Wind-Blox claims to have performed Wind Tunnel tests. While this sounds impressive, the classroom sized Flotek Wind Tunnel (model 1440) is too loud for aeroacoustic testing and the 1' x 1' test section is very small.
Performing aeroacoustic analysis in a test chamber with ~85 dB of fan / flow noise would be difficult.
The 1' x 1' test section (fixed walls) is small scale. It would barely fit a full or partial test head / helmet.
Accurate 'fluid flow imagery' observations would be difficult due to the restricted (flow) displacement.
After publicizing that "Wind tunnel tests have measured a reduction of up to 80% of the perceived wind noise", they eventually admitted: "Because the fan noise is significant, only the fluid flow imagery was observed in the wind tunnel...". They made a false claim, and when caught, replaced it with another questionable claim.
Wind-Blox eventually made a correction on their website / removed the claim on Amazon.
Other False / Inaccurate Statements
Wind-Blox frequently makes the following product claims:
Cycling industry experts and Wind-Blox customers appear to disagree:
"I have tried other similar products and these (Cat-Ears) work better." - Amazon Review
"Wind-Blox don't work as well as Cat-Ears." - J. Huang, CyclingTips.com / BikeRadar.com
"Wind-Blox don't live up to the claims and reviews on their website." - OZ Cycling, Australia
"I have tried both the Wind-Blox and Cat-Ears... The later work better." - A Major Cycling Forum
"Not as good as Cat Ears. With W-B it sometimes seems that there is more wind noise." - Amazon
"Wind-Blox do not provide the same level of noise reduction found in the 'Cat-Ears'." - A/C Review
"Maybe a 20% reduction with Wind-Blox. Not nearly as much as Cat-Ears Airstreamz." - A/C Review
"I bought Cat-Ears as well as a pair of other devices... Cat-Ears worked the best." - Customer Review
"Cat-Ears do not look as dorky as Wind-Blox." and "Wind-Blox don't work with sunglasses." - Amazon
"Wind-Blox are... Not as good as Cat-Ears. Have both. Cat-Ears for me are a lot better." - NB, Gibraltar
There is no credible evidence to support the 'HIGHEST rating' product performance claims.
The Wind-Blox "Too Good To Be True' Performance Claims
Wind-Blox originally claimed:
"a 47% reduction in loudness"
"a 66% reduction in sound pressure"
"and an 88% reduction in acoustic intensity"
A 2014 graphic from the Wind-Blox website is below... "Up to 80%* reduction in wind noise".
Given the confusing claims, we tested the Wind-Blox product during the 2014 Buffalo Bicycle Classic sportive. Over fifty miles, with varying speeds / wind conditions, we concluded that the Wind-Blox product reduced from 40% to 60% of the wind noise. This is consistent with the "9.27dB noise reduction measure in demo video" claim. A 9.27 db reduction is, in fact, only a 47% reduction in perceived wind noise.
From "Up to 80%" to "80.2%". According to a 2016 press release: "At 80.2% noise reduction, Wind-Blox reduces the most wind noise," Since this is a very high and accurate (i.e. 'too good to be true') percentage, we decided to evaluate the 'With Wind-Blox' and 'Without Wind-Blox' audio files on the Wind-Blox website.
Analysis of the Wind-Blox audio files...
Simple analysis (Sigview / TrueRTA) of the Wind-Blox audio files produced a 'best case' wind noise reduction of 60% (though the overall average was around 50%). The 50% average is close to the original Wind-Blox claim of 47%. Both the original 47% and the 50% are significantly lower than incredibly precise 80.2%. In this regard, any qualified engineer who has measured wind noise knows that tenth of percent accuracy is nonsense.
TrueRTA Audio Spectrum Analysis
Copies of the Wind-Blox 'before / after' audio files have been retained and are available for analysis.
At the risk of sounding cynical, it is obvious that a potential purchaser of Wind-Blox will find the over 80% claim difficult to ignore (vs. the original 47% reduction) if another product is described as delivering a 75% reduction. It is the easiest thing in the world to hype or oversell a new product... and we all recognize the potential consequences of doing this... since it risks disappointing customers and damaging others in the wind noise reduction industry. In our opinion, a little due-diligence is prudent when evaluating a product.
Invented By Wind-Blox... We Don't Think So!
Below is a 2007 example of a homemade wind noise reduction device posted on a major cycling forum.
PORTLAND Sept. 26, 2013 PRNewswire (more): "Mike invented a helmet strap device to block wind."
This is not a new / novel approach. A simple search of cycling forums discloses similar examples.
A 2007 Cycling Forum prototype and the Wind-Blox product are virtually identical.
Wind-Blox originally claimed to have filed both utility and design patents. There is no evidence of a utility patent being published. Perhaps it was denied (i.e. not a new / novel approach) or perhaps it was never actually filed. They did receive a design patent with the following description: "An ornamental design for a wind and noise blocker". The Wind-Blox ornamental design patent is different than the Wind-Blox product.
In our opinion, making false / misleading claims for self enrichment is wrong.