Mountain biking is about as big as it has ever been, no signs of slowing, no stagnation. The sport offers up a constant drive forward in terms of the diversity of product innovation, places to ride and the extremes that it can be taken to. Every time you open your favorite shred mag or go on line to plan your next adventure, you see another new brand. Some instantly invite interest and some look suspiciously like the last page, but with different paint. Despite the global doom of austerity, political blah and the word recession being the most over used word ever…..still they come. Lighter, tougher and now with added etc. How the hell can another new brand find it’s place on the podium or hope to take a slice of cake from the big boys.
|BTR Ripper. One for the wee people.|
It’s a viciously demanding industry to thrive in and with your customer base able to buy and communicate in so many ways, you best be damned good if you want to make the finish line. You notice that the seismic shifts in how the market operates is leading to brands being passed around distributors at previously unseen pace and several simply dropping a traditional supplier/distributor relationship altogether. Those precious price points being easier to meet if cut the middle guy.
I wanted to look at three brands that have made a clear play for doing it their own way and how they pulled the moves that matter. The three brands that come under the shred scope really are as different as you could imagine. They offer just as much dedication as each other and all have found a bit of the mountain that they have put their flag in, but thats about the only things that remains a simelarity. Will they all make the masses feel their magic? Too soon to tell, what is already clear as day is the fact they all do what they do in a very impressive way.
Brand Alter Ego – Bond, James Bond
|Award 29er yummy Ti !|
Adrian Ward, and the way that he approaches everything that he does is based upon “engineering first” principles. Every single project is a clean sheet of paper that is pure in it’s eventual delivery. Bearing in mind that I’ve a whole piece to write about this man and some of his rich involvement in the mountain bike hall of fame, I’m really trying to restrain the amount of words that I use up! To say that I’m a little excited about trying out his incredible titanium, rigid 29er is the Worlds greatest understatement. It’s one of those bikes that you know would be right up near the top of the list right after the lottery win. It’s simply not like other 29 inch rides, it’s like the new kid at school that came from miles away. Scary at first and full of a weirdly uncomfortable mystery, but soon to be your new best friend. Adrian has patented more elements of mountain bikes than I’ve ridden, he’s worked with some of the greatest names in the industry and keeps upping the innovation levels. When you look at his bike you can’t help but envy his ability to see the changes that the big boys have missed.
|Swish details everywhere|
|Bottom brackets with a difference.|
Brand Alter Ego – Brainy Kid
|Full of Carbon goodness. Forme Winscar 29|
So take an incredibly driven ex pro roadie and give him a truck load of buying power, lots of free reign and this is what happens! Adam Biggs the Forme head honcho is full of surprises. He is quite, well spoken and really young looking! He is one of those ‘let your legs do the talking’ types. For someone that never seems in a rush, he’s pretty damned quick and has gone from tele sales, to brand manager in a few short years. Now ordering literally thousands of bikes a year for a range that has gone from 5 bikes in 2010 to over 65 for next year. How?? Solid design, cut links out of the supply chain, use only the very best factories and come to the party with a very big wallet! Adam used his employers (Moore Large & Co) vast dealer network and notable buying power to commit strongly from the word go. Gutsy, but not without rewards. The brand has strived to deliver the same kind of value as the sell direct brands but with all the perks of buying from your local bike shop. Their mountain bikes are put through crazy miles in the Peak district and are picking up some hefty results as the privateer choice in XC events all over the UK. We test ride a couple soon and think that you should keep an eye on these ever ambitious guys.
Brand Alter Ego – On bail
|BTR Belter, bang on some 160’s and thrash it.|
If Forme are all about big budgets, staff levels and supremacy. BTR are all about niche and sticking to your roots. Members of staff are roughly three, of which one may actually be a dog. BTR are the kind of guys who don’t seem overly concerned with gloss or big ad campaigns, they do seem very interested in building lunatic hardtails that would bite if you put your hand in their cage. It’s so obvious when you look at this brand that they are entirely happy to build for a market that requires all the right angles, on a seriously durable platform that will take ANYTHING that ANYONE can throw at it. Every frame is UK made and likely to stay that way, there will be no selling the brand out to buy a Porsche or shareholder meetings. The bikes are about big travel and the guys are about big personalities. I have a read through their site and I challenge you not to smile at their tongue in cheek banter. I think the bike shows their underlying love of the sport is the ‘Belter’ hardcore hardtail in 24″. This is a bike made by people who are backing the sport, not just selling units. Letting the product speak for it’s self may be the oldest marketing ploy since history began, but it’s sure as hell working well for BTR. Articles and features in some really prestigious publications, a notable ‘fan’ base and international orders are all in a days work and I get the feeling that these guys have miles to go yet.
Hopefully you have seen a side of the smaller brands that makes you tempted to think beyond the big boys and give some of your hard earned to the guys that are reinventing the wheel!