i-ride: 2014 First Look Fortnight round-up

Jonathon Harker
i-ride: 2014 First Look Fortnight round-up

It’s been a good few years for i-ride. The distributor formerly known as Jim Walker has seen consistent growth despite this year’s famously low key spring and looks like it is going to result in a warehouse extension to handle increased stock, or maybe even a move for the West Sussex HQ. That likelihood has increased following the taking on of a number of brands too, marketing manager Tom Marchment tells BikeBiz. There might just be a couple of new arrivals in the works too, but more on those soon.

First up at the preview was Argon 18. 2014 will see an expansion in i-ride’s Argon offering – namely a wider number of UK-assembled complete bikes to complement the frame. Crucially, as i-ride is making the bikes up on-site, the bikes are UK-specced and at a price point relevant to this market, not just based on the Euro exchange rate.

At the top end is the Gallium Pro, closely followed by the Krypton which is now sporting a similar spec to the Gallium of two or three years ago, including full carbon monocoque frame and fork, compatibility with electronic and mechanical gearing and featuring the brand’s 3D headtube.

Coming stocked with name components like Conti tyres and Fulcrum wheels, the bikes have been well received at the show, we hear, not least because if customers purchase the complete bikes and want to swap out components, dealers will be left with named components, rather than bargain bin vanilla parts. However, if a dealer wants to swap a component before they take delivery, i-ride can help there too.

Onto the frames themselves: The Gallium Pro has been fully redesigned, featuring the Horizontal Dual System which takes into consideration ride quality and comfort alongside sturdy stiffness for maximum power transfer. There’s been an improvement in the quality of carbon, with a reduction in weight.

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i-ride’s bike brands are all in line for a custom bike build service where customers will be able to develop their own bike spec which will then be delivered to the shop for the customer. There’ll be full margin for the shop and that service is hoped to launch this autumn, so look out for that.

Catlike moved to i-ride last year and far exceeded predictions – performing four times better than i-ride expected (no doubt aided by Team Movistar). Subsequently there’s now a bigger investment in stock for dealers.

The distinctive Catlike helmet style – with many smaller vents – isn’t just about looks. It’s all about distributing the energy from any potential impact across the helmet, improving crash resistance.

Onto product, there’s a redesigned Mixino featuring an improved profile, the slender helmet avoiding that classic ‘mushroom’ effect on the head. The Mixino uses an advanced graphene roll cage – a higher spec version of Kevlar used in bulletproof vests. It uses atoms of carbon in sheet form, so it’s flat, while weight and bulk are both reduced.

The fitting system is touted as ‘the most adaptable on the market’, with a wheel adjuster, movable cradle, floating retension and straps, all changing the internal shape of the helmet. All have removable side pads to further customise the side-to-side fit of the helmets. Speaking of pads, the Mixino uses technology in the padding first developed for NASA, which is anti-bacterial and temperature regulating.

Moving on, De Rosa is getting an expanded range at i-ride too, with more bikes geared up for Ultegra Di2.
Industry watchers may be interested to note that the Merek is the current bestseller of the range (at the £3,000 to £4,000 price range), where it used to be the R838 (£2,000 to £3,000), representing a rise in the average price the customer is willing to pay for a bike, for this brand at least. Some of the brand’s bikes are sporting an increasingly unified understated look, like a high-end sports car. The Handmade Italian frames Milanino – high end aluminium framed product – have performed well too.

Fulcrum’s Racing 7 and 5 have been fully redesigned, both sporting all-new oversized aluminium hubs and axles, shaving grams off the weight.

Meanwhile 3T’s bar and stems are thought by i-ride to be the leader in the UK for the mid-to-high end, with a new addition to its road bar range. While MTB bars have been part of the line-up for a few years – used primarily in OE (see what BMC has in store) there will  be developments in this area in the next six   to nine months. Overall, there have been efforts to simplify the range for the consumer and dealer.

There will be a push on 3T wheels too, now being stocked with i-ride. Unlike some competitors, 3T has wind tunnel tested and designed its wheels to be stable in a variety of types and winds and – crucially – in transitions between winds/angles, no that sometimes dramatic change in drag is not there for riders. The Mercurio tops out the wheel range.

BKool trainers haven’t been with i-ride that long – since October last year – and despite having no sell-in season, the brand sold five times over expectations. With a slight price drop this year, the company starts with software development and has built it’s all-in-one system from there. Free software is available from BKool.com where users are encouraged to create a Facebook-style profile from which they can share their rides gleaned from the real world via a simple to use smartphone app or use them to train. There’s a free demo unit with every stock in.

Birzman is another fairly fresh addition to i-ride and it’s had a big impact, we’re told. The renowned brand is still refining its pumps to the nth degree, featuring the celebrated Snap-It head. The smartphone mounts have sold very well too, with a new iPhone 5 version which also fits new larger smartphones.

Sticking with newer brands, Gemini lights joined i-ride last year. The simple range uses CREE LEDs, and all come with multiple mounts packaged in the box, including a headmount. This season sees upgrades to the latest CREE LEDs, so there’s more power for the same burn time. The lights are programmable so users can choose their own power/time balance and come with extender cables so riders don’t have to ride with batteries attached to their helmets.

i-ride is currently the exclusive Prologo distributor and it’s been a good year thus far. The saddles are making greater use of the CPC tech, which has now trickled down to the mid-priced saddles. Featuring tiny volcano-shaped pieces of silicon, grip is improved while vibration is reduced – the tech is also used to reduce vibration in F1 car seats and improve grip in gloves used for abseiling from rescue helicopters.

For Northwave the key product category of the moment are winter boots. The Arctic MTB boot boasts full BOA enclosure and can cope with -25C temperatures. The fluorescent boot is now complemented by, for the first time, a road boot that is similarly eye catching and can cope with those chilly temperatures.

The 2014 NW shoes, meanwhile, have been hugely changed, with 80 per cent of the range new or revamped, with new tech and lower weights the range-wide story. Highlights include the brand new road focused Galaxy, replacing the Evolution. Sporting a sock rather than a tongue, there are no pressure points inflicted on the foot, similarly straps are moved away from higher parts of the foot to reduce pressure in the range. Thermo welded rather than stitched, the low profile shoes have a low stack height due to a clever attaching mechanism. There’s a new closure device too, where shoes can be removed without losing all the tension in the straps.

The huge range even has shoes for women outside of pink and green colour schemes.

Northwave clothing and accessories have grown, now with a high vis LED strip now available in green and orange. Custom clothing is a key area too. There’s a 30 piece minimum (though garments can be mixed), six week lead times and built-in trade margins.

Other highlights include the successful Conti line-up, the popular Thomson dropper, Speedplay and Deuter – stock of new lines for the latter is arriving in January, so expect to see more on that at Core Bike next year. For more info on those and everything mentioned above call 01444 243000 or email info@i-ride.co.uk.

Tags: new products

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