Antidote Solutions, based in the South of France close to the Pyrenees, was founded by cyclists Frederic Bernard and Alexandre Guiral two years ago. Both worked as product engineers for Sunn, which currently outsources all of its product development activity to the company.
Antidote’s portfolio has developed in a short space of time and the duo has worked French, Italian, Dutch, Taiwanese, and Andorran bike brands and in virtually every sector from road to MTB, BMX and – increasingly – e-bikes. In Antidote’s own words, it operates ‘in the intersection between manufacturers, sub-contractors and consumer’. Bernard and Guiral tell BikeBiz about their frustration at the lack of scientific testing in the industry compared with the motor sector and their dream of seeing an increase in European bicycle manufacture…
How did you come to form the company?
We had many discussions about working independently, and two years ago launched Antidotes Solutions. We had this dream of creating a company right in the middle of the industry with strong links to manufacturers, sub-contractors and riders.
We have both worked as product engineers, as well as product managers, since graduating from engineering school ten and 15 years ago, respectively. In our current work we offer a combination of the two skill sets.
So engineering is part of a wider service you provide to brands?
Yes; we also provide other services to our clients, in the areas of sourcing, design and development. For example, the very first thing we did was to develop a Data Acquisition Tool, which we have used extensively ever since. Some of our clients purchase the tool itself, others buy research from us.
We don’t claim to have invented sliced bread, but we do find that there is too little scientific testing in the industry, compared to the motor sport industry, for example. Our tool can be used to various ends; performance enhancement in general; or very specific improvements on brakes, suspensions etc. We have a lot of demand for this service, and to give a recent example: Cole used it to prove that their wheels had an excellent lateral rigidity.
Which bike brands have you worked with?
We have worked with a large number of brands from around the world – French, Italian, Dutch, Taiwanese, and Andorran. Our relationship with our former employer Sunn is still very strong – they currently outsource all of their product development activity to us. For each of our customers we first develop a strong understanding of their brand values, to be able to offer products that reinforce the image they wish to project. For one it could be fun, energetic and playful, for another we focus on competitive performance, and for a third it will be all about sleek design.
What’s the most important development in bicycle engineering in the last two years?
Well, you have the trend of ‘big wheels’ which has radically changed the industry, providing interesting challenges to bicycle conception, and a need for brands to review product lines.
But the single most interesting development is definitely the e-bike. It opens up a whole new market, targeting people with no previous ‘bicycle-culture’, and competes with established means of transportation, such as mobilettes, scooters and even cars.
We find this area very exciting, as there are so many things still to be done – we see phenomenal development opportunity. For example, the market currently seems to be segmented according to price, not taking into consideration the practise type. Engineering requests are mostly very vague with no clear idea of why, for whom and how the bike will be used. Today only a few brands, such as Moustache, have grasped the possibilities, but in a few years the market will surely be abound with different types of e-bikes, tailor-made for different occasions: commuting, utilitarian, mountain bikes, urban bikes. Already, 40 per cent of our turnover stems from this segment and we expect it to increase over time.
Where do you see bike design heading in the future? New materials? Lighter frames?
Our motto is ‘The right material in the right place’. In other words, we are not unconditional fans of carbon fibre. For World Cup racing it’s perfect, but your average weekend mountain biker may not be best served by the vulnerable carbon fibre frames. Also, it’s not very ‘democratic’ as it increases the consumer price, nor is it easy to recycle. Look at an airplane – it is made up of all kinds of different materials to form an optimal whole. So we are all for usage of steel, aluminium, titan, carbon fibre – each material has its place and function.
Any final thoughts on the future of bicycle design and manufacture?
We’d like to see a bike manufactured locally – close to the European user. The region we live in – Midi-Pyrenees in the South of France – is the home to many important companies in the aeronautics industry, and we are actively working with some of the local contract manufacturers to develop an industrial tool that can manufacture bicycle frames. The competency is there, it is just a question of time.