BRAND SPOTLIGHT: KCNC - BikeBiz

BRAND SPOTLIGHT: KCNC

Bling is in...as is saving a few quid where possible. Mark Sutton talks to Clee Cycles owner and KCNC distributor Andy Jones about how the brand has the looks, the value and the performance to take on the big names...
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So you have a deal with KCNC, how did that come about?
We were retailing KCNC products three years ago as we considered them to be interesting in design, very competitive in weight compared to carbon items, and much better value for money. We tried and tested the parts and found them to perform as well. We had a small shop and website specialising in mountain bike and cross-country racing and quickly realised there was a market for these parts.

Then, the UK distributor folded meaning we had no supply, so we approached KCNC directly and it agreed to supply us. We continued to retail, then decided it was worth pushing its products in the UK, so agreed a distribution contract. This is our second year of distribution and the brand is establishing a good reputation.

Where does the brand originate from?
Ken Chang Industries was manufacturing high-quality alloy components for some big brands over ten years ago, yet the business has diversified into own-brand products. Ken is the driving force behind the company, and the chief engineer, so it’s essentially a Taiwanese family business.

Its skills are in CNC machining, and Ken has a passion for lightweight designs and components. This led him to introduce a house brand – KCNC. The firm now specialises in machining ultra lightweight products from aluminium, scandium and titanium alloys.

Will you be importing the entire catalogue?
The range is extensive and includes BMX, jump, freeride, DH, lightweight cross-country and road parts. We’re currently focusing on the lightweight range as we feel it’s the area where the brand can excel. We will import the entire range if demand arises.

There are some unique products among the MTB parts. Do these come at a price?
Ken likes to design things from the ground up, so a number of products are unique in that sense.

The products of most interest have been the Scandium bars, which are incredibly forgiving, as well as light and strong. Sticking with scandium, the KCNC mountain bike stems come complete with Ti bolts. Then there are the scandium seat posts that are lighter than nearly ll carbon posts on the market.

The cranksets are truly exceptional. They weigh in lighter than the Shimano XTR model and are nearly as stiff. KCNC’s units are available as a 2x9 or ten, or a 3x9, narrow Q-factor, and retail at £275 in black. New models will be available soon in anodised black, gold and red with solid looking, but light ‘Blade’ chainrings for road and off-road use. The new Radiant external headsets use the cups as the bearing surface to save a few extra grams. The cups and cones are machined from stainless steel and given a titanium nitride treatment resulting in the gold colour and retail at a competitive price of £64.99.

How has the brand performed sales-wise to date?
Sales have improved massively over the last couple of years, as is to be expected with a quality top-end range that is new to the UK.

What stores are taking stock?
The smaller IBDs that have customers looking for weight savings for competition bikes, or just something that looks a bit different. The range of anodized colours seem to be making a comeback, and some lower value items such as jockey wheels, headset spacers and bolts can really add a classy finish to a custom bike.

The draw is excellent value for money compared to other brands. We’ve kept prices competitive during the last 12 months to try and keep the brand alive during the economic downturn – this has been maintained for 2010 with no price rises.

Smaller components seem orientated toward ‘tricking out’ bikes. Are the products popular with fixie and BMX riders who are synonymous with custom builds?
They have, but no more than with other styles – it seems bling is in.

Why should road specialist stores take note of the KCNC Campag or Shimano alternative parts?
The main difference is weight saving for less money. Both quality and pricing are exceptional value when compared to the big brands. Roadies looking to save every gram appreciate the products, whereas others just like to be different.

The brakes have been featured in consumer mags – did the press give good feedback?
The reviews were mixed. Mostly very good and concluding that the unit was of an excellent quality, looked the part and was competitive. A couple said, correctly in my opinion, the power wasn’t as good as some of the heavier brakes on the market. KCNC has taken this on board and is now redesigning the caliper arms to stiffen them without significantly increasing the weight.

Clee Cycles: 01746 712882

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