Tucked away in a former chicken shed in picturesque Ely, the minds behind singlespeed label Quella are hatching a plan to storm the singlespeed market’s mid to high-end. BikeBiz talks to founder Mark Langley about a deal with Halfords, an online bike builder and how the brand ties in with fashion...
At little over a year old, fixed gear label Quella has popped up in surprising and varied number of locations. From television appearances in something called Made in Chelsea, to Chris Hoy’s Twitter feed, the label has won fans both in cycling and in particular, the fashion industry.
But that’s all part of the plan, explains founder Mark Langley: “We’ve struck up relationships with all sorts of people, whether via our continuous efforts on social media platforms, or through business links with the likes of Johnny Tuxedo – a fashion house with many High Street customers. It’s all about developing the brand and getting it in front of as many people as possible. We find the bikes to be head turners by design, so they needn’t necessarily be cyclists.”
The bikes have turned heads of celebrity investors too, some of which we’re forbidden from mentioning. The firm, now entering its second year, has a challenge on its hands. Having set out with the goal of selling one bike per day in its first few months in business, the firm were presented with something of a happy dilemma. The first batch sold very quickly, with an average of five or six sold per day, sometimes as many as ten per day, presumably when the sun came out.
“Our customers can customise, order and receive their bike within five to seven days,” says Langley. “We’ve an online bike builder launching very shortly, which we’ll ensure is among the most detailed of online customisation tools for bicycles around. Each bike is powder coated locally and then lacquered so the paint is chip proofed. With the online builder going live shortly we’ve begun toying with new finishes for the bikes, including pearlescent and reflective finishes, as well as coloured chromes and plating.”
At this point you’re probably assuming Quella is about fashion over function, but Langley says that assertion couldn’t be further from the truth.
“We’re largely a mid-market singlespeed label, so none of the product targets the low-end buyer, though we do have a cheaper model for the budget restrained. Our gearing is slightly higher than you’d perhaps find on our competitor’s bikes and that’s because we want the bikes to be used on the track or for dashing around town quickly. What’s more, we’re finding our builds make great training bikes for the more serious cyclist.
“We’ll soon be offering a much higher level of customisation, particularly in the cockpit area. In fact, we’re very happy to have customers come along to our Ely base to test ride and find the best combination for their style of riding.”
In fact, Langley has vowed to focus on function in equal measure going forwards having almost lost the business thanks to a combination of Chinese New Year and some poor craftsmanship in the early days of the business.
“We’re now working with a Taiwanese factory, the very same one that produces Salsa’s frames. Following our experiences with our previous supplier in China, we decided it was imperative to do some ground work so we visited more than 50 manufacturers on a tour of Taiwan to ensure that the brand would be a cut above the competition in terms of the finish and quality control.”
Having secured a deal to be part of Halfords’ plans going forwards, Quella’s bikes will be available to order via the retail chain’s online portal, as well as potentially appearing in a select number of stores once the chain has completed its revamp. Independent stockists are also welcome on board as part of the brand’s expansion, with a number of specialists in the fixed gear market already giving the bikes pride of place in their stores.
“We’d be interested from hearing from retailers with a good base of urban and fixed gear bike enthusiasts,” said Langley.
“For the future there’s some exciting ideas knocking about, from soft goods to accompany the bikes and of course we will look to do some limited edition bikes and colourways, as well as looking at ways to improve the spec. One of these that’s already in the pipeline is custom embroided saddles that we’re hoping to have stitched just down the road. We’re looking to do as much locally as is possible, so the future of the brand could revolve very much around homegrown expertise, which we are increasingly finding to be unmatchable.”
Indeed as BikeBiz arrived, a former metallurgist to the Royal Family was leaving.
“His expertise in metals and eye for detail has been invaluable,” said Langley. “As a small business we’ve learned quickly to support the locals where we can. Our bike boxes come from down the road and beyond designing the bikes here, we hope there may be more we can do in the UK in future.”