Reynolds is one of British manufacturing’s icons. Exporting over 80 per cent of its UK production – high end steel and titanium – the firm tells BikeBiz that it has seen steady growth over the last eight years.
Reynolds Technologies managing director Keith Noronha says: “We’ve seen a general increase in our sales of metallic tubing, evenly split between worldwide custom builders and branded OEMs who have steel bikes built primarily in Taiwan. We are in a niche sales sector worldwide but we seem to be less affected by the year-end overstocking/discounting issues that can hit large OEMs or with the need for annual model changes.
“In the last three to four years we’ve seen more interest from the growing band of small custom builders who have set up businesses to cater for tailored bike frames. This growth is reflected in the number of custom events like NAMBS and Bespoked as well as ‘local’ shows like Philly, Portland in the US, the Netherlands and Germany. The age of builders has broadened, as well as bringing in trained engineers passionate about building like a craftsman who approach design differently.
“A number of new builders started up after going to the range of bike-building courses now on offer in the UK and USA. The best ones will survive and grow. But with increased competition in a tough marketplace, some are deciding that they cannot make enough to live on and stop building. But the number of active custom builders is definitely far higher than ten years ago.
“The larger UK high end bike frame companies seem to have good order books but are limited by their production capacity, and limited by their access to trained and experienced craftspeople.
“The road bike boom has been in place for over five years – there must be a saturation point but the current trend for road disc bikes will bring in more novelty in the market for a while. To us, more sustainable growth has come from the wider interest in cycling across the gender and age groups we now see at trade shows.
“There’s more interest by branded OEMs in finding UK companies who could build in smaller batch sizes compared to Taiwan/Far East, with a better reaction time to trends, less capital tied up and more specialist niches to cover. As there are few local options, the net has widened to the EU – with the current exchange rates, this becomes a viable proposition for some.
“For us, our metallic tubing appeals to the specific type of end customer where they expect to keep the bikes a long time, so they tend to research and identify with the heritage of brands they buy. We get many enquiries for technical info to support that level of choice. And more questions on the sustainability of materials and recycling.”