Every year for the past nine I have headed to Utah for Bike PressCamp, a chance to ride in the high mountains with company principals and their products. It’s a fantastic way to talk product while actually riding with the bikes or kit in question. There was a similar vibe at the media Ride Out days held before the Scottish Mountain Bike Conference, held this year in Aviemore (OK, it was wetter and colder than Utah, but with the correct clothing there’s no such thing as the wrong weather, right?)
Organised by the Peebles-based Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland and Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland, business incubation services funded by the Scottish government, the two Ride Out days allowed me to roll along with Cat Sutherland of women’s clothing brand Findra, Nick Muddle of chain-lubing start-up Flaer and other bike industry types (there’s breathless audio of these interviews and a full photo-set, too).
We were hydrated by a new sports drink company; protected from the elements with Scottish-made bike togs; and guided through the Highlands by MTB holiday company H+I Adventures.
For MTB guru Gary Fisher – keynote speaker at the conference – there were also side-trips to see how academia and Scottish Enterprise were teaming up to bolster mountain-bike innovations. He was taken to the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre and then to Edinburgh Napier University’s Sport Science department.
The AFRC works closely with Rolls Royce jet engine division and possesses world-leading manufacturing technology that would benefit any manufacturer in the cycling industry, too. Edinburgh Napier has state of the art sports science facilities including an environmental chamber that can simulate being at altitude.
Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland is charged with helping Scottish-made mountain- and road-bike products reach the market, and has strong links with Edinburgh and Napier Universities and the Scottish government’s Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator.
There are nearly 200 Scottish companies involved with cycling – including tourism businesses – and they generated £257m in sales in 2015.
SUSS MY BIKE
“Suss My Bike analyses suspension on a bike,” says Suss My Bike’s Alan Mason. “From that data we do some calculations and can generate recommendations for how you might tune your bike better.” While it’s aimed at consumers this is a product that bike shops could use to offer suspension tuning services to customers. The system consists of a small data logger tie-wrapped to the front or rear suspension (or, with two units, both). The data logger sends info via Bluetooth to the Suss My Bike smartphone app.
“I developed Suss My Bike because I could never figure out if I was improving [my suspension] or making it worse,” said Mason. “And if you ask your buddies how they set up their suspension they all give you different answers. As an engineer and software designer, I wanted answers, I wanted numbers. So I thought I’d build something, and we ended up turning it into a product.
He added: “Most riders dial in the manufacturers’ recommended settings and then never look back. We contend that’s only a starting point, for most people it’s an average starting point, it can be made better.
“Putting Suss My Bike on your bike analyses how suspension reacts to the different kinds of trails you’re riding, and generate recommendations for improving suspension settings.
“Yes, you could fit it to your bike, generate the settings, tweak the bike and then when you’re happy take it off and never touch it again. But it can also be left on the bike. I can see many people doing that. Pull it out, have a quick check how your suspension is doing. Movement stops and starts the processor so it can stay on the bike for months on end.”
The system currently ships with a “weekend warrior” setting, with an “expert” mode due out soon. Suss My Bike – made in Musselburgh – was originally a Kickstarter product, raising £28,000 and pre-selling 200 units. It costs £169 for single data logger.
If you like ginger, you’ll love Active Root. This is an Edinburgh-based start-up created by graphic designer Will Townsend and molecular biologist George Ashley. Combining ginger with a sports drink aims to solve the issue of nausea and unsettled stomachs before, during and after sport. Employee Huw Stradling, who has an MSc in nutrition, studied the properties of Active Root, which is a powder mix. “As part of my Masters I examined the role of ginger in exercise,” said Stradling.
“How did ginger effect gastro-intestinal discomfort during intense exercise? Before during and after exercise we found that, compared to normal sports drinks, ginger alleviated nausea, belching, and bloating. The gingerol and shogaol compounds in ginger acts on the gut lining of your stomach and soothes, relieving gastro constriction.”
Ashley said: “We use natural unbleached cane sugar which provides sucrose compared to the glocose-fructose combinations used by SIS or Gatorade. We devised a recipe that uses natural ginger powder. It would take a competitor a significant amount of time and money to come up with a similar recipe. It’s a secret recipe. We are a small, friendly British company with great branding and a great USP.” Six sachets retail for £6; a 50-serving 1.4 kg tub retails for £21.99.
This Fife-based manufacturer of knee-pads and full-fingered gloves is branching out into jerseys and a wind- and waterproof shell that has a secret weapon: a Far Infrared panel in the lower back. The FIR can penetrate 4cms into the skin, for when stopped or when a rider needs warmth after an injury. Set at the lowest level and it adds reassuring warmth and comfort for a long mountain ride; ramp it up and it gives an hour of toasty heat. The FIR technology will also be available in belt-form. Made from a high-end Italian fabric the FIR shell will retail for £150, Quickfire’s Phil Moore told BikeBiz.
Started in 2003 by Steven Shand, Shand originally focussed on one-off made-to-order frames, mostly drop-bar off-road bikes but 'cross bikes, mountain bikes and road bikes too. Russell Stout joined in 2011. “The whole gravel/adventure bike thing is on-trend now, but me and Steven have been doing this for years,” Stout told BikeBiz at the Macdonald Aviemore Resort hotel complex. He was showing his company’s 650b+ Hoolie MTB and the Drove, a drop-bar 29er mountain bike with Rohloff hub and Gates synchronous belt drive.
“This is a dedicated off-road touring bike,” he said of the Drove. “It’s a Tour Divide race bike: three weeks through the Rockies, on fireroads, singletracks, loaded up to the max.”
He added: “The Rohloff Speedhub is the perfect drivetrain for this kind of long-duration riding – you don’t want to be mucking about cleaning chains or fixing bent derailleurs.”
Shand uses tubing from Columbus, Reynolds and Deda.
“Using high quality Italian Merino sportswool, our garments are durable, practical and have natural wicking properties,” said Findra’s Cat Sutherland, a stage racer, bothy rider and bike writer. Formerly with Scott USA, Sutherland is now Findra’s sales and marketing manager.
“Findra was launched in 2014 by mountain biker Alex Feechan, a knitwear designer, after she moved to Innerleithen. Most of the women’s bike clothing she could find was either black and pink, or what looked like her children’s pyjamas. She wanted to bring something new to the market. Findra is a very different looking brand.”
During one of the mountain bike rides out into the back of beyond Sutherland wore a Findra baselayer and a mid-weight top, as well as a Merino neck gaiter. “I was toasty,” she said. “It’s temperature regulating, and stays warm when wet.”
The line was designed for women, but attracts men, too.
“We get asked when the mens’ line will be launched? We have no plans for this. Anyway, men don’t want to change anything – the colours don’t shout “women”; if the top fits, men can wear it.”
“I met Alex when interviewing her for a piece and she learned of my skill set – the business needed somebody to help them grow. It’s been lovely getting out to visit stores, and it’s really exciting and rewarding to work on the marketing of a brand that’s so young.”
Founded by Ally Mackay, Ride It designs MTB jerseys, jackets and shorts, including a semi-custom option where customers can add graphics and text to standard items. The company offers no minimum order quantity.
“I see mountain biking as one big adventure and we are definitely adventurous in our designs,” said Mackay. “We have some very exciting products in the pipeline, including a riding jacket.”
“We also produce custom jerseys for race events organiser Muckmedden (a MTB Enduro event staged in Falkirk). With a unique tartan it's instantly recognisable and that has got people talking and in turn learning about us. We love being involved in racing and we have some special riders that we provide kit for including Brandon Gonsales, a real future star of downhill after winning the Scottish Championship at his first attempt, and Thomas Mitchell, a fast Enduro racer who is social-media savvy.
“We enjoy sharing pictures of people riding in our kit, particularly custom kit. Mountain biking is an immensely social sport so it's important to show how passionate we are about that as well as going fast. It also puts a face to the brand which people like.”
Mackay, a graphic designer, founded the brand during sick leave after breaking a collarbone riding, followed by complications including an allergic reaction to the metal plate.
Veloeye is a new bike registration and GPS tracking service. Tamper-proof stickers are attached to bikes with super-sticky glue and the QR code – and pic of the bike – uploaded to the cloud via the Veloeye smartphone app. Veloeye QRs can be scanned by others with the app, and it can be seen whether the bike is registered as stolen.
The system was developed by Mark Lawson and Matthew Rice, whose friend had become the latest victim of bike theft in the UK.
“Veloeye acts as a deterrent and a tracking device, said Rice. “We’ve designed the stickers to be a complete pain for even the most dedicated of thieves.
Lawson added: “Veloeye is a way for cyclists to pool resources and act as a community to help fight bike theft. We're simply applying a little community spirit and a dose of modern technology.
Rice and Lawson are now aiming to raise £150,000 to trial a prototype GPS tracker for bikes, which will complement the Veloeye system. The stickers cost £9.99 retail.
Flaér is an on-bike automatic chain performance system which adds special lube to the chain while riding, keeping it clean and saving, says Flaér, up to 12 watts per ride. The lube is dispensed via a pump through a cable attached to the rear mech. The Flaér system adds 121g – 27ml of lube adds another 27g. The company – and the tech – are off-shoots from Scottoiler, which has been lubing motorbike chains with a much larger system for nearly thirty years.
Nick Muddle, sales director at Flaér, said: “The company has a good heritage and knows how chains work in hostile environments.”
Two systems are available: the Revo Via for road bikes and the Revo Terra for MTBs, and they retail for £250 each. The Terra lube is thinner so it doesn’t pick up as much dirt.
“The lubes don’t pick up dirt like a traditional lube would,” said Muddle, “and because it’s being applied constantly it allows the transmission to be super clean all the time. And this improves the efficiency of the power transfer from the pedals to the rear wheel.”
Flaér is not a repackaged Scottoiler product. “We have had to miniaturise the product, adding technology, micro-pumps, accelerometers and so on,” said Muddle.
“When we started this company we didn’t know how readily we’d be accepted. The results have surprised us. We’ve moved forward three or four times quicker than we’d originally hoped. That’s in terms of building relationships with pro teams and manufacturers.
“To begin with the product will be an aftermarket fit. And our recommendation will be to get the product fitted by a mechanic in a local bike shop. We’re rolling out the product through the UK dealer network through our exclusive distributor Oxford Products.
“We’ve also got a relationship with the Orica-Scott World Tour team who will use our product at the beginning of next year. We’ve had the units tested in the wind tunnel – they don’t have an negative impact on the aerodynamics of the bike. Our claim is you can save up to twelve watts over the duration of a ride. This is a conservative estimate. We’ve done tests in the labs and in the real world from taking chains off pro’s bikes. The losses are huge. Some of the figures we’ve seen is a saving of in excess twenty watts. All chains have a background power loss – it sits around five or six watts – but with our system on board you never see it drop below that because the chain is being continually lubed as you ride.
“Take Paris-Roubaix for instance. Five or six hours in the saddle. All the pros will have their bikes in perfect working order, but after the first bit of dirt, lube is washed away, stuck to the dirt. With our system that doesn’t happen. At the end of the race the pros will be riding with quite a significant advantage. For a twelve watt saving that £250 is really good value for money.”
Pix credits: Ross Bell and Carlton Reid. The pic of Gary Fisher in a hivis vest is by Strathclyde University