Andy Stevenson lives in Oswestry, Shropshire. He has been in bicycle retail for the last 12 years, working back when MTB was “as huge as it’s ever likely to be,” says Stevenson. “Fast forward a decade or so, and of course Bradley Wiggins and the tour created a similar explosion in road cycling, which continues unabated to this day,” he rues.
BikeBiz is talking to Stevenson 12 months after he created Stooge Cycles. The fledgling brand has so far produced one frameset – a rigid steel 29er with progressive geometry and twin top tubes – a frameset that Stevenson says is “a back to basics alternative with the best geometry in the game”.
In the last month Stevenson has sold twenty frames and found a number of outlets to take on his brand: Charlie the Bikemonger and Keep Pedalling in Manchester, and a US distributor that he shares with Singular Cycles, Colorado Speciality Velo.
“In the last 12 months I have gone from having an idea for a bike company, through designing a frame, getting a prototype produced by Maxway Cycles in Taiwan, to finally getting stock in one month ago.
“The feedback I have had from buyers has been 100 per cent positive. I’ve more models planned and I believe that the ‘simple’ MTB will see huge growth as riders look for something simpler and less maintenance-heavy. The bike’s geometry is truly forward thinking.”
When it comes to mountain bikes, Stevenson is not one to shy away from a strong opinion or two, believing that the industry-wide ‘road is king’ thinking is harming MTB prospects.
“I’m a dirt bike rider first and foremost,” he tells BikeBiz, “but I love all avenues of cycling. My other place of work is a bike shop in Chester, a retailer that has all but turned its back on MTBs. In many industry circles it seems to be a common belief that MTBs are over, and in many cases I think it’s been self perpetuating. Shops no longer carry the stock as they want to spend their money on road bikes.”
In the race for innovation, the sector has become remote and expensive, Stevenson argues: “From my point of view, one of the real problems is that they’ve become so expensive and so technologically advanced that there’s no easy, or ‘cheap’ way in for younger riders without a lot of money. My own thoughts were also that bikes had got so good that riding was no longer a challenge, anything was possible within reason. So I deliberately set out to design a rigid bike that was A: visually exciting, B: affordable, and C: more than capable of keeping up with the so called superbikes, but without the car level of servicing required for modern suspension bikes.”
That philosophy has been justified by the results, the Stooge founder argues: “The feedback I’ve received from riders has been phenomenal. The bike is addictive and incredibly accomplished across very technical terrain, in many ways more so than many full suspension bikes. It’s also designed to be extremely versatile and can be built up in many ways (with drop bars, for example). The bike has been particularly popular in the bikepacking scene, which is where old school MTBers seem to be hanging out these days, and is certainly a huge growth area.”
Recent retail experiences have only cemented his belief that the MTB market is alive and kicking: “I’ve just spent the last ten months working for One Planet Adventure in Llandegla and it convinced me that MTBs are far from dead. If anything, the money being spent on them is at an all-time high, but again, there lies the problem for me. But I think the last generation of mountain bikers grew up and then discovered road bikes. This latest generation of new cyclists on road bikes will move on and discover MTBs and the joy of cycling far from the madding crowd. Because they are used to simple, well-engineered machines, this new form of simplicity will appeal to them, as will the relative safety of traffic-free tracks and trails.”