James Groves catches up with Andy Steel, Ride Concepts’ director of international sales and marketing
Can you give us a quick introduction to Ride Concepts?
Ride Concepts was created in the MTB Mecca of Truckee, CA (USA). Founded by Brandon Dodd, an outdoor industry entrepreneur and footwear veteran, Ride Concepts was born out of a need for uncompromising MTB, trail and dirt jump footwear built specifically for men, women and kids. Dodd’s young son, a rising MTB talent, had gone through just about every youth riding shoe on the market without finding anything that gave the right levels of fit, comfort, performance, protection and durability.
The lack of quality provision in the youth market prompted a wider exploration of the MTB category. Dodd quickly saw an opportunity for a new brand with the right ingredients and ideas, to challenge what was at the time a fairly stagnant category and give the old guard a serious headache!
After assembling a team that even the Avengers would be proud of, Ride Concepts launched at Interbike in 2018, and came out swinging with a full line-up that included four men’s, four women’s and three youth-specific models in multiple colourways. This initial burst was quickly followed by an additional premium line that included three men’s and two women’s models in June 2019.
With an unmatched product line, Ride Concepts was grabbing headlines both on and off the racetrack, with World Cup wins and podium finishes from our factory racing team of industry legends including the Athertons, Kyle Strait, Paul Basagoitia and social media kingpin Sam Pilgrim. Now firmly established, media-approved and race-proven, the brand wasn’t just talking the talk, but also walking the walk… and that was just year one!
How would you define RC’s target audience?
Ride Concepts is 100% an off-road-focused brand, so don’t expect to see anything that matches well with Lycra coming out of our stable. Trail riding and gravity has been a big focus for the business, alongside BMX and dirt jump, although some of our latest offerings such as the Vice or Coasters also offer a real performance/lifestyle component to our range. Through popular demand, we’re also developing some exciting ideas for XC riders that we’ll be announcing in due course.
What distinguishes RC from its competitors?
“Our mission is to create the most comfortable, most durable and most reliable MTB footwear on the planet. For the rider, this means precision fit, uncompromised pedal contact, and unmatched protection leaving you to focus on the ride.” This statement allowed us to focus on three core pillars to the business:
Fit and form: We use gender-specific custom lasts that provide the ultimate fit for men, women and kids, while also delivering the correct tailored flex for their expected height and weight.
Outsole and rubber: Compromising on grip was not an option, so we collaborated with rubber Kinetics (one of the largest rubber suppliers to the bike industry), to develop dynamic surface technology (DST). It’s a series of three proprietary outsole rubber
compounds that deliver the optimal blend between tackiness and durability specific to each product throughout our range.
Comfort and protection: Our entire range focuses on providing the ultimate rider protection and includes molded heel and toe protection, fast-drying materials, gusseted tongues and EVA foam. Ride Concepts has also developed the first full line of bike-specific footwear, to couple the above benefits with strategically placed impact protection pioneered by D3O. Our one-of-a-kind insole and targeted D3O protection in the medial collar offers more protection than anything else on the market.
It’s the combination of great products along with the fact that we’re a privately-owned company, built by riders for riders. We’ve started from nothing and have been smart with our resources to deliver an honest but effective, grassroots campaign. We’re challenging the big corporates like David and Goliath, winning friends and taking market share. Everyone loves an underdog story, and more people are now betting on the little guys!
In a rather bizarre twist of fate, COVID-19 has provided a significant boost to the cycling industry. What sort of impact has it had on RC?
With many Governments wanting to promote physical and mental wellbeing during the pandemic, cycling and the outdoors was right up there. As participation in cycling began to skyrocket, it was only a matter of time before retail caught up.
Ride Concepts has been growing exceptionally fast anyway, so our demand planning had forecast for increasing numbers and we’ve been well-positioned to take advantage of the boost that COVID seems to have provided. We’re excited to see so many new participants entering the market and are ready with our products to give them the best riding experiences possible.
Silverfish currently distributes Ride Concepts throughout the UK and Ireland. How important is that relationship to your success?
Like all of the most beautiful relationships, our partnership with Silverfish was cemented over beers and nachos during Sea Otter in early to mid-2019. We couldn’t ask for a more professional and dedicated partner. Silverfish’s combination of aligning great brands, integration within the MTB scene at every level – not to mention its amazing team – really made it stand out as the right partner for us. We’re extremely grateful to have it represent Ride Concepts and it’s done an amazing job for us in the UK and Ireland.
What are your most recent product developments?
The most recent is the Vice collection that launched on 2nd June. It came about through feedback from much of the BMX/Dirt Jump community who had been using the Livewire. Some of them felt that although the Livewire was a great all-purpose bike shoe, they still wanted a product that offered a softer flex, a closer pedal contact and a slimmed-down look that resembled a skate/lifestyle shoe.
We put a huge amount of effort and tech into this shoe and emerged with a unique product that could easily be described as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Vice looks and feels like an everyday skate shoe, but once you get under the hood, you benefit from all the technical features you see in the rest of the line. From our brand-new Fuzion outsole to D3O and custom-moulded heel and toe cap protection, this product has it all.
The best bit about it is that this shoe isn’t just for bike enthusiasts. Anyone that rides a bike – ever – will benefit from grabbing a pair. We’re expecting the Vice to quickly become our best-seller ahead of the Livewire.
What industry trends are you excited about at the moment?
A wider focus from many MTB brands to transform new or returning former bikers to MTB enthusiasts through affordable and kick-ass enduro bikes.
Many premium brands rely on enthusiasts to justify spending some serious dollar on their products. Beginner bikers tend not to appreciate the benefits of specific bike shoes, so it’s only once they advance from a casual participant to an enthusiast that we really capture customers.
The message about the importance of good riding footwear is getting through, and more riders are accepting that shoes are almost as important as a good helmet. If you don’t stay on your pedals, you’re way more likely to have a spill and crack your dome, or injure your feet.
Many people are seeing biking as the new golf for our generation. We commend all brands looking to encourage participation and every level, get kids off the Xbox, enjoy the outdoors and help grow the size of the pie for everyone.The explosion in e-bikes is seriously helping this new cycling renaissance, and we’re here to support every aspect of it.
How will RC look heading into 2021?
We have a huge year planned for 2021 and are kicking it all off with four new product launches! These will fill a few gaps in our line as well as provide a highly-anticipated new look for a certain UK legend.
Obviously, we’re hoping to see a return of the competition, event and demo scene, as being present at these events and interacting with our consumers from grassroots up is part of our brand DNA and super-important for building brand loyalty and gathering intelligence from our target market. We’ll be releasing more details on what’s coming down the pipe in due course. As long as you live on Earth, you’ll see what we’re bringing to the party!