The Sea Otter race and expo are in full swing at the moment out in soggy California. I was contacted by Chris of Niner Bikes who wanted me to come out and join Steve and himself to see off the debut of the new full suspension 29"er that was dubbed the r.i.p. 9. Unfortunately, being the poor shop rat that I am, I wasn't able to pony up for the trip out to the shindig. However; the fine fellows of Niner Bikes did submit to doing an interview via e-mail with me about their company, their philosophy on 29"ers, the new full suspension platform, and their love of bikes in general. They even are going to send me some "official" pictures of the new r.i.p.9, which should show up sometime tomorrow. In the meantime, check out the first half of the interview here. The full text will be appearing on The Biking Hub soon. Be sure to check that out when you can!
1. G-Ted My own introduction to Niner Bikes was through your sponsorship of the 29”er Forum on mtbr.com. Was this your primary target for your marketing? Has your relationship with the web community been a profitable one?
Chris- We felt the best way to reach the 29er community was through the mtbr site. I (Chris) have spent a lot of time on the boards reading and learning from others. When I got my first 29er it was because of all the talk on the boards. It has worked out well for us and we hope for all those who read and contribute to the mtbr community.
Steve- This was an awesome opportunity to really hit our target audience, and we’re really proud of being able to sponsor the forum. It’s obviously a perfect match for us, since 29” wheels are the only thing we do, and we love what the mtbr posters bring to the passion of the sport.
2. G-Ted: Niner Bikes didn’t just come out of thin air. Tell us how your passion for cycling turned into a company solely focused on the 29 inch wheeled bicycle.
Chris- I have had a love affair with bikes since I was a little kid. I used to race BMX when I was a teen. I used to spend all my allowance on bike parts like Araya rims, Phil wood hubs and doing mods to my bike like filing the pedals for better starts. I went to mountain bikes after that. My first real mountain bike was a Cannondale fully rigid. It was purple and got stolen.
Steve- I’ve done a lot of things in the bicycling industry, and product managing/designing was definitely the best fit for me, but I wasn’t really happy working for ‘the man’. So as Chris and I started brainstorming about starting our own company, it just really clicked. I have to say, his passion for the 29” wheel really won me over, and it wasn’t long before I was converted in an irreversible way.
3. G-Ted: With the business savvy you guys bring to the table, wouldn’t it be fair to say that focusing only on 29”ers is quite risky, or maybe even suicidal for a new business?
Chris – Well if you believe in something you just put your heart and soul into it. I truly believe that 29er’s are better than 26er’s. I am so confident that is all we are going to focus on. We will see in 5 years if it was a suicidal decision or not.
Steve – I don’t see it as that much of a risk. Chris and I knew that this was the right time and right place for this to just LAUNCH! The way I see it, it would have been more risky to come out with another 26” wheel bike in a market that’s totally oversaturated. In the 29” world, we can really stand out as the company shaping “The Big Revolution”.
4. G-Ted: Niner Bikes has become one of the fastest growing brands in the cycling business in a very short period of time. How does one keep that momentum going over the long haul?
Chris – Well I don’t know if we are the fastest growing brand, but thank you if you think so. We are constantly working on new products for the 29er market. There are lots of areas for us to cover so I think we have our work cut out for ourselves over the next few years.
Steve – Yeah, thanks for the compliment. It’s pretty overwhelming at times, and luckily for us we love what we do. We just have to keep riding and keep innovating. I don’t think that you should ever just sit back and relax, or next thing you know, the market will blow by you.
My deepest appreciation goes out to Chris and Steve of Niner Bikes for even offering the opportunity to me to come out to Sea Otter and cover their debut of the r.i.p.9. I regret not being able to do that, but hey! ( pockets inside out) All I got here is lint, pal! I really appreciate the extra effort that Steve and Chris gave to this e-mail interview! They didn't have to do it, but they did. Thanks! (bowing low towards the west)