Bicycling (South Africa)
HOW TO START A BIKE BUSINESS
STARTING YOUR OWN BIKE BRAND REQUIRES EXPERIENCE, SKILL, AND BIG COJONES. HERE’S HOW VICTOR MOMSEN TURNED HIS PASSION INTO A BUSINESS – INSPIRED BY THE COUNTRY HE LOVES.
I LITERALLY ATE, DRANK AND WORKED WITH THE PEOPLE MAKING THE FRAME...
Wand turn your passion into a successful business?
All of the production and manufacture is offshore. A lot of it happens in the Far East, and there’s always a lot of discussion as whether to go China or Taiwan.
A bicycle is the sum of its parts: the BB may be from Taiwan, the rim from China, the spokes from Europe. It can be very confusing to say that a bike is made in a particular country, because parts and components are sourced from all over. WHEN I MESSAGED VICTOR MOMSEN to double-check the year in which he started the Momsen bike brand, his reply was a quick-fire ‘1975’.
For a moment, I started doing the maths; before I realised that the talkative owner of the quintessential South African bike brand was referring simply to the year in which he was born. Fair enough. Without Momsen himself, the brand would not be as respected and loved as it is by so many local riders.
He soon clarified: Momsen Bikes was founded in 2009, and in the almost 10 years since, the Port Elizabeth company has established Victor Momsen as one of the big players in the local market.
Not bad when you consider that he’s up against some of the biggest bike brands in the world here, and yet has managed to carve out a niche that started with affordable hardtail mountain bikes, and has now morphed into building top-of-the-range marathon MTBs – the new Vipa Ultra arrives in 2019 – and playing strongly in the rapidly expanding gravel bike market.
Momsen’s roots are thoroughly anchored in South African trails and singletrack. The Baakens Valley – where Momsen headquarters is based – is the centre of all things mountain bike in the Eastern Cape.
And he’s stayed true to his South African roots, using his own experience of local conditions to build bikes that have a reputation for being well-specced, hardy and dependable.
“People always say things like ‘overnight success’,” says Momsen, a qualified mechanical engineer from PE Tech. “But that ‘overnight’ has been 20-plus years and longer in the making.”
So what does it take to start a bike brand, It’s important to get the right company for the job. I go to the factories on a regular basis, and in the case of the new Vipa Ultra [Momsen’s latest marathon MTB, due for launch in 2019], I literally ate, drank and worked with the people making the frame to build the relationship and finish the first prototypes… and that’s on the back of seven years of working with them already.
The manufacturers rely on me to make sure the design is right and to ensure a good concept. When I told them about designing a hole in the middle of the frame for the new storage box on the Ultra, it was a challenge. They’d never done that before. Even with his many years of carbon manufacturing experience, the factory’s in-house composite expert acknowledged it has been his toughest project to date.
It’s tough for us on pricing, because we’re competing with global brands who buy 100 000 units versus our 100. But people think that buying local should be cheaper. It doesn’t work that way.