Why Stanton Bikes then, and specifically, why aggressive hardtails?
Hardtails to start with because that was literally all I’d ride. Well, I owned a Santa Cruz Bullit, but essentially I was chasing the ideal hardtail. There were two categories of hardtail in DIRT Mag – “bomber” and “razzer”- and I’d owned both. The razzer was really good for nipping around trail riding, and the bomber was really good for nailing a downhill track and hitting jumps, but you couldn’t go anywhere on the thing because the seat angle was so slack and there was no breathing room. So, I conjoined the two together and, other than the DMR Trailstar, which was a little different, created the slackest, lowest slung 26” little play bike on the market that you could ride a proper distance. That was the starting point for it all really. I was one of the pioneers of the aggressive hardtail mountain bike movement, I guess. Then with the larger wheel sizes [that become prevalent in the market] you could be a bit more extravagant with the designs because the inertia was higher, and the axle points were higher, giving greater bottom bracket drop.
Getting to sit down and interrogate the bright mind of Dan Stanton for an hour was really special for me. His passion and knowledge is incredible!
What benefits do you seek to achieve by moving frame production from Taiwan to in-house in the UK?
What has happened over the last 15 years is we’ve experienced the value of the British pound going from being worth 2 USD, down to 1.18 USD at its lowest. During the first 5 years [of Stanton Bikes], the market dropped down to roughly 1.60$, and the industry was hurting at this time but was still able to sustain. Put it this way, for every £100k I was spending I would sell $165k, then the day that Brexit was announced it dropped to $130k, which obliterated margin.
It’s why big companies like Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles became conjoined and lost lots of staff. With the education I’d had, I realized that there’s a dramatic situation occurring – and I’d experienced the financial hit of it – so I waited to see if the currency would change at all. I went to Taiwan to see if I could get the prices reduced, but they asked me to compromise on the product, which I wouldn’t do, so I had to transfer some of the cost to the customer.
I realized that the price I was having to pay for the frame produced in Taiwan with the currency change – If I kept the same rates of sale, I would be able to bring the production over to the UK and pay everybody’s wages with that pricing structure. So that’s effectively what I did. The benefits that it has given me is that I don’t have to have one particular size or color in stock, and I literally have control over the whole process, so I can see any of the mistakes that are occurring in the system and rectify them at the source.
The intention is to bring everything in house, the whole lot. The CNC-ing and everything. And the biggest advantage is that it changes the way that customers interact with purchasing a product. At the minute, the mental framework that is created from the production system that is currently laid out is a design company designs something, then organizes for its manufacture, and is then under the constraints of the factory and their production rules. There is often a minimum order of 3-400, say 100 in each size, and a choice of three to four colors max, so then the customer gets an experience where they get to choose between three sizes and four colors, if you’ve even got them in stock – you may not have ordered X amount of a certain model or size. Whereas in this situation, it changes the cognitive framework that people can purchase within – the way that they can think about buying a product. So they ring up hear and say “ I’ve got a 30 inch inside leg but I’m 6 foot”, and I say “There’s no wonder you struggle to find bikes to fit you properly, well here you can have the seat tube from a 15 inch bike with the reach of a 19 inch, so your bike properly fits you.” This is a massive bonus for the customer, and they can have it in any color under the sun, there’s no limit. It helps me in terms of not having to hold colors and sizes in stock, and helps the customer in having free reign of the product. They get the intimacy in the fit and the exact color they desire.