Bird Bikes are a UK-based mountain bike manufacturer who’ve been making good use of the direct sales model to offer killer prices on their trail and enduro bike range since 2013. While this direct-to-consumer business model makes a lot of sense when value is considered, the notorious drawbacks still prevent many from diving into a purchase. For many, the fear of purchasing a bike without seeing one in the flesh or riding one, as well as the feeling of vulnerability when the only support on offer may come from a phone call or email to a company miles away makes it a scary proposition to part with their hard earned cash.

Hoping to improve this, Bird have started to collaborate with bike shops around the country with the aim to add some brick-and-mortar security to their direct sales model. Bennachie Bike Bothy (BBB) is one of these locations and it just so happens that they’re located close to me here in the UK, so when it came to arranging the test of a Bird bike I was keen to learn a bit more about their franchise style arrangement and how it benefits both Bird, BBB and most importantly, the buyer.

The process begins by a prospective customer phoning up BBB to discuss their options. The staff at BBB have a close relationship with Bird, aiding them in the R&D of their prototype bikes and ensuring they are as clued up about the range as they can be. This means that they possess the knowledge required to identify the needs of the customer and suggest to them the best model and sizing and ensure they spend their money on the bike that is right for them. Upon identification of the bike and size that is likely to suit the customer best, a demo bike can be arranged for them to put the theory to the test.

It’s demo time. The customer pays BBB a visit at their remote location that is crucially on the doorstep of some high-quality trails to suit nearly all abilities. The customer gets to have a look over the bike in person, chat through the features and set up the demo bike to their weight and proportions. If they’re lucky they may even be joined on the ride by Clark, who can show the best trails to put the bike to the test and help with trailside adjustments to the setup. After the demo it’s time for a debrief, where the customer can have any questions answered and potentially arrange the demo of a different model if they desire it.

Once the model has been decided, it’s order time. Of course, the customer is able to order through the Bird website if they desire. But it would be silly not to make use of the expert advice on offer by the guys at BBB and have the bike delivered to them to build. Once the final spec is decided on and ordered, the bike is delivered to the shop to be built and fitted with any extras such as Invisiframe protection or Cushcore inserts the customer may desire. They can then collect the bike from the store, receive the full works of bike fit and suspension setup, then get out on the trails in no time on their new dream machine. If they’re local to BBB they’ll now have a service center with mechanics well experienced in maintaining the Bird bikes, with some spare parts stocked to get them back on the trail as soon as possible should the worst happen.

Intrigued by their unique setup, I opted to give both Clark at Bennachie Bike Bothy and James Gregory at Bird Bikes a grilling on how the setup is mutually beneficial and learn a little more about how they see their quite unique approach developing.

Clark Sutherland, owner at BBB.

BBB: When I initially came up with the concept for ‘Bennachie Bike Bothy’ I was super keen to find British companies to work with, who shared my values of solid and unrivalled customer service. Bird really ticked all the boxes for me. I seem to find myself saying this daily, but hands down you will not beat Bird on component selection and frame quality in any of their price brackets. Not even the direct sales offerings from the German brands come close. (even more so since Brexit)

I had tried to arrange meetings with Orange, Whyte and a number of other British bike businesses –  but being a small start-up they were simply not interested in listening to me. Meanwhile, my neighbour Chris had been in France on his original Aeris – Bird’s flagship bike. Whilst on holiday he burst the damper in the Pikes that the bike was supplied with and Ben, without hesitation, posted fresh parts out to Chris’ chalet and said ‘we can deal with the warranty when you get home – enjoy your trip’.This was the sort of company I wanted to be associated with! An uncompromised approach to customer service – which could only come from a passionate Mountain Biker such as Ben.

BBB: I called Ben for a chat one day, explained my plans for the business and thought that we could work together. I knew that they offered demos out of Cwmcarn in Wales, so I pitched to Ben that if they offered me a good discount on a small number of demo bikes, some business support in the form of advice, and help setting up trade accounts etc, then I would establish their brand in the North East of Scotland. Nearly 5 years into our relationship now, I would like to think we’ve done alright..

BBB: Whilst relatively remote, Monymusk lies at the foot of one of Scotland’s more well-known riding locations – Pitfichie! Pitfichie is a short ride from the shop and has been used for years to host national level race events, along with smaller local Enduros. The location also hosts some of Scotland’s only ‘Sanctioned’ Natural trails, maintained for the most part by our local trail association (Aberdeenshire Trail Association). Recently Scottish riding legend Ben Cathro ran a feature for Pinkbike, which included our home trails. Each of these things really has helped put us on the map as an epic mountain biking destination, so being on the doorstep is great for us.

BBB: My relationship with Bird has developed over the years, from the handful of demo bikes to a full fleet, along with a number of supported racers and riders that we look after. Now we have moved into the latest phase of our relationship which sees me as Bird’s ‘North of the wall’ guy! Since Bird’s UK factory moved to the North East of England (Consett), I have on average spent one week per month working with Bird. Not only has this provided a financial benefit, but it has really given me an in-depth knowledge of the cycling industry that some shop owners wouldn’t gain in a lifetime of trading – this to me is priceless.

My new role with Bird is something that I guess that Bird and Myself have been working towards without knowing for almost 5 years, but why, you ask, does a direct sales company with only one retail outlet in the UK need a ‘North of the wall’ guy?  Watch. This. Space.

James Gregory, Marketing at Bird Bikes.

JG: At Bird, we are proud of our reputation for excellent customer service. There’s a reason we’ve been awarded Best Online Service in the SingleTrack Magazine Reader Awards, and we wanted any partner shops or demo centers to build on this reputation face-to-face. Clark has put in years of groundwork with us at Bird. He’s spent time at our factory assembling bikes with our mechanics and learning all about us as a brand.

Yes, there are benefits for Bird as a business, but our partnership with Bennachie Bike Bothy has always been more about our customers and giving them someone they can see and ride our bikes, get impartial sales advice, and receive first-class service support to keep their bike running as perfect as the day they collected it.

JG: Bird was established by riders in a forest in Berkshire and their passion for wanting to create something they love; but doing it differently to how other brands do it. Clark and BBB don’t just share that rider-first philosophy, they are also right on the doorstep of where riders enjoy riding.  Combine that with Clark’s knowledge, passion, and established respect with local riders plus his unmeasurable ability of articulating our brand, products, specifications, and process to his customers that you just can’t teach; it’s a match made in heaven.

JG: Our relationship with Clark has now developed into BBB becoming the first ‘Bird Franchise’. It’s still very early days in this new chapter for us, but we see it very much as the blueprint for how we continue to challenge the status quo of how normal brands work through distributors; that’s not our thing, Bird is still a direct-to-consumer brand and that will continue to be our model.

Clark will have direct access into our stock, be able to place orders directly with the factory and will be building customer bikes in his workshop at BBB. Clark will also be our ‘wheels on the ground’ north of the border and continue to help with our sales and marketing.

As Bird continues to expand, we aim to develop more of our established relationships into franchises, we’re also aiming to work with more shops and mechanics to grow an approved demo and service network.


We’ve got Bird’s Aether 9C on test at the moment and are getting very close to sharing our thoughts in a review on the site, so keep your eyes peeled for that coming soon. In the meantime, head to the Bird website to learn a little more about their range of bikes.


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