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.
TLW: WHY BIRD BIKES?
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.
TLW: HOW DID YOUR SETUP WITH BIRD COME ABOUT?
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..
TLW: DO YOU THINK YOUR REMOTE LOCATION WORKS WELL FOR THIS?
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.
TLW: WHAT BENEFITS DOES IT PROVIDE YOU?
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.
TLW: WHAT BENEFITS DOES YOUR SETUP WITH CLARK PROVIDE YOU?
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.
TLW: Why BBB?
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.
TLW: HOW DO YOU SEE THIS DEVELOPING? ARE BIRD LOOKING TO MOVE AWAY FROM D2C?
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.