I met Ferris a couple of years ago in the French Alps, and was struck by just how friendly and chilled he is – clearly the Kiwi spirit has rubbed off on him. We chatted a little about his project Velocity Hucking Systems – or VHS – over a coffee, and I thought it was awesome how he had taken an idea and made it happen. Even more so that he ended up enjoying success with World Cup Downhill racers, who were demanding it be fitted to their bikes to make them run smoother and more quietly.
Upon the release of the latest version of his product – VHS V3.0 – I figured it would be worthwhile to take the time to learn more about Ferris and the story behind Velocity Hucking Systems. Thankfully he was down to chat, as you’ll read below.
TLW: Hey Ferris, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. First Up, can you please give us a little intro to yourself and your background?
Ferris Fairbairn (FF): Hey Robert, Feels like I’m writing a fresh CV haha! I’m a UK-born guy that was super fortunate to get shipped out to NZ at 16, where I discovered the existence of downhill bikes. I never really looked back – back then it felt like only 50 people even did the sport. After school, I was lucky enough to land a job at NZ Trail Solutions (lucky because I was technically too young to apply).
When that Job came to an end, I moved to Queenstown NZ, and started my electrical apprenticeship.
TLW: What led you to starting Velocity Hucking Systems?
FF: I needed something to do, which is probably the long and short of it. Being an electrician wasn’t really much of a daily inspiration. I had an Idea, and knew that I would forever be frustrated with myself if I never at least tried .
TLW: Good on you for taking the leap! Where did the name come from?
FF: I was telling my friend Ben Hildred about the idea when he said “You should make it in VHS
cassettes” pretty well much instantly. I hadn’t even started a single process and I had the name locked in. Velocity, Hucking and systems were just three words that fit the bill. Sorry the story is so basic.
TLW: Sounds like a nice and organic process and the name works great, nothing basic there! How many iterations did it take for you to get to VHS mark 1?
FF: Ha, not enough! I made three “prototypes” onto card to see what worked best when looking at things like spacing, cutting to size with bikes and breaking the chain’s momentum. I landed on the V1 design mainly due to it being the easiest to cut to each bike’s length.
TLW: What was the most difficult part?
FF: Hard to say, it was all pretty hard for me to be honest. Learning every single aspect of running a company with no prior experience or knowledge or even friends that can lend me advice in that area was a big big challenge. SO much to learn, holding down a full time Job, not sleeping, underestimating the logistics involved, trying to manufacture in NZ and hateful DMs / comments were particularly hard to understand, but launching in covid people we’re stuck at home keyboards at the ready, this however has fortunately become a rare occurrence.
I think the hardest challenge outside the above was and still is accepting that imposter syndrome is a very real thing!
TLW: The keyboard warriors will get you. Glad to hear you’re not struggling with that too much any longer.
With bikes coming with better and better frame protection as standard, do you still believe VHS can improve performance?
FF: Honestly? . . not for much longer haha, and that’s okay with me. I do focus on the quiet side of things over say the durability of an OEM guard that is primarily built to last the length of the bike. That being said, some companies have really stepped up their game recently, and if VHS finds itself without a place in the MTB world then it is what it is.
TLW: VHS MK3 is here! What led to the MK3 updates?
FF: MONEY. Buy more of my stuff! Kidding!
I just wanted to get rid of the obvious issues that a lot of riders experienced with previous generations. Foot rub and occasional delamination from the silicone flexing at a different rate to the adhesive. I also just wanted to update the overall quality, shape, design and make the product as soft but durable as possible. Having a base twice as wide to wrap around the entire bike was something that had to be done.
TLW: You may have the first fully AI generated mountain bike ad. Why did you decide to go down that route? Had you used AI much before?
FF: I’m just a super nerd, so I had already been playing with some of it when it dawned on me that trying to make another light hearted funny video about the 3rd version of a product was going to be hard to pull off in a way that excited me.
Feeling creative after finishing up the package design, it dawned on me that an AI ad hit that creative itch for me. I got playing with some ideas and before I knew it, it was 3am and I had my launch video 95% complete.
TLW: What do you reckon to the future of AI, both in the bike industry and in a wider sense?
FF: Ha, I’m definitely not the guy to ask. It’s a scary tool for sure, and I’m hoping it stays just that. I think in a few years from now we’ll all fully understand just how powerful this could in theory become.
TLW: If you could teleport to the top of any trail in the world in your favorite conditions right now, where are you choosing and what bike are you on?
FF: EASY! Morgins, Switzerland – La Tobogane! On my Nukeproof Carbon Dissent.
TLW: Excellent choice, take me with you! Who would you choose to follow down the trail?
FF: It would have to be the Chatel local, Mateo Verdier. That man knows how to ride a bike! Following him down trails never disappoints.
TLW: He’s a ripper for sure. What would you like to be remembered for?
FF: Ha I have never thought about that, certainly not for VHS, that’s just a hobby. I just hope people remember me for always being willing to help them, that’s about as deep a truth as I’m happy to share ha.
TLW: And how about the future for you and VHS, what does it hold?
FF: Maybe this is too honest but I’m not 100% sure. I love VHS, it’s been a huge project for me, filled with highs, lows and a lot of fun. But everything has a shelf life and I do think maybe it’s time to look elsewhere within the bike industry.
I would love to work for a bigger, established brand to further my skill set, squash the imposter syndrome in myself and hopefully create some great new things!
I do have a few products I want to roll out, but let’s see what happens over the next 12 months as I return to my role as an electrician in the interim.
TLW: Any parting messages?
FF: I’m a dyslexic electrician that didn’t go to Uni or study anything and spent too much time on Halo as a kid. I managed to do something I’m proud of, so you certainly can too!
If you have an idea, and you genuinely believe it has potential then give it a go! You might spend every waking moment on google just trying to figure out the most basic of questions, but you can certainly do it.
Just make sure to make it as fun as you can, otherwise what’s the point? Don’t place the success on a $ value and make the most of it.
TLW: Thank you Ferris!
If you’re interested in checking out VHS MK3, you can learn more here or buy from vhsmtb.com.
And if you’re currently recruiting at a bike company and think that Ferris may be a good fit, get in touch with him and give him a job!