A version of this story appeared in the May 2022 issue of BRAIN.
MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) – Nukeproof Industries plans to go home.
The longtime gravity brand known for using titanium and carbon fiber — including those iconic carbon-aluminum hubs — started in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the 1990s before Irish downhill racer Michael Cowan only acquired the brand a decade later.
Almost 20 years later, the brand has expanded its UK dealer network and expanded its range of bikes to include categories from gravel to kids and a variety of components. He came to the Sea Otter Classic last month to begin the task of establishing and emphasizing a US dealer network rather than direct-to-consumer sales.
“For us, taking the UK as an example, we’ve done a great job,” said David Flynn, Marketing Manager for Hotlines, Nukeproof’s UK and European distributor. “We have about 60 stockists, and they’re kind of the heart and soul of the brand. They drive the brand, the guys in the store drive the brand. And you know, we’re not idiots. We realize that that’s the success of this one. It’s made by riders for riders, and bike shops are definitely a part of that.
Marketing and sales hotlines, brand reps and team riders traveled to Monterey to spread the word and meet potential retailers. Flynn said the goal is to have an established US network by 2023, adding that Nukeproof has sold out of its 2022 models. The brand is designed in Belfast, manufactured in Taiwan and assembled in the UK
“We tell the dealers, ‘It’s a long game for us,'” he said. “So we’ve seen firsthand the strength of dealerships and the importance of building that brand equity. So we know it’s not going to be any different in the United States.”
While consumer direct is here to stay, Flynn said Nukeproof’s message is best represented through dealership involvement. “Certainly people will be buying bikes online anyway, because of (professional rider) Sam Hill and racing. And we will always get that attention. medium for the brand we know it’s dealer driven we’ve seen it first hand so yeah we really want the dealer membership to have places where people can see the bikes they can Some of the differences between the bikes are nuanced enough — from a 160 Mega to a 180 Giga — that you need in-depth advice on why you should buy this rig over this rig. it’s really best served by an experienced dealer.
So what’s the biggest selling point with retailers?
“I think the product itself is the mainstay of our pitch,” Flynn said. “There are a lot of great value bikes. There are so many to choose from. But for us, this is a gravity-oriented privateer race bike. And then for the trail guys, something with a kind of contemporary geometry that really appeals to people who just want to have fun. A big part is going to be supporting dealers with demos just so people can see what we’re saying is correct. Basically, we’re telling everyone world that our bikes are awesome to ride. But we knew we just needed to have bums on the seats.”
A lot in the industry has changed since the heyday of Nukeproof in the USA in the 90s, and nothing says it better than the evolution of gravel bikes. The Digger gravel bike was developed as a “cult product”. It’s an aluminum frame built on a 650b platform—but also compatible with 700c wheels—with “strong mountain bike DNA,” Flynn said. “That was crucial for us because a lot of guys don’t care about hardtails anymore. They just have a gravel bike.”