Boardman Bikes launched an all-new Elite Range of top-level bikes this month so we quizzed the man behind the name himself, Chris Boardman MBE, about the brand, the design and the future.
Cycling Weekly: How directly involved are you in the development of the Boardman Bikes?
CB: Very, there’s no point being involved in the creation of a range of bikes and then letting someone else do all the fun stuff! I really enjoy all the technical aspects of the job, in fact we are off to Taiwan next week to finalise a few things, designs and specs and stuff like that.
There’s a certain stigma attached to being sold exclusively through Halfords – do you think this has an impact on your brand, especially with this new Elite range?
CB: It’s something I’m well aware of, but when would you ever have seen Halfords want to do this before? This range is something they have pushed for, they want to do this. They want to learn and they have been stretched, but they have taken that on board.
They can’t go all the way at the moment because they’re not set up for it. They’re not going to sell a £7,000 bike because they’re not ready yet. They’ve been really supportive – our focus is in the product and working with them has been great for that. It allows us to get the product we want at the price we want, its good for everyone.
We’re well aware of the, um, challenges but so are they and it’s good for them too. Also, what we’ve launched is only part of the Elite range. It’s coming in the next few months, and there’s some real kinky stuff in there.
We’ll be going down the independent bike shop route only on that side of things, and we’re in the process of choosing those shops now. We’re selecting those stores very carefully. The product will be ready, so it’ll happen very quickly but we want to make sure they’re the right people.
How come you chose to sponsor an American team – United Healthcare? Is it an indication of your expansion plans for the future?
CB: There are several reasons, one is that this is too good to keep in the UK and we want to take it internationally, so we needed a vehicle to let people see.
They were also exactly right for us because their aspirations are to grow each year, to move forward each year, they want to be a WorldTour team within two years and we pushed them on that and said, OK, well we’ll structure our relationship to reflect that.
They want to grow at the same rate we do. They are really interested in the technology side too. We went to the tunnel and there were six or seven points that we took away and we are working on that now, so there are a number of different reasons. I think they are right for us right now.
There are World Championship stripes on all the bikes including the MTB despite the fact that you haven’t won any MTB championships. What is the reason for that?
CB: There’s a heritage, an understanding in approach; my approach for winning world titles was always, ‘I don’t know about this, I’ll go and find an expert’. So we bought in a GB team mechanic to help us develop everything – even down to cable routing. I think it reflects that approach to the project rather than the product itself.
You mention the GB mechanic, but how many people are involved in the design team overall?
CB: It depends on the project, we’ll bring in individuals as and when we need them – Andy and I are a permanent part of every team, but we bring in individuals that are relevant to that particular project. I do keep harping back to it, but the knowledge I’ve learnt working with the GB team is learning the value of people who specialise in certain areas but are perhaps completely ignorant in others.
Their ignorance means they ask fantastic questions which sparks off new types of thinking so the teams have to keep changing. There’s normally half a dozen people involved in each project, from the people who know how to make it to the people who have expertise in the suspension system to the end user.
We work with some top mountain bikers, but we’re not allowed to talk about that yet are we? [CB looks and smiles]