The Malaysian carbonfibre monocoque bikes from EP-X of Warwick first seen at last years Cycle & Leisure Show and then at Bike 99 are ready for shipping to IBDs. And only IBDs. BikeBiz attended last nights corporate launch...

EP-X launch in style

Two years in development. £2 million in direct costs. 2000 bikes to shift in the UK this year. EP-X is looking to have a big impact with 100 IBDs. £21 000 worth of orders were taken on the first night IBDs saw the bikes for real. That was on 10th January. Last night was the corporate launch with more bankers, PR people, and business angels present than IBDs.

The venue was the impressive Ikon Gallery in the trendy Gas Street basin area of Birmingham. Posh canapes and fancy olives were noshed; fancy wine was imbibed; and in one corner of a second-floor white-walled room decked with modern art, EP-X had assembled their collection of art bicycles. September sees the launch of the aluminium range starting at £700 but this first collection is reassuringly expensive with retail prices starting at £1200 and topping out at £2900.

This isnt a bike aimed at your average bike shop customer, said UK sales manager Ian Beetison. Its a lifestyle product. Its Chanel perfume. Its a Porsche. I want to push these sort of customers through the doors of bike shops.

Beetison is aiming for 100 stockists. The opening stock deal is £2500 whichs nets the IBD three bikes and a stand to display them on.

IBDs make £500 a bike, said Beetison. Weve had no requests for sale-or-return. We want serious bike shops who can see the potential of attracting a new type of customer.

EP-X is aiming high. Not for them the traditional route of bicycle consumer mags, their PR company has the brief to get coverage in lifestyle mags. And an ad campaign has also just started. HotAir, the inflight magazine of Virgin Trains, carries the first ad, a distinctly classy lifestyle offering.

The magazine also carries gushing editorial on the EP-X roadster:

Anyone whos ever replaced a chain wearing a white t-shirt will love the rubber belt drive. Theres good news too for space starved urbanites and train travellers EP-X folds in half.

Well, not quite in half: the bottom bracket section which acts as the bikes rear damping unit – pivots so the back wheel can be placed close to the front one.

EP-X is a UK company (8 staff now, 16 by March, 28 by August) with backing from Barclays and a Malaysian bank with one branch in the UK. It has the worldwide rights for the monocoque bikes and has 13 000 to shift this year. 2000 have been earmarked for the UK and 7000 for the rest of Europe. The UK launch was also the worldwide launch. The UK company is also sending a carbon product back to Newcastle: it plans to paint and assemble bikes in this country and then ship them back to the Far East for distribution there.

We can get extremely good deals on containers going back to the Far East, said Ian Beetison. I dont know of many European bike companies exporting to the Far East!

In the invitation letter to the launch, EP-X wrote that IBDs now have to offer more than the standard bike shop service: The future for the IBD is in specialization, lifestyle marketing and high quality personal service, all of which EP-X as a brand can fulfil.

Ian Beetison sees EP-X as a customer magnet but IBD stockists of the EP-X bikes had better ramp up their customer service because the new breed of moneyed, discerning customer the EP-X marketing campaign will funnel through to IBDs will need to be pampered. But, with £500 trousered on every bike sale, this pampering will be more than worthwhile.

Russ Kempson of New Forest Cycle Experience, an IBD and hire fleet operator of Brockenhurst in the New Forest one of the few IBDs at last nights event was impressed with the bikes:

Theres got to be enough people wholl pay for this kind of bike. Going through IBDs only is a good idea but I dont know whether the brand is right for my shop. Were very much rural and almost totally tourist dependent and I think EP-X will be best suited to city centre shops with lots of customer traffic.

This afternoon Jim Mepham of Michaels Cycles in Bedford said: Its terrific to see someone have the foresight, energy and commitment to do something very different. Its very refreshing. EP-X isnt setting out to eat into the existing market share of the top-end brands, its going to expand that market. And anything that makes cycling more high profile in lifestyle areas has got to be welcomed.

This website doesnt contain a great deal at the moment but this will change as the consumer adverts start promoting the site.

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