This month, BikeBiz catches up with Dutch wheel brand FFWD
Can you give us a little background on FFWD?
FFWD was founded in The Netherlands in 2006 with the idea to offer hand-built, high-performance aero wheels with the best price to quality ratio possible. 14 years later, we are delivering FFWD wheels to over 20 countries, where the UK (with Extra UK as our distributor) is number two in the best-selling regions together with the Benelux. We have supplied many pro teams over the years and our experience with them is still found in today’s products: QuickStep, Direct Energie, TopSport Vlaanderen, Caja Rural, Vacansoleil, Roompot and Arkea Samsic.
The team behind FFWD are all passionate and dedicated cycling fanatics. Many have raced at a competitive level and/or worked in the cycling industry for years. Being raised in The Netherlands, cycling is part of our culture, giving us all the ingredients required to understand what cyclists want. We created our own cycling community under the name TeamFFWD, which includes all our international distributors, shops, sponsored athletes, and riders from all around the world! Apart from feeling part of a bigger global cycling community, being part of TeamFFWD brings other benefits such as extra warranty and service conditions, news updates and special offers.
What area of the cycling market does FFWD target?
We are aiming for the cyclist that wants to get more out of their bike by pushing the boundaries of their equipment and personal performance. FFWD has had great professional and consumer success since 2006 in road, track, triathlon, time trial, cyclocross and more recently, the gravel market.
What does FFWD offer that its competitors perhaps do not?
Everything we do and everything we produce at the factory in Zwolle is with the rider in mind. We would not produce any wheel that we would not like to ride ourselves.
Next to that, we have the ambition to make riders faster where we can. That means investing in aerodynamic performance research and exploring hub/bearing performance continuously. The partnership with the KNWU (Dutch cycling federation) is a good example of that. The Dutch Track sprinters have been supplied with new material that will help them reach for Gold at the Tokyo and Paris Olympics in the years to come. We act fast and have short decision lines to rapidly push development boundaries. This makes us a different partner than any of the bigger wheel brands in the market.
What competitors cannot offer like FFWD is a direct line towards consumers for service and advice. Consumers can still go through their retailer for warranty or advice, but they can call and speak directly to our service team in Dutch, English, German or Italian.
We really believe in the strength of IBDs and one of the ways we’re trying to support them is by offering a FOC demo wheel programme through our UK distributor, Extra UK. Also, because all our spoked wheels are built in Europe, it allows us to maintain shorter lead times than our competitors to meet market demand.
What has the reaction to the product been like so far?
In 2018, we changed the full FFWD line-up and fully focused on UD carbon rim with disc brake options for all wheels.
FFWD was one of the first in the industry to deliver a TT disc that was ready for disc brake, supplying the Direct Energie and Arkea Samsic teams. Together with the groundbreaking new Falcon Two spoke aero wheels, exposure of FFWD was overwhelming in 2019. We consider the MY19 line-up to be our best ever. Our sales grew over 30% and our warranty ratio dropped below 1%.
What innovations in the industry are exciting you at the moment?
We see some interesting innovations that will help the bike industry keep its value for years to come, such as disc brakes for road. The idea of gravel bikes that have so much potential for on- and off-road usage is very exciting for us to see. For the riders to go into nature and away from dangerous traffic is really the start of something big. We are preparing for a future with a serious gravel wheel line-up.
Other exciting innovations that we see are bikepacking solutions ready to support holiday adventures, and again are a great opportunity for gravel riders. But next to that, we believe e-bikes will further merge into all bike options and for FFWD, bring new challenges to offer high-end performance lightweight wheels that increase both performance and durability.
What are your plans for 2020 and beyond?
This year, we were very excited to introduce the new FFWD Tyro wheelset to the market. It brings a lot of the performance found on our popular F4D: a 45mm deep disc wheelset offering a more affordable price point for a wider range of consumers. We hope that once people feel the performance benefits of the DARC aero technology and ride characteristics of an FFWD wheel, they’ll become a lifelong member of the TeamFFWD community.
Our plans for 2020 are based on introducing new carbon wheels that support the latest trends like wider rim, tubeless-ready and a start with a full new gravel wheelset that offers the best of both worlds. These will be fast and aero gravel wheels, just like our road wheelsets, but with the best ratio in comfort stiffness and gravel-specific durability. For 21/22 we will be working on a new Falcon Project to get to the ultimate TT front wheel and go beyond the aero performance that we have seen so far.
We want to grow our FFWD presence among cyclists worldwide by developing the best products at an affordable price and making partnerships with other companies to reach these people. We will focus on growing our TeamFFWD community by delivering the best possible service and maintaining the style of FFWD with that personal approach for everyone.