PROFILE: Forza steps out of Ridley's shadow as a standalone brand. BikeBiz takes a closer look...

Forza praises ‘open minded’ UK bike market

In the halls of Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, Moore Large – via its ‘Todays Cyclist’ stand – revealed its deal to bring Forza components to the market.

The standalone parts and accessories brand is of course closely associated with Ridley Bikes, but come February next year UK bike dealers will be able to get their hands on a wider new look range that will come in three levels: Stratos, Cirrus and Cirrus Pro.

Moore Large sales director Dale Smith said the distributor’s sales staff are itching to get hold of it: “Going forwards the brand is an interesting proposition. It’s full of potential and there’s exciting stuff ahead,” he tells BikeBiz.

Forza’s chief executive officer Bengt Friberg came to the brand in January this year and with his arrival came a wealth of changes for Forza, as we’ll go into later. But in the meantime, Friberg illuminates BikeBiz as to how the brands fit together.
“Forza is part of Ridley – part of a group called Race Productions,” explains Friberg. “It’s been around for ten years, so it’s not really a new brand, but it is new as a standalone brand. 

“Forza components have historically only been used as spec on the Ridley bikes, these components were made and therefore were fitted only to a certain type of bike.

“Now we’re an aftermarket brand, more than an OEM brand. That’s quite important to get across.” 

“Now we’ve changed the structure of the range,” adds Friberg. “The Forza brand works on three levels, because we wanted it to be simple for dealers. Dealers are important and it keeps things simple for distributors too.” As a former bike retailer himself, Friberg understands the value of simplicity, which is something that he calls ‘a benefit for everyone’.

Back to those three categories. The Stratos series offers Forza at an entry-level price, featuring trickle down technology from its Cirrus and Cirrus Pro siblings. Offering a wide variety of colours and sizes, most Stratos products are suitable for road, tri, MTB or cyclocross.

The Cirrus series sits in the middle of the Forza offering. Using carbon fibre and lightweight alloys for weight saving and strength – and the all-important aesthetics – Cirrus uses the input of Forza’s ProTeam athletes but in an affordable package.

At the upper end, Cirrus Pro products laugh in the face of compromise and are built for whatever a cyclist can throw at them. Using top-notch materials like highest-grade carbon fibre, Cirrus Pro are designed and ridden by World Championship level athletes. Weight, strength and aesthetics have all been essential considerations for the brand, says Forza.

Another key aspect of Forza will be availability of product, Friberg tells BikeBiz, with model years eschewed in favour of an evolving product range. “We won’t change the product too much every year. We’re more focused on detail, rather than changing everything completely for every model year. It’ll be small gradual modifications. A tweak logistically is better for everyone too,” Friberg continues. “Dealers won’t need to get rid of them for the next year’s stock. It means the lead time is better too. People holding off on ordering product because they know the new version will be available in a few months – that’s not good for anyone in the industry. So, that’s part of the concept.”

So what about the philosophy behind the brand? What market is Forza pitched at? “We make performance product for racing, whether the racers are on the road, mountain bike, triathlon. So it describes the kind of public we are targeting. That sets us apart a little bit from our competition. We don’t, and won’t, make bells, baskets, trailers or anything. We specialise a little bit.”
Forza is serious about racing too. At its Belgium headquarters, the product design team will soon have the benefit of a wind tunnel, which it is sharing with Ridley. 

Fresh Forza
Bengt Friberg’s first foray in the cycle trade came back in 1981 when he opened a bike shop in Stockholm. He went on to work for a wholesaler and distributor in the city and later moved into sales. Next he became export manager at Limar – where he first worked with Moore Large – and then joined Forza in January as CEO. 

“The logo was the first thing I changed,” he says. “In Italian Forza is the word for power and strength. It’s also used to encourage riders in competition. It reflects what we want to do.”

“In my mind I’m still a racer. It doesn’t matter if you’re 40 and in your head you’re still 25. Do I need a carbon product? I don’t need it. Do I need a Porsche? Or a Rolex?” 

Dealer reaction has been positive so far, says Dale Smith: “We’re very excited, Forza will be a great addition to our already established product portfolio. Our salesmen are keen to get hold of the product and if the reaction at this show is anything to go by, the brand has a very bright future. It’s difficult because we don’t want to talk about products that we don’t yet have available, but it is important that dealers and consumers alike get a taste of what’s to come and that’s why we’ve brought it here to Cycle Show to get people talking about it. And looking at it.”

Friberg is cagey when BikeBiz asks how he wants the brand to progress: “We want an established distribution into all markets as soon as possible. We’re a serious brand and have some very exciting plans not just for the next five years but also for the long term.”

UK importance
How does the UK fit into Forza’s plans? Jo McAleer elaborates: “Of all of our export markets, the UK and US are the two most important and it’s a big step forward we have with Moore Large, who we started talking to in March.”

Friberg expands: “The UK market seems to be open minded. It is not so closed minded as the German, Swiss, or Austrian market. For example, German consumers are often minded toward product made in Germany first.”

Aesthetics is one of the tools in Forza’s kit, McAleer explains: “People want to buy something that is visually appealing. That’s the benefit we’ve got with our in-house designers in Belgium. With the new logo, the new graphics and the new site it’s visually strong.

“For Forza we have such a good collection to offer. It’s not too overwhelming for people. In Scandinavia and in the UK now, consumers are ready for a new brand. There’s been many big players in the space for some time and they’re ready for new stuff.”

“We’re trying to be super active in social media and be closer to the pulse of changing trends. We’ve done nearly all the major shows, including Eurobike, Interbike and Cycle Show.”

Friberg foresees good times ahead not just for Forza, but for the industry in general: “I can only see the bike market growing over the years. There might be blips and small falls, due to weather and the like, but overall it’s going to be an upward trend. Governments are looking for the solution to all these problems, like congestion and obesity, but we already have the answer – bikes.” 

Moore Large: 01332 274252

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