BikeBiz speaks with the founder of UK cycle manufacturer Shand Cycles

Shand: ‘Where bikes are made isn’t as important as quality’

Shand is an independent bicycle manufacturer based in Scotland. Started in 2003 by Steven Shand, the business has since relaunched (in 2011) in partnership with Russell Stout, moving to larger premises, growing the team, and investing in tooling and various other facets of the business. BikeBiz speaks with founder Steven Shand…

How’s business?
Business is good. It’s hard, but good. I think that we’re seeing a bit of polarisation in the cycle trade with the bigger successful businesses continuing to do well and some of the smaller lesser players finding it harder. I believe we probably belong to the latter group but since we have a very focused product and a sales model that works direct with the customer for the most part, I think we can get away with worrying less about competition. We’re seeing continuing sales growth and work hard to meet these sales in a way that continues to improve margins and make us a more profitable (and by extension, stable) business.

How important is it to the brand to be designing and fabricating bikes in Scotland?
That’s a good question. A huge influence that plays right through our business is the environment we find ourselves as cyclists riding in. That may be the weather, the quality of the road surfaces and probably most importantly, the land access rights we have in Scotland. This environmental consideration makes its way into all our bikes. Whether it’s big tyres, clearance for mudguards, lighting system for short winter days or just making sure the bikes are suitable for riding out in any direction for hundreds of miles with (almost) unrestricted land access.

So to answer one half of the question, I’d say it was very important for us to be designing bikes here in Scotland. I think the challenges we face as riders in Scotland aren’t unique and can be found all over the world but things do feel less forgiving up here.

As for the importance of fabricating bikes in Scotland? I’d like to say that I don’t think where the bikes are manufactured is that important. I’d always place the quality of the production work before the geographic location of where the product is made.

That said, I’m very passionate about my nationality and I’m proud that we can operate a viable, sustainable business here in Scotland. We’re lucky that we have the skills here in-house in Scotland and currently don’t have to look elsewhere. I honestly believe we have some of the best fabrication/welding skills in the business in the UK and we continue to receive accolades for our paint and finish work.

I am however pragmatic and if we were to launch a range of carbon fibre bikes next week, I’d have no problems having these made by the people with the best skills, no matter where they are. Although we are very happy to tell people about our products being made here in the UK, I’m very open minded about the quality of (most) of the work coming in overseas.

Are there any specific challenges to producing bikes in Scotland?
We do feel a little left out up here. We get less media exposure because we’re just not handy enough to ‘pop in for a chat’. We need to be more pro-active and court the cycling publications. It’s harder to form professional partnerships as we just don’t have the physical closeness that others do. But beyond that, I don’t think the challenges are really any greater than having a business elsewhere in the UK.

And working in the bike business in Scotland…?
I think it’s a great place to live and work. There’s a great cycling community up here. We have world-class MTB events in the Tweed Valley and in Fort William. We have two hugely popular closed road sportives: Tour of the Borders and Etape Caledonia. Add to that the huge amount of MTB riding, from the fantastic 7-Stanes trail centres to the awesome wild Highland trails and you can see why Scotland has become such a busy destination for cyclists. We’re also home to lots of cycling business, like Hotlines, 2pure and the fantastically successful Endura.

This month the BikeBiz Regional Spotlight is focused on Scotland and the North of England.

This article first appeared in the August edition of BikeBiz. Which you can download or read online for free.

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