Distributor round-up: Upgrade Bikes

As we begin the new year, BikeBiz catches up with five UK distributors to gauge their progress throughout 2019. Today, we hear from Matt Ryley, director, Upgrade Bikes.

How did 2019, in general, fare for Upgrade?
We had a great start to the year, but we have found it harder in recent months, still good, but definitely harder. From speaking to others, I get the feeling that our experiences of 2019 are not uncommon. We have noticed it across all brands and all types of the dealer, but overall we are happy, and if November and December follow this trend 2019 will finish well.

What brands have you gained/lost, and what were the reasons behind these changes?
No losses in 2019 only gains! We have some new additions to the Upgrade offering in 2019; Trust Performance suspension forks and Nutcase Helmets. Trust performance makes innovative trailing multi-link mountain bike front suspension forks.

Stock first arrived with us in April 2019 and sales have really taken off in the past six weeks with the launch of the 178mm Shout model, a long travel/enduro platform that matches the efficiency, plushness, and potential of your long-travel frame. Offering unparalleled traction, stability, and control for aggressive trail and enduro riders. It’s bigger, badder, and burlier.

Fresh out of the blocks we are very excited to have secured the exclusive distribution for Nutcase helmets. Helmets can be well, boring, but definitely not Nutcase helmets. Nutcase is based in Portland, Oregon and wants to make helmets fun again. To make them into something you want to wear, a helmet that you instinctively grab, without being told you should. Each helmet has beautiful graphics and is a piece of art, something that makes you smile, each and every time you put it on.

They are cycle helmets for people who probably wouldn’t call themselves a cyclist, they just ride a bike (or scooter). Nutcase work tirelessly towards creating a better helmet and are the only helmet brand that uses MIPS on every single model in their range, additionally, they have fantastic attention to detail with magnetic Fidlock clasps, 360 deg reflectivity and a detachable visor

Finally, although we have had Ritchey for 18 months or so, we were very pleased when they opened up the frame business to us in February of this year. (previously they had sold this through their head office only)

Brands aside, have there been any major developments throughout the year?
Because we have our own in-house brands, which are DMR, Kinesis and Sector wheels, there is always a lot of product development going on here. We research, design, develop and test everything in house.

Added to this development of physical product we also do all of the graphic and web design for these brands and our B2B website from our offices in West Sussex, so never a dull moment or stuck for something to do here.

Staff wise – we have bolstered our web management team, our marketing team and our sales team this year, with an employed rep covering the South and South West and a new sales agent serving our Scottish dealers.

To what extent are you supporting IBDs, and how has this evolved throughout 2019?
IBD 100 started in late 2018 and is supporting the independent dealer with a range of products that bring about unique conversations with their customers.

We have called it IBD 100, but it’s a loose 100; at the moment there are more than 100 products that have been selected to be exclusively available to IBDs, they include products from most brands as well as new IBD 100 specific products from brands like Lezyne and DMR. Fusion Clothing, in particular, is only available to IBDs and it offers a very different proposition for the retailer because there’s no pre-ordering, there are no seasonal buy-ins needed, it’s buy one, sell one. It really is that simple, buy as much or as little clothing as you want and when you want.

IBD 100 also lends itself well to high-tech products like Lauf’s True Grit carbon gravel frameset where the dealers’ time invested in a prospective customer absolutely needs to result with the sale and hopefully a custom-build. To keep the range fresh, we will introduce new products, phase out those that underperform and maintain a core of best sellers. We will ensure that there’s a point of difference for the IBDs or chain stores compared to the online-only businesses and sell profitable and desirable products with confidence. Dealers can view IBD 100 products when they log on to Upgrade’s website with products identified as IBD 100 with a logo in their listing.

What are your plans for 2020 and beyond?
One of our goals for 2020 is to simply get more consumers seeing and touching our product. As we all know the retail environment has changed considerably in recent years and it is harder than ever for dealers to stock our products in depth like they use to. So we will be trying to take the product to the consumer more and more; more shows, more dealer demos, more dealer test rides. We will continue to work tirelessly to offer good products and good service, be that products from the brands that we represent or products that we develop like the Kinesis E-bikes that we first showcased at the NEC show.


Chris Giles, director, The Cycle Division: “2020 is the start of a new decade and should be littered with opportunities for the cycle trade to grow”
Mike Catlin, commercial director, Chicken CycleKit: “A focus on Campagnolo, Deda Elementi and Prologo will see some major opportunities for our dealer network in 2020”
Paul Elliot, director, Bob Elliot: “We have seen a seismic movement into workshop/service over the last couple of years and we have tailored our offerings to suit”

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