For this week’s CI.N podcast we’re joined by Niner Bikes’ Phillip Lucas, who assists the European arm of the brand in its strategy, account management, operations, finances, and media and marketing services.
Starting out in 2004, Niner is best known for its commitment to the 29″ bike after Founder Chris Sugai set out to get more people on the big wheel bandwagon.
“It started out with two guys experimenting with a weird wheel size,” Lucas explains. “And that’s really been the continued philosophy and behaviour of the brand; experimenting with new, strange stuff. We were the first brand to commit entirely to the 29″. There were other brands experimenting, but we were the only ones to say we’re only doing 29″ front and rear.”
It’s this, and the brand’s values of ‘innovation, fun and purpose’ which has made Niner a distinctive player in the off-road market, Lucas says. For 2020, the brand has renewed its gravel line, including its carbon, aluminium and steel standard bikes. Niner has also developed The Magic Carpet Ride (MCR) which is, “the market’s first full real suspended mountain bike”, according to Lucas, offering 50 mm of linear and sensitive ‘gravel-specific’ suspension.
“Gravel is fun, gravel is adventure, gravel is discovery, and you can still make it the suffer-fest most roadies love,” offers Lucas. “It’s this new category of fun and discovery that riders from all different types can step into. That’s why Niner has really committed to this sector.”
Lucas also refers to the Niner brand’s step away from the limelight in recent years, due to a strategic bankruptcy filing in the US.
“The Niner brand was quiet for a few years,” he explains. “A year and a half ago the company declared a different kind of bankruptcy in the US; it was more of a strategic bankruptcy where you’re allowed to renegotiate debts or financial conditions.
“The reason the company did this was to be invested into by a very large holding who happens to own the largest supplier of bikes into Walmart, Huffy, for example. This was a financial decision to increase investment into the company to allow the brand to come back.”
This investment has allowed Niner to put back into motion a whole host of projects it already had in the design books, and are now entering production.
“2020, 2021 and 2022 are going to be some pretty cool years for the Niner brand,” says Lucas. “We will go back to reclaiming the position we had as that reference brand that the other brands were measured by, in all sorts of categories of bikes.”
Listen to the rest of what Lucas has to say on Niner Bikes in this episode via: