The Build Cycle Podcast #006 – Boyd Cycling’s Boyd Johnson

Boyd Johnson started his eponymous wheel brand after retiring from professional road racing and quickly grew it from concept to being very, very busy. He started by ordering catalog parts from Asian manufacturers, lacing the hubs and rims into custom wheel builds before being able to have his own hub and rim designs created. Here, we discuss how he got into wheels, how customer service is the big differentiator in a crowded market and some of the methods and challenges of using overseas manufacturing.

DISCUSSION TIMELINE

  • 01:04 – How he went from professional cyclist to launching a wheel brand.
  • 07:50 – How he found the suppliers for the original parts and why small brands need a trading agent.
  • 10:40 – Moving into design and manufacturing of their own rims…and how they got lucky.
  • 14:30 – Are there new products based on market demand or unique ideas?
  • 19:00 – How they get customer feedback and use that product design and features.
  • 20:00 – Why one new product never made it past testing, and the warning signs that signaled it wouldn’t.
  • 23:37 – We discuss sales, marketing, hiring and growth.
  • 35:08 – Challenges they’ve faced and advice for others.
Boyd Johnson (center) with wife Nicole and the rest of the crew. Photos ©Boyd Cycling, used with permission.

POSTGAME ANALYSIS

Sometimes you get lucky. But usually you make your own luck through a lot of hard work. In Boyd’s case, it was a combination of both. He’s hustled all along, building a brand around high quality custom built wheels and great customer service. They got lucky with their first self-designed rim profiles in that they ended up being appropriately aerodynamic, but have since spent the money on CFD and aerodynamics testing to ensure that “luck” doesn’t run out.

When considering new products, they have to not only look at trends and consumer demand, but also whether or not existing or coming products will work with them. Since they’re not making a complete bike, they’re reliant on the frame manufacturers to create a frame their wheels will work with…and the frame manufacturers need wheels for their bikes. So, there’s some collaboration amongst brands required when each party is only making a part of the whole, which means you need to cultivate and maintain friendly relationships within your industry.

Regarding the Eternity Hubs project that never fully made it into their catalog, it’s a classic example of sunk cost. Boyd put a lot of development time and dollars into that project, ignoring the signs that it wasn’t going to work out because there was so much invested in it. It pays to step away now and then and evaluate progress from a different perspective, even if it means letting trusted partners in on what you’re doing.

After the interview ended, Boyd, his wife Nicole and I went to lunch, where we discussed the perks and pitfalls of doing a lot of the little stuff ourselves. In particular, we discussed websites…Boyd built his own and continues to do a lot of the graphics and related work himself. Is it the best use of his time? Maybe not, but at the same time it saves a lot of money and time compared to outsourcing it. I have the same “blessing and a curse” feeling about knowing how to create my own graphics and website. I built this site and do all of the graphics for the posts and podcast. And with Bikerumor, I weigh sending some news to my freelancers to write versus just writing it myself since I’m usually much quicker and sometimes have more knowledge on the subject matter. That saves thousands of dollars -literally- but it’s also pulls us away from other stuff. You need evaluate the cost-benefit of what else you could be doing, and which is more valuable to your company.

Lastly, Boyd advises all of us to keep it fun and provide great customer service.

LINKS & RESOURCES

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