Longtime GRAVELBIKE readers know that I’m a big fan of Spurcycle’s products. The company’s multi-tool was featured in 2018’s Pocket Tool Roundup, and the Spurcycle Bell earned a coveted, Things I Like endorsement back in 2017. Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with company co-founder Nick Slone to discuss the Spurcycle’s history, their design process, and what we can expect from them in 2020.
GRAVELBIKE (GB): How long has Spurcycle been around?
Nick Slone (NS): We incorporated in 2011 and started selling our first product, GripRings, after a 2012 Kickstarter launch. Spurcycle has been widely recognized since 2013, following delivery of backer rewards and first retail availability of our bell.
GB: You founded Spurcycle with your brother, Clint, correct?
NS: Yes, that’s right. Clint is CEO, product designer and director of R&D. I’m the COO, director of operations, finance, and sales. We act as a counterbalance to one another during important decisions or when finalizing details.
GB: What was the inspiration behind the bell?
NS: Clint and I are both avid recreational riders. A typical road ride north from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge is full of obstacles. There are folks on vacation taking in the sites, some of them have not been on a bike for many years. There are pedestrians mixed among cyclists depending on the bridge maintenance schedule (which often closes one of two dedicated paths over the span). The rental bikes had bells, but we could find no bell suitable for the kind of bikes we were riding so we decided to make one. The concept of a performance bell didn’t come as a total eureka moment, but that’s where it started.
GB: The bell’s tone is really distinctive–did you base it on something particular?
NS: We got lucky. We knew the size of the dome we wanted, and worked with a bell maker who had a tool/shape that matched our needs. Playing with wall thickness and material allowed us to maximize volume and resonant duration. The tone was a happy result of other diligent work.
GB: When designing the bell, was there a part or component that turned out to be more difficult than you imagined?
NS: Understanding the variables that maximum sound, optimizing them, and fitting it all into an attractive and compact form was certainly a challenge.
GB: It’s a fantastic product. How do you deal with the copies and knockoffs?
NS: We breath deeply. Without IP or the deep pockets needed to litigate, we rely on our IBDs, word of mouth endorsement, and the lessons of product failure because the copies simply aren’t made very well.
Our greatest frustrations come from the replica brands’ attempts to confuse buyers. It often works. We see copies tagged @Spurcytcle all the time on social media. We see Facebook videos posted using our content. When we see links that use our copyrighted material, we work to get it removed. That alone takes persistent hours filing complaints with the various platforms.
GB: Do you think we’ll see more limited edition bells in the future?
NS: Shortly in fact. We’re working on some bells to release at the Chris King Open House October 12th.
GB: I really like the (Spurcycle) tool’s form factor. It has an extremely precise feel. Was it hard finding a US manufacturer that could deliver the quality and precision you were after?
NS: It was easy–sorta. Again, we’ve been lucky. We were already working with Paragon Machine Works to make our Key Clip out of titanium. They’re such a solid crew and have plenty of experience machining titanium. We ask a lot of our vendors. Mark, Donna, and their entire crew made the challenge an enjoyable one to meet.
GB: What’s next from Spurcycle?
NS: We might have as many ideas as much bigger companies but an R&D budget the size of our Bell. We have a few ideas we’re always pushing on, but few make it to final development. We have a new bell coming soon (previewed at Sea Otter). We have a fanny/hip/lumbar pack that’ll be here before the fall riding season is over. We also have some ideas around bike storage and a mirror. We’ll see what makes it beyond the first 100 iterations.
GB: Spurcycle’s products have really simple names–bell, tool, multi-pouch–which I like. Was that a deliberate decision?
NS: What’s in a name?
NS: We played with naming for our Bell and even during Kickstarter referred to it as the Ringer. Never felt right, and since then we’ve kept things very matter of fact. It matches our designs. We have a new bell that we showed at Sea Otter and will be released for sale by early 2020. We’ve referred to it as our M2 Bell. M=Model. It saves us from wasting time on something that is often meaningless. It’s our brand name that we hope customer recognize and trust.
GB: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it.
NS: Thank you, Mark.