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BikeBox Celebrates 10 Years
If you’ve been to any major mountain bike event in the past decade, chances are you’ll see Guy McCausland there, in front of his BikeBox trailer, always ready with a smile, handshake a chat.

Bike Box is a business partnership of two couples, Peter and Lisa Howard and Guy and Gail McCausland. Despite none of them having previous bike industry experience, they’ve created a strong, mid sized wholesale business with sole distribution of a range of global brands.

I recently visited BikeBox at their no frills office / warehouse in Moorabbin, Vic.

It was at least my fifth visit over the past decade. As always, the first thing I noticed was more stock than my on previous visit.

I met with both Guy and Peter, but Peter prefers to let Guy do the talking, something he happily admits that he’s good at!

Bicycling Trade: Didn’t Claude Eagles start this business?

Guy: Yes. Claude Eagles previously worked with Rex Imports then he and his brother Richard had a parting of the ways. We’ve taken it from a business that used to run in a double garage at the back of Geelong.

We started off in Cheltenham in quite a small premises and moved over to larger premises in this complex. (and later a second unit in the same complex)

This year’s a bit of a milestone for us because by the time June comes around we would have completed 10 years. With the business failure rates and everything that’s happening, it’s a bit of a milestone for us.

BT: There aren’t actually many wholesalers who have successfully started during the past 10 years. Most of the majors have been going 20 or 30 years or more.

Guy: It’s interesting to see Incomex / Bicycle Parts Wholesale. They’ve had a really strong growth I think. We used to be competing a lot in the area that they had, which was the bits and pieces stuff and they seem to have packaged it, done it quite well and consolidated with it. They’ve picked up the rim building business from Bob Young and now I was just reading from the trade magazine that they’ve taken up with Velocity. I think this is a positive thing to see that Velocity is still being represented quite strongly even though they have gone over to the States.

BT: You were ‘Bits and Bike Tools’, which was always a bit of a funny name. How did the name BikeBox come about?

Guy: We weren’t happy with Bits and Bike Tools as a name, although when the Eagles stuck the name together they were trying to put a very descriptive name that would tell people what the business is all about.

As a part of us growing the business and taking on various brands we decided that we really weren’t Bits and Bike Tools anymore, we were going off in another direction. We all sat down and with the assistance of a consulting firm who threw some names at us and I think Pete came up with the idea of putting them on a score sheet. BikeBox is basically a combination of two families, four people who are long term friends. We sat down with all the names that we were given and scored all the names that we were given and the one that came up with the highest score at the end of the day turned out to be BikeBox.

BT: Let’s talk about your canada goose mens beanie mix now starting with your biggest line, Schwalbe. How many dealers can actually pronounce that brand name properly?

Guy: Not many, but when they say, ‘How do you pronounce that?’ we say ‘We don’t care as long as you buy it!’

When we first got the business, we believed that rubber would help us in the path that we needed. It’s a strong consumable from a bicycle point of view. It now suffers with the woes of the internet, like anything in a shoebox size suffers the woes of the internet, but it was a good strong consumable that we thought would be a building block to the business.

Schwalbe gave the sole distribution of the canada goose mens beanie to us a bit over five years ago. That gave us a lot more confidence to take on a broader range of the product.

The shops have certainly taken advantage of the fact that they can get 12”, 22”, 451 tyres, a whole range of tyres that really weren’t being serviced well before we got it.

BT: You do the full range from urban, commuter, heavy duty tyres through to folding, lightweight, road tyres, high performance mountain bike tyres… which is the bigger market for you?

GM: Certainly, they’ve all got their benefits. The up and coming market for us is the Active line, because as from this year all the Active line has gone with Kevlar Guard throughout the range.

This means that the guys from a wholesale point of view can buy some very cheap tyres and have some excellent margins on them and have some really good technical aspects from the tyres in regards to puncture resistance and improved compounds.

Our intermediate mountain bike stuff has started growing because they came in with some price point tyres there, that allows us to compete with the dual compound product, which a whole lot of other ranges like Maxxis were doing and we really couldn’t compete with before.

Our high level mountain bike tyres in the Evolution line have always been strong sellers for us. We’ve got to an economy of scale with the race stuff where for somebody that wants to buy some reasonable rubber off us on a monthly basis, we can reward them significantly. What we do with a thing that we call ‘tyre happy’, where we can start punching through some tyres and people can make a margin compared to what’s happening on the net.

Two or three years ago we were almost fearful of the net. Not fearful, but it was certainly at the forefront of our mind. But with the strong Australian dollar now, improved buying quantities, assistance from Germany in recognising the market challenges that we’ve got here, we’ve been able to turn around and give the shops some very price competitive rubber internationally, which is really important.

BT: Does your canada goose mens beanie come out of Germany?

GM: No, it comes out of Indonesia. It’s all technically designed in Germany. The company in Indonesia is actually a Korean company PT Hunga. From day one PT Hunga has made all the tyres for Schwalbe and now they exclusively make all Schwalbe’s tyres.

BT: Let’s move on to your other main lines. How has Tern folding bikes been going in Australia?

GM: Tern was an interesting one for us because we actually said down and talked to them about Dahon, but I think at the time they had a slightly different management team and they thought that another distributor might be a little bit more beneficial to it. I think the other distributor took it on as a product and not as an interest.

I think you’ve got to have a high level of interest in your products in order to get that passion behind them. We were very fortunate that we got an email from Josh Hon saying, ‘Listen, there’s been some big changes over here and we’re going our separate ways and we really liked your pitch. Are you interested in looking at the Tern stuff?’

Pete and I had a chat about this because it’s a big investment for us and we said, ‘Yes we are interested in doing it.’

Before anything happened, we went over there to the launch and it was almost a Paris or Milan fashion show. They had the lights going. They had the male and female models up there. They were showing the bikes in lifestyle arrangements. There was big pumping music and smoke. It was more like a party atmosphere.

We all went for a ride afterwards, and I’m quite a solid person to say the least. I made sure I rode the 20” bikes because I wanted to see exactly how stiff they were in the bottom bracket and just what the quality and everything was like. I thought if someone could bend something on a bike it would proba

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