Two Wheel Gear is an outdoor lifestyle company focused on people using their bikes for transportation. Our mission is to make it easy to ride your bike to work.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m a tinkerer, creative, and business guy. I grew up blue-collar, working mainly with my hands and graduated from university with a degree in Entrepreneurship. I started several businesses and then went into the white-collar world, working in one of Canada’s largest companies, where I commuted downtown to our buttoned-up office. One day, on an awful bus commute to work, I depressingly looked out the window to see a guy ripping beside the bus on his bike with a huge smile on his face. After that, I started riding my bike to work every day and creating bicycle products in the basement workshop for the office bike commuter. Our first product was a bike bag that carried your suit and work items so you could still bike commute with unwrinkled formal work clothes, called the Classic Garment Pannier. From there, we’ve continually found unique solutions through product design for people that ride bikes as transportation.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Spend a little less (a world pandemic is coming). Then I would say focus on what is working, focus on marketing and initiatives that are true to our brand, condense your SKU count so you can manage your inventory more effectively, and focus on growing your business closer to home rather than chasing too big of an international market that is really expensive to finance as a small, private company.
What problem does your business solve?
Most bicycle bags and gear have traditionally been designed to only work on your bike. As someone that rides a bike to work, shop, meet friends, and for various transportation needs, the bags available didn’t work well when you got off your bike. We focus on bags that are great to carry both on and off your bike. Bike bags that are organized with features you need for carrying laptops, clothes, and accessories. Bags that convert from attaching to your bike to carrying like a backpack or messenger bag. Bags that look modern and fit into professional settings. We are the unofficial gold standard of gear for biking to work.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
When I was working in a big corporation and started riding my bike to work, I would hang up my homemade bike suit bag in the locker room in the mornings. I would always get asked about my bag as I pulled out my suit to get changed. Sometimes by fully naked morning commuters coming right out of the shower. I would spend more time than I wanted in the morning locker room pitching/explaining my bike bag. Everyone loved it, and I thought there was a market for selling specialized gear to this niche crowd of work commuters.
What is your magic sauce?
We are unique with our designs and approach to solving problems for the bike commuter. We are quirky. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We don’t even really consider ourselves a “cycling company.” We are an outdoors company and realize we are a special breed of “cyclist.” We focus on transportation and not biking as a sport. From there, we focus on original designs, high quality, and sustainability. We use recycled fabrics in all of our bags, use bluesign certified manufacturing partners, ship carbon neutral, use recycled packaging, and reduce our carbon footprint where we can. I think part of our magic sauce is that we are a small business (out of the basement following a dream kind of story). We compete against companies that are huge in comparison with resources and financing, factories that are copycats, and a wide range of cheap substitute products. We specialize, we do high quality, we’re small, and we’re scrappy.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We want to be/do what Lululemon did for yoga. We want to be the Arcteryx of our breed of “athlete” – I think you will see Two Wheel Gear become more of a household brand name that everyone that rides a bike will know and love.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Probably financing. I think most entrepreneurs starting a product-based business don’t fully understand the ongoing capital/financing requirements that a manufacturing-based business needs to keep growing. When sales go up, the capital required to invest in next year’s sales growth also goes up. You’re always working one to two years ahead. It can be hard for small, private companies to manage that. Obviously, COVID-19 had a lot of challenges. Everything from shutting down our Vancouver office and moving fully remote to 10 times increases in shipping costs, problems with sourcing and logistics, and absorbing problems that your retail partners are having. There are always a lot of curve balls to try and manage/avoid as a small business owner.
How can people get involved?
If you ride a bike or want to ride your bike, especially to work, we have a product built specifically for you. Check out our website www.twowheelgear.ca, or find our products at outdoor retailers like MEC and REI. You can follow our Instagram (@twowheelgear) or YouTube (/twowheelgear) for helpful advice on starting to ride to work.