Melbourne startup Just Ride It has found a lucrative niche customising bikes for corporate promotions

- October 27, 2015 3 MIN READ

We may complain that things are getting too expensive, but the rise of bespoke ecommerce startups like Shoes of Prey, HandKrafted, and Disrupt Surfing shows that people are willing to pay for quality, one of a kind products. Whether it’s shoes, furniture, or surfboards, these startups are showing that customising is king.

Just Ride It is a Melbourne startup proving that the model works for bikes, too. Founded by Steven Atkinson in 2011, the startup is essentially Shoes of Prey for bikes, creating custom fixed gear and single speed bikes bicycles on which it allows customers to tailor everything from size and wheels to colour and the shape of handlebars to their particular tastes. The bikes, which cost anywhere from $600 to $3000 depending on the level of customisation, are put together by hand, tested, and then disassembled for shipping worldwide.

The business launched with a bricks and mortar store on Brunswick Street in Melbourne, where customers can either buy existing bikes or look at the range available and customise their own based on the examples they’ve seen. Another Just Ride It store has since opened in Perth, while an online store based in Manchester fulfils orders from around Europe. With international growth so strong, another bricks and mortar store is set to open in London in December, with expansion into Asia planned for 2016.

Atkinson, who is originally from Manchester, said the idea for the business came when he noticed a gap in the local market for single speed and fixed gear bikes.

“It was apparent that riders of these machines didn’t want something off the shelf designed for the masses. They wanted something unique, special and personal…custom-made bikes are part of a global consumer trend for customised and personalised products. We allow people to put their own personal stamp on their bike, which is satisfying for us as well when it comes to the design and workmanship. Every bike is different, which is exciting,” he said.

Atkinson decided to launch Just Ride It, confident that he had the basic knowledge of how to make it work after his previous experience running and selling a logistics business.

“I was keen to do something I was passionate about so I threw myself in the deep end and had to learn. Having worked in sales before that was a huge plus. Managing cashflow and budgets was the biggest challenge by far, particularly with the ongoing overhead of rent on Brunswick Street,” Atkinson said.

The development and running of the startup has been funded by Atkinson, who said that one of the key things he learned along the way is the importance of outsourcing his finances to a team of experts, who have helped him stay on top of cashflow.

“In the past twelve months potential investors have approached me, one looking to take as much as 45 percent equity. That’s a huge slice and I’m not ready for that. I love what I do, I work hard at it and I am driven to see it go places. I’m not sure how I would feel if I lost part control,” Atkinson said.

It’s not hard to see why the startup has flourished. Not only is Atkinson giving people the opportunity to customise their purchase to their exact specifications, but he’s also working with a product that is becoming ever more popular. Sydney motorists might not be happy about it, but cycling is fast becoming the preferred mode of transport for many commuters around Australia.

Online now accounts for 40 percent of the startup’s retail sales, but Just Ride It has also found a lucrative spot in the corporate world. It has been working with brands such as Coca Cola, Jack Daniels, Adidas, and BMW to create custom bikes for giveaways and other promotional purposes.

“The opportunity originally came about after we sold a bike part to one of the Williams F1 car mechanics during the annual MotoGP in Melbourne. We got talking about custom bikes and how they would be an excellent way for them to promote their brand in a different and engaging way. We built some bikes in their colours and branding and they were a hit,” Atkinson said.

Corporate work now makes up 35 percent of Just Ride It’s total sales.

Social media has also played a role in the growth of Just Ride It as, of course, anyone who gets something custom made loves to show it off, and cyclists are no exception. Atkinson said YouTube in particular has been a key driver for the business, with cyclists uploading videos of bike tricks.

Though the opening of the London store is at the top of the agenda right now, Atkinson and the team are also working on a Just Ride It line of bikes, set to launch next year.