You’ll have seen the adverts on various websites for Vanilla Bikes, inviting you to have a look at their on-line shop and their top quality – if a little unusual – product lines, and when we spotted that the shop team was beefing up it’s roster for the coming season, we thought we better find out a little more about this young company.
Vanilla Bikes is owned by Kevin Hodgson and his partner Tracy, they set the company up in early 2010 with a very soft launch and just a handful of products and didn’t really begin to market the business until last year.
We did wonder whether they were related to the fabled Vanilla Workshops in Portland Oregon, the American company which specialises in handmade steel frames (for which the waiting list is currently over five years!) but Kevin reassured us that they were indeed separate enterprises.
Vanilla Bikes restricted themselves to only selling accessories for the first 18 months while they were getting established, but nowadays are delighted to be expanding their lines, and now have the rights to offer Deda and Cinelli road bikes – both brands with a lot to offer. In due course the pair have plans to also carry MTB and cyclocross bikes – once they have found the right products which fit in with their core values.
As Kevin told us;
“It’s a fast growing business and we are starting to offer an alternative to the well-known mainstream sites by competing on price as well as service, and slowly but surely we’re adding more and more great choices too.”
Vanilla Bikes doesn’t have a high street shop, just a web presence, and they try to select products that offer value and maybe something a little different to what the big boys sell.
For example Kurt Kinetic trainers, Honey Stinger food and Funkier clothing are all products that have generated fantastic feedback. They are now stocking more and more mainstream products as customers let them know that they want a one-stop shop for all their needs.
Uvex helmets are one of Vanilla’s top sellers at the moment – many of us will remember the T-Mobile team sporting the great German brand, which offers superb value and is a real a quality product, but isn’t quite mainstream in the UK yet. Kevin is finding that products like Honey Stinger bars and Italian-made Mstina socks are very popular too.
Based in Lancashire, which is great riding country, Kevin and Tracy are active cyclists themselves – Kevin used to be a regular on the Lune RCC club runs and chaingangs, but after setting up the shop and his own team, travelling with the riders to races up and down the length of the country the demands on his time meant he can’t get out on the bike quite as much as he would like.
The shop also attends events, and helps with local races as well;
“We sponsor and help out at the Tuesday night criterium series at our local closed road circuit for Youth riders and 2/3/4 categories, which is grass roots racing and ideal for beginners.
“We also sponsor an annual reliability ride which the Lune RCC promotes in February each year. We try to get to most of the races promoted by the Lune RCC and help marshal at them.”
Kevin set up the Vanilla Bikes Racing Team last year dipping their toes into the UK racing scene and learning a lot.
This year they have increased the number of riders to eight and are currently in the top 10 in the British Cycling rankings of UK teams.
“It’s fantastic helping the lads achieve their dreams and we are exceedingly lucky to have such an experienced captain as Ben Greenwood this year who certainly leads by example. Ben is ably helped by the team’s Vice Captain Alistair Rutherford.”
Keen to take the team forward this year and into next season too, Kevin realises what’s required from a resource and financial point;
“We are actively seeking commercial partners for the 2013 season, when we aim to establish ourselves as one of the main competitive teams in the UK on all fronts, from the Tour Series to selected international races.
“We’ve been invited to compete as guests in Round One of the Tour Series this year but hopefully with extra resources on board we will be able to ride the entire series in 2013.”
The riders on the team are using a selection of the fantastic Dedacciai frames this season, from the entry-level Nerissimo for training to the top of the range Super Scuro, and have provided Kevin and Deda with some great feedback.
The team will race on state-of-the-art Rolf Prima carbon clinchers and discs, and make use of the other wheels in the Rolf range for training.
Kevin has great faith in the importer Chickens and knows that they only deal with quality products and provide a first class after-sales service: for example Kevin has in the past had replacement gear hangers despatched overnight to keep the team on the road and in the race.
Vanilla Bikes select the brands that they themselves would ride and not just those who offer the best deal. Kevin stressed to us;
“I think it’s very important that we have faith in – and knowledge about – what we are selling.
“That’s why I use a Kurt Kinetic turbo myself, and I sample the brands personally before we start selling them.”
For more information, visit VanillaBikes.com