A couple of weeks ago, something peculiar dropped through the letterbox of Bike Magic HQ. We’re simple beings, more unevolved than most perhaps, and the scene as we opened it looked a lot like a bunch of gorillas analysing the purpose of a shoe. Massive black thing… Hmmm. After much procrastination and more primatial behaviour, we got around to actually looking at it, and it turned out it was a mudguard with something of a twist. It zip-ties straight onto the seatstay of the bike, making it compatible with full suspension bikes, and those with dropper posts. Mudguard evolved, if you like. Mudguard – The Sequel.
Long story short(er – can you tell I’ve had a few coffees today?), I sent an email off to a man named Bruce and asked him a few questions about the ‘Hugger and the process involved with bringing an idea to fruition. Here’s what I came back with.
So Bruce… who are you, how old are you, and where are you from?
Bruce Gardiner, 46 yrs, Stourbridge West Midlands.
What’s your history with bikes? Where do you ride/ have you ridden?
MTB rider since 1988 – Specialized Rockhopper with my younger brother, early days north Wales, these days trail centres when we can (time is such a scarce commodity) so mostly 2 evenings a week locally Kinver or Clent all year round. I guess we are pretty ‘average Joe’ but Jay is quite a bit faster than I am and really gives his hugger a workout, I have a speciality in crash testing it trying to keep up.
What’s your job when you’re not moonlighting as mudguard creating extraordinaire?
My brother and I run a powder coating company typically coating new aluminium windows and cladding for UK building trade.
So when you are moonlighting… what gave you the idea to do this? Was there a “eureka” moment?
It was a combination of much better lights and dropper posts that led to Mudhugger. The lights and dropper posts allowed us to ride much faster in the dark and because we ride all year round we were getting home or to the pub filthy dirty so it meant that we pissed off either the landlord or the wife. The dropper posts meant that the traditional crud catcher over the rear tyre was a non starter which is what we would have used in the past. We just had a conversation about what we would want from a mudguard, that is to stay in place, not rub on the tyre, keep most of the muck off your arse and not get in the way when your bum is inches from the back tyre. We worked out over a pint that the only way was to run the mudguard real close to the tyre attached to the swing arm so that the mudguard is efficient and does not get in the way or rub on the tyre. It was November 2012 after all the rain I got totally fed up not having a mudguard I got out an old one and started to think about how I could fit it to the seat stays. Using a couple of bits of aluminium from work some rivets and zip ties we basically fitted it to my bike. After trying it out we were so impressed by its performance my brother built one for his bike with a few tweaks to make it look and work better. Then we wondered if this was something we could sell and started designing on paper an all plastic version. We got some advice on moulding and marketing from Warwick business school. Then started going to trail centers and a couple of local bike shops to canvas opinions on whether it was a goer. We got very positive feedback from this and just kept nudging the process on.
Was there an obvious gap in the market then?
We thought so, mudguards look crap, they are not cool and don’t really work on modern medium to long travel bikes, we wanted ours to blend in with the bike itself, stealthy! The main benefit with Mudhugger is that you just get on and ride the bike just as you would without a mudguard, in fact you forget it’s there.
How long have you been working on it?
1st Mudhugger early November 2012.
Is it just you?
Business partner is my brother Jamie, 42 year old and also lives in Stourbridge.
What was the process of starting your own business in bikes like?
Because we already have a business that part has been relatively easy for us. The big difference is the marketing and especially social media, we have had to get smart phones, twitter and FB accounts sorted and use them all the time now. We have had a lot of help from our web designer and Warwick business school with all this modern fangled stuff but we are getting better at it.
Where do you want to take it? Full-time job?
We want to run it as a proper business and hopefully it can grow into a brand designed to provide MTB parts and potentially clothing for wet/ muddy conditions. Who knows, the sky is the limit.
How do you think this will take off? And why?
We do need more exposure and that is where magazines and in particular the internet comes in, we have global interest in the products and just need to show the MTB public. We believe as we sell these and riders get to see just how well they work they will spread the word. Mountain bikers are a pretty social lot and we hope mates of mates will give us a lot of the sales. We have had a lot of interest especially on Facebook, where we have posted pics and video of the Hugger in action and people can actually see it working on some pretty fast and rough trails.
Anything else in the pipeline?
Front Hugger is in tooling now and a 29er version is being designed.
When’s the launch? Is it strategically timed?!
Probably 10th June we are a month later than we wanted, not strategically timed as its summer (this guarantees a dry 2013!). But by Autumn we will have the front hugger made and shortly after that the 29er version will be available.
Thanks Bruce, good luck with it and look out for the review here on Bike Magic.
Finished versions are set to come in at £23 including postage and weigh 180 grams. They’ll be available from the 19th of June.