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Underground Bike Works closes following investor's death

Published January 29, 2019
Seeking new capital, founder John Parker says, 'Certainly we haven't made our last bike.'

DURANGO, Colo. (BRAIN) — Underground Bike Works, the mountain bike brand launched into the market last year by Yeti Cycles co-founder John Parker, has closed following the death of a key investor last summer. Parker said he is seeking new investment to reopen the company.

"With the loss of my partner, we have to reorganize the company. If we're successful in reorganizing it, we have people interested in coming aboard and investing. First we have to resolve some ownership issues [with the late investor's widow]. Certainly we haven't made our last bike, but the way things were going we did choose to shut the company down for now in Durango," Parker told BRAIN.

Al Spinks came aboard as an investor in Underground after meeting Parker at Interbike in 2016 at the booth of wooden frame maker Renovo, where Spinks was also an investor. Parker described him as a "fifth-generation Texas agriculture and oil guy" who invested in the two bike companies as something of a hobby. Spinks died in July 2018 after suffering a heart attack.

"The tragedy was Al was 53 years old. He was healthy, he played tennis, he mountain biked, he skied — nobody saw this coming. It was absolutely shocking. My hope is to continue this company and move it forward and do some of it in Al's memory. He was just a wonderful guy," Parker said.

Since Spinks' death, Renovo declared bankruptcy this fall. The Portland, Oregon-based company's remaining assets were auctioned off in late November. Filings with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon list Shimano America, Robert Axle Project and industry public relations firm Echos Communications among Renovo's creditors.

Before closing, Underground was able to build only 50 of its limited-edition, 250-unit run of its debut model, the Revival 27.5-plus 6000 series aluminum hardtail. The frames were all made by Parker's fellow Yeti co-founder Frank Wadelton, aka famed builder Frank the Welder. The $7,000 complete bikes were sold consumer direct and, starting this fall, through Southern California service shop Win's Wheels. Shop owner Win Allen is selling off a handful of remaining completes, including three demo bikes. Parker also has 200 raw frame kits and enough parts in Durango to build an additional couple dozen bikes.

Underground was "moving right on target" at the time of Spinks' passing, Parker said.

"We had a design for a Taiwan-made hardtail at a good price point with fabulous componentry. We're still working on a full-suspension design. And we were exploring coming out with an electric fat bike. We had given ourselves a three-year window to be a complete bicycle company with a full line of bicycles, and we were just in our first year," he said.

"We're just kind of rolling and tumbling with the punches right now, but my desire is to move forward with the company. I've still got a lot of bikes left to make," Parker added.


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