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Innovating for a reason, Boyd Cycling expanding wheelset line, workforce

Published November 25, 2020

Editor's note: A version of this article ran in the November issue of BRAIN.

GREENVILLE, S.C. (BRAIN) - Whether it's an improvement on a simple valve stem nut or a commitment to continue producing rim-brake wheelsets, Boyd Cycling is all about innovation without following the latest fad.

"When we innovate, it's not to innovate for marketing reasons," said co-founder Nicole Johnson. "It's to innovate because there's a reason: It's going to improve the experience for the individual."

Like the Offset Wingnut.

Husband and founder Boyd Johnson was out on a ride with a friend who experienced a flat with darkness approaching. They had trouble loosening the valve stem nut. The incident spurred Boyd Johnson to create the $5 Offset Wingnut set that secures the stem, but because of a protruding lip, is easier to remove and tighten.

Wheel manufacturer Boyd Cycling unveiled bigger innovations this year with more to come. Boyd Cycling — which manufactures road, gravel, cyclocross, and mountain bike wheels and accessories — is having its best year. End-of-year sales are forecasted to be up 30% year-over-year, and it has hired four additional full-time employees, bringing the workforce up to 12.

"We were down a little bit in the first quarter, but then the second quarter made up for the first quarter, and it's continued," said Nicole, the sales director. "September usually slows down for us, but we're almost double what we were at this time last year."
The Johnsons credit local shops' recent focus on selling upgrades — like wheelsets — for their company's boom.

"They don't have bikes to sell, so they're selling wheels or upgrading people," Nicole said. "And then I think the release of the Prologue is a huge win."

The Prologue carbon wheelset line is Boyd Cycling's latest. Each wheelset retails for $1,050 and comes in 28mm and 44mm disc versions and a 44mm rim-brake version.

"The demographic we're going after is riders new to the sport who are interested in carbon but don't have the budget for higher-end stuff," Nicole said. "We've always planned to do this. Our retailers have asked for it, and now COVID makes it even more likely to succeed."

Cost-savings on the Prologue come from the way the carbon is laid up, Boyd Johnson said. With Boyd Cycling's typical carbon rims, the material is reinforced at each spoke hole and reduced in between, saving about 20 grams per rim, Boyd said. The Prologue rims have basically the same rim thickness throughout their circumference.

"So with the Prologue being a more budget-level wheelset, our margins aren't as great, especially when we start selling through the different channels, so we have to do stuff to really beef them up where the warranty has to be a half of 1% because if it starts getting up to 2% to 3%, we're losing money selling the Prologue," Boyd said. "That's where the idea of the Prologue was born."

All Boyd Cycling carbon wheelsets manufactured since 2018 come with an original-owner lifetime warranty, covering manufacturing defects in materials and workmanship. All alloy wheels are covered by a two-year warranty.

Boyd Cycling began in 2009 as a direct-to-consumer wheelbuilder but has developed three other sales channels: IBD (about 300 in the U.S.), distributor, and OEM, which will be officially established in 2021 and 2022 on a few medium-sized bike brands.

"We just partnered up with distributor HLC in the U.S.," Boyd said. "The OEM channel is something we've been focusing a lot on."
Success this year might not have been possible if not for some good timing. Orders the company placed for rims from China and hubs and spokes from Taiwan arrived in Greenville at the beginning of the year and another right before the Chinese New Year. Of course, that's right about the time the pandemic reached its peak and closed Asia.

"We need to get the majority of our inventory here in the first couple months of the year," Boyd said. "It worked out really well — it could've been a disaster — but we always find a way to overcome."

With many wheel companies ceasing production of rim-brake wheelsets, Boyd Cycling remains invested in the old-school technology. "It's becoming a huge problem for shops and wheel-builders," Nicole said of fewer rim-brake wheel options. "We are continuing on with rim brake on alloy as well as carbon. We're actually doing new tooling for rim brake alloy right now that will come out for next year. There are so many people who have a really nice road bike that there's no reason for them to go drop another 7 to 8 grand on a disc-brake bike."

To no one's surprise, Boyd Cycling's growth through sales and personnel has led to an upcoming move at the end of the year to another building about 10 miles away. While square-footage will be a bit less (10,000 vs. 8,700), the new building is taller to allow for vertical growth, said Boyd, who will lease the old location to a new brewery, Pangea.

"It is kind of noisy here," Boyd said. "If we've got the lacing machine going, it can be kind of hard to hear. So the new building is more divided into offices, and in the warehouse, we're constructing a room for the wheel-builders. Right now, if someone walks into the front door, the first thing they do is talk to the production guys."

Boyd and Nicole Johnson.
Topics associated with this article: From the Magazine

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