It isn’t often that I get to have coffee with a mountain bike. But when I met up with Loni Hull, CEO of Structure Cycleworks, that’s exactly what happened. We met, just prior to the COVID-19 social distancing measures, to discuss how 2019 had gone for the startup mountain bike manufacturer and to get some idea of his plans for the future. Like a proud father, Loni brought along the Janis edition of their linkage front suspension mountain bike, the SCW-1, and displayed it prominently beside our table.
In a nearly empty coffee shop, the odd-looking bike grabbed the attention of two mountain bikers sitting nearby.
Of course, the bike wasn’t drinking coffee with us, but it was surely part of the conversation. And it didn’t take long for SCW-1 to draw others into the discussion as well. In a nearly empty coffee shop, the odd-looking bike grabbed the attention of two mountain bikers sitting nearby. They came over to chat with Loni about how it worked and where they might be able to demo the bike. They even shot a short video of the bike’s front suspension.
For Loni and the Structure Cycleworks team, this is nothing new. They spent 2019 building the stoke around the SCW-1 in just this way. They will most certainly continue to do the same in 2020. But this is also the year that they plan to move on to the next step—delivering on the hype. It’s the year the rubber really hits the road, or the trail in this case. And the Structure Cycleworks team is ready for it!
Building the stoke in 2019
For Structure Cycleworks, 2019 was all about getting the name out there and building the stoke around the SCW-1. The team traveled around North America, showing off the bike at trade shows and events and getting feedback from as many riders as possible.
Crankworx 2019 delivers
One of the highlights of the season was Crankworks Whistler. The festival describes itself as ‘the defining celebration of mountain biking’, and it’s hard to argue with that. Every year in August, countless brands, riders, racers, content producers, etc., descend on Whistler to celebrate all things mountain biking. During the 2019 edition of the event, Structure Cyleworks had approximately 100 riders demo the SCW-1. Obviously, the stoke was high.
“We had people coming back saying, ‘We tried to break your bike!’”Loni Hull, CEO of Structure Cycleworks
Out of all those demos, one thing became clear as riders put the bike through its paces: the SCW-1 frame is bombproof.
“We weren’t putting restrictions on where people could ride,” notes Loni, “We had people coming back saying, ‘We tried to break your bike!”
“We had taco’d wheels, flat tires, derailleurs that wouldn’t function, shifters that quit, brakes that quit. Everything peripheral that people could destroy out on the trail, they did,” he adds. But the frames held up through all of the abuse Whistler and the riders at Crankworx, could administer.
After a summer of countless demos and feedback from riders, Loni is able to narrow down what intrigues people about the SCW-1. Unsurprisingly, much of the excitement revolves around the front suspension.
“The first thing they say is, ‘Wow the front is so plush. It just absorbs bumps,’” notes Loni, and riders find “That it’s really fantastic in tech. So if it’s a really techy, rocky, rooty descent with a lot of squarish hits, they really notice the difference.”
Oddly enough, one of the few limitations riders find with the SCW-1 comes from its rear end. It’s odd because the SCW-1 uses the tried and true Horst-link design for its rear suspension.
“One observation we have heard a couple of times now is that the front is smooth enough that the rear actually seems like the limiting factor,” remarks Loni.
He sees riders characterizing the rear of the bike as a limiting factor as a sort of a back-handed compliment. In designing the SCW-1, Loni meant for the rear to be unremarkable and perform well. So if it’s having trouble keeping up with the front suspension, the linkage design is clearly doing something right.
The reviews are in…
Further building the stoke around the SCW-1 in 2019 were the many review articles that were published around the bike. Of course, many made a note of the front suspension’s odd appearance. But there was also a lot of positivity around performance.
According to Loni, none of the reviews boosted the stoke more than Pinkbike’s long-term review of the SCW-1. The author spent six months putting the bike through its paces prior to the article’s release in 2020.
“We feel like that was a milestone for us that was also a credibility builder.”Loni Hull, CEO of Structure Cycleworks
The review is generally positive and gives glowing reviews to the linkage front suspension. But most importantly, it got the Structure Cycleworks name out to a large audience.
“We feel like that was a milestone for us that was also a credibility builder,” says Loni. And it has resulted in huge increases in Structure’s website and social media traffic. “So there’s curiosity about it,” he adds.
Spur-of-the-moment race results
Over the course of the 2019 season, Structure was able to show off the SCW-1’s performance at some high profile races at events like Sea Otter Classic and Crankworx. And it was all done, on-the-fly, without a race team. Overall the results were good, but the riders weren’t officially racing for Structure Cycleworks and had minimal time on the bike to prepare.
This ad-hoc style of racing meant that although happy with the results, Loni and the Structure Cycleworks team weren’t able to push the SCW-1 as far as other race teams that had full-time racers competing in a full slate of events.
Nonetheless, those positive results got the company name out there and left the Structure Cycleworks team wanting more for 2020.
Where the rubber hits the trail
Building awareness around the SCW-1 was the name of the game for Structure in 2019. Now that riders are excited about the performance of the bike’s linkage front suspension, the Structure team is ready to take things to the next level in 2020.
It’s time to deliver
Most importantly, 2020 will be the year when the first consumers receive their shiny new whips.
As for the main production run, “We had hoped for June, but now, at this point, it could be as late as August,” admits Loni.
The delay is the result of the uncertainty around what effect COVID-19 will have on manufacturing and shipping from Asia, where the SCW-1 is manufactured.
But even with the delay, Loni is optimistic. This first production run is a major milestone for the company and having more bikes out there being used by the general public will further increase awareness.
The race is on!
In an effort to build on their successful, if makeshift, 2019 race season, Structure Cycleworks is planning to field dedicated, top-level racers in a full slate of enduro races in 2020.
Loni believes the SCW-1 is UCI compliant in its design. So all that’s left now is to find the right racer or racers.
“In the US and Canada we’re actually spoiled for choice, so we’re looking for somebody who’s not in a contract right now.”Loni Hull, CEO of Structure Cycleworks
They’re looking for world-class racers to complete in world-class events.
“In the US and Canada we’re actually spoiled for choice, so we’re looking for somebody who’s not in a contract right now,” reveals Loni. He adds, “In Europe right now, we’re in negotiation with a pro rider.”
In 2020, Structure Cycleworks will be getting serious about racing the SCW-1. There are currently no athlete signings to announce. But Loni divulges that they are close and will have more to announce in the near future.
The SCW-1, for sale or rent
When it comes to building the stoke, 2020 will see the Structure Cycleworks team attending festivals and trade shows. But more people will be able to get their hands on an SCW-1 as they show up in retail bike shops for purchase and as rentals at bike parks.
“We are in a few premiere bike shops now,” asserts Loni. And he believes that as the SCW-1 passes more milestones, such as big-name rider endorsements and a high profile race win, it will be easier to get the bike into more brick and mortar stores.
On top of being able to see them in person at bike shops and at festivals, you will also be able to rent the SCW-1 at SilverStar Bike Park (Canada’s second-largest bike park) in 2020.
For Loni, bike parks are a great place for Structure “to just get butts in saddles and have people experience the difference” in ride quality that the SCW-1 has to offer.
Into 2020 and beyond
Looking further ahead, Structure Cycleworks has its sights set on two new linkage front suspension models to compliment the SCW-1: a conventional 29er and a 29er e-bike. Few solid details have been worked out yet. But as with the original SCW-1, these models will be geared toward enduro riding and racing.
“We’ve started conversations with a couple of different design houses…about doing an e-bike [29er] and a [conventional] 29er concurrently,” suggests Loni. The plan is for the new models to retain a number of the same platform elements as the SCW-1. Elements such as linkage arms and rear stays.
The suspension travel may differ somewhat from the current model, but it will still be aimed at the enduro market.
Also on the design/spec front, Structure Cycleworks will be making the SCW-1 available in a Shimano XT spec in 2020. This is in addition to the two SRAM specs currently available.
What will the future hold?
Of course, 2020 hasn’t started out the way Loni and Structure Cycleworks planned. The COVID-19 outbreak and the worldwide call for social distancing that has followed, has put a damper on the year before it has even begun. But the Structure team plans to forge ahead with their plans nonetheless.
If one thing is certain, it’s that in 2020 you will be seeing a lot more of Structure Cycleworks and the SCW-1. There will be more opportunities for you to get out and try one for yourself. And I would suggest doing just that. Don’t let the future pass you by!
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