Gravel riding has been gaining popularity over the past five years, largely driven by the United States, where gravel racing has caught on in a big way, stimulating a fresh bicycle market segment that actually makes sense. A South African visionary saw the potential of this category and started a gravel/endurance brand in 2017. Find out why it’s flourishing.
Victor Momsen is always thinking ahead. Owner of two bike brands, Momsen Bikes https://momsenbikes.com/and Muna Bikes https://munabikes.com/ , the self-confessed bicycle geek saw the growing interest in distance riding/racing as well as the potential of the relatively young gravel bike market. He created a brand called Ride Farr, or just Farr, which designs and sells components, accessories, frame kits and clothing aimed at the endurance riding market.
Here he gives some insight into where the brand started, where it is currently and where he thinks it may be going.
When did it first occur to you to start Farr – and why?
Probably around early 2017 as I wanted to create a lifestyle brand of cycling products. At this stage I was seeing a lot of Gravel and Bikepacking style bikes starting to get popular I really liked the reference to the early days of MTB and the lifestyle and associated bike culture around the trend.
What products did you start with?
I guess the Carbon Aero Bolt-On was the real catalyst. I had this idea for a short but comfy handlebar addition that would come in handy on the long and often boring open road sections that were so prevalent in some of the local MTB stage races. I approached a friend from my Mechanical Engineering days at the PE Technikon and he helped with the initial 3D drawings and 3D prints to get a kind of proof of concept going. I worked with a carbon fibre manufacturer in Jeffery’s Bay on designing a mould to produce them locally and see if we could sell them internationally from Port Elizabeth. This product got a lot of international attention and before long our very limited manufacture capacity caught up with us and I had to move production to Taiwan.
What was your strategy for the brand initially? Has it changed?
The initial strategy was to try and develop unique products in South Africa and offer them via e-commerce to a global market. The strategy has not changed that much, although with me now being based in Australia, we are shipping stock ex-Perth to riders all over the world. The last 6 to 12 months has also seen global distribution increasing and we currently have distributors in France, Japan, UK, Philippines and Canada, with more in discussion.
What inspired the name – Ride Farr?
Coming from an endurance-obsessed bike market in South Africa, the reference to Riding Far just seemed like an obvious name as the first products would be geared towards those riders. The concept of riding far also differs by rider and market, so it is universal in a way. One person’s first 100km ride is just as much an achievement as someone doing their first 1000km self-supported trip. The double ‘rr’ was necessary to allow us to be able trademark the name.
How do you market the brand?
Marketing has been predominantly via social media and working with large cycling websites like the guys from bikepacking.com / gravelcyclist.com / bikerumor.com etc. We recently had some great coverage on cyclingweekly.com and featured in the LATEST GEAR section on their popular website and then also in print. That was massive for sales of the Aero Gravel handlebar. We have also had some really nice mainstream coverage from the guys at Red Bull France when they selected the Aero Gravel handlebar as one of the HOT PRODUCTS FOR GRAVEL in their magazine. So, the marketing side of things is very organic and we have some great traction within the bikepacking / gravel / adventure market.
Which markets are your biggest customers?
For online sales the biggest market is definitely USA but in terms of distribution and working with partners in other markets, that would currently be France and Japan.
What has the uptake in South Africa been like?
Looking at our website hits and social media, South Africa is still a very active market in terms of viewers and interest, however the Gravel/Bikepacking scene has only really started to gain some decent level of traction – during the Covid period ironically. It is a pity that we cannot offer some of our new Gravel products in SA , but our minimum order quantities on these projects are just too high to have all the product shipped to SA, so it gets shipped to Australia and we distribute from here. I hope that in the future we can do some more FARR business in South Africa , but that would depend on the economy and R/$ which are further challenges right now. Our products are mid-to-upper end and it is hard to expect a distributor in SA to do 100 to 200 of some of our products.
Who is your ideal customer?
We are fortunate to be seen as an innovative and functional brand within the Gravel scene. This has helped us establish a loyal following within the bikepacking / adventure community. However, as some of our newer products come to market (early 2021 onwards), the brand will hopefully be able to expand a bit more into mountain bike and other off-road markets. We are not a Gravel brand as such, but have somehow become known as one. The challenge is to break out of that box a bit… Our ideal customer is someone who thrives on the whole N+1 concept, is passionate about bikes and is an early adopter of new trends and riding styles. It is a very interesting time to be growing as a brand within the cycling market.
Where do you see Farr in five years’ time?
I have not really thought about that, right now the focus is more on getting some better distribution – there are so many cool new ideas and products I would like to bring to market, but our volume currently makes some of them not viable to do. With better distribution we will be able to spread that load and get more cool stuff to market. So, I guess in five years I would like to have a sustainable business that allows the brand to keep adding new and quirky things as and when something hits the drawing board!
To see the full Ride Farr range, head over here.
Paid partnership with Ride Farr.