Mark Hopkins easily has one of the raddest résumés in South African mountain biking – co-founder of Leatt, owner of cSixx and co-founder of Pyga Industries. Passionate and charismatic, he can regularly be spotted ripping local trails or racing downhill. We caught up with him at his cSixx and Pyga HQ in Cape Town… – Wesley Reyneke
How was cSixx founded?
I went to World Champs in Spain, in 2000, and lost my chain in my race run which, obviously, freaks you out. Being a designer I told myself I needed to sort something out. I started playing around, and then released my own range of chain guides (called MHD then – Mark Hopkins Designs), which we sold quite a lot of in South Africa. In 2002 we were just getting to a point where we were looking at distributing in America, then the Leatt thing happened and I basically stopped that whole business. Around 2008/2009 (while at Leatt) I was getting restless and wanted to start something new, so I looked at the current chain guides and decided to get my old one up and running again.
cSixx chain guides are all carbon – why did you decide to go this route?
I wanted to go with a company that made a bit of an impact. If I’d brought out a plastic guide, it wouldn’t have got known very quickly; it would have been the same as what everyone else had. We wanted to gain an image of a high quality product – something wild, different, unique, expensive and good looking, with emphasis on the bling factor. We’ll be bringing out cheaper ones now, with some new technology.
Your new Doubler guide seems aimed at all-mountain riders running dual-ring setups. Is that a popular market?
The clutch derailleur has put a spanner in the works there. You’ve got to be riding extremely quickly on really rough terrain to drop a chain with a clutch derailleur, on a double ring setup. But a lot of guys are still interested in it. With the whole chain guide market there’s been a complete shift, all the boundaries have changed with XX1 and clutch. We’ve got a whole new range in the process of being designed.
Can we expect anything other than chain guides from cSixx in the future?
We definitely want to push cSixx, but don’t want to release “me-too” products. It has to be something unique, something special. Our next product is a chainring with a thick/thin tooth profile (similar to the SRAM XX1 system). We’re working on a little 28 tooth, and it’ll go all the way up to 38.
You ride regularly, so you effectively test your own product…
Totally! Test, break, thrash. We’ve got a lot of other guys testing too, such as Myles (Kelsey) and Gary (Barnard). We’ve got some international teams running it as well, like the American KHS team.
Your personal bike is the Pyga OneTen29, on which you’ve raced both enduro and downhill. Tell us a bit about the suspension on that bike.
The OneTen29 I can ride with a 140mm fork. It’s actually designed for a 130mm fork, and we’ve been selling it with 120mm, but you can ride it with an extra 30mm of travel up front. It feels like a 140mm travel bike. It’s all about kinematics, and getting the correct suspension curve. That’s Pat’s (Morewood) baby. With Morewood he’s learnt as he’s gone, and he’s got a very good feel of what is correct. Whoever rides a Morewood can tell you that as well.
How has the response been to Pyga?
We’ve been blown away. Our second production run just landed and that’s probably 30% sold already. One thing we’re trying to do with our brand is have demo bikes. We’re going to have our 29ers and 650B’s all kitted out with XX1, so they’re going to be sweet bikes to ride, and you ride the bike before you buy it, which is what you need to do these days. I would say we’ve probably got almost a 90% hit rate of guys that ride the bike, then buy it, so that works really well.
Living in the Western Cape, which is your favourite trail?
Now that I’m riding the ‘9er, loose, gravel jeep tracks are a lot of fun. But in terms of trails Jonkershoek beats everything.
Originally published in TREAD Issue 23 2013 – All rights reserved