The clatter of a beloved carbon bike hitting the deck is enough to make many a cyclist squirm in discomfort. If you’re lucky, you see the fall happen in slow motion and are able to make that mad lunge forward to catch your prized possession before it crashes to the floor.
Hallways, living rooms, spare bedrooms are not always a convenient place to store your high-end bike. This was the exact situation James Doughty was grappling with; fed up with the lack of storage he decided to create his own. The Velohawk journey began.
Doughty set out a high-end bike storage criteria: it needed to be strong and secure enough to keep outside the house as well as beautifully crafted to position inside the house and be admired for its architectural design.
To create the best carbon fibre storage, Doughty reached out to British composite and engineering firm Penso Composites UK to manufacture the end product to the standard he envisioned.
Penso are not new to the innovative world of performance materials. Their client portfolio boasts the likes of Aston Martin, McLaren, Bentley, Jaguar, Mercedes Benz as well as working with the aerospace, defence and rail industries.
From concept to market has been a ten year journey for Doughty. You always wonder if you’re doing the right thing, if the idea will work. But the support of partners he’s acquired along the way, such as Penso and Lotto-NL Jumbo rider George Bennett, have allowed him to believe now is the right time to launch a product like Velohawk.
The official launch will take place at this year’s Rouleur Classic (November 1-3). But before then, here’s what Doughty had to say about following the idea through right until the end.
Rouleur: Where did you first get the idea from?
James Doughty: I began cycling competitively in 2001 while in the Middle East, where there were not a lot of recreational activities available, so I spent most of my free hours in the desert or cycling the back roads, often in 100F plus heat. Then over the next 10 years I continued cycling, but also competed in many Ironman events.
However, wherever I was, looking after my high-end bikes at home was a big issue for me and my training buddies. Our bikes were always easily bumped or scraped in the hallway or the spare room, accidentally knocked over in the carport or on the porch. In New Zealand, I had a purpose built closet installed in the guest room to “protect my babies”, but all the while thinking there must be a better solution. Realising this is a very real issue for a majority of dedicated cyclists, triathletes and “bike bling junkies”, I became passionate to find a solution for premium bike storage and founded Velohawk.
Why did you think that now is the right time for a product like this?
While it might sound crazy these days, I have been thinking, refining and working on this idea for over 10 years. In that time there has been an emphasis on common storage lockers, steel cages, garden sheds etc. but there have not been any beautiful, innovative, architectural products that securely house your bike.
Cycling is also replacing golf (amongst other sports) as the hobby for professionals. It suits a competitive nature, gets you out, and is geared towards individuals that appreciate finer things, details and precision engineering. If you can’t take your road bicycle into the office currently or you don’t have options for storing it in your urban landscape, you can spend hours looking at the newest bike components, frames and wheelsets, but if it gets stolen, you are instantly heartbroken. That’s why Velohawk is perfect timing.
How has it made your life easier?
I have two beautiful road bikes and a very valuable tri bike and we have a busy household with three children and a lot of visitors. Even though we have quite a bit of space, it is inevitable that my bikes tend to take a beating. Our Velohawks that we keep outside at home blend perfectly into the landscape and house, I can keep my bikes safely out of the way. We live in a marine climate here in Auckland, New Zealand, with a lot of rain and saltwater, and with my Velohawk I know my bikes are protected as well as being safe.
How did you come to partner with Penso Composites UK?
We had been looking at composite manufacturers all around the world for several years and we found the level of detail at Penso incredible. It has an eye for innovation and a world class reputation. They have been amazing partners: agile, innovative and dynamic.
They work with some of the best car brands in the world, such as Bentley, McLaren, Mercedes and Jaguar-Land Rover. They are at the top of the game for British engineering and are a pioneer for advanced materials. In addition, they have an extensive team that includes specialists in all fields from engineering, design, electrical, trim detail and logistics. We feel very fortunate to have them as our partners.
What have you learnt from the Penso partnership that has helped with the development of the product?
Beauty is in simplicity and is absolutely key, but that is also one of the hardest objectives to achieve at a high level. Our storage systems from the outset seem simple but the more you delve into the details, just like a custom shirt or suit, or a luxury car, you realise the workmanship, the elegance, and the thought that goes into the entire product. We have a team of the best in the world working on this and have created a product that befits the bikes and experiences of the cyclists that will use it.
How did George Bennett get involved?
I have been following George’s career for a number of years now. As a Kiwi, New Zealand is a small country, and it is more than inspirational to see what he has done as an elite athlete in the cycling world. He is still very young and has an amazing perspective, insight and attitude that we can all learn from.
We approached his agents and then we flew the entire family over from New Zealand to Australia for the Tour Down Under and had a chat to him. It was refreshing meeting him, a down to earth personality and he was really behind the idea and Velohawk product from the outset. We have since spent several months in Girona, Spain with him and the cycling fraternity, getting to know the European cycling scene and the place that George now calls home. After seeing the product and our plan he then decided to come on board and partner with us on our journey.
What has been the reaction to it so far?
When you mention bike storage, you instantly get a reaction to what is currently in the market, i.e. mass market solutions. But when you explain the Velohawk brand, our premise and our product, the reaction is amazing. There are no other products like this on the market. We are really carving a niche for ourselves, something that is very needed but not yet available.
Have you received orders for the product yet?
We are officially launching at the Rouleur Classic in November and will take a limited number of pre-orders there. We are also in discussions with commercial clients for the November production launch and inking deals. Our product is based on elegant workmanship, high-end materials and innovative technology and in the first year we are limiting the number of units available to both our consumer and commercial channels.
What are your feelings about the finished product? Is it what you expected?
Sophisticated yet versatile, it can be customised to fit within different living situations with bespoke colours and detailing, something that can suit almost any luxury lifestyle environment. We have had some of the best experts in their fields working on this. Just like any other luxury offering within automotive, architectural or innovative product design categories, it really is for the bike owner who wants the best.