Please tell us a bit about yourself and some of the history of Heatsinkbikes?
My names Steve and I’ve had a love affair with cycling since I was young. Bikes became an even bigger part of my life during University because they were my main form of transport. I couldn’t afford a car during that time so I was rarely off a bike, commuting, XC riding and then towards the end of my studies, Trials riding. When I left University in 2000 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering I ended up working for a Product Development company.
I was learning a lot in a short space of time and after a few years I started to apply my experience of CAD design, engineering materials and manufacturing techniques to the world of Trials. My first efforts were in 2004 via simple hand made brake pads reliant on riders sending me their old Magura backings for recycling.
I would remove the old material by boiling the pads (often full saucepans of them!) and glue in replacement pads I had made by hand from a carefully sourced and tested compound. Word spread quickly on The Trials Forum and before long I was consumed most evenings making brake pads. It was an exciting time because riders were raving about the pads and within weeks of starting I couldn’t make them quick enough.
The name “Heatsink Pads” fell into place from a random forum name I had during that time, and I set up the website with this name (Which was later to develop into heatsinkbikes.com as I broadened the range beyond just brake pads!).
From these hectic and unexpected beginnings I got a glimpse that there was a lot more potential to develop if I was ready to go for it. I took the plunge investing money first by designing a brake pad mould tool to allow professional quality brake pads and then designing and coordinating manufacture near Cambridge of the first batch of Heatsink CNC Vee backings. I then followed these by releasing the first commercially successful CNC Magura backings.
A whole new market segment based on reuseable CNC Aluminium backings for enhanced braking performance due to their stiffness versus traditional plastic backings. There was also the bonus that these backings could be reused over and over via separately available refills or transplanting favourite pads.
This product went huge and I was suddenly getting inquiries from Trials shops around the world wanting to stock these unique Magura backings and great reputation pads! Between 2005 and the present day I’ve continued looking for areas where I can design products that get riders excited, where I can bring something new not already being done, and doing it stylishly.
I produced CNC brake boosters, Middleburn bashguards, many versions of Vee Adapters (To convert 4 bolt magura frames to Vee mounts) and then I stepped into frame design. There was a short run of a 26” seatless Trials frame, and examples of a Mod frame too. However I focused my energies on the emerging demand for 24” Street Trials frames, and between 2006 and 2009 I was selling my 24” Street frame called the 24UK.
I’m still really happy with the design and I feel that many aspects of it haven’t yet been bettered by more recent frames. For example it gave riders a choice of 3 brake set-ups with Disc mounts and Magura mounts on top of the seat stay and Vee mounts underneath. You can explore all products past and present at heatsinkbikes.com.
Riders can connect with me direct and also get up to the minute news and sneak peaks at www.facebook.com/heatsinkbikes.
Did you always want to run your own business?
I never set out with that goal. I just loved being creative and before I realised it had drifted into the position of developing products to address needs I was picking up from fellow riders. By this point I had realised that I wasn’t ever going to hit the dizzy heights as a top Trials rider, so it was instead rewarding to keep involved with the scene through Heatsinkbikes.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started HeatsinkBikes and what would you have done differently?
Before I started up I had observed so many short lived Trials related companies. The pride of the scene one minute and then gone the next. I was realistic that HeatsinkBikes may only be a short term thing, yet its longevity has surprised me and I’m very grateful for that and for the many loyal riders who have supported me.
I don’t think I would have done anything differently because the wrong steps have helped teach me valuable experience and without them I wouldn’t have been able to keep moving forward and improving.
Your pads are used by riders around the world, what makes them stand out from the rest?
My range is arguably the widest on the market, with something for all pockets and brake types (except disc!). The key thing is performance wrapped up in stylish design. The compounds have a long track record of being used by many stars such as UK street legends and Multi world UCI Jr Champ Aurélien Fontenoy.
The Yellow and softer Blue pads have become the “Go to” pad for Street riding and BMX, with a Competition winning pedigree too. Of course riders looking for the Coustellier compound have the benefit of being able to obtain from Heatsinkbikes these legendary pads fitted into the complete range of Heatsink developed backings.
Are you always thinking or experimenting with new compounds for pads?
In the past I’ve tried many different compounds, but keep coming back to particular compounds that riders find work the best. These compounds have developed such a great reputation from riders that I would risk a mutiny if I suddenly changed them!
Are there any new projects in the pipe line?
Since 2009 on and off I’ve been moving forward my design for the 24UK Street frame from where I last left it. There was a time when I thought it had had its day, but now I think that riders are looking for alternatives again. One of my aims for 2013 is to have a good crack at bringing the 24UK frame back to life.
If I find that it’s not manageable with my other projects then so be it. But I would kick myself for not giving it a go! Apart from that big project, I’m constantly exploring ideas for new products, but there are so many times when I must kill ideas because they don’t have all the necessary ingredients to be a viable product.
It can be hard to move on because it’s easy to fall in love with product ideas, so I make sure I get real world feedback by sharing my work via my Facebook page. I think that listening closely to riders and responding to their feedback is one of the key things that has kept Heatsinkbikes on track. My customers are the real experts on Trials riding, whilst I try to help them enjoy their riding more by providing solutions to product needs.
You support some great riders at the moment, are there any plans to extend the team?
For 2013 I’m aiming for a small but well formed Heatsinkbikes team. I’ve learnt the lesson in the past of foolishly over extending with a team bigger than I can support well. For 2013 I’ve started to support Street Trials star Jo Prattley, and am continuing my work with skilful 24” rider Euan Beaden.
I also hope to continue working with Aurélien Fontenoy who I’ve supported since 2005! It’s been tricky finding time in the diary but I need to ring him up and find out about his plans for 2013. Aside from these great riders, I’m always open to discover and work with the next generation of Trials and Street riding stars who have a great attitude to help promote this activity we love on top of being riders that capture peoples’ attention.
Will we see a return of the brilliant 24UK frames, or a new 24” bike frame in the future?
I really hope so, and I will be putting lots of effort into the 24UK return project in 2013. There are times when the head has to rule the heart though, so I won’t be afraid to pause it if down the line I discover that the time isn’t right. I’ve already delayed it in 2012 because of other exciting projects which cropped up and took priority. That said, what’s motivating me is that I’ve got a list of exciting new features which I’m itching to incorporate in the frame, and I think that existing frames in the category of seated 24” Aluminium frames are great quality but maybe haven’t changed much over the past few years to match new idea and rider wants. Now more than before I’m in close touch with riders and experienced retailers who I can consult to keep my ideas effective!
What are your plans for Heatsinkbikes in the future?
I’ve always made my components in the UK, which is challenging from a cost point of view but helps me manage the high quality level. I can see that there’s a place in the future for complimentary products in the range to be made overseas if I can find suppliers who can maintain the quality level riders expect from Heatsinkbikes.
Do you ride yourself, if yes what do you ride?
Everyday I blast across town to get to my day job. I don’t spend much on my bikes, often taking in an old one needing repair so I can reuse some of my huge pile of components left spare. For daily use I’ve got a stealth black mountain bike which only cost me £40 for the whole bike and also a single speed silver mountain bike built up on a frame I bought 2nd hand. I don’t run suspension forks because I prefer the control of a rigid fork and love showing off with my hops and track-stands at traffic lights! My Trials bike is an Echo control which is currently in pieces having sacrificed parts to keep my daily commuter bikes going.
I plan to either rebuild this Echo frame over the Xmas break or acquire a seated Trials frame. I’ve always preferred a normal looking bike with a seat, and shaving a few grams of here and there isn’t important to me because I need the resistance training to keep me fit! I believe my best Trials riding is yet to come, and I’m excited about learning new moves starting with front hops and 360 degree spins Martyn Ashton style!
Where do you see the sport of trials going, say in 5 years?
It can only benefit from the growth of interest in cycling from the general public following the 2012 London Olympics. It’s a shame on the other hand that it seems to have taken a step backwards regarding publicity in the main UK mountain biking magazines, but the internet (Facebook in particular) is mobilising the scene like never before. Trials events seem to be getting more impressive and gaining exposure via TV talent shows. It’s surely only a matter of time before events get more regular airtime and word gets out there of the until now somewhat hidden scene.
What was the last riding video you watched?
Heart and Soul – Daniel Sandoval (BMX)
What inspires you to get up in the morning?
The thought that each daily step, no matter how small, is building towards a cool goal I’m focussing on. Also each day brings with it so many chance interactions which could send me off down a cool new path. I start early at 6am each day and work until late every night to squeeze the most out of every day.
What do you do to chill out?
I love playing 5-a-side football with my mates. When I’m home I love watching Netflix (often whilst making some brake pads).
I’m currently working through their range of documentaries on a broad range of topics. I get myself really hooked on reading books too. I have recently been reading autobiographies on my Kindle and found Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hard to put down. Once I’ve finished my current Karl Pilkington book, I think I’ll be onto Richard Branson’s autobiography.
Is there anyone you would like to thank or give a shout out to?
All my fantastic Heatsinkbikes customers past and present for their support! I look forward to catching you on www.facebook.com/heatsinkbikes throughout 2013 and hope you find all your brake pads needs satisfied at www.heatsinkbikes.com!