Local mountain bike builders making inroads in overseas markets

2018-05-31 16:39
FROM LEFT: Patrick Morewood, Ollie Burnett and Karen Morewood at Pyga Industries in Howick. The three are business partners in the company, which makes mountain bikes.

FROM LEFT: Patrick Morewood, Ollie Burnett and Karen Morewood at Pyga Industries in Howick. The three are business partners in the company, which makes mountain bikes. (Ian carbutt)

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Howick-based Pyga, South Africa’s only locally designed, branded and assembled mountain bike company, is making inroads in overseas markets.

Business partner and former international mountain-bike downhill champion Patrick Morewood said the five-year-old firm has signed up distributors in Israel, U.S. and in Germany.

Significant volumes are already being exported, he said in an interview with The Witness on Wedneday.

Pyga is owned by Morewood, his wife Karen and business partner Ollie Burnett.

The company assembles between 500 to 600 high-specification mountain bikes for racing enthusiasts annually, as well as for a growing market of riders who take to the trails on their bikes purely for the adventure of it.

Morewood designs the bikes, and the carbon fibre frames are manufactured to Pyga’s specifications in Taiwan. The rest of the components are sourced from a variety of other manufacturers globally.

He said it takes two and half years from starting to design a bike, testing the prototypes, and bringing it into production, a process that consumes a great deal of resources and money.

But while a Pyga can cost more than R100 000 for a top of the range model, it nevertheless represents real value compared with top of the range models of some of the overseas mountain bike brands, he said. Some international brand bikes can sell for more than R130 000 each, and are made by manufacturers that can each produce 500 000 to 2,5 million bikes a year.

Burnett said the company has grown slowly, but steadily, in what is essentially a relatively small local market compared with other developed countries.

However, their dream is to be able to make the best bike in the world, here in South Africa.

To this end they are already in talks with a local manufacturer to produce high-end carbon frames right here in South Africa.

“We will only go into such a partnership if we are convinced that it is financially viable and that we can produce better quality frames than what is available overseas,” said Morewood.

The company is looking for a new tranche of investment to put it in a position to be able to build this bike and take advantage of increasing international demand, as well as grow the Pyga owned component brand, Deed.

Morewood started making mountain bikes in 1998, a time which was at the very early stages of mountain bike development worlwide.

In 2011 he felt it was time to exit a long-standing business partnership, and it was during a six-month stint in China where he was helping a manufacturer to make bicycle suspensions, that he decided to become an assembler of his own bikes.

The name Pyga is derived from the nickname that the Chinese gave him on this trip, which they in turn had derived from his first name, Patrick.

His first manufacturing frames were made out of aluminium and interestingly, he could not find appropriately trained welders when he started out, and so had to train his own welders.

Over time, carbon fibre became the most widely used material for high-end bike frames and other components among the top riders, and with a new tranche of investment, a decision was taken to focus on carbon fibre frames for now, with plans to reintroduce aluminum frames at some point in the future.

The company has moved from its first premises in Mkondeni, to Howick where it is closer to countless mountain bike trails, and where the company enjoys a greater public visibility, something that had become increasingly important as sales grew.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  mountain biking

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