Perfection is all about control. To achieve it, you need to transcend the illusory and play mental premortems with every possible variable. And when it comes to tire production, it can only be achieved by controlling every step of the manufacturing process. So that's what we did. We made our own factory.
We don't keep our passion for tires a secret. Hell, the first thing we ever made was a tire. And since then, we’ve spent countless hours perfecting our craft, creating tires for every situation with revolutionary tread patterns and rubber compounds. You could say it's been a quest for the ages, but now, with the World-Championship-winning GRIPTON® compound technology migrating from the road to the dirt, our quest is finally complete.
The recipe for our proprietary blends of synthetic rubber and an activated Silica compound delivers the goods on the mountain. GRIPTON® maximizes mechanical grip, damps vibration, and offers unparalleled traction in either wet or dry conditions. How? You can thank the proprietary soft compound that filters low and high frequencies, keeping your tires planted and you in control.
REGARDLESS OF YOUR EXPERIENCE—XC OR TRAIL—GRIPTON TIRES GIVE YOU IMPROVED TRACTION AND SPEED, WITH MORE GRIP AND LOWER ROLLING RESISTANCE.
But as any good cook will tell you, the recipe is only half the story. You also need a world-class kitchen to prepare your revolutionary product in, a place where you control the layout, choose the equipment, and can taste-test the results. Having a great place to prepare things you care about, like our entire mountain tire line, is essential. And that’s why we built a tire factory to scrutinize and control every step of production. It's like farm-to-table, but with inedible tires.
Butcher, Slaughter, Purgatory, Hillbilly, Ground Control, and more—made with the right ingredients, from a secret GRIPTON® recipe, all in a factory built by us.
THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF
When we ride mountains, we dream. We dream of ripping down trails with ruthless precision, carving through corners, railing berms, flowing along endless ribbons of dirt with an air of supreme control. The keyword here is "control." For riders, skill is part of the control equation, and sure, the bike is, too. Tires, however—tires are what dreams are made of. And it should come as no surprise that ensuring those tires deliver on your dreams is important to us. In fact, it’s a key reason that we severed ties with our previous tire production partner to invest in our factory in Vietnam. With the previous partner serving multiple tire brands—and often less-than-willing to try new things—our dream of being more hands-on in mountain bike tire production became a reality.
We sat down with two members of the tire team—Wolf VormWalde and Mike Taylor—to talk about how this new tire factory came to be.
The Japanese partner we went with (Innerware) had a factory in Vietnam that handled the production of OE domestic scooter tires for large motorcycle brands. What’s the advantage of them having no other bicycle brand’s tires in their factory?
Wolf: “The biggest thing is control. Control doesn't mean you can just order something and it's always done the way you want it—it’s still a discussion—but at least we’re having the discussion [with the new factory]. If we go in with an idea, then they have to discuss it with us because we're their only customer. It's exclusive. That way, we can control what happens in the factory and [ensure] that the direction [we’re both] taking is aligned.
How involved were we in the switch to bicycle tires? How has the factory itself changed?
Mike: “We got to be involved with what equipment to purchase, the layout of the facility, and of course looking long-term, [we want to] leave room to expand a little bit. We're already seeing that we're doing that after the first year of production.”
Wolf: Before there was just an empty hall—I think it was a storage unit? Now they are [something like] 180 or 120 workers in three shifts, working seven days a week. It's buzzing. It started very small and slow, but now you come in and you're like...wow! […]
Full production began Feb. 1, 2016, but this process started two years ago. Was there a long ramp up to the first tire coming off the production line?
Wolf: We gave them two tires initially—a road tire and a mountain tire—to basically represent the whole breadth of tires we wanted to build there. We didn't change the tread or hot patch or anything, so we could just make this tire that we previously made at other factories and feed it into sales. […]
Mike: Yeah, we brought in that Espoir [road] and Purgatory [mountain], and eventually we brought our whole mountain program in, from Renegade to Hillbilly. We released the Renegade, Fast Trak, and Ground Control last year for this current model year, and then coming up in July, we'll be releasing the Butcher, Slaughter, and Hillbilly—so kind of the second half of the mountain program.
Wolf: And so now we have our whole mountain tire program [coming] out of this new factory. It means all the new tires have GRIPTON compound. It means formulations are from us—they’re all different formulations, but they're all from us—and the factory is mixing them up per our recipes. For the start, we went with construction layups that we had already. But now we are developing new ones […] I think we’ve introduced 40 new/different tires there now? Forty different specs within half-a-year, it’s just crazy. […]
How is this new factory affecting us as a company? Are processes changing? How is the relationship with this factory different?
Wolf: “[Now] we can plan the projects together with them, so we have a better idea of how long they take. […] They have standard materials, but we can always come in with our materials and suggest a source."