Recently I received what I thought was a fairly regular phone call, one along the lines of ‘we’ve got a new product that we’re selling’. This time it was carbon downtube protectors. I just assumed we were talking about a fairly pointless generic bit of carbon from the Far East that you somehow had to bodge onto your frame. I couldn’t have been further from the truth though because it transpired that they were being custom made in a garage only an hour or so away from Dirt HQ.
DIRT ISSUE 133 – MARCH 2013
Words by Ed H. Photos by Ed H
Ian Walker is the main man and as he put it, “this is a hobby that just got a bit out of control”. He only ever got into mountain biking as a training aid for superbike racing, and he helped fund that by making carbon fairings and the like to convert road bikes into track bikes. He soon got hooked though and then using his skills he made his first Rock Guardz in 2009, purely for himself. He then found that his mates wanted him to make some for their bikes, and then their friends wanted some…and so the hobby grew. Ian then started selling them on eBay and was amazed at the demand despite no promotion whatsoever. It soon got to the stage where he could no longer keep up with demand (as he actually has a ‘proper’ job too) so he enlisted the help of a few locals who had a bit of time on their hands and were after some extra cash.
This is a part of the story that I really like because what was Ian’s hobby has now turned into something that has offered flexible employment for five locals, two of whom are now doing it fulltime. Ian buys the materials in bulk to get them as cheap as possible, then he sells them at cost to those that he has trained to make the products, and then they make as many as they want, whenever they want, in return for a set price per piece. They can even make them in their own home as the equipment that’s needed is very minimal. To me it sounds like a great setup as everyone seems to benefit, and with the word of mouth spreading even wider and a new proper website up and running they’re all busier than ever.
The business has now developed to the point where they’re making Rock Guardz to fit over 100 different frames. Each one is specifically made for a particular frame and Ian makes the moulds for each one by either visiting friendly local bike shops (the process doesn’t leave a mark), or by taking a mould from a customer’s frame. To keep the range expanding he offers a deal whereby if they don’t already make one for your frame they’ll give you one for free if you can get the frame to them in order to take a mould from it. You can’t get fairer than that. The product really is impressive too, especially when you consider that they’re only charging just over thirty quid for them. Ian tailors the shape of each one to match the style of a particular frame, and then if need be he adds an extra layer of carbon to increase the grip on the frame (there is no need for any glue or zip ties, they simply firmly clip around the curves of your frame tubes). He also automatically adds another layer of carbon to those designed for DH frames, just so that they’re as strong as possible. To further increase the impact resistance of all the models a layer of Diolen (a Kevlar like material) is sandwiched in the middle, and to ensure a neat internal finish a layer of glass fibre is used. Basically these aren’t just made to look pretty, they’re the real deal.
As much as I like what Ian and his band of helpers are already making I have to admit that it was the prototype mudguard that I saw that really impressed me. After seeing how they make their products there’s clearly huge scope for them branching out into that area, and by the sounds of it they might even have some on sale by the time you read this. I really reckon that these guys (and girls) are onto something great. They’re making well designed products which have added carbon pimp value, and all of it is being done right here in the UK for a bargain price. Long may it continue I say.