From Dirt Issue 113 - July 2011

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YT_DIRT_5_3505
Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Sebastian Schieck.

Solid specifications at an unbeatable price sounded too good to be true. Dirt jumped on a Lufthansa flight to Nuremberg to check out the YT Industries range of bikes.

One call was all it took and a month later a small jet dropped me into Bavaria. You get a pretty good idea of how a company operates within the first few hours of landing and on this occasion I was slickly moved through customs, food and hotel to arrive at their Forchheim headquarters.

Smoke billows from a nearby industrial plant but I’m guided into a large building with clean, uncluttered offices, a small team working away at designs. Seb the photographer gets down to work immediately, I’m introduced to the entire staff, the complete range of bikes, a coffee, couple of skids and that’s pretty much job done. It’s all very easy here.

What of the bikes? The most expensive of which is still less than two thousand pounds? A quick spin around on each reveals reasonably light, well spec’d equipment with good geometry – an effective range of bikes for all applications.

The fleet in total comes to eleven – three dirt style hardtails, one cross–country and a slick range of full suspension bikes: Play (Dirt jump/slopestyle bike, 100–130mm travel, €1599, also available in 24"), Wicked (150mm All–mountain €1599), Noton (170mm Freeride/Superenduro €2099), Tues (200mm Freeride €2099), Tues (200mm Downhill €2199).

A Tues LTD completes the range but that’s only available in limited numbers with nothing less than the best componentry. I guess that makes two downhill versions. But just look at those prices (€1000 is about £873, mid May 2011)!>>

Click through to keep reading...

[part title="YT Industries..."]

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YT_DIRT_5_4699

Dirt: OK give us a run–down of your background prior to YT.

Steffan Willared: I studied engineering in university and then eleven years with an automotive supply company, during the time I was project manager for chassis components and steering systems…and then YT.

CEO Markus Flossman: Eight years at a fitness company as head of marketing and three years ago I quit my job and began YT.

Markus tell us about Sponsoree.

MF: I made an on–line platform called Sponsoree.com. It’s a platform where athletes and sponsors can get together. It was at that time I had an idea to offer a quality dirt jump bike for half of the price of other bikes on the market. Sponsoree was about helping younger athletes to get a sponsor to help the costs of their hobby. Not big contracts like professional riders but more the smaller things like chains, brake pads, tyres and things like that.

And not just for mountainbikes?

MF: No I started with mountainbikes but increasingly more athletes came on board with soccer, tennis and other sports.

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YT_DIRT_5_4791

MF: Well I met a young rider out on the trails in Forchheim who was riding a really cheap full suspension bike, a total pile of rubbish from the supermarket that looked like it would crack in half. But the guy had great skills and I suggested he get a good bike and told him that one day he could turn his hobby into a job. And the guy said ‘well I can’t because I have no money and a good dirt jump bike is about a thousand euro’. I went home sat down and drank a bottle of Salito (lager with tequila that you only buy in Germany) and thought about it, and then I thought the idea was that it could be possible to make a good bike for half the price because a good dirt jump bike only has a suspension fork and one brake, no shifting or expensive stuff.

There are a lot of companies that make one–off hardtail bikes but now you have taken things considerably further with the introduction of bikes for a variety of riding? Eleven bikes.

MF: It’s taken a few years. In the beginning we had only one bike and one hundred pieces, so not from the beginning. We wanted to know how the hardtail would be received, but it went really well and won a price/performance test in a German freeride magazine very quickly. This showed me that we were on the right way and that’s the reason why I thought ‘OK I quit my job and make more bikes’. The second year there were three different bikes in the range.

It’s about time that bikes became available at the right prices.

SW: Yes it was the time because if you compare the price of a bike to other consumer products then the difference is too much and obviously we chose a way to sell a product directly from the market to the customers and when you do everything by yourself and sell it directly, well it was time to do it like that. With small overheads and to bring bikes on the market with at a reasonable price.

A lot of companies have materials engineers, frame designers, suspension designers, graphics designers, possibly ten different people involved in making a bike. Not the case here at YT?

SW: No we do not have ten engineers involved in the process we have only one. Really if you think about it, the high quality mountainbike with less frame weight and high suspension technology is maybe only eight to ten years old – there so much experience that people lacked during this time, but now for us it was easier to do. Benchmarks have been established, especially to create ideas for existing products and obviously when we went to Taiwan to search for partners for the production we get a closer look into the frame tubing and technology size and everything. You need to be clever yes, but my product development background in the automotive industry helped. That’s why it worked.

It was easier because of the contacts in Taiwan?

SW: No. It’s really not easy.

But communication was?

SW: Yes, that was easier for me, a strong benefit, without eleven years experience in a really good company in the strong automotive business I really wouldn’t be able to do that. I collected so much experience and negotiation skills, travelling in different countries, travelling to Asia many times before. I know how to handle it, the culture differences everything.

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YT_DIRT_5_5241

SW: Yes well for us it was an obvious step. We wanted to do a freeride bike, a downhill bike, a bike that you can use in the bike park but also take uphill, and then Superenduro. More importantly we like to use these bikes and that is another consideration. The basic background is that we want to ride. We want to ride the bikes and ride our own bikes.

Just one model in each range though?

MF: When you look at other companies I think that is a problem, they are offering too much choice to their customers. For example, in the all–mountain category some companies offer one frame in eight different specifications, two different colours, five different sizes. I see no need in that and in my opinion we make only one bike in the perfect specifications and no pimp parts but all the parts have to be of good quality and work well. Like we would ride if they were our own.

[part title="YT Industries"]

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YT_DIRT_5_4978

SW: The first bikes were normal four link bars, they worked quite good, we got all the shock data and we used the simulation before I started with YT because I was very interested in this since I have loved riding bikes over the twenty years.

A relatively simple thing to do, to match the shock to the suspension design. Not everyone does that.

SW: Yes, but what does easy mean? It’s easy to use the data from the shock manufacturer if you can get it, or if they have it and use it for the simulation programme. The thing is there is not only a kinematic behaviour – progressive rate, rebound and compression behaviour – but you need to think about the balance of the bike, geometry, position of the rider, take the bike on hard rides and normal rides. Also it’s important to bear in mind what you need for the pre–load of the system due to the chain force. I guess over twenty years I have ridden so many bikes and written many articles and met so many guys and put my experience together with CAD design and simulation programmes, my own axle calculations and mix it together and…well that’s it.

Markus talk us the graphics, the bikes look right.

MF: Yes, thanks a lot. The graphics are not based around other mountainbikes or parts in the bike scene, but from other things ­ like cans of beer, old advertising, a rally car, anything really.

Self taught?

MF: Yes, I did it all by myself.

And have you won awards?

MF: Yes, Red Dot is a design award, one of world’s biggest awards in the design industry not only for bikes or mountainbikes, it’s also for a huge range of items – the Apple iPhone and Mercedes SLS are examples of the kind of things that win. It’s important for us not just to sell more bikes, but it’s good feedback and gives us the right image obviously.

OK more on the bikes. Playbike for example, what a great model, not many companies make anything like this?

MF: Last year the idea was to have had a play bike, but only 100mm travel front and rear. The idea was build a dirt jump/slopestyle full build.

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YT_DIRT_5_5060

MF: With the new one we went a bit of a different way because we decided on more travel front and rear and so the range of use is much higher now.

135mm travel, 67º head angle, I was amazed to see one of your riders (Toby) yesterday doing some pretty massive stuff on that bike.

MF: But also Nikki Leitner our team rider from Austria he makes backflips tabletops tailwhips, huge supermans and all the stuff with this bike, so they use them on the bigger slopestyle contests. It’s really flexible.

Talking of riders, you mentioned yesterday that you had a social responsibility to your team riders.

MF: Most of our riders are young talent. So in my opinion, yes, we have a social responsibility because here is the first step for them to make from what is their hobby to a job. Now they make money for riding and they get the materials but they also need to know to handle it like a job. They also have a responsibility to the sponsor. The guys are pretty young and some have had no job before and now they concentrate for next four five or six years on mountainbiking. But also, what is after their sports career, they will have to do another job and so we prepare them for this.

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YT_DIRT_5_5294

One final thing, the Tues (which means ‘do it’). I think many Dirt readers will be pretty interested in the next Tues LTD.

MF: There will be a new Tues LTD in the autumn this year, but at the moment I cannot say anything about the specification and price, but it will be really, really, really amazing.

Refreshing to see a bike company get so many models right–on. Keep an eye out for the YT Noton 170mm bike in one of the next few issues.