Company aims to provide great bikes — and a place for community
Hobbies are the best. They are why we get up early on Saturday morning, and they are why we’re excited to get home at the end of a workday. They are that thing we do that is specific to us. There is no downside to hobbies; they are just there as a part of enjoying life.
Well, there is that pesky thing about hobbies costing money — with many hobbies being downright expensive.
This was the scenario back in 2001 for Kyle Young and Kevin Menard. They were buddies working corporate jobs and trying to spend as much of their time mountain biking as possible.
They had bikes and could ride, but wouldn’t it be great if they could figure out a way to get their bike parts at cost? They both agreed and started building and selling bikes out of their basements, and Transition Bicycle Company was born.
It just so happened that spending a lot of time on their mountain bikes meant they knew what people wanted in a bike, and people started buying. By 2003, the two partners had their first commercial product available, the Dirtbag. The business was beginning to gain some traction. In 2005, they decided to move themselves and their company from Seattle to Bellingham, where they could be close to the trails they loved and could afford some real estate.
As the two owners grew Transition Bikes, they slowly added to the team, though without an end goal of where they were trying to take the business.
“We’ve always just kind of organically grown based on designing and building the products that we want for what we’re currently into,” Young said. “So whatever style of bike riding we’re into, that’s what we’re focused on making.”
While there has been a lot of growth in the company over the past 20 years (there are now approximately 40 people working at Transition Bikes), the founders have never changed the focus — it’s all about the bike and the rider. At the beginning, the industry was dominated by large corporations that didn’t necessarily have people on the team spending time in the mud. Throughout the years, the owners have kept a steady focus on what is most important, and the company continues to innovate and put out products riders want to spend time on.
Young and Menard still get on their bikes as much as possible to ensure they don’t lose touch and forget their reason for starting the business. When time allows, that is daily.
“That’s the whole point of what we’re doing,” Young said. “If we’re not out riding our bikes, then we’re not doing it right.”
This mindset has permeated the culture of Transition Bikes, and the group of people there are passionate about what they do. The company has a standing Friday morning ride during which the group hits the trails. This gets people from different areas of the business interacting in a fun and meaningful way. Not everyone makes it out every week, but they know it’s an option, and there is consistent participation.
This culture was created to help team members enjoy the work and stay connected to the bikes and the trails. It has developed into an organization that feels like a family, Young said.
“We’ve got a family atmosphere and very much a family company,” he said. “People that we hire, they don’t leave; it’s just continuing to keep our sights on our people and making good communities. The rest, you know, the widgets we sell, you keep doing that obviously, but we measure success by virtue of, ‘Did we actually do a good job creating community, taking care of our people?’ The rest is gravy.”
Keeping the focus on people has proven to be a good strategy. The company offers a variety of mountain bikes, gear and parts online and at its Outpost Bike Shop, located in the same building as the Transition Bikes headquarters on Samish Way in Bellingham. The company’s online presence and large social media following have resulted in the bikes being sold far and wide. Still, Young and Menard have not lost focus on where and why they started.
The mountains drew them to the sport of mountain biking and led them to Whatcom County. The mountains are where the riders are. Really, the mountains are what the sport is all about. So, when choosing where to put the headquarters and bike shop, the owners wanted to be as close as possible to Galbraith Mountain, the epicenter of mountain biking in Whatcom County. The new Samish location not only allows the Transition Bikes team to quickly ride to the trails, but it also gives local riders easy access to the Outpost.
While the Outpost does sell bikes and parts, it was designed to be much more. The vision was for a place for riders to finish a ride at a spot where they can, as the Transition Bikes website says, “keep the party going.” That made the location all the more important.
“We’re practically on the mountain; that was a very purposeful thing, Young said. “We want to engage in the community via the center point, a focal point for the community.”
At the Outpost, riders fresh off the hill can grab a beer, a hot cup of coffee or some food. It’s a gathering place where the mountain biking community can share stories and hang out when their body is worn down or on the short Pacific Northwest winter days, when the light runs out so early in the afternoon.
It’s part of the Transition Bikes goal to bring the mountain biking community together and help it flourish into the future. The company has been doing this by supporting organizations in the mountain biking community and outdoor activities in general — and Young and Menard still want to do more. With passion for their sport running deep in their veins, they want to share mountain biking with everyone and help the sport thrive.
They see the Outpost as the first step towards this. With a bit of the “If you build it, they will come” mentality, they are figuring out what’s next.
“All right, how do we use this space, make people engage? Not even commercially, we really just want to have a gathering spot,” Young said.
Just like when they began their business in their basements and then chose to move to Bellingham, Young and Menard don’t have some target they are trying to hit. There is no vision that Transition Bikes must be a certain size or reach specific sales figures. The owners are simply focused on bringing the community together and continuing to innovate to keep delivering great mountain bikes to riders.
To check out what Transition Bikes is up to, you can stop into the Outpost Bike Shop, located at 5090 Samish Way in Bellingham, Tuesday through Saturday. For more information on the business or to purchase bikes and gear, visit www.transitionbikes.com. On Instagram, go to @transitionbikes. ■