Twenty21 is a relatively new brand from the distribution house, Cyclorise that was formed in order to battle the terrible supply chain issues that other, bigger brands have faced throughout the pandemic. At the moment, the brand offers alternative but easier to get hold of chains and cassettes to keep riders riding. We got in touch with Thomas Dibley of Twenty21 and Cyclorise to talk about the fresh brand, its components, and the future of drivetrains.
We've seen media about the difficulties of creating a bike brand. How much of an effort did it take to get Twenty21 off the ground?
Being a distributor (Cyclorise), we're no stranger to introducing brands to a new market. Ensuring product is listed online, planning a marketing strategy, press releases etc. Launching Twenty21 followed a similar path to our usual process which isn't overly challenging. The differences come about where we are now not only responsible for stocking, shipping and import costs, but the sourcing and manufacture of the product too. Then once it lands in the UK, a great deal of time is then spent folding, sticking, packing and presenting the product into its respective branded packaging. This adds a huge amount of resources over and above the regular import and distribution process.
Twenty21's big selling point is that it's managed to swerve the massive lead times that bigger brands are facing, keeping shops stocked and riders pedalling. How is Twenty21 able to offer a steady stream of components where other brands are struggling?
It's true. Our lead-times are now at 3-4 weeks, even for a 12 speed cassette for instance. But stock is now frequently on the shelf, ready for immediate dispatch. The main difference is quantity and shipping method. We're a far smaller brand, selling hundreds of units a month, rather than thousands. Economies of scale dictate that large volumes of consumable product should be shipped by sea to ensure profitability and competitive pricing. We've all read about the global supply chain issues, of which shipping is a major part of that. Which is where our size is of benefit. We ship by air, so product lands regularly and on-time. Our volumes also enable us to secure stock with very little notice. We don't make as much profit as our competitors as volume and shipping method plays against us, but at least we have product available to sell.
Do you see a possibility of Twenty21 running into supply issues? If so, is there a plan to counteract them?
In a word no. At least not with our current and near-future expanded product range. We are now working with a couple of OE customers and have proved that lead times for larger quantities of product, really aren't much longer than 20-30 days. We can't account for any eventuality, but if we can perform as we are in the current climate, I don't see it getting much worse.
What makes Twenty21's products different from other brands? Can customers expect a difference in performance?
Twenty21 isn't pretending to be something that it's not. We're a British company, who uses factories in the far-east to supply their goods. We don't machine our cassettes on an intricate 5-axis CNC machine and our chains aren't coated in a rare earth-mineral. But what we do offer, is good value, dependable quality products for your mid-range bike.
What do you have to say to those who might question the quality of Twenty21's products? Has there been much in the way of longevity testing?
A great question. We've ridden every component we sell, including the use of them on our (Revel - distributed by Cyclorise) demo fleet. Shifting performance is on-par with mainstream product of a higher price-point and longevity over the last 6-7 months seems to be what you'd expect from any similar-range product. If a customer is expecting our £129.99 cassette to perform as well as their £300 cassette did when new while being just as light may be sorely disappointed. But if you've got a mid-range MTB and you need a drivetrain solution, we know you'll be satisfied with the XX21 offering.
The mountain bike industry is experiencing something a shift to become more eco-friendly. Is Twenty21 doing anything to reduce its impact on the environment?
We very much have eco-friendly at our hearts. We live and work in the beautiful Welsh Black Mountains and want to ensure we're not contributing to the pollution (plastic trash in particular) that we see all too often, even in our local National Park. All of our product arrives in cardboard/paper bulk-packaging to the UK. We then repackage into fully recyclable packaging, such as cardboard cassette boxes with eco-friendly ink and shredded paper filling. Our chains are packaged into thin metal tins that are easily recyclable and labelled with recyclable stickers. We'd love to manufacture the product in the UK to reduce our CO2 footprint, but we think our packaging ethos is a great start.
What's next for Twenty21? Will it stick to drivetrain components?
We aim for Twenty21 to be our complete component solution. Think anything from drivetrain to braking components, control products, and more. Our road map is vast, the only variable is how quickly we'll be able to roll it out.
Finally, what do you think is the next big thing in drivetrain components?
The next big thing in general? This is an exciting topic. In late 2021, we saw some really interesting takes on drivetrains arrive, most notably Lal Bikes' Super Drive. They market it as being reliable, like a gearbox but lightweight, like a derailleur system. It's like a regular derailleur, but it's mounted away from harm inside the rear triangle, and chain tension is handled by an idler pulley, rather than by the derailleur. I'm excited to see what brands choose to license this design. I'm also a fan of gearboxes, using a Kindernay gear hub on one of my bikes. It's hydraulically actuated with a bunch of other super cool features. If you asked me a year ago this same question, I'd have said the obvious "gearboxes are the future". Maybe they are, but I think there's a lot of innovation that can still come to how we change gears on bikes.
A big thanks to Thomas for answering these questions. I think it's pretty exciting that a company is stepping up to create components in order to alleviate the global supply chain issues, all while remaining eco-conscious. It's also great to hear that Twenty21 is expanding and I'm super keen to see the new componentry that comes from the brand. We'll do our best to keep you updated on the new kit coming from Twenty 21.
You might also like: