“We’ve spent our lives developing and racing, now is the time to bring Atherton Bikes to the trails. The support we’ve had from Angels Invest Wales and the investors we’ve met through them has been amazing and will support us as we bring our first bikes to market.”
Passionate about cycling, the Atherton family - Dan, Gee and Rachel - founded Atherton Bikes in 2019. The brand builds on their success as the Atherton Racing team, with the siblings holding a total of 49 World Cups, eight World Championships, seven World Cup overalls and 19 national titles between them.
Partnering with leading aerospace engineers, product designers and experienced entrepreneurs, the Atherton trio wanted to disrupt the mountain bike industry. And with advice from Dragons’ Den star, and keen mountain biker, Piers Linney, the Athertons began fundraising in 2019, using fund raising to reach £1.4 million in investment.
They were supported by Angels Invest Wales; lead investor Rhys Owen led a syndicate of eight angel investors from north Wales, raising over £76,000 which was matched from the Wales Angel Co-investment Fund to help launch their business.
Atherton became the first British mountain biking brand thought to use cutting-edge processes and manufacturing technologies to create an ultimate range of bikes, designed to give their user confidence and control.
The use of Formula 1 technology and aerospace engineering shifted the family business into a different gear.
Chief Executive Dan Brown, 40, said: “As racers, our appetite for risk is calculated, built off experience, what looks like a crazy thing to do is actually very thought through – and it is that sort of approach that we bring to our business.
“The Development Bank had local connections to help put us in touch with the right people: networking was key. When you are fundraising, you try all avenues to reach people who are investing in small start-ups.
“There is amazing support available to us here, with business owners who have experience and advice. We always say we owe Wales a lot.”
Setting base in Machynlleth
The investment enabled Atherton to set up their facilities in Machynlleth – an area where two of the siblings call home - while purchasing a 3D printing machine to help boost their productivity.
Additionally, the financial backing allowed the business to scale up staff, creating jobs in the local area and boosting the economy in the process.
Speaking about setting base in Machynlleth, Dan, said: “It was important for us to base our manufacturing in Machynlleth – an area with so much mountain-biking heritage where two of the three Atherton siblings make their home and where we already established Dyfi Bike Park, the heartland of our brand and the perfect test centre for our bikes.
“The benefits that we can bring to the area are a huge motivator for all of us.”
Sales boom during the pandemic
Bike sales began to rocket during the COVID-19 pandemic, with people deciding to turn to two wheels to exercise and get around during lockdown.
This was subsequently reflected in their numbers – sales increased by 51% and over £1.6 billion of sales were captured in the 12 months ending in March.
Tom Preene, from Angels Invest Wales, said: “The bike market saw huge growth during the pandemic, and this is expected to continue as people look for more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways to commute and move around the country.
“Through the Angels Invest Wales platform, we showcased Atherton Bikes to more than 200 Welsh investors hoping to support an exciting Welsh start-up – helping them secure investment from a north Wales-based angel syndicate.
“The Athertons’ ambition to build a world-class mountain bike brand here in Wales, using the latest technology and employing local people, is a business we are delighted to support. We wish them every success.”
The Athertons’ next step was to expand its partnership with UK-based engineering firm Renishaw, to help them develop their in-house 3D printing capabilities.
This means the trio can develop more durable, World Cup winning bikes, all while reducing part manufacturing time by moving its additive manufacturing processes (3D printing in titanium) in-house.
Renishaw obtained huge international exposure in 2020, with the firm playing a crucial role in the creation of new track bikes for the Great British Cycling Team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The bike, which was created alongside Lotus Engineering and Hope Technology, helped several cyclists achieve podium finishes, with Team GB Cycling Team winning 12 medals at the Games.
Sustainable, customisable bikes
Next, following more than two years of fund raising, the siblings launched their new website in January 2022, selling a range of high-performance mountain bikes around the globe.
A fit calculator suggests one of an extended range of standard sizes online, or, if you still cannot find a perfect fit, you can customise it.
“The bikes take about three months to build and are made to order so there is no waste. They are sustainable, built to last and are a work of art,” said Dan.
The frames, which take 16 hours to build using additive manufacturing ,are the first British mountain biking brand thought to use these innovative technologies.
Around 100 bikes have already been shipped to customers around the world, and the team hopes to build around 300 bikes in 2022, with costs starting from £3,999 for a frame-only option or £6,700 for a full build.