Building bikes better: How three siblings conquered the mountain and mountain bike manufacturing


Tom Preene
Operations Manager
Published:
Updated:
Man riding an Atherton's mountain bike through woodland trail.

AS world champion mountain bikers, the Atherton family know a thing or two about success.

Between siblings Dan, Gee and Rachel, they hold 49 world cups and eight world championships.

But their latest venture – setting up a manufacturing plant in Machynlleth, Wales, to produce bikes using Formula 1 technology and aerospace engineering – is set to shift the family business into a different gear.

After over two years of crowdfunding, support from Dragons’ Den star Piers Linney and Development Bank of Wales’ angel network, Angels Invest Wales, the family is set to launch a new website selling a range of high-performance mountain bikes this week (JANUARY 18TH).

And for Dan Brown, 40, it is the end of a long road to get the products to market.

Chief Executive officer Dan said: "I started working with the Athertons around 15 years ago, building a brand around the family as we toured the world winning World Championships. It had always been a dream to set up a bike company with the Atherton name on it.

“We started using Formula 1 technology and aerospace engineering to make mountain bikes in Wales which was exciting for us and our desire to do things differently.

“The bikes take about three months to build and are made to order so there is no waste. They’re sustainable, built to last and are a work of art.

The frames, which take 16 hours to build using additive manufacturing (3D printing in titanium), are the first British mountain biking brand thought to use these cutting-edge processes and manufacturing technologies to create an ultimate range of bikes, designed to give their user confidence and control.

Around 100 bikes have already been shipped to customers around the world, with the team hoping to build around 300 bikes in 2022. Costs start from £3,999 for a frame only option or £6,700 for a full build.

During the pandemic, bike sales rocketed, with people turning to two wheels to get around during lockdown. Over the last year, sales have been up 51%, with £1.6billion of sales captured in the 12 months ending in March 2021.

With advice from Dragons’ Den star and keen mountain biker Piers Linney, the Athertons began fundraising in 2019, using crowd funding to reach £1.4 million. They were also supported by Development Bank of Wales’ angel network, Angels Invest Wales, which helped them raise £76,000 from a syndicate of angel investors. A further £76,000 investment was matched from the Wales Angel Co-investment Fund to help set up the business.

Dan, who is based in Machynlleth, 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’s that sort of approach that we bring to our business.

“We approached Angel Invest Wales to promote our business on their investor platform and succeeded in raising two equity amounts of £76,000 from the Development Bank and a range of angel investors.

“The money we raised helped us to set up the facility in Machynlleth and bring the 3D printing machine in-house. It allowed us to scale up staff and get us to the point where we are about to launch the website. 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.

“The Development Bank had local connections to help put us in touch with the right people: networking was key. When you’re 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

Dan added: “To anyone thinking of starting up, I’d say be prepared. Do the basics right, work with people who give you the confidence to take risks to grow a business and strive for excellence.”

Tom Preene, from Angels Invest Wales, said: “The bike market has seen huge growth during the pandemic.

“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 local Welsh investors hoping to support an exciting Welsh start-up – eventually 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.”