Cam Zink is a busy guy. Hands on and head deep in Sensus, chasing around a toddler, and continually progressing his riding - and breaking world records - it should have been obvious to everyone that he would take on yet another challenge. While on the road Cam took the time to talk to us about his new venture bringing YT Industries to North America, what it means for the industry, and how he sees the future. After announcing your move to ride for YT Industries last year, what has your experience with the brand been?
|This in no way, shape, or form will be my notice of resignation from riding, or even slowing down, it's the formal announcement that mountain biking in North America is about to change.|
When I was given the opportunity to ride for YT Industries last year I thought that it was about as good as it gets. After all the bad experiences with bike brands over the years I have finally found my home. It is a company unlike any other and they just so happen to be making the best bikes on the planet. Righteous. What is the next step in your relationship with YT Industries?
Every YT Industries bike sold in North America will come directly from our offices in Reno, Nevada and carry a warranty serviceable from the same location. How did this come about?
It was pretty obvious that they planned on expanding to North America when they hired me to ride for them. YT is a consumer direct bike brand that can sell their bikes to the customer, sometimes for half of what competitors can because there is no middleman and the savings are passed on directly to the consumer. So with no distributors, expanding would not be as simple as running it through a simple third party distributor. YT's forward thinking found that a franchise model was the best way to expand to North America. YT cares too much about customer service to let the future of their reputation in a new market be uncertain. I think in their earlier years, as a growing company, they struggled keeping the customer service as good as it could be because they expanded so fast. Now it is their top priority; they needed to expand with franchisees whom see customer service as the top priority, as well.
When the opportunity struck, I made sure it was my brother and I who were the ones to bring YT to the biggest market in the world. How does this new endeavour align with Sensus?
When I started Sensus, it was a pretty big stepping-stone. I wasn’t just thinking ahead to financial security for after my riding career. It was a creative outlet and somewhere that I really thought I could make a difference. When I was a little kid I was always drawing logos for imaginary brands and really looked up to my dad, who was an entrepreneur. I’ve always really loved cool brands whether they were lucrative or not. I never imagined owning a component company (or a bike franchise), as I didn’t have the expertise, but I was always particular about my grips and felt like I could make a better grip than anything on the market. It is obviously subjective, but I made my dream grip, and there are a ton of people who won’t ride anything else after riding Sensus Grips.
Beyond the product, I love having full control over marketing and ad creation, it’s not about whether or not they are approved by focus groups, an ad agency or anyone else in the company, it’s about whether or not they’re cool. Sensus hasn’t made much money, but it hasn’t lost money. The way I look at it, it was putting myself through business school without racking up the debt. And because of this experience YT took me seriously when I approached Markus (The YT CEO) about buying a North American franchise of the incredible brand they have built and put their lives into. How do you feel that your career as a professional athlete has prepared you to take on this venture?
Being a professional mountain biker for over 12 years has shown me a lot of inspiring things and has grown me as a person exponentially. I have met a lot of brilliant business minds that I would have never had the chance to meet had I not ridden for their company or the company they represent. They inspire me and open up a world of opportunity to bring out my Dad's entrepreneurship that is buried inside me somewhere. The way I have ridden my bike since I was a kid is a full commitment strategy that had helped me with everything I have done. Committing to a plan and not giving up is key in business just as it is in riding. There is no way to be 100% sure about succeeding, but the only way to be 100% sure to fail is to half ass it. We are going into this new market for YT full throttle. What does this announcement mean for your riding career?
This in no way shape or form will be my resignation from riding, or even slowing down; it's the formal announcement that mountain biking in North America is about to change. How are you managing to balance work, riding, and family?
It could easily be perceived as a new chapter in my life, but the majority of things people know of my riding career was done when I was also single handedly running Sensus. It’s not a new chapter; It’s more like reading a couple different books at the same time. I’m not moving on from anything, I guess I just have to get up earlier. I am the type of person who needs to be doing something all the time, even though having so much on my plate can be stressful, I need to be busy to be productive. I’m not interested in doing anything half-assed; I feel like a better rider every day, I’m still progressing every time out and my companies continue to grow. It just takes more time. I just have less free time to play video games, watch TV or do other stuff that really isn’t very important in the first place. Spending any free time with my daughter is the best anyway. What is it about the YT Industries that you appreciate the most?
The V4L linkage design was born at YT, and designed by Stefan Willard, an engineer with many endeavours on his resume including designing Mercedes AMG chassis; a man who cares about mountain bikes nearly as much as air. Outside the box thinking, without a bureaucratic atmosphere to limit it's greatness, or any of their amazing advancements for that matter. Everything they do is for the purpose of creating the greatest mountain bikes on the planet at the lowest price, yet focusing on promoting neither. The purpose of the best bike is to offer the best experience possible, and the price is to offer it to as many people as possible. The extremely low leverage ratio and high progression curve allows me to ride a 300 lb spring at Rampage and still ride normal DH trails on the same set up. The long stroke of all YT bikes also makes the shock much more tunable. Our Tues has captured many awards and the new YT Capra has Enduro Bike of the Year wrapped up by many medias of the world and traditionally costs 60% less than inferior competitors it has beat in tests. That just means “Good Times” for less cash. What differences do you see between YT Industries and other bike brands?
Every sport, even surfing, has brands with politics and a façade of a cool, core and nonchalant image. Many companies spend a lot of money and effort to appear that they don't have money, that they are authentic while hiring the cool kids to run their campaigns. Most are trying to copy authenticity. With enough money, even without integrity, brands can get you to believe pretty much anything. But there is still authenticity in this world and brands that are real- real, living breathing brands that wreak of a bitchin’ sense of what they are about, ran by people that also live and breath the brand. YT represents living an amazing life filled with good times. Our customers use their bikes as a catalyst for good times, not just World Cup or Rampage wins. Passion is the most important ingredient to anything great. It is with passion that work feels like play and great ideas are grown; not made up.
Big companies often become complacent with minimal innovation and progression that comes from a bureaucratic way of doing business when the majority of time, money and effort is spent on fooling the people and cheating the system. The efforts main focus can't be just running the business nor doing so from the outside in with the outdated traditional models of business. A bike brand will flourish when motivated and passionate people are given an opportunity to create. The brand is built from the inside, with heart and creates it's own beating heart. When the brand builds steam, gains valuable budgets, it is more important than ever to stay true to its roots and values. The greatest leaps in innovation come from a brand with money to fund the amazing ideas from the amazing people that are the brand. It all goes to shit if you think you are too powerful to take shit from anyone; shit keeps us humble and we encourage people to give us shit to help make us better. Why do you think the consumer direct sales model is good for our industry?
Mountain biking needs professional quality bikes at entry-level prices and the top end bicycles can't be the same price as a top-level motorcycle, and especially not $13,000.
It's like a divine intervention of the industry, checking and balancing it, not just on the financial level; YT brings the image and marketing that no American bike brand is brave enough to promote along with a ridiculous list of achievements including Dirt Magazine's DH Bike of the Year, two years running, and Dirt's current Enduro Bike of the Year. The Capra has scored a perfect 5 out of 5 or 10 out of 10 in every test I have seen. It’s pretty remarkable. What challenges do you anticipate facing with the introduction of the direct to consumer mountain bike sales model?
A lot of people, even some consumers, will be pissed off that bikes will be sold for a fraction of the price. We all take part in e-commerce. It is taking over because it is the most efficient and economical way; it is the future. It’s not unlike how Tesla is pissing off the world by selling their cars directly online and all the while literally breaking the machines that the department of road uses for safety tests. They are selling a better car at a better price, directly to you. What effect do you think direct to consumer sales will have on our bike shops and jobs in our industry?
I know this is a touchy subject and there are pros and cons to everything. There are a lot of really cool shops out there and good shops will continue to flourish as they cater to the specific needs of customers in their area. It just doesn’t make sense when a shop doesn’t stock the bike that you want and they, plus the distributor take their cut while you wait weeks for your bike because they only stock recreational bikes.
Aside from a much lower cost, the most advantageous piece of the puzzle is being one or two steps closer to the customer and their concerns. If you have a bad shop that sells your bikes they have the capability to tarnish your brand and reputation. As I said, there are many bike shops that do it right, but I have been racing Mountain Bikes since I was nine and have been talked down to so many times for asking something like,”Do you have any 1.5 inch headsets in stock?”
“pffff, there is no such thing as a 1.5 inch headset” We need to provide good customer service. The customer is always right and even when you think they are wrong you don’t need treat them like a dickhead.
People are often waiting six or seven months for repairs or are given misinformation by people who don’t know the products well enough. I know we can be better than the shop experience I have had over the years and cater to the needs of our customers.
However, there are some pretty amazing shops that are the backbone of what Mountain Biking is and should be. We plan to work with the best shops in North America and set up YT service centers in the future. There are a few in the works already. How do you plan to get bikes to people that may not know of YT in North America or are skeptical of the quality and ride of the bikes?
We plan to have a demo tour, it will be small for the next few months, as we are a new company, but it will grow fast and blow people’s minds. Sensus “Sorry for Partying Pilsner” beer on tap, Coldcock Whiskey and a big party wherever we go. We will have some bikes roaming around this year at Sea Otter including a special SRAM build with a custom Troy Lee paintjob that will be a work of art. We just have to get creative on a shoestring budget, utilize all my friends and relationships in the industry. We will mostly focus on cool smaller festivals like Spring Thaw in Oregon, but make an impression wherever we go. Eventually we plan to have rigs all over the country – we want people to be able to try the bikes so that they understand they are not just cheaper versions of other brands but are a better brand. Once people have the bikes in their hands, like Sensus grips, they won’t want to ride anything else.
Thanks for everyone that has supported me over the years and all the people who enjoy watching me ride my bike and hear what I have to say!
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