Twelve years ago Sadie and Eric Davies took a risk when they invested their entire savings in a dream they had. That $15,000 would be the start of what is now a leading component brand in our industry – Deity. In an industry where companies are often tripping over themselves for concern of appearances and marketing, Sadie and Eric open up their story, their business, and their lives for scrutiny. From their new space in Nampa, Idaho, the co-owners, and couple, passionately and candidly discuss everything from why they have sacrificed to maintain Deity’s freedom and independence to why they often feel like they are going against the grain in our industry in order to develop what is best for the riders. Sadie and Eric have created something unique in our industry – and it’s best described in their words.
Why did you relocate Deity to Nampa, Idaho? Was it for the potatoes? Sadie:
The company was originally in Oregon which we absolutely adore. Nevertheless, we outgrew where we were and in 2009, we realized that we desperately needed more room to spread our wings and move forward on the expansion of this company and the product line.
We had a set list of places we were interested to call home for the future of Deity and they were all over the place - from Washington and Oregon, to Texas, Tennessee, and lastly Idaho, we spent nearly a year looking for the right location and Idaho made the cut.
We love the people here. There is a small town, down home honesty in most people here that we love. It keeps things in perspective and our location gives us the ability to escape the city quickly. We are able to be closer to our family, and we found a dream location on five acres that allowed us to build a warehouse, office, and have land for dirt jumps, pumptracks, ramps, and now a mini moto track. Again, the idea was to own everything we did, so we operated in this location for five years until we outgrew it and we began construction on our new Headquarters.
|We were bursting at the seams and this new headquarters opens up a new chapter for Deity's evolution that no one will be able to miss. - Sadie Davies|
Now, our old warehouse has become a dedicated Race Shop where we work on all things two wheels from bikes to motorcycles. It has become a stopping point for all of our pros as they travel through Idaho and need a facility to get their gear dialed in for a race or event. Having space like that is also incredible for research and development and the Race Shop has become a retreat for us to work on our vintage dirt bike or to get our bikes ready for the weekend. We love that building and I cannot believe how packed we had it with shelves and product at one point. We were bursting at the seams and this new headquarters opens up a new chapter for Deity’s evolution that no one will be able to miss.
When there were already other brands in existence that were more established and had more financial backing, why did you start Deity? Eric:
Passion. We launched the company in 2004 and at the time companies were solely product focused and lacked a distinct voice. They lacked the style that tapped into the amazing lifestyle and passion for riding that people who fly the flag for these brands - the athletes, have.
Prior to creating Deity, I had been in the industry for multiple years working throughout every level of the bike business. From Mom and Pop shops to multi-million dollar bike shops, leading bike manufacturers, distributors, and smaller niche component companies. Throughout that period, I received an amazing education from numerous people; those who were very people-centric and truly passionate about cycling to the other far end of the spectrum where they were money hungry, lacked respect for the riders, and would do anything for a buck. Unfortunately, many of the people were the latter.
Long story short, I found myself surpassing their passion for working your ass off and could not continue working for people who did not represent the values I operated by. Every decision and move we made was a big risk, but it was invigorating to make the biggest one and take the plunge to start a brand with a clear vision, voice, polarizing style, and long-term direction.
We all shine when we are passionate about what we’re doing. I grew up writing stories, doing art, loving film, and music. Everything that turned me on was founded by a selfless passion. Deity allowed me to channel all of that into this other medium - bicycles, and to create the voice of Deity from a truly authentic place that has engulfed all our lives.
Sadie’s background is in customer service and she’s the best in the business. To truly give amazing service you have to be selflessly dedicated to serving the customer beyond your own needs. This is a dying art form, but you feel it when you hear her passion for Deity and love for making you happy. Today our team is rock solid and we all wear many hats, but each of us compliment each other with the common love for Deity and devotion to our supporters.
When Deity started we saw, and still see, in our industry how riders are treated, the decaying level of customer appreciation and service, the lack of brand identity with many educated marketers who are so busy implementing their education that they just churn out the same old crap as everyone else, and the companies operated by people who are so out of tune with the end rider that I knew we had something special.
|There's a strength in knowing we never took the easy money, that we appreciate having one foot in the gutter.- Eric Davies|
The industry needs companies like us and if you keep at a steady pace and never let up, a brand started on pennies can start nipping at the heels of these multi-million dollar giants. We are there and there’s a strength in knowing we never took the easy money, that we appreciate having one foot in the gutter, and our intentions hold as true today as they did in 2004.
There’s definitely an outlaw rebel attitude in everyone here, we have to do it our own way and we love being the underdog. We always have been and the more people doubt what we can do, the harder we hammer. I would personally be miserable if I wasn’t passionate about what I created, who I was working for, or if I ever felt that I was not doing right by people. We are misfits who march to our own beat and even though other companies are established, have deep financial backing, or are 'the shit.' they don’t have the same freedom to flip the middle finger like we do to keep true to the vision we had in mind from the start. These people who are owned by banks, factories, investors, or bound by partners and contracts do not have that freedom and their decisions are many times based on profit, not passion, relationships, or to protect the long term future of what they’ve created. It is a vicious cycle trying to keep up with the Jones' and as they run one way, we run full throttle the other.
In summary, Deity represents what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it and that you can do anything your own way if you are willing to sacrifice everything for it. We have proven that you can build a successful brand while staying true to your values, principals, and integrity - and do it all on your own terms!
You have sacrificed to maintain full ownership of Deity and its direction, why is that so important to you? Wouldn’t selling out be easier? Eric:
We saw what happens to companies riddled with debt, to people with clashing partners, to money seeking investors, and we wanted nothing to do with any of it. So, we collected every penny we could scrape together (which was not a lot) and started structuring and teaching ourselves everything we needed to know to be hands on, in tune with every facet, and able to maximize each and every penny invested.
The easy route would have been to take loans or to accept the many partnership and investor requests we’ve received, but we knew that this brand would flourish if we kept it protected, honest to its voice and intentions, and if we planned every year properly, we could put ourselves on a very solid foundation 10 years later and eventually on a launching pad that could take the company to new heights.
To patiently grow something, grind through every chapter of adversity, stay true to your principles, say no to the easy route, keep your head down, and pin that throttle wide open day and night has been the clearest and most natural choice for us.
|The last thing we are afraid of is adversity as it has only made us better, faster, stronger, and more nimble.- Eric Davies|
I always say that limitations breed creativity. The last thing we are afraid of is adversity as it has only made us better, faster, stronger, and more nimble.
We know that if your intentions and philosophies come from a grounded place and you are focused on the people, the money will come. It will come organically, the growth will be steady, and the business structure will be rock solid. Saying no to easy money is impossible for some owners, but it gives us a freedom to pave our own way and make the best choices for Deity’s long term future.
Looking back at some of the offers we have received, they would have crippled Deity by now. By passing on them, we are a company with no debt, no investors, no partners, and no one breathing down our neck. We are an authentic reflection of the rider’s voice and together we are on the verge of taking Deity to the next level in a very big way!
What did it feel like to put your savings into an idea? Would you do it again? Eric:
Absolutely! The tough risky decision may not seem like a sure-fire win, but it comes down to how people handle pressure, struggle, and their willingness to take it on over and over again. Sadie:
It was definitely terrifying, inspiring, and crazy all at the same time. But nothing comes without sacrifice and risk. Throwing caution to the wind and putting all that pressure on yourself will pull back the surface to expose every weakness, vulnerability, and fear you have. It required us to face all these challenges head-on without any safety net and to learn how to fail and keep on trying until we got it right. Perfection is just a series of mistakes and we are perfecting the art of improving ourselves and Deity. At the rate we are going, nothing will stop us! Hell yes, we’d do it all again and we continue to put pressure on ourselves because you always show what you’re made of when the shit hits the fan.
What fuels your passion for Deity? Eric:
When we decided to start a component company, we ended up writing down a thousand potential company names and Deity was not only the name that we wrote down twice, but it also symbolized the purpose of our brand. We wanted to make Gods of our riders, to give riders a voice, a company they could identify with, and Deity was a clear fit.
Something attracts riders to our company. From the top pros to the up and comers - they are all misfits themselves, they all march to their own beat, and they see how we treat our riders, our customers, and they want to be part of it. That energy is contagious for us and by being people-centric first and foremost, our passion is constantly in tune with these riders and athletes. We operate the fundamentals of this company the same way they grind themselves to be the strongest rider possible. To overcome your fears, you have to stare it down daily and become hungry for it. Sadie:
We have a burning desire to create. To build a voice for riders in our sport that is a true reflection of what they love. There are so many things about riding that we are passionate about, just about any two wheel vehicle for us is inspiring. All these readers understand, it’s the way you felt when you got your first bike, or the freedom you felt when you learned to ride it. There’s a giddy weightlessness in your soul that boils up inside when you ride - I think it's called love. But in the end, our passion behind Deity comes from a burning desire to constantly improve. We are restless, driven and never satisfied. These are the characteristics that allow so many to see Deity as their voice, for doing things your own way, for never giving up and for giving it everything you have just for the love of doing it.
|Deity's real. They like what they like, they stand behind their athletes when others won't, and they're not ever going to change or conform to match what people say they should do or how they should be. - Tyler McCaul| What does ‘rider owned’ mean to you? Eric:
The term ‘rider owned’ is one of the most exploited phrases for bike companies. It is easy to call yourself one if you ride bikes and ride them hard, but what does it mean?
For some people, it may be a title that invokes trust in the riding community or adds credibility. Or, it can also be an excuse to close up shop on Friday to go for a group ride.
Oddly enough, our impression is much different. Sure, we are riders who want to progress, but being rider owned has given us a specific outlook that is always focused on the rider, not ourselves. It is one of the ingredients to the secret sauce that keeps us ticking as a company. We may not be able to ride 7 days a week, but to be at the level we expect Deity to be means that our customers come first, our athletes are the priority, and we are willing to eat last at all times.
We don’t know any other way and it has allowed us to always have our finger on the pulse of this scene. Why? We are just like our customers. We love bikes, we love riding, we are consumers, and we expect to be treated with top service. It is why when you call our headquarters you will very well speak to Sadie or if you email a tech question, you will hear from me. Being integrated with our riding community is part of what we love about all of this madness. Sadie:
It is why many of these small companies that start up and fly the rider owned flag either shut their doors or end up being known for crap customer service. They are not able to commit to what it takes to run a company and dedicate their time to their customer. It is a fine balance; you love to ride and your heart is in two wheels, but you also have a responsibility to the thousands of other people who count on you daily to be there for them and their inquiries, and to show them that you appreciate the fact that they chose to invest their hard earned money into your products.
Is trying to run Deity with your own morals and beliefs in a world of much larger corporations ever disheartening? Have you ever wanted to just walk away from it? Sadie:
It certainly isn’t the easy road, but again, anything worth having isn’t easy. But we can’t sleep at night or rest knowing that we haven’t done everything we could to make things right. There is peace in that formula for us that makes things very clear. Honestly, if we tried to walk away, we’d have a chain of margarita stands on every beach in Mexico - we just don’t know how to rest.Eric:
Our philosophies and company character come from an honest place and we shake our heads to see the support some massive companies have even though their intentions are questionable at best. But that is business and we understand and accept that you either join the rat race or get ready to always work against the grain.
The word ‘corporation’ is a term rider owned companies use to devalue their bigger opponent or competition. But, I own computers, drive Dodge vehicles, buy motorcycles, and all of those are products of corporations. In the bike industry, many of these massive component companies live and die by OEM spec, by volume manufacturing, by signing on a top pro while they are hot and cutting them when they are injured. Not all of them are evil corporations and some really get it right, but Deity is not going to plead for OEM spec, be hungry to saturate showroom floors, cut corners to bring down costs, or look at our athletes as disposable.
|Deity is not going to plead for OEM spec, be hungry to saturate showroom floors, cut corners to bring down costs, or look at our athletes as disposable. - Eric Davies|
We want to be the components that people put on to replace their stock OEM kit that everyone else at the trailhead runs. Having that mentality is an uphill battle though, it means that you lose visibility and you have to put the work in by using different methods to stand out. It is one of the reasons we only want to partner with a small handful of brands that embody our philosophies. It has to be special, limited, and something that fits what we are about.
It all comes down to what we wanted from all of this in the first place. We did not want to be a behemoth of a brand, we wanted to be a company people identified with and with the work we have put into our products, we are beating up the competition on multiple levels. It all can be done it just takes patience, resourcefulness, and as always, to avoid the easy short-term route.
Can you describe how your product design process has evolved from the beginning? Eric:
Starting a company on minimal funds limited what we could do with our product line. But we had very specific requirements for the products we started with that continue through everything we release. At the time Deity was launched, most mountain bike products were not designed to take the abuse that riders like Cameron Zink were putting them through. Slopestyle was in its infancy stages and these riders needed products they could count on, that were geared towards progression, and that represented their voice and style. That is where we found our mark. In 2004, we introduced the widest handlebar on the market, our bars and stems were a larger 28.6mm bore size, we made a splined drive sprocket, and we really kicked off the whole white color phase that caught on through the whole industry - a style no one was quite ready for.
|When Eric started Deity, the parts were heavy, bulky and ugly, but the brand was amazing and Eric was just getting started. So I started riding for them the first year. Eric and Sadie have since innovated - made everything lighter and stronger, and now I am not only proud of the image, but the parts are second to none. Deity has grown from a two person, little household operation, to the clear-cut industry leader in everything they make - besides grips!- Cam Zink|
We were more style than substance at that time because we did not have a choice financially. At the previous company I worked for, I started working on product design, so my mindset was in line with what the possibilities could be. But, moulds, tooling, and ideas cost money, so by using many open moulds and modifying the end product to meet our ideas, we ended up launching a line of five parts that hit the market in 2004 with quite a bit of success for an unknown brand.
Every year the company continued to grow and as it did, we invested 100% back into the product line and our athletes. We had a grand goal which was based on a ten-year plan of where this company could be financially, structurally, and product wise.
Now, we are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as the substance has surpassed the style and we are rapidly working on new technology, opening countless moulds, extrusions, and rethinking systems that have been used for ages in this industry.
That is where having zero restrictions financially is of huge benefit when I am designing, but all the years spent climbing up this ladder has allowed us to learn, evolve, teach our production line new concepts, and to gradually shift our product line into the top tier of the market. Most of our resources now go directly into design and product development and it is a breath of fresh air to look at a product concept from the ground up, if the tooling is not in place to make it happen…well, let’s make the tooling.
Waiting and building this brand to where it is today has allowed me to appreciate our opportunities and responsibilities when I start conceptualizing a new product. We do not look at what the other companies are doing, instead we focus on the end rider, their needs, and the value that our products hold for our customers. We want to own every aspect of what we do.
How has this evolution affected product quality? Eric:
Deity is constantly working towards perfection in everything we do. This requires us to take a painfully honest outside approach to all aspects of the company, products, and direction we are going in. We also keep the foundation we put in place years ago in the picture to keep us grounded and evolving in the right direction.
This industry is also constantly progressing, but not always what's best for the rider and that is where we walk the line. Our goal is to push our designs to be better, stronger and more efficient at all times, but we have to test and challenge every new idea to find its strengths, weaknesses, and to truly understand if it will benefit our customers.
I have to determine whether or not a new idea or standard lives up to the hype or not and how to apply these in a way that results in a better product. This is the only way we will bring new designs to the market.
Why choose to evolve the product over time instead of starting with exactly what you wanted? Eric:
Honestly, it was 100% necessity. We had to evolve as we grew while constantly reinvesting into the tools necessary to improve the products. But this slow growth taught us patience and the benefits of taking your time with new designs. Thinking through a new product and knowing that it will be released when it’s ready and not a minute sooner means that we never shortcut or rush products for an annual release. Instead, we let the product evolve, make sure we don’t miss any concerns, and then we take the time to real world test our products with our heaviest hitters.
One of the reasons Deity began was to make products that didn’t break and that riders could count on while progressing our sport - those fundamentals are stronger than ever with us today. Anyone who rides Deity gear knows it is always solid, problem free, and if you do happen to have an issue; we stand behind all of our products 100%.
If we had 5 million dollars in our pocket in the early years, the benefits of patience and slow growth would have been dramatically minimized. In those early years, we did not have a choice. Nevertheless, it all has worked in our favor as we are a stronger company because of it and now we are able to own every aspect of what we do. Today we are in an incredible position as a brand and we plan to blow people away with the designs we put out.
What is your process when developing signature products with your athletes? Eric:
For an athlete to trust us to collaborate on a product that will carry their name is an honor and something we do not take lightly. The quick and easy route is to modify an existing product and throw their signature on it, but what the hell is that? It’s definitely not a ‘signature’ product and is the opposite of our approach.
We love a professional athlete who knows exactly what they like, dislike, and will be picky about their set up. It can be a nightmare for some companies, but watching an athlete diagnose every aspect of their program to cut a second off a time or improve the odds of landing a trick is like a shot of caffeine to us. It gets us going and sometimes I feel like the signature lines we have developed do as much to invigorate us as they do to give the athlete insight into certain aspects of product design and business.
It is simple, we love riders and an athlete's mind is a special place to us. Their outlook is so unique to the world as they face adversity in life and death situations daily. They are pushing their limits with minimal reward and we need more minds like that running bike companies.
We established a signature series of products to fulfill our desire to give back additional financial support to the rider, to have them more involved with Deity on a bigger level, but more importantly, to provide our athletes a look into product development, the limitations, the opportunities, the testing procedures, how a product can be successful in the market, and to allow perspective into the business aspect of the bike industry.
Look at the people we have developed signature lines with Cameron Zink, Tracy Moseley, and Tyler McCaul. All three are very dynamic people who are well spoken, think through what they do, and are the future of this bike industry. Zink is running with it and Tracy and Tyler are already thinking outside the box at the potential they bring to the table. We applaud it and no one should ever doubt the resiliency and perseverance of an athlete. Having them empowered on the business side is an amazing thing for our sport.
The development process for a signature line starts with open dialogue from a rider. In the early discussions, we want them to nitpick every aspect of their dream product and what they ride of ours. Some details will be difficult to form into clear ideas, so the back and forth can take weeks to months, but it is essential to properly capture their voice and we are wide open to that.
Throughout this period, I am drawing the products in 2D/3D form and giving the riders something to visualize before we take it to prototype form. Changes will happen and when we feel like it is meeting their goals, we start the prototype stage.
This is a very quick synopsis as so much happens behind the scenes where we can really let our years of knowledge, technology, and proprietary tooling shine. We are able to push certain limits, especially with handlebars, due to systems we have developed, unique heat treatment processes, our proprietary butting system, and so much more. Many people may not realize how much we invest in the technology of our components and that is why it takes 2-3 years for the development of a Deity product to see the light of day. It is our job to make this product worthy of their name and we want to nail it every time.
The testing process is such a vital step as it reveals so much of a product that you cannot see in one weekend of riding. With the first CZ38 handlebar prototype, we had spent so much time in the research of unique heat treatment processes and by the time Cam rode the bar he wanted to make a subtle change to the geometry.
You would think that it is a simple process of scribbling down a number and starting a new prototype, but a half-of-a-degree change affects the material needed or not needed in a handlebar, the butting and so much more. Our passion for handlebar development is tough to match and after all of this time deconstructing the processes, we have such a strong understanding on material, manufacturing, technology, and what we need to do to make the lightest and strongest handlebar that can withstand a person like Cameron.
Tyler McCaul’s TMAC pedal, which is quickly gaining traction as one of the best flat pedals ever made, was born from two separate extrusions we developed. Certainly not cheap, easy, or time-saving, but the evolution is on another level from the first prototype to the final. Tyler was willing to make this first prototype his signature pedal, but having Tyler McCaul settle for anything would be a disservice and by rethinking our goals, starting a new extrusion, and investing years into the project, we created a beautiful product that shines on a bike and is exactly what Tyler would call his dream pedal.
How rad is that? These people are family to us and setting them up for success long after riding competitively should be every company’s goal.
|In 2012 when I retired from DH racing and started to look into running my own sponsorship program; T-MO racing, I was excited that I was then able to choose what handlebar, stem, and grip supplier I could use. It was tricky as I was still sponsored by Trek and they obviously would have liked me on Bontrager products as well, but I really pushed to be able to support Eric and Sadie and a young exciting brand. I was so flattered when Eric said that they wanted to make a signature T-MO Enduro bar! It was so cool, and really ahead of its time as Enduro was still not yet the buzz that it is now and I hadn't even done a World Enduro by that stage. So roll on three years, I'm so happy to have been able to fly the flag for Deity and bring home three World Titles for them - and not have had one issue with the product over that time! Thanks, Eric and Sadie, they really are a special couple and I wish all my sponsors were like those guys!-Tracy Moseley| Why should consumers trust your products?Eric:
A lot of companies are constantly rushing to market on products so that they can capitalize on a new standard or be the first to hit the scene with an idea. It is always amazing to see a product being made, machine tested, passing the base industry standards, ridden at best for a week, and then sent to production. That happens constantly in this industry because it is so hard to properly test products without them leaking out into the world, being seen by other companies, and potentially being ripped off.
Passing base level industry testing for DH standards is incredibly easy to do and no machine can replicate the demands or impact that a real world environment can provide.
As our company grew, one of the key areas we focused on was our testing procedures. We did not feel confident that the Industry Standards for testing were sufficient enough for the caliber of rider we were designing products for, so we developed numerous new testing procedures that are proprietary to Deity and allow us to push our product and our competitor's product to the breaking point.
Everything we make passes the “Industry Testing Standards”, but they also pass our own increased Deity testing procedures and that is a whole other beast. Every product is run through multiple separate tests from numerous cycle tests, impact tests, and more - not only during the prototyping stages, but even randomly throughout production. The information we receive is directly translated into our designs and the product, butting, heat treatment, and our review of the consistency from one product to another.
Nevertheless, this is just the start of what every Deity product undergoes during the development stages as a Deity prototype doesn't see a human being until it has successfully passed all of our tests with flying colors. At that point, we select key riders who are notorious for certain styles of riding and we get the gear under them for a thrashing. When we say thrashing, we mean a year plus of abuse.
This is where we separate our products from many companies. An engineer can easily say that such testing is irrelevant if the design, engineering, and computer/machine testing is done properly, but that is where having a rider’s outlook makes the difference.
No computer or machine testing can properly capture the impact of a bike bailing from 30 feet in the air, pedal deflections at every angle possible due to the terrain, constantly changing conditions, weather, locations, UV exposure, you name it.
We could be 6-9 months into real world testing and if a problem arises it is all hands on deck to find how to remove that possibility from happening, strengthen specific areas, make modifications, and have a product that meets our standards for long-term use and abuse.
That is why a new Deity product may take 2-3 years before the public sees it. It is not a carbon full suspension frame, but we treat it like it is because we never expect our customers to be our testers. We manufacture your contact points and those critical areas are the difference between your ride ending early or you having confidence in your gear. Unfortunately, that also means that the 'competition' may see what we are working on a year in advance and as we mentioned, they could hit the market with a concept in 3-6 months max. It is yet another industry rat race that we refuse to join. We don’t have room to make mistakes so properly putting a product through its paces is essential to the success of Deity and the experience for the most important person, the consumer.
What’s next for Deity? What is your end-goal? Is there an end-goal? What does the future look like? Eric:
Many members of Deity live in the moment. They take an order, help a customer, ship a product, check items off a to-do list, and they see an immediate impact and results due to their efforts. On my side, my job is to hate what we are doing, to make it better, and to be constantly working 2-3 years ahead of schedule. By the time something hits the market, I am over it and already deep into products that are two years away from seeing the light of day. I never get that immediate gratification and it keeps pushing me to elevate this company to new heights. The level of product design we are doing is impressive and I am dying with anticipation to give it life.
|The plans we have for the near future are staggering and we are so excited for the direction of Deity.- Eric Davies|
The plans we have for the near future are staggering and we are so excited for the direction of Deity, all of the people working here, our factories, our riders, and our customers. In 2004, we planned to be exactly where we are today and we are poised to make a big leap. The best news is that it is still on our own terms, we own what we are doing, nobody is breathing down our neck, and we have patiently been fuelling this fire until now and it’s about to explode!Sadie:
That is a powerful formula and the secret to Deity’s success. Our future is in our hands and we are more passionate, motivated, hungry, inspired, and driven today than we have ever been as people or as a company. To some people, it is impossible to imagine a business who really gives a shit, who is in it for other reasons than simple monetary gain, and knows that success will always come our way if our intentions come from an honest place.
Our goal is to show that these philosophies and work ethic can lead to promising futures. We cannot imagine a life without Deity and nothing is slowing us down.