Vroomen, Kessler Announce Open – New Mountain Bike Company from Cervelo Co-Founder

Open Cycle mountain bike brand logo from Gerard VroomenWe spoke with Gerard Vroomen, Cervelo’s co-founder, about his new project with Andy Kessler, BMC’s former CEO. It’s a new company, they’re not working with any established players. It’s called Open, and it’s based in Basel, Switzerland, but Vroomen says it’s a very virtual company, operating largely in the cloud.

“We’re taking everything we’ve learned in the past 15, 20 years and create a company and brand the way we want to,” Vroomen said. “We believe in simplicity. We’re starting with one model, and it’s a hardtail 29er.”

“When we started working on it, we thought about all the things we don’t want to do. Advertising, sponsorships, as a bike company there’s a lot of time wasted on those. We’re focused on building bikes and providing customers with the information they’re looking for.”

“This bike will be the lightest 29er hardtail on the market, but it passes all of the testing here in Germany. We didn’t understand why 29ers, and hardtails in general, had to be so heavy. We wanted to make one that competed on weight with the lightest 26″ model.”

“It was an advantage that we didn’t come from the mountain bike side. We could question everything that seemed logical. It’s still a double diamond design, but it’s in all the little details that makes it special.”

Open Mountain Bike 29er hardtail frame photo teaser from Gerard Vroomen

This bottom bracket section teaser is all they'd release prior to the official announcement.

“We’ll have about 25 select stores in 15 countries at launch. We have distribution in the U.S. and it’s an area where we’ll spread our wings a little bit. It’s an important market, that’s why we’ll be using Sea Otter Classic for our official launch.”

We’ll have some hands on (and likely a first ride) next week, stay tuned!

Comments

Gerard Vroomen - 04/13/12 - 2:19pm

Thanks Tyler, see you next week for the ride. Gerard

Mark W. - 04/13/12 - 4:22pm

looks like squoval and BBright. l
Are they going to do a VWD ultimate frame like with cervelo, or is it to soon to say?

Louis - 04/13/12 - 4:53pm

That is a lot of marketing, not a lot of information. They seem to be saying that they are going to be doing some unique things on the manufacturing end, but ultimately they are going to rely on the same old manufacturer/distributor/vendor relationship?

I would be very interested in a squoval, bbright, super light 29er; but given Cervelo’s history, its out of my price range.

a - 04/13/12 - 5:19pm

Not sure I want to buy a bike from a company that doesn’t understand why bigger wheels are heavier… seems pretty obvious to me…

craigsj - 04/13/12 - 6:08pm

How interesting is a lighter hardtail though? There’s more room to innovate in full suspension designs, but that expertise doesn’t carry over from road.

Gerard Vroomen - 04/13/12 - 6:22pm

Hi Louis, definitely not the same manufacturer/distributor/vendor relationship, although that’s not necessarily the point of our venture. The design might not be too far off from your wish list.

a, I don’t say that 29er wheels are not heavier, but there is no intrinsic reason why the frames are that much heavier. Yes, chainstays are slightly longer, but that’s about it.

Craigsj, lighter is not that interesting to me, glad to see it isn’t to you either. For me it’s the least interesting part of the frame, although of course if you do everything you want to do with the frame AND it is light, I’ll take that over making it heavy. Anyway, we’re just getting ready for SeaOtter now, so I hope you like what you see there.

With regards to full suspension, there are definitely interesting possibilities there, and although it doesn’t carry over from road, it does carry over from mechanical engineering. And on top of that, the suspension design is one thing, everything else about making a full suspension frame work well does carry over (materials, layups, geometries, etc).

Mark W. - 04/13/12 - 8:36pm

guys this is their first bike, it is very likely they will make more than just this and is a great place for them to start. That aside, hardtail 26in bikes dont sell well in the United States, which they said is their largest target market. I would bet that they are working on some rear suspension, but i would also bet that it takes a lot of time to work out making one that is good first time at bat for road guys.

Sevo - 04/13/12 - 8:58pm

Hardtail 29er pool is at max capacity right now. I’m sure with no doubt that they can make one lighter than some out there….but….who cares? With probably 25 solid lightweight 29er frames on the high end already….where will “Open” be that others aren’t? Why are we going to buy a mtb from road bike guys? Especially something that’s nothing really new or could be all that innovative anyway….afterall…we’re talking a hard tail.

And in the states at least, I think we’re seeing more people end up towards that 5″ 29er/650b/26″ rig as their bike of choice that can do it all. Is a “lightest 29er” frame a selling point enough anymore to launch a new brand and to court new dealers? I think in reality, all doors for Open are closed.

Roy - 04/14/12 - 2:37am

Agreed that the carbon 29er hard tail market is maxed. Not to mention that frame weight is a distant second to geo. Give us something new to chew on. From the chatter 650 could be the new hotness. I hear Scott is already making prototypes for the new movement. C’mon Open what can YOU do? Make waves Man.

dimples - 04/14/12 - 11:22am

Given their race credo., I’d think it would be rad to see an agressive 650b come out. Would go nice with Enve’s new hoops.

Gerard Vroomen - 04/14/12 - 11:32am

Roy, I’m glad you mention weight is a distant second to geo. To be honest I think it’s a distant 10th or so. But geometry is definitely key. having had 25 riders try the bike so far, I’m very confident in our geometry. Both from a fit point of view and with regards to handling, it’s unlike anything out on the market.

As far as 650b goes, a classic case of the bike industry shooting itself in the foot. All this talk about how it “combines the advantages of 26″ and 29″, of course it doesn’t. It averages the advantages and disadvantages of the two, that’s it. So I can see a use for it in designs where the rear travel just doesn’t leave room for a 29″ wheel, but other than that it’s limited. Of course that won’t stop bike companies from pushing it, especially those who sort of missed the boat on 29″.

Gerard Vroomen - 04/14/12 - 11:35am

Sevo, there is no doubt that there are a lot of 29er hardtails. Unfortunately a lot of them fail, not so much in weight (as I mentioned before, it’s of limited importance and mostly an engineering challenge) but more in geometry. 29ers with 26er geometry or some variation dreamed up by a guy smoking crack.

There are also a few good ones, don’t get me wrong, and for example the guys from Niner show why they are Niner and not Sixer – they get it. But when you ride some of the other offerings, it’s shocking. It’s no wonder 29ers have a bad rep with some people with regards to handling, when you have silly things like 69 degree headtube angles.

Anyway, we modestly believe we can do better in some areas that matter. And we’re not looking to become big, so I’m not worried about how crowded the hardtail world is.

lukee - 04/14/12 - 1:32pm

interesting concept, I don’t see the revolutionary potential though. If the distribution is anything like cervelo than we can be assured their will be dozens of dealers with millions of dollars of product and debt. I can say this from experience. I worked at a cervelo dealer, it was some of the most unprofessional and ram it down your throat sales I have ever seen. They may do well though, just ramp the hype and people will bite.

IJBCape - 04/14/12 - 1:51pm

Niner Air Carbon or this.

Francis Winning - 04/14/12 - 5:34pm

Will be interesting to see the weight differences between this and the new Niner RDO air 9 HT. Gerard is a smart guy and I think the bike will be one of the better 29er hardtails. Keep it up Gerard, haters gonna hate.

Gilhooley - 04/14/12 - 5:49pm

How about a carbon 29er softail ?

dimples - 04/14/12 - 9:57pm

I think the benefit of 650b is, well…you said it, “It averages the advantages and disadvantages” (of 26 & 29). Don’t see how adding another option for tire size is an example of anyone shooting themselves in the foot, but everyone has an opinion. And my opinion is that very twisty trails benefit from 650b as a result of the compromise between 26 & 29 and the rider in question. Can’t ignore that Nino just won at WC on 650b. Was big news just last year when Kulhavy won WC for the first time on 29, and 29 mtb products and frames were much more readily available then, than 650b are now.

Which brings me to your next quote: “It was an advantage that we didn’t come from the mountain bike side. We could question everything that seemed logical.” Did you mean illogical, or that you tested others designs to see if they provided the benefit they advertised? If it seemed right, what was your basis of determining it was wrong? If it seemed wrong, did you test that as well? How?

Where are your framesets being produced? Will be interesting to see the finished product.

Gerard Vroomen - 04/15/12 - 4:19am

Hi Lukee, thanks for your response but if you look at impartial industry data, for example from Riemer, and you would see that Cervelo consistently had the shortest dealer debt outstanding of the industry. Just compare that with the big guys who went from 90 days to 180 days to ultimately 365 days of credit, tying up stores and tightening the noose until they eventually take over the store and turn them into a concept store for them?

It would simply be impossible for Cervelo to have “ram it down your throat” tactics because it is a small player and shops would simply tell it to take a hike. When a brand only represents 10% of your sales, the store is in the driver’s seat, not the supplier. It’s a whole different story when one of the big guys is 80% of a store’s revenue of course, then the supplier is in charge. Which of course is why the big guys place bigger and bigger demands on the retailers, offer relatively poor margin, etc, compared to the small guys.

Anyway, in this case production volumes will be so low I doubt retailers will have any serious inventory to speak of. But please let me know how we’re doing a year in. All the best.

Gerard Vroomen - 04/15/12 - 4:26am

Hi dimples, I was referring to things that seemed logical before closely examining them. Hope that makes sense.

As for 650b winning a race, definitely that will affect demand but it won’t affect the wisdom of the wheelsize. If Nino won on a pink bike, it won’t prove pink is a faster color. People will win races on 26″, 29″ and 650b in the near future.

The shooting in the foot is because the difference between 26″ and 29″ in handling really isn’t that big IF both are designed properly with regards to geometry. So a size in-between is unnecessary, confusing and a hassle. So the industry shoots itself in the foot that instead of putting proper effort in cleaning up 29er geometry, they think a new wheelsize is the answer. Maybe for them it is, as it will generate extra sales, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.

It’s no coincidence a company with particularly poor 29er geometry is at the forefront of this. For their sponsored riders, anything that is not their 29er is a step up.

Anyway, I am not against 650b as a wheelsize, I just object to the “best of both worlds” concept or the idea that the difference betwen 26 and 29″ is so huge we need something in-between. That’s only the case if the 29er is poorly designed, and therefore sluggish, etc.

Gerard Vroomen - 04/15/12 - 4:29am

IJBCape – I don’t think you can go wrong either way, I like the Niner. Definitely ours will still be a bit of a wait, so if you’re in a rush I would advice the Niner.

Francis – Thanks, we’ll try to impress you.

Gilhooley – First the hardtail, then we’ll see. Ideally we’ll keep it at one model, but that doesn’t mean we’re not thinking about many other designs, that’s the nature of the beast.

Mtbdobby - 04/15/12 - 7:02am

Awesome – opening in South Africa?…states aside, I see hard tail as a bike of choice for marathon and ultra marathon and even stage races – sure the dual sus top end is awesome but look at the cost, give me a good hard tail at half the price and I’ll be interested

Lars Janssen - 04/15/12 - 1:25pm

Cannot wait to see the first pictures. Would be very interesting to get a first test-ride..

Nick - 04/15/12 - 5:51pm

29er best wheel size? This weekends Belgium XC World Cup begs to differ…

Mark D - 04/15/12 - 7:59pm

Gerad, thank you very much for seeing the 650b fad for what it is. I’m a mechanical engineer who used to wrench at a local bike shop through college and I would love to share with you how poorly executed all these new BB standards are, BB30, PF30, BBright, 386 EVO, BB90. The nightmares of beating BBright cups out of frames with mallets, the terrible tolerances and manufacturing standards and eventual creaks or deformations of BB shells (Cannondale was the biggest culprit). At the end of the day nothing was wrong with outboard bearing cups and Shimano gains much respect for supporting it. I wish the engineers and company executives could see how much trouble these poorly executed BB designs give their customers. The advertised year over year stiffness increases, the vertically compliant and laterally stiff talk, the exotic tube shapes, etc. it’s killing the community and hurting the legitimacy of the industry. I still shake my head at the ads that show low res screen caps on FEA software as if they’re doing something new, great I get it you bought or made a cool plugin for CREO. Coming up with different names for the same HR40 high-modulus and YSH60A products…etc. etc. I work with the stuff everyday. Consumers talk with their wallets and unfortunately will continue to buy brand XYZ because a 135 lb euro pro won a prestigious race using said product. I enjoy your blog Gerard and I think it’s very impressive that you take the time to address the comments on the site.

Topmounter - 04/15/12 - 8:35pm

“best wheel size for winning world cup xc races” does not factor into my buying decisions.

Luke - 04/16/12 - 3:22am

I wasn’t going to comment on this thread- as a British LBS staffer until very recently, a 29er hardtail is in no way of interest because the sales on the floor over here, and the bikes at races, are not 29ers. 99% are still 26″ and I think the UK and European market will not accept 29ers anywhere near as readily as the US has. Our industry is going in a slightly different direction (longer, lower, slacker 5-6″ full suspension bikes with 4-5″ lightweight XC racers with 26″ wheels). I think in the last 5 years I’ve sold only 4 29ers, all but one of those to people who wanted something to use like a hybrid, but a bit tougher.

However, what Mark D says about BBs is correct, and it’s a similar story with headsets. The consumer, and to an extent the bike shop staff member and mechanic, is totally baffled by all the new non-standards that are coming out and would much prefer to have one standard, or at most a couple, to work with. A number of consumers come into the shop (which is a big store) looking for the right BB for their frame and the consumer has no idea which they need. Even a lot of clued up customers. And then, with their being so many standards, the chances of us having the right one in if it’s not Shimano PF or external, are slim to none because there’s so much variation we can’t hold all the stock at once.

Headsets are even worse. While there’s a bike designer on here, it’s nice to have the opportunity to air that opinion and ask for Gerard to stick to standards that are going to be easy for the consumer to get hold of. I have a Giant with Shimano Pressfit and had to drive a hundred mile round trip to get a BB last time it died the night before a race and we couldn’t get one in in time (this was at a much smaller shop I used to work at. The little shops have it even worse). Consumers can live with a small reduction in stiffness in return for a frame accepting parts they can get at their LBS on a Friday night before a race or ride. Please, please consider this Gerard in your future designs.

Luke - 04/16/12 - 3:24am

As an aside, I’m very excited to see what Open come up with in the future. Being a keen road rider as well as a mountain biker I’m excited to see what they can bring to the table because Cervelos are genuinely stunning.

Gerard Vroomen - 04/17/12 - 1:00am

@Luke and @Mark D – I agree with you that standard is a word which should not have a plural form, that’s the whole idea. That said, although there was “nothing wrong” with outboard bearings, the chance to double your BB stiffness (i’m talking in generalities here) by oversizing and increasing the width is too tempting.

For headsets, there are even more useless standards, truly baffling. It took 4 shipments before we received the correct one for our frame, because the supplier couldn’t keep their own variations straight! Anyway, we and our retailers will stock all those sorts of parts ourselves, as we can’t rely on them being easily available even though both the headset and the BB use common parts (BBright also fits BB30 bearings for example).

Ben - 11/04/12 - 12:40pm

Gerard — your main marketing pitch is that it’s the lightest 29er and then you go on to say (just to show you agree with someone) that it’s a distant 10th important factor. I find that a bit disingenuous. Plus there really is no need to knock on 650B and other companies that “missed the boat on 29er”. If anybody missed the boat, it’s CERVELO, dude, and now you are using the “weight” floater to try to catch it. Frankly, in MTB, people really don’t go for the “lightest” as much as roadies do.

BTW, to set record straight, girls DO have longer legs for a given height. A 5’8″ girl is tall for her gender and tends to have longer limbs, but a 5’8″ man isn’t tall and tend not to have as long legs (of course individuals may vary). It’s proven in biology already. Just look at Mr. and Mrs. Cavendish.

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