With travel now back on the agenda, we recently caught up with Tom Sturdy from Sturdy Cycles in the UK in his new workshop in Frome, Somerset. We’ve had many online meetings in the past, and it was great to meet him in person and find out what’s been happening in his world.
Meet the team – Tom, Omar and Albert (the poodle, who apparently is in charge!)
There was a cycling boom during COVID in the UK, and people had spare cash because they weren’t able to spend their money on anything else. Cycle to Work Schemes were popular as they offered employees a tax incentive to buy a bike and get fit. Effectively your employer buys the bike, and you lease it from your employer from your gross pay so you save the tax that you would have paid on that money.
During this time, Tom’s customer base remained loyal. He also started to attract new customers, but it wasn’t without its challenges with supply chains. He could source the raw materials he needed, but it was the third-party bits, like the brakes and gears, that he currently doesn’t manufacture, that created a cash flow and logistical nightmare for him. He had to source many of the parts all over the world, in some ways he said it was “a blessing and a curse and it did make life more difficult, but it was really positive in getting more customers and that hasn’t subsided.”
A look inside the Sturdy workshop
Tom is now producing two bikes per week and that’s the reason he needed a new workshop and a second pair of hands, that he now has in Omar. We asked him if he is planning to step up his production; he feels it’s something he will consider but will need to think about hiring a third person; then that would allow them to increase their capacity to 3-4 bikes a week.
The Sturdy Cycle bike fleet: the Road Race, All Road and XC have been rebranded as the Fiadh, Cilla, and Tara but he tells us there are a few new ones coming. There is a more racy road bike, an aero road bike and a time trial race bike that needs to be finished and then launched. Time Trial riding is popular in the UK and appeals to a very specialised market and he is keen to purse it because of his love of Triathlon. He’s been developing those for some time, and that was the bad side of COVID, as they should have been launched last year, but he just got busy.
We asked Tom if he thought the 3D printing aspect part of his bike production had added to the popularity of his bikes. His response was he doesn’t want his bikes to be sold purely on the basis that they are 3D printed. He wanted a way to offer a unique product at the forefront of technology and that’s what he believes his customers enjoy. He feels his work is fairly recognisable, and people are attracted to it because of the 3d printing element but he doesn’t want that to be the only reason. Additive Manufacturing was the best way to achieve what he wanted to achieve.
Tom tells us he has learnt so much over the years from pushing the boundaries of 3D printing, from having to do reprints and then change design but that is all part of the learning process. A combination of reprint, dimensional accuracy, and the strength of the part when it is in use in the final product. Tom is a great advocate for metal 3D printing because he feels this innovative technology allows him to create designs and structure that couldn’t be manufactured any other way.