10 Questions With Spawn Cycles Founder Max Zureski

10 Questions With Spawn Cycles Founder Max Zureski

Spawn Cycles, based in British Columbia, Canada are pumping out what is without doubt, the best range of dedicated kids mountain bikes right now. So it's great to secure some of the founder, Max Zureski's valuable time to answer some questions about Spawn Cycles and bikes for kids who just want to ride and have fun.

What was your initial inspiration for creating the Spawn Cycles brand?
Basically, Spawn Cycles came about because I couldn’t find a good bike for my son. He was 2 1/2 years old, had been on a Strider for a year and wanted (and was ready for), a pedal bike. Everything I looked at in the shops was heavier than him and heavier than my dual suspension bike. I was in shock – I just hadn’t looked at kids bikes since I was one, but it didn’t seem like they had improved much in 30+ years. I think the emergence of run bikes just left all these 2 and 3 year olds ready to pedal, but with nothing suitable to ride. So we just set about to make something better for him and his little sister. I though some friends might be interested so we could get over the minimum quantities, but I certainly didn't think it would grow like this.

Not to cast any blame… but… what are other manufacturers getting ‘wrong’ about designing and building kids bikes?
I think it really just comes down to kids not having been a focus for manufacturers or shops. I’m guessing that people didn't think that parents will spend 3 or 4 times what a department store charges to get their kids on something better, and I think maybe people underestimated the impact that run bikes would have both on how quickly kids could progress and what it meant for this segment of the market. There's no rocket science to it really, you just need better geometry, materials and parts. It's really amazing when you see what a kid can do with a bike that works.

What do you say to a bike retailer who says “parents don’t care about how good a bike is, they just to buy their kids a ‘tough’ bike”?
I think retailers who would say that probably don't have kids. Here in Canada parents spend tons of money on hockey and skiing and all sorts of other things, and they spend this money to give their kids the best equipment they can to make it easier and more enjoyable for their kids, and everyone seems to understand that, but for some reason people thought I was crazy for trying to make kids bikes that cost more. I grew up playing hockey and skiing, but there is no question that I spent way, way more time on a bike than playing any other sport so as a parent why wouldn't you spend the money there.

Most kids spend way more time on their bikes than parents do on theirs – people have no problem justifying thousands of dollars on their own bikes that sit in the garage so why should a few hundred dollars be an issue for their kids to have good bikes. I think we're starting to see a change in that mindset though. As for toughness, I would gladly put any of our bikes up against any department store bike, I remember bending a lot of hi-tensile steel crap when I was a kid!

When starting out, did you take inspiration from other designers/constructors?
I don’t think there was one designer or company in particular, just a blend of a lot of different things I've liked over the years. When I first started researching what was out there, I came across Islabikes out of the UK. We couldn't get them in Canada, but they showed that it was possible to make a good, light kids’ bike at a reasonable price. After that awakening, and on everything since then, I’ve mainly looked at different ideas in mountain biking and BMX to see what we can realistically scale down to make awesome little off road bikes.

Personally I like bikes from a lot of different companies now from Surly to Santa Cruz to Kona to Trek and there’s a lot of influence I take from the companies I was into when I was a kid like Haro, Redline, GT and S&M with a ton in between, there have been a lot of good ideas from great people and a lot of cool bikes built over the years. Over the last year I've gotten to know Ian Ritz at Chromag a bit and he's been incredible in helping me try to up the game on our bikes. We've got a lot of new stuff on the drawing board and just talking to him about how Chromag does things and just the industry in general has been unbelievably helpful – just makes me think about things a little differently and understand the processes that others people with more experience use.

What do you see are the advantages for kids to start out their riding on bikes designed to suit them?
Most importantly, if they don't find their first experiences frustrating or intimidating, they absolutely love riding their bikes. I think for most kids, their first bike is their first taste of freedom – they can go where they want, as fast as they want and it just opens up a new world for them.  Maybe that's over the top, but I think that’s how it all started for most people who really love riding. It's a lot more than just getting from point A to point B. So, I think by giving kids the best early experiences on bikes instead of uncomfortable, terrifying or even painful experiences, we're helping to grow the rider base that will be the future of the sport.

Past the love of biking, the other thing that really happens with proper equipment is that the kids are not held back and they progress at an amazing rate. My wife and I have to pick our jaws up off the floor at something our 5 year old son does probably once a month and it is really cool as a parent to see that progression. The young kids today are going to be absolutely scary riders when they’re in their teens and twenties.

How do you set out designing a Spawn Cycles model? Do you build and design to available components, or design and then seek out components that can be used?
I typically start on something because someone has pointed out some hole in the market.  Then I’ll look at what there is available in terms of components to make it happen.  If we can find the components, we typically then start on the design of the frames, forks and bars.  While we started with mostly off the shelf components which were kind of a mash up of parts from across mountain biking and BMX, we are now focusing more on developing our own tooling for our own components and working with some pretty well known companies to make parts where there are real holes the market.  I won’t say too much now, but we have some really cool stuff in development at the moment.

Are there any components technology out now, or coming out that your’d like to use in the future on Spawn Cycles bikes?
I’m not sure that we'll be pushing any technology frontiers or anything, but I think stuff will continue to trickle down from things we see on adult bikes. Then it comes down to what is practical in terms of what will sell, what people will pay, how durable things are and how often things need to be serviced.

I'm sure someday we'll see carbon fibre and tubeless and electronic shifting on kids bikes, but depending on the kids ages, I'm not sure that right now that there would be a market for that stuff.  I think what needs to be paramount is that parents can afford the bikes and kids can just get on them and ride, not having to do a complete bike check or fiddle with things every time they get on.

Weight aside, that's what is great about all the chromoly framed BMX bikes, they can be abused and it doesn’t matter. And parts are plentiful, colourful and fairly cheap. That's where I think kids mountain bikes need to get to. I think more options for suspension, tires, cranks and pedals for kids mountain bikes would be at the top of my list right now.

Spawn Cycles Photoshoot In The Warehouse

What’s going to be the next bike in the Spawn Cycles range?
We have 20” and 24” dirt jump frames ready to go into production. Maybe by the time this article comes out you’ll have seen some high profile young riders killing it on the prototypes. The geometry is fairly similar to our 20” Savage and 24” Shojo, but we’re going a little slacker, a little taller in the front and lower on the toptube. The bikes will have sliding bolt on dropouts so you’ll be able to run different dropouts with or without derailleur hangers. They will also feature some hydroformed tubing.  We’re going to use these as the test bed for new colourways and graphics as well. I couldn't be happier with the prototypes and I think they’ll be pretty well received.

It’s going to be a really good combination of lightness, toughness and affordability and because you can use it single speed or with gears. I think it will be our most popular bike to date.

What are your thoughts on a 20” or 24” fat-tired bike for kids?
We’ve had lots of requests for fat bikes being a Canadian company that has to deal with Canadian winters, but it’s definitely not next on our list of things to do. The big hold up for us is tires. If an open tire design becomes available in these sizes, we’ll probably do it. Specialized coming to market with fat bikes for kids definitely takes some of the heat off of us on that one!  Just happy to see an option out there for the parents who have been asking for them.

Last question… my kids want to know… can they become testers for Spawn Cycles?
Have them send an edit or two to sponsorship@spawncycles.com and we'll see what we can get worked out, Gary!

Source: Spawn Cycles

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