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The Covid-19 Effect- Sussed Out Suspension

In this latest episode of the COVID-19 effect we speak to Will and Toby of Sussed Out Suspension based in Colchester. Sussed Out Suspension has been established since 2011 and have very quickly become one of the best suspension tuners in the UK. Let’s see how Will and Toby and Sussed Out Suspension have been getting on during these strange times!.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to do this interview, for the followers that don’t know who Sussed Out Suspension is would you like to introduce yourselves?

Hey, no worries!. We generally just keep our heads down working hard so it’s actually nice to take 5 and explain a little bit about what we do!. So, simply put Sussed Out is an independent suspension service centre and mountain bike shop set-up to cater for anything MTB! It was established in 2011 and is owned and run by myself (Will) and my brother (Toby). We’re situated in between Ipswich and Colchester on the Suffolk/Essex border and most of our friends at the time thought we were crazy setting up a mountain bike shop in the middle of flatland Suffolk!

Both Toby and I were obsessed with anything two-wheeled growing up and we rode the wheels off anything we could find! We started with BMX moving onto mountain bikes later and then raced motocross for most of our teenage and 20 something years.  Toby ended up as a GP motocross mechanic travelling across Europe after qualifying as a CNC machinist. I ended up in Marketing but we both found ourselves working at the same motorcycle suspension distributor where we worked very closely with Ohlins Suspension as a UK importer. I was in charge of the office and marketing and Toby was manager of the workshop.

Upon getting back into riding mountain bikes we spotted an opportunity to open a dedicated MTB suspension centre. We made our own tools and began working for local bike shops and quickly realised the extent of the demand. At the time there weren’t that many other MTB suspension centres and technical suspension data was very restricted, not like today where it is readily available to anyone. We managed to access some Fox data and we were away. We started in a very small unit in East Bergholt (where we still are today albeit in one of the bigger units:) and worked our asses off working day and night to get our foot in the door of the cycle industry which can seem pretty closed when you’re looking in from the outside.

We bought a 2011 Mondraker Foxy from eBay to do some testing with and shortly after this we became a Mondraker dealer and branched out into the bikes and parts side of things. From 2013 we were not only a suspension centre but a full up mountain bike shop as well. We now also have Yeti, Identiti, Evil and supply Commencal bikes too. We also have a multitude of different brands in the shop which we have used and feel are up to task including Schwalbe tyres, Renthal bars/stems etc, Halo wheels, Hope components, Troy Lee Designs clothing, the list goes on….there’s not much we can’t get hold of now. We became an authorised Ohlins MTB service/warranty centre in 2016 and we supply and service/tune Fox, Rockshox, MRP & Cane Creek suspension. Both Toby and I are just the other side of 40 now and still enjoy racing and riding (when time allows!) We’ve missed it a lot lately with most events being cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19 but still managed to get out for a few rides.

How is everything going for you in the shop?

We’ve seen consistent growth year on year since we started. We’re on board with some great brands now and that really helps to move us forward. We really can’t complain with how things are going with the shop, we’ve recently expanded into a bigger unit and find that life is a hell of a lot more comfortable now than it was when we first started!. We are however under no illusion that it will ever become an easy business to keep on top of, you basically get out of it what you put in so if you’re not prepared to do the work, it’s not a business for you.

Both Toby and I love bikes but trust me, after 6 days a week of nothing but bikes and the issues they bring, sometimes it feels like you could go the rest of your life without seeing another one! Lol. We love what we do and the perk of having access to some incredible bikes on a regular basis is a welcome one and it definitely gives us the motivation to keep riding and testing new things. The emergence of ebikes is a typical example. With a new motor and battery every year and huge improvements in geometry and components, it’s great to be able to ride the latest generation as soon as they are released and when you’ve had a busy week, it is absolute heaven being able to shuttle to the top of the hill with minimum effort! We’re pleased with how the shop has grown over the years, we’ve got some great customers and it can be very satisfying work. As much as we’d love to be millionaires, I’m not sure this will ever happen but that’s OK, we’re happy keeping that balance between earning enough and being able to offer that personal service for our customers.

How has Covid-19 impacted you guys?

The demand for service work is higher than ever and the last few months since lockdown have been relentless. We closed for 2 weeks when the lockdown was announced as we just didn’t know what was going but after it was established that bike shops could remain open, we knew we would be heading back sooner rather than later.

We came back just after Easter and haven’t stopped since! The demand for servicing has been through the roof and we’ve struggled to keep up with the speed in which orders are coming in! Our usual turnaround time for service work is 4-5 days but we’re currently on 2-3 weeks. It’s quite difficult when you pride yourself on a fast turnaround but we try to accommodate all our customers where we can and keep people’s downtime to a minimum.

Recently it has calmed down slightly as our situation is not unique. Most other bike shops are going through a similar thing so I think longer turnarounds have become the norm for the time being and people realise that now. We aim to get back to normal lead times as soon as possible and we thank all our customers for being patient at this time.

Have you seen a shift in product sales for you guys at all is it more digital rather than physical?

We’ve always had an online presence since we started. With my background being in Marketing and having a degree in Media, I was already up to speed with web design so we were selling from the website quite a lot, even in the early days. We’ve seen a steady flow of orders coming through which really bolsters our workshop work and being suspension focused, we obviously sell quite a lot of suspension online which is great and comforting to know that people value our opinion.

It’s difficult keeping up with the big online companies but I think we hold our own and obviously we offer a much more thorough and focused back up and support package for all our customers that buy from our website. Since the Covid-19 lockdown our website sales have gone crazy! With people working from home or being furloughed, the urge to purchase online is definitely a difficult one to resist! We’re doing what we can to keep up to speed with this to fulfil orders within a time frame people expect but this is becoming more difficult!. We’re hoping that new stock from the distributors will be more accessible soon!. With this said, however, I think we excel more as a local technical centre where people can come in, talk face to face with the person servicing their suspension or bike and get an in depth insight into what goes on inside their fork, shock or dropper.

Having that local contact is definitely a priority for many customers and we do our best to give all our loyal, local customers the best service we can provide. This includes turning stuff around in super quick time if urgently needed, going that extra mile on a personalised set-up or just shooting the breeze about bikes and having a moan about our other halves for a while! As far as we’re concerned this is par for the course in the world of bike shops! We pride ourselves on giving each customer that personal service and I can’t see us ever changing our philosophy on that.

Have you seen an increase in demand for bike servicing now?

We’ve definitely seen an increase in bike servicing lately. Many people have been getting back into cycling which is great and we have seen some weird and wonderfuls through the workshop! Tobys face has been priceless at times! Old bikes have been dragged out of sheds, second hand bikes have been purchased which have many issues and our local customers have just been out riding more so bikes are coming in fairly tired!. Both bike and suspension servicing has been manic and it’s been a real mix of stuff. New, old, good condition, absolutely wrecked and everything in between!.

Cycling has definitely grown this year despite the pandemic and we just hope that a lot of these new or born again cyclists keep up the enthusiasm and continue to need our support. Our regular weekend shredder customers have been a bit subdued lately due to most events being cancelled and bike parks not being able to function. This seems to be resolving itself slowly with many of the bike parks now open again and race entries being transferred to 2021 making riding and training a priority again in preparation for what we’ve missed out on this year. We don’t see the demand for servicing tailing off anytime soon but if it does, a rest would be welcomed! Lol.

You’re well known for being one of the best suspension specialists in the UK, with suspension becoming more and more adjustable are you seeing a higher demand for custom tunes?

Wow! Thanks for that!, we’ve never heard ourselves referred to in this way before :). We do what we can here and I guess we’ve been in it long enough now to have some kind of idea about what we’re doing but we always consider ourselves students of the industry. The minute you think you ‘know it all’ is when you sever the connection you have with everyday riders and customers in our opinion.

There is ALWAYS something to learn in suspension, even for us but our experience is definitely useful to our customers otherwise I don’t think we’d have a business.  We’ve definitely seen suspension change a lot over the time the shop has been open. Standards have changed so much and suspension technology has also come on in leaps and bounds but it’s quite a funny one. We’ve seen new MTB technology emerge recently only to find that it is re-hash of motorcycle suspension technology from quite a few years ago. There is obviously some very innovative MTB design out there nowadays but it’s funny how things swing in roundabouts a lot of the time. It stands to reason though as MTB forks have got bigger and bigger, it makes sense that motorcycle suspension technology is applicable.

Ohlins is a great example of this. Having the majority of their experience in motorcycle racing suspension is proof that this can be applied successfully to MTB suspension and really excel. With regard to a higher demand for custom tunes, I would say it has mostly stayed the same, it really is down to the individual customer. Stock suspension that appears on your MTB really is pretty good these days especially from the bigger, well established players so most stuff is ready to ride straight out of the box for the majority of riders. In this scenario, you could say the need for custom tuning is less (outside of the standard volume spacer spring curve tuning of course). However, if a customer has an enthusiastic interest in the way their suspension works, or is a fast racer that demands a high level of performance from their suspension or is perhaps heavier or lighter than the average weight, then custom tuning is of course highly applicable. Overall though I’d say the demand for in depth suspension tuning has stayed more or less the same.

How do you go about fine tuning a fork or rear shock for a customer’s needs?

There are many different things you can do to a fork or shock to change the way it works and the way it feels for a particular rider. Changing the shim setting to modify oil flow on the compression and/or rebound circuits is probably the process that most people associate with fork or shock tuning however this can often be the last port of call for suspension tuning these days. Getting the basics right like using the correct spring rate, running the right amount of sag and finding a balanced bike is usually the quickest way to improving your bike feel. Making sure you’re running the correct tyres pressure also has a huge impact on how your bike and suspension feels!. These things are often overlooked or misunderstood, looking at these in more detail can really work wonders for your ride experience! Adding or removing volume tokens to alter the spring curve is the most common ‘tuning’ process these days but changing oil viscosity and bolting on the many aftermarket suspension upgrades there are out there is also common.

The best way to go about getting your suspension tuned for your needs is to roll into your local suspension centre and get an assessment from someone who sees this stuff on a daily basis. They should be able to dial in your suspension basics and also advise you on what else is out there to help improve the way your bike rides even more.

With the cycle trade booming currently during the pandemic and bike shops being overwhelmed with repairs and sales, will you be changing anything in the way Sussed Out Suspension operates?

I don’t think we will be drastically changing the way we operate apart from carrying a little more stock than we currently do. We keep a good inventory of stuff here but there are always things that you wish you had ‘on the shelf’ at times. There’s always a fine balance between not having enough and having too much and the variety of products is huge so it can’t be very difficult to judge but it’s definitely something we’ll be looking at closely coming out of this Covid-19 situation. We’ll obviously be working hard to get our lead times back to normal so that is a priority for us but generally we’re pretty happy with the way we operate.

What’s the future got in store for Sussed Out Suspension?

With the demand for cycling on a high at the moment, I hope the future has more of the same in store for us. Both Toby and I are always chewing over ideas for new directions in which we could take the business but we mostly hope that we can continue to offer the high level of service that we currently provide. For us, it’s about keeping on the forefront of the MTB industry and keeping our services focused on what we’re good at. As we develop our relationships with manufacturers and distributors further, options and opportunities are always presenting themselves so the future looks bright and exciting. Seeing people get the same kick out of cycling as we did as kids keeps us motivated and passing that passion on is what we want to carry on doing for the foreseeable. You never know what is around the corner but you can be sure we’ll have at least one eye on it! 

Thankyou Will and Toby for speaking with us during this extremely busy time for yourselves. We at One track mind wish yourselves good health and the best of luck for what the future holds for Sussed Out Suspension. 

What did you think of Sussed Out Suspension take on it all? Have you visited them? let us know in the comments below.

Click here to visit Sussed Out Suspension’s website

Check out our other interviews from this series like the one with D&D Cycles 

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