Nathan: Alright George. Who are you? Where are you from?
And how long have you been designing bikes?
George: I’m from Australia and I’ve lived in Canada for
the last 11 years. I grew up in Australia though, surfing and
doing the beachy things. My first dabble getting into bikes
was actually in my grade 11/12 industrial design class. I
designed a frame-building jig for building bikes initially. My
final project was designing and building a steel mountain
N: Do you still have that Bike?
G: It’s at home somewhere… Mom and Dad probably still
have it. It was pretty rudimentary and basic. At that time the
design of mountain bikes and road bikes was pretty basic, so
it was just what I could envision while living in a small town
N: What year was that?
G: That must have been 1998 or 99. So a few years ago!
That was probably my first dabble in building bikes, but I’ve
always been around bikes my whole life.
N: So when did you get your first bike and what was it?
G: My first bike, I still have at my Mom and Dads house.
They kept it. It was a red Raleigh. It had 16” wheels, and I
think it was called a BMX Racer. I’m pretty sure I actually
have some photos of it somewhere.
N: Oh cool!
G: That kind of started my love for bikes. I grew up in a
biking family. My Dad was and still is a Tri-athlete. Mom
and Dad have always been into cyclo-touring. Dad used to
race road bikes.
N: So did you end up getting into racing?
G: My first race was in BMX. I started off on that little red
bike riding around our local BMX track and then got into
racing BMX on little 20” bikes, but as I got older I didn’t really
like it anymore, so I ended up getting into Mountain bike
racing. During my time getting into Mountain Biking, my
younger brother started getting into DH Racing. I thought
that looked liked more fun, so I started racing downhill with
him. We where racing downhill nationally and, as brother
are, we were very competitive with each other. He was
actually a little more successful than me, so I did it more as a
fun hobby and to try and beat my brother. During this time
I also used to race cross-country. Having a triathlete Dad, I
got into more adventure triathlons, which are trail running,
mountain biking and kayaking…that sort of stuff.
N: Right, so it sort of fit into a whole bigger picture.
G: Right, I had my feet in many ponds! I always had a dirt
jumping bike, a bmx bike and a mountain bike somewhere in
the shed. I was always tinkering on all the bikes, modifying,
building, hacking… all that sort of stuff.
N: Cool, I guess you started designing bikes at a pretty young
age. What goes into designing a bike? What’s the process? Is
it like you sit down and draw on a napkin … How does that
G: There’s many ways! In the beginning, if I wanted a specific
type of bike, I’d start researching what’s out there to improve
current designs. I’d want to make something better. Or
sometimes it will come from a basic Idea that gets drawn on
a piece of paper and then brought into bike CAD software.
But it always starts with wanting to make something better
or lighter or make sure that what we are doing is innovative.
N: Taking the bikes you’ve designed for Landyachtz into
account, what makes the CB1 or CB2 unique and Innovative?
Let’s start with the CB1.
G: The CB1 was definitely an idea that was given to me about
producing a commuter bike that’s perfect for Vancouver’s
weather. We have year round wet, cold, rainy weather, but
we had to make the bike simple and user friendly. So with
that particular one, the frame actually came second to all
the parts that needed to go on it. It needed to have hydraulic
breaks and an internal-gear hub, so building a frame around
those parts by adapting current geometry is what was put
forward to me. Making it best suited to the bike and what it
needed to do. It needed to be a pretty fast bike, but we also
needed it to be robust and have internal gears.
N: So function leads the design of that bike?
G: Right, function led the design of that bike. With the CB2,
I took a step back and wanted to focus on the design of the
bike first. I wanted a bike with a frame geometry that was
quick, comfortable and agile. After that I realized the internal
gear system, which is worry free but heavy, had to go and
instead specced a drive train that comes from the mountain
bike and cyclocross world. Its simple, easy to use, you don’t
drop your chain… it’s just easy.
N: So what makes that bike different from other bikes on the
G: I think maybe because we are a smaller company we were
able to adapt to running a 1X drive train as a commuter
system before other people where. It’s now common to see
a 1X on other bikes. So having access to component design,
and coming maybe from my mountain bike background,
I realized that these components are super hard and make
perfect sense on an urban bike that you’re going to mash
around a city.
N: I’ve seen photos of you riding the CB2 down stairs.
G: YES!… It can shred! (Laughs)
N: With your background in BMX, you’ve also been toying
with and designed a bike we call the Play Bike. What was
the inspiration around that and why is that bike unique
compared to the CB1 and CB2?
G: The Play Bike is project of mine with a bit of direction
from one of our founders, who remembers commuting on
his old mountain bike and how much fun it was being able
to jump off things, ride down stairs and bomb around town.
The idea for that one came from another facet of bike riding
that I used to be into. Fixed gear freestyle was a scene that
always intrigued me, but I never got too heavily involved in.
What I wanted was to blend my dirt jump experience with
the fixed gear freestyle experience. This bike came from that
idea. It has geometry that feels just like a BMX bike that’s
been blown up to the scale of a 26” and 29” wheel bike. It
runs fatter tires, a single drive train, and it has one rear break,
so you can skid the hell out of it! You can jump it off things,
you can take it to the BMX track or the skate park and it’ll
handle all of that.
N: It’s kind of like your fun everyday bike that you’re going to
take out to bomb around on.
G: Exactly, it’s the bike that makes you relive your childhood
of ripping around on your first bike… yup. (Aussie chuckle)
N: How do you spec the bikes? When you’re picking
components, why have you chosen what you’ve gone with?
G: One of the big ideas we focus on is biking in Vancouver,
so hard wearing is a really key component. Running all
sealed bearing, because we have such wet winters here.
Having simplified components that won’t require too much
work because these are, at their core, commuter bikes. Some
people just want to know that when they grab their bike,
it’s not going to fail them. So hard wearing components,
simple components, and components that are perfect for
wet weather riding, like hydraulic disc brakes. For the CB1,
running an internal geared system, all the gear are hidden
inside a rear hub shell. There is a bit of a weight penalty but
you’ve got everything sealed away from the elements and all
you need to do is give it a little oil once a year and it’ll keep
N: So what’s next for Landyachtz bikes? What’s coming down
G: We’ve got a few ideas. We’re still dabbling with my
previous experiences and also considering the direction
that the company is going and the riders that ride for us.
We are toying with the idea of developing some bikes in
the cyclocross world and the track world that are also city
N: Okay and I guess these are for spring next year?
G: Yeah, a spring launch for some bikes and a fall launch
for some of the others. The cyclocross season is generally
October to December so those will be a later season launch.
N: You’ve got a lot of experience on different bikes and in
different bike cultures. You also started riding in different
scenes in Australia and eventually in Canada. Biking has
been a mainstay in your life. What’s the draw to bike culture?
Can you talk a bit more about the culture around biking?
G: The culture around biking is a really good culture to be
a part of. At its core, we are all riding bikes and bikes are
healthy. It gets people involved in a healthy activity and it’s
addictive in a way too. One of the things that I see every
day from our location on Union street, which is a major
bike route to downtown Vancouver, is when anyone hits a
red light there are like 2 dozen people that roll up behind
them and they’re all stoked because they are on their bike.
There is a sense of community. If it’s a fixed gear alley cat,
everyone is out having fun and supporting each other. If it’s a
dirt jumping event, people are pumped when someone lands
a really sweet trick. Within every scene and style of biking
there is a family and a respect for each other and it can only
get better as more people get on bikes.
N: It becomes a part of your social life, a part of how you
exercise, a part of your everyday, and it fits in with what
G: Its one of those healthy things that grows on you. Like
when people realize that you own a bunch of bikes, they want
to know more about it and then you can potentially get them
on one and then they get pumped and realize that this is a
really healthy thing and its good for them.
N: And then they want a different bike because they have a
different thing they want to do or try and then another bike
and another bike and…
G: There’s always another bike!
N: What’s the formula?
G: N + 1 🙂