Meet the Father and Son Who Own a High-Performance Bicycle Brand in Gateshead
In 2018, father and son duo Ian and Trevor Hughes launched Vielo, a high-performance bicycle brand based in Gateshead. Now their bikes are available at 52 dealers across the world
Tell us a bit about your backgrounds.
Ian: I’ve been in the cycle trade for around 38 years. Back in the mid-80s I was a sales agent for Marin mountain bikes, so that was my introduction to the trade. Then in ’95 I set up the brand Scott in the UK, as a wholly-owned subsidiary. I built that up from zero and ran it for 15 years but in 2010 I came out of the corporate bicycle world and set up an independent distribution company with Trevor. We got some good experience with that and then decided to use all that energy and knowledge to build our own brand, Vielo, which we launched in 2018.
Trevor: I studied Business Management with Finance at Northumbria University and then after that went to work at Orange Telecoms for a couple of years. During my time at uni I’d always worked with dad at weekends and at shows, so when the chance came up for us to start our own independent distribution company I left Orange and the pair of us moved into this building in Gateshead. I’ve always heard stories of dad taking me around to do visits of bike shops in the back of the car as a baby and although I don’t remember it, I think it’s kind of been bred into me.
Why did you decide to start you own branded cycle company?
Ian: There were several frustrations working for big corporate brands, for example they had a big yearly churn bringing new models in every year, but that meant there was lots of little attention to detail that was being missed. I understood why but I just thought “wow you’re missing a trick here guys”. I got to know what was going on in the bicycle trade, new trends and new ideas, and that’s when it came to us that we could create our own brand. We thought about how it would look, who are our customers, where we position it, etc. and in 2016 we started drawing some line diagrams of the frame and how it would look, literally on the back of a napkin. Where we wanted to position ourselves was quite indie-boutique, being quite brave but not too conceptual, and that’s how the whole thing came about really.
What makes Veilo different?
Ian: The whole concept of the brand is based around the fact they’re 1x bicycles. Most bicycle are what’s called 2x so they have two chainrings on the front to create sufficient gears. But we knew that a lot of the groove set manufacturers that make the gear components were providing a wider range of gears now, over 12- and 13-speed compared to 8-, 9- or 10-speed many years ago. We figured out that this would be enough range for us to provide cyclists with a bicycle with a single chainring on the front called 1x and we could then engineer the whole frame around that which gives considerably more performance. That was a pretty brave move when we launched it, and is still quite brave, but it’s working.
Trevor: Originally we designed for British riding conditions so our road bikes are for rough-surfaced tarmac with pot holes and things like that. Then the gravel bikes are the type of thing you can take on bridleways, wagon ways, and single-track mountain bike routes. We later realised that, unless you’re on part of the Tour de France route where the tarmac is repaved every year, actually those conditions are the real world, everywhere. Everybody has the same trouble with road conditions and that’s where the whole appeal came from because customers were recognising the conditions we were describing as their local environment as well.
What makes a Veilo bike stand out?
Ian: In terms of the look, we wanted to create really clean-looking bikes. Most bicycles have the brand name on the downtube and loads of odd colours but there’s just too much going on. We wanted to create bikes with lots of attention to detail and while it takes 10s of hundreds of hours to do that, it’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to align the brand to more of a discerning customer, who don’t necessarily want to follow what’s going on in the pro-tour, they want something a bit individual, that’s got some real honesty to it rather than a lot of marketing rubbish. Our brand is all about honesty and integrity with a deep knowledge of applying that to the customer.
Trevor: Other brands would probably have big stickers pointing out details on our bikes or give them an acronym that would be trademarked and sold as a buzzword. But I’d rather stand and have a conversation with somebody about the bike and explain why it’s shaped in a certain way. I think customers appreciate that because they then go on and tell those same stories when they’re out riding with friends, explaining what they’ve bought and why they’ve bought it.
Tell us more about the supply chain.
Trevor: We start a project usually on the Newcastle side of the water, there’s an Italian restaurant that we normally end up going to and we sit around a table, drawing ideas out on a napkin over lunch. We brainstorm what we want to do next, how we want to design it and what key features we want the bike to have. That involves Jenz, our engineer from Germany, who will take the concept or the shortlist of ideas and produce a 3D file. We then send that over to our factory in Taiwan and they will interpret the 3D file into 2D version and start the moulding process for the frames.
Once the frames are produced and all the testing and everything to do with product quality is done, they then come back to Gateshead and the assembly is done here. So we pull all the parts in from various suppliers and manufacturers, then the bike is put together here to the customer’s spec. If it’s a certain bar width and stem length or if there’s a specific saddle, wheels and tyres they want, we’ll assemble it to their specification and it’s dispatched straight to them or via one of our dealers. We have 52 retailers worldwide currently, but no matter where they are, whether they’re in Singapore, the US, Canada, or Dubai, customers have a direct contact with us, the people that own the brand, and they really appreciate that.
‘We wanted to create bikes with lots of attention to detail
and while it takes 10s of hundreds of hours to do that,
it’s what we wanted to do’
What are the benefits of working with your dad/son?
Ian: I describe it as old school and new school. I’m old school knowing about the trade and the business. Trevor’s more new school in terms of social media and marketing, that side of the business which is a part all of its own. I also do spreadsheets really very long hand, and Trevor can just do them with a flick of a switch – he presses a couple of Ctrl+Alt and does the numbers much quicker than I can. So we split the tasks between us and it works really well.
Trevor: I agree, it's lots of learning and appreciation of eachothers’ experiences but it’s also the honesty and trust. There are some days where we’ll both walk into the office and neither of us speak. It’s not because we’re upset with each other, it’s just because we know what the other one’s doing. Ian’s getting on with certain tasks for that day, I’ll do whatever I’m getting up to and then we catch up at the end of the day and that’s it. We’re both just comfortable getting on with whatever needs doing. I always say Ian in the office but Dad or Grandpa (sorry had to get that in there) outside the office.
Plans for the future of the business?
Ian: I think hopes and plans are really just to grow the business in a sustainable way. We’ve seen many brands and businesses in this sector that have grown very very quickly and then either fallen off a cliff or been bought out and lost their way. So I think there’s a place for the type of business that we do, and building it at the rate we are so that we can enjoy it as well. We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved so far, and we’ve got a great team of people working together. While it’s hard sometimes, it’s also enjoyable, which is the most important thing. Just having some fun and enjoying it, while also being brave.