And we know what we are talking about. Julien "El Pinpino", one of the founders of Tribalzine, moved to Quebec 10 years ago where he met the founder of HB Trials, Hugo Bourques. Hugo managed to provide all the equipment riders needed across the Atlantic, at the best price! Since 2003, Felix an Michel have taken HB Trials over, still providing the best equipment at the best price.
Our new translator, Florent Dubouchet, recently had the opportunity to interview them during his trip to Canada. And you will see that Félix and Michel are doing much more than just selling Trials bikes…
Hi Michel and Felix, first of all we want to thank you for this interview. You and your brother have created a couple of years ago the online shop HBtrials. How did you and your brother discover trials bike? And how did you become involved in this shop ?
Michel : Everything started thanks to our father, he had been riding trials motorcycles for 25 years, and Trials bikes and motorcycles surrounded my brother and me for years. Felix preferred Trials bikes and in 2005 my father bought him his first trials bike and he bought it on… HB trials!
At that time, the website already existed, and it belonged to Hugo Bourque. Hugo created this shop 12 years ago. When he created this website, he was entering university. He had some money left after paying the university, so he started to take orders for his friends and he started providing bikes and equipment for Québec riders. When he realised there was no shop at all for Trials, he took advantage of this situation to develop his business. Hugo got his diploma in physics, but he didn’t find a job in this field, so he carried on running the shop and he was also working alongside for many years. But, in 2010, he found a job in his field and he became a father. No more time left for the shop. He was looking for someone to take over. And we were here!
Ok, you took over this company?
Michel : Yes. Félix was pretty good at riding his bike, he won the Quebec championship, and he was looking for a sponsorship. And while he was searching for a sponsor, the brand ZHI bikes offered him to become the exclusive dealer in Canada…And then, during a competition, Félix and Hugo were talking about sponsorship when Hugo said he didn’t have much time to take care of the website but also that he didn’t want to see the shop disappear. So Félix and I, we decided to take over Hugo’s business and it was the beginning of a new era for HBtrials…
Félix worked a lot on advertising. He created a Facebook page too,. And our small business grew up very quickly. We even had to get a bigger bandwidth! We clearly saw that we had to bring the north-American market back to life, and within one month everybody knew that HBtrials was back! Sales increased by 5 the next two month. Now everything is pretty stable: between 2014 and 2015 sales haven’t increased. Here in Canada the number of riders remains stable. We don’t have big championships like you have in Europe. We don’t have a lot of riders looking for high-end bikes and less and less young riders are attracted by this sport. We need local clubs. Cities here are far from one another, it’s really complicate to organise a national championship because nobody can afford a flight or a 50 hours ride on a car just to go on a competition in Vancouver for example.
Michel : Exactly. I’ve been riding trials motorcycle for 15 years and trials bikes for 10 years… And you can’t compare the Canadian market to the European market and when we started we knew that we wouldn’t make a living from this activity. We do that because we love our sport and sometimes we get a little extra money.
Félix : Yes, I spend a lot of time on social media and manufacturers’ websites to find new stuff, to see which parts are the most reliable and which parts our customers don’t like. We try to get the best products for our customers. We don’t want them to be disappointed. We only sell products we trust. We both weight more than 200lbs and if our products can survive us, we can be sure that our customers won’t have any problem with the product. Each bike we sell is perfectly assembled in our workshop.
As you said, Canadian market is smaller than the European market. But it does exists. Where are your customers?
Most of them are on the west coast, Vancouver. There, winter is less harsh than here in Quebec, that means people living by the west coast can ride their bikes more often and need new parts more often. Then we have a lot of customers in the U.S.A, and small groups in Québec, Ontario and Alberta.
Yes, South America, Japan, China, and Europe. But for European customers, it’s better for them to buy in Europe because shipping costs from here are really expensive and customers have a lot of online shops in Europe. It wouldn’t be very logical for us to sell our products in Europe just like it wouldn’t be logical for European shops to sell their products here. And we like to take care of our customers. When a customer needs help, we can take the plane or our car to meet him and repair his bike, and then go for a ride with him. But if it’s too far, it’s a bit more difficult to do it.
What brands are available on your website? Why did you choose these brands? What are your best sellers?
We have various brand available like Echo, Rockman, Ozonys, Inspired, Trialtech or, more recently, Crewkerz. We have a lot of products from Echo/Zoo, because it’s good value and that’s why these bikes/products are our best sellers.
Are you going to receive new stuff soon?
For new products, we depend on manufacturers releases. But we already have the ECHO/GU 2015 in stock… The new Echo, Crewkerz and Inspired bikes are coming... There will be some really good stuff from Jitsie. We talked with them and they said they were working hard on some really cool projects.
A few years ago, James Barton was one of the best riders on the UCI championship and he is now riding for you, promoting your products and your website. Are you planning on sponsoring other riders soon?
Michel : Why not? We are always pleased to help riders that can promote our products and our shop!
Félix : James is a really good rider and a really good ambassador for our sport and our shop. We want more riders and more audience for our sport. But in North America, we don’t have enough competitions, online forums are closed, and Facebook and Youtube are the best way to promote our sport and our shop. We need riders who can ride a lot and make as many videos as James does.
Do you think the Canadian Cycling Federation can do something for Trials?
We are not waiting something from them. We have been holding a competition in Rivière du Loup for 7 years now. Since 2012, we have managed to work with different motorcycles club to use their training spots in order to create the Quebec championship. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. We have to work with motorcycles club, because we don’t have enough riders to make two different championships. And a lot of riders ride trials bike to improve themselves on motorcycles. And for the shows, Beschano’s team is doing a very good job!
Thank you again for this interview, and we wish you the best for the future!