Profile: Onza Bikes

Saturday 11 February 2012
by Ben Swales
popularity : 5%

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Onza Bikes are about as well known a brand as can be in UK trials. You can’t go to a competition, street ride or trials event without seeing several of their bikes being used by novice and elite riders alike. Bringing out their first trials bike, the T-Bird, in 1999 and updating their range almost constantly, it feels as though they have been around forever, with their fingers never far from the pulse of the trials market.

The brand is synonymous with quality and value for money and indeed, on of their key focuses is to make trials bikes affordable and to take them to new markets. It’s a strategy that seems to pay off, as Onza bikes and parts are now available worldwide, with distributors all over the globe. Tensile and the Onza Pro Series are two sister companies that create products aimed more at the top competition side of the market, an area of trials that has seen a lot of involvement from Onza over the years. JPEG - 64.5 kb Virtually all of the UK’s top competitors, including Ben Savage, Ben Slinger, Danny Butler, Scott Wilson, Andrei Burton, Joe Seddon and Jack Carthy, have, at some point, been sponsored by Onza, and all have had a hand in the development of their frames, bikes and products. Onza have also been the title sponsor of the Biketrial Federation’s British Trials Cup for the last few years and continue their support of the UK’s national series in 2012.

With a new range just hitting the shops, we caught up with Onza’s Joe Poyzer for a chat about the company, their history and their plans for the future.

Interview:

Hi Joe! Can you tell us a bit about Onza/Super Cycles/Rock’n’Roll Bikes/Moore Large? How did they come about? What are the roles/missions of the various companies? Who is behind them? Are you riders yourselves? Do you still ride if so?

Onza, Super Cycles and Rock n roll bikes all fall under the ownership of Mike Poyzer (My father). The oldest one is Super Cycles which was his retail cycle shop that he started in the 70’s. The shop grew over the years and during the early 80’s (before I was born) he was heavily involved in importing BMX products from the Far East. This was quite advanced for a retail shop to do in that day and age. Don’t forget that e-mails, mobiles, Skype & faxes were not available and communication was done through a Telex agency. Telephone calls to Taiwan were £3 a minute not 0.5p a minute like they are now. The relationship grew with his Taiwanese associates to the point where he felt that the way forward was to develop his own brand of cycles. This was when he created his first brand, DDG in the mid 90’s, a semi-custom range of Slalom, Dirt Jump and Trials cycles. Being very open to what style of cycle he sold, he had an open ear to the ever growing demands of the fledgling trials community for a trials specific cycle. After some research he became a dealer for Monty trials bikes which were at the time the leading trials specific cycle on the market and virtually the only range to offer a 20”. He really was blown away with the rapid rise in sales of trials parts and bikes in the late 90’s and decided it was time for an affordable range of trials bikes to be made. Seeing the gap in the market he designed and launched a small range, naming them Onza, a famous but dormant brand name which he had recently purchased.

Moore Large is one of the leading cycle distributors in the UK and is a completely separate company, but Super Cycles have been a large elite dealer of theirs since the late 70’s and they were all great friends. When the brand had reached maturity Mike decided to look for a company to take over distribution as they were not geared up to handle its growing popularity. Moore Large were the natural choice and so distribution was handed over in early 2006. Trials needed to be promoted into the general bicycle shop in order to grow its popularity, and Moore Large’s experience and expertise has pushed trials bikes into shops we would have really struggled with.

Rock’n’Roll Bikes is the new trading title of Super Cycles’ retail arm, and has evolved from their online retail operation. The name has been re-applied to their bricks and mortar shop in Nottingham, which has come back under their control again recently after a spell when it was leased to Raleigh.

My position is that I work for Moore Large as the Onza product manager amongst other things. I started out working with my Dad and Onza but after ML took over distribution, it soon became clear that they needed some direction and guidance with the brand and products, so I moved over to them. Initially it was for three days a week, but three years ago I moved to them full time.

JPEG - 85.9 kb The only true cycle riders of the company are my brother Chris who is now Rock N Roll Bikes manager and Ryan Bradshaw who works alongside Chris. Chris started BMX racing in the 80’s and won UK nationals in his age group. He switched to Downhill racing in the early 1990s culminating in 14th place in the UCI World Championships in Metabief, France in 1993. Ryan has cycling on the brain and rides all disciplines but excels at trials where he rode at elite level around 5 years ago. I think it’s always good to have a mixture of cyclists and businessmen. They bounce off each other quite well and we can adapt to different styles of trade quite rapidly.

Your new range will be out soon, with photos and info appearing on the forums already. Can you tell us a bit about it? The Pro and Zoot have been updated haven’t they? There’s been mention of a 26” comp frame/bike – is this production version of the prototypes that Joe Seddon and Andrei Burton were riding in 2011? What about the Limey 20”/26”? And the other, lower budget bikes in the current range, will they be staying, or is the new range going to be smaller?

The Pro has been upgraded to dual Hydraulic disc brakes from its original cable pull ones. It has also adopted a very classy stealthy black colour. The Zoot has just changed colour really, with some small changes of tyres and freewheel due to price have occurred though. The Genesis is the new 26” full bike we have designed, aimed at the rider who wants to shift to a competition ready 26” wheeled bike without forking out a huge lump of money. It retails for around £999. We could have spec’d it higher but we all know at that level it’s rare you will pull a bike out of the box and it be how you want it. We would rather leave some parts for the rider to change themselves but the core spine of the bike is there to work with. We should have these available to buy mid December. The Limey 4, frame only, became available to buy in November. Geo, weights and prices will be soon be announced. New budget level bikes should be here around March/April.

With Scott Wilson and Andrei Burton’s recent moves to Inpulse Bikes and Echo and Jack Carthy’s departure to Koxx, Joe Seddon is your only Elite team rider. Are there any plans to replace Scott, Andrei and Jack on the team? If so, will you be looking for Elite/Expert comp riders, street riders, or more grass roots riders coming up through the ranks? How can people contact you if they are interested?

JPEG - 65.1 kb The Onza Team is a very interesting subject; as you know, we produce very affordable entry level goods and to some extent pro comp level products as well. Andrei, Scott and Jack are all world class riders and we love ‘em to bits but we took our eye off the ball for 1 season and found our selves concentrating too much on the budget level equipment and left our top riders bikeless to some extent. We have addressed this with the Limey 4 and Genesis. It’s just taken a full season to produce these and we will be looking for a small but strong elite team for next season. I am on the lookout for the riders and they will be approached if they fit the bill. Applying directly to us and having to explain who you are is not always a good thing. We will have something sorted for next season I’m sure.

The Rock’n’Roll academy, mentioned on trials-forum.co.uk recently, sounds like a very interesting idea, has anything more come of this? We know that Tribal Rider James Davis has just signed up for 2012, how can other riders get involved?

This is a new concept we are trying with Rock N Roll. As a retail outlet they specialise in trials and want their own team to promote the shop. We at Onza want a small team with a great attitude, not just the biggest personalities in trials. Simply watching videos and seeing people at comps never really gives you an idea of what that individual is like. We have asked Rock and Roll to produce an academy that we can monitor over a space of time and pick the riders that shine to promote them to the Elite Onza team. Not just talent will be monitored it will be their attitude too. We want good riders who attend most comps / events and that conduct themselves in a friendly manner to other riders. Once we feel as though they are ready to put on the Onza jersey, we will sign them up. If people are interested in joining the Rock n Roll academy then they need to contact them directly via e-mail academy@rocknrollbikes.com. We will watch from a distance to start with and pick people over the next year or so.

Onza Bikes are the main sponsor of the British Trials Cup, and have sponsored some of the UK’s most successful competition riders over the years (Ben Savage, Danny Butler, Ben Slinger, Jack Carthy, Andrei Burton, Scott Wilson, Craig Lee Scott, etc.). Do you still see ‘pure’ trials competitions as important for the present and future of the sport? What do you make of the current trials competitions, both in the UK and abroad (format, attendance, image, etc.)? What about the other side of UK trials, which you seem to be catering for with the Zoot, do you see this as a new direction or evolution for the sport, or something that will run alongside the purer form of trials? Will the evolution of trials be affecting your future products?

The comp scene is vital I believe. I see it as the purest form of trials and a fantastic get together. I must admit before I attended the nationals I was quite detached from the modern rider. Attending them has made me more friends and given me more ideas then I ever needed. People like Barbara Wright etc. give me a reality check every time I see them. They love being involved, love the people young and old and really are passionate about the sport. I think the attendances are not a true reflection of UK trials at present. Onza sells approx 2500 bikes a year in the UK alone and the average attendance of a national is between 50 – 75. As our bikes are classed as starter bikes, that means at least 2,500 people a year take up trials. Promotion of the nationals could be better which I am working on with the Biketrial Federation, but I think people just do not understand them and that’s why they don’t attend. I know around 15 riders locally who do not attend and their reason is because they feel as though they are not good enough to compete in a “NATIONAL”. I have twisted their arm to attend next year and I’m sure they will love it. It’s about meeting new people and having fun, Not just competing to win and feeling stupid if you fall off. Everyone has been there before and a lot of the pro riders help you through the sections without you feeling inadequate. I know what it’s like but you really have to give it a go with your mates and make a day of it. If you have read this and attend one for the first time next year be sure to come and find me and I’ll give you some freebies for making the effort. The 24” market is crazy, but is it big enough to push just yet. I’m not sure. We make one model at present but I know a lot of riders who have had their play with it and gone back to their “pure” trials bike. We shall have to see, I hope it evolves as it’s a fantastic advertisement for trials. We will not be far off the trend if it does and we have encouragingly, now sold over 500.

Tribal Rider Jack Carthy at the final round of the 2010 British Trials Cup, which he went on to win aboard his prototype Onza frame.

What have been your best and worst memories from trials? We often see you at the Fort William round of the British Trials Cup, tending the Onza stand by day and hitting the town by night – is that a highlight for you?

Ha Ha, I don’t know what you mean! I think if you speak to anyone that knows me/Onza then we like to have a good time. Sometimes I lead my riders astray the night before a trial and I feel pretty unprofessional about it, but to be honest some companies are out to be the best, win the medals and have a very dry approach to the competitions. They can come across as being arrogant and elitist and that’s not the image I want for Onza. Highlights would have to be Ben Slinger winning the junior UCI World Championships in 2005 for us, in both 20” and 26”. As a relatively unknown brand on the international scene, a warm sense of patriotism surrounded us that weekend knowing that a British rider won on a British bike. To be honest there is no bad memory that equals that high. Only bad memories I have are the long exhausting weeks of the London Cycle show where we would hold indoor and outdoor trials competitions. They looked great but at the end of it I thought “Soooo, what did we do that for exactly?”…

Do you read Tribal Zine? What do you think of it?

Yes I do, it’s a great way of cementing the trials community. It’s informative and interesting.

Thanks for your time Joe, see you soon!

Thank you for your questions and it’s been a pleasure answering them.

Videos:

Rich Pearson’s promo video for the new 26" Genesis. Foggy lens, but some great riding!

Genesis Promo from Rich Pearson on Vimeo.

Tribal Rider James Davis, who recently joined the RocknRoll team, in action on his Onza Limey 3.

James Davies - ONZA - RocknRoll Bikes - Tribalzine from Matt Pengelly on Vimeo.

Pictures:

The Onza Genesis. Aimed at competition riders. RRP £999.00. 1085/+55/380/73º
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The Limey 4 frame. RRP £449.99.
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The Onza Pro. Now with dual hydraulic discs.
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The Zoot, Onza’s offering for the burgeoning street trials market, updated for 2012 with a new colour scheme.
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The Mini Master, with a new colour scheme for 2012, as ridden by street riding prodigy Matty Turner (look out for a feature on him soon!).
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