SPORT - INTERVIEW
Friday, June 29, 2018
SPORT - INTERVIEW
by Mehmet Kaplan
The Gocycle GS is one of the lightest electric bicycles on the planet and it's the only bicycle in the world to have an environmentally-friendly injection moulded magnesium frame and wheels. Gocycle is not only an e-bike, it is part of its users' lifestyle. While Richard Thorpe designing Gocycle, he put his designing skills and dreams to the drawing table and create his passion, and after long hard working days of research and development, Gocycle comes true. I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with Richard Thorpe, Founder and Designer of Gocycle, and I asked him about his career and Gocycle.
Who is Richard Thorpe? Could you tell us about yourself and career?
I was born in South Africa and emigrated to the US when I was 10 years old. I went to high school in Colorado and studied mechanical engineering at Boston University. I moved to the UK to become involved in the UK motorsport industry where I advanced my knowledge and experience in designing lightweight components using high tech materials such as carbon fibre and magnesium.
Why did you decide to leave your dream job behind? What inspired you to give all your focus to Gocycle?
I've always been fascinated with bicycles and was inspired in 6th grade upon reading about the Vector human powered vehicle which was competing to win the Dupont prize - $10,000 for the first human powered vehicle to break the then US speed limit of 55 mph. I've always been designing and building bicycles as a hobby and interest, but after becoming aware of electric bicycles and all of their benefits coming over to Europe from China, I decided that there was a commercial opportunity to start a company and develop a cool and lightweight ebike for the western market – Gocycle!
What changed in your life after this decision? Did this make you happier?
At heart, I'm an entrepreneur. As they say, the worst days working for your own company are often better than the best days working a job you don't like. Certainly, there have been many days that are not so happy and the electric bicycle business is highly competitive – very tough in fact – harder than I imagined. But I'd say I'm in the right position and career for my skills and experience as well as drive. It's hard on the family due to the sacrifices one has to make when running a small business.
And now, this is time for Gocycle. I think Gocycle is not only a folding electric bike, it is the part of its users' lifestyle. How could you describe Gocycle?
Gocycle's core DNA combines a lightweight and clean design with the practicality of stowability, load carrying, and excellent comfortable fit.
What were the Firsts that Gocycle offered to us in terms of material used in construction, industrial design or engine system?
The Cleandrive is a patented system that allows for a side mounted wheel design and a structural enclosed efficient chain drive. It means you won't get grease on your leg or clothes, it's easy to fix a flat tyre with the side mounted wheels, and easy to clean and wipe down. The Pitstopwheels are also patented and are the only type of this design in the world today. They also hold a world speed record for a human powered vehicle set at 83 mph 2013 in Battle Mountain Nevada. Our Daytime Running Light (DRL) is also patented and uses automotive inspired light pipe technology.
In my opinion, the front light of the Gocycle is one of the unique parts of your design. What inspired you?
The inspiration came from the automotive world where some years ago cars began to use light pipes to make more distinctive lights. It certainly makes a difference in being seen by other road users.
Is Gocycle a good design concept or a product of good engineering?
I think you can get to a good combination of both in products – whether you start with design or engineering probably doesn't matter provided you have a good handle on both disciplines. But I would say that bicycles are driven primarily by engineering solutions due to the pressure on building a lightweight product that can be stiff with solid riding dynamics, as well as being strong enough to handle the significant loadings that bicycles need to withstand. Good engineering will always have an inherent pureness and elegance to the design. Of course one needs to factor in the cost of making parts too!
How did Gocycle design become to this point? What difficulties have you had to overcome during the design and production phase?
We are constantly evolving the design of Gocycle to improve it as well as make our production run smoothly. Because a core feature of the Gocycle is lightweight, we are challenged by that tough engineering problem and trade off everyday! Choosing the right materials and doing analysis on the design is key.
Have you used friendships that you established during the McLaren career for finding high-quality suppliers or manufacturers?
We work with many of the suppliers I knew for prototyping, but to compete in the bicycle industry we need to and source components from all over the world.
You made a very successful Kickstarter project. What was the key point of your success?
I think our success came firstly from our approach that we went into the process with a genuine view that Kickstarter had a community of very supportive people. Many Kickstarter projects are looking to grab some cash and run, we didn't approach it that way. I said to myself that I would personally reply and engage with every backer which was very challenging time wise, but I felt strongly that we needed to be genuine. Secondly, our team and staff were amazing throughout the experience and we had systems in place to produce the product and ship it as well as provide service. It was a really good experience and outcome for Gocycle. I think we hold the record for the highest average value pledge ever.
How did the funding from this campaign affect the Gocycle process?
For a small manufacturer, funding a new model is very tough. Lead times can be as long as 9 months. So Kickstarter really helped the development of a new model and launch by having the funding available early on to get tooling and R&D done. You also have some flexibility with backers on the delivery date which also helps as production delays are inevitable. We delivered around one month later than schedule which we worked hard to achieve. Many Kickstarter projects never deliver.
Could you tell us more about your team behind Gocycle operations? What are their roles?
We have around 12 people, 10 based in the UK, 1 in the US and 1 in Spain. Mainly our team is made up of engineering and production, customer and product support, sales, and finance/fulfillment.
What do you enjoy most about using Gocycle?
Well, the electric motor is always a welcome boost when you need it. It makes commuting regularly much easier. There are always days when you have a headwind or you're tired and having the electric power on demand turns those days from a chore to a breeze. That keeps you active. But most of all, the product just makes people smile and is easy to own and live with. On the weekend, I went out with my wife and son – and our dog (we are testing a new Gocycle pet carrier J). It was just pure fun and the electric motor helps everyone stay together – no issues with one person getting tired for example – you see more, go further, and all together.
What is the importance of social media for Gocycle? How do you use it?
Gocycle does very well on Social Media. It's a highly visual product and we have a very engaged and interested user/owner base.
How can our readers buy Gocycle? What type of options do you offer?
Readers can purchase Gocycle directly from us or through one of our authorised dealers. The GS comes in two main front colours – grey and white, and a range of Cleandrive colours – red, blue, black, light blue and pink. All of the accessories are available like lights, mudguards, front and rear panniers, locks and more.
Gocycle G1/G2, Gocycle G3, and Gocycle GS. What is next for Gocycle?
Well, that would be G4! Being worked on as we speak, lots of really nice improvements but we have no firm release date.
Thank you Richard.