"The 'that will do' mentality on lower RRP bikes just won’t cut it any more"
We grabbed some time with Calibre bikes’ designer-in-chief Mike Sanderson to ask him how he managed to produce such a game changing mountain bike.
Mike Sanderson: The Bossnut boss
If you’ve been living under a rock – or inhabiting a rarified land where only multi-thousand pound bikes appear on your radar – you may not have come across the Calibre Bossnut.
Calibre bikes are essentially the in-house brand of retail giant GoOutdoors. Normally mountain bikes from such places aren’t anything worth writing home about but the Bossnut is different. The Bossnut can run rings around big name brand bikes costing more than twice as much.
Above: Calibre Beastnut vs Marin Hawk Hill
What’s your background?
Mike Sanderson: I’ve been riding since I was about 12 and came through the golden age of bikes before V brakes existed [laughs]. I worked in local bike shops before working for Alex Moulton Bikes – very cool, hand built folding bikes – whilst at college studying engineering. I then went to Uni to do a product design degree
I finished Uni and then did a stint in Halfords before starting as a junior product manager at Raleigh, where I learned loads on how bikes are built and Far East assembly. Fairly quickly I was made the Diamondback product manager for Europe, as well as doing some Raleigh bikes too. I’ve now been at GoOutdoors/Calibre for nearly six years now; the Calibre bike brand is four years old now.
Are GoOutdoors hands-off or do they stick their oar in?
At the beginning I had to prove that Calibre was a good thing, and rightly so. Bikes are not cheap things to have warehouses – and stores – full of if they don’t sell! But it was also a necessity as we could not find bikes we wanted in the ranges from existing brands. I think I’ve proven that Calibre has lots of potential and I get a fair amount of free reign now.
What was the hardest part of getting the Bossnut into the world?
The hardest part was probably the jump for us as a business. GoOutdoors had never sold a bike close this price point so it was a nervous time for the business – I was confident though and the rest is history.
Did you do prototypes and testing? How many protos did you go through?
Yeah we always test the bikes and the Bossnut was no exception. Firstly though I tested all of the bikes that I classed as competition. And I read a lot of reviews to find both good and bad points. I think we went through three prototypes of the Bossnut with the third being pretty much production. That actual proto bike is still going strong somewhere too.
What sort of rider is the Bossnut aimed at?
It is aimed at riders moving forward from a hardtail, or those returning to the sport. I wanted to create a full suspension bike that would help the rider progress and progress with the rider a very long way before it became redundant in some way. Ultimately it was created to have fun on and bring a smile to lots of people’s faces.
Did you HAVE to hit a £1000 price point when setting out with the Bossnut?
Not really, but it made sense with the Cycle-to-Work scheme and I also think it’s an emotional ceiling that people get to or can get to.
How close is the finished Bossnut to the original bike you had in your head at the start?
In all honesty its exceeded what I had in my head. I had this bike originally pinned for red grade trail centres and the odd weekend away in the mountains of North Wales, but we’ve raced ours at ‘Ard Rock and TweedLove and seen others there on their Bossnuts.
Was the Beastnut version a reaction to being limited by the £1k price point?
Yeah a little. I wanted to do a better version and felt like it needed some justification so a Limited Edition was a good way to test the water. It’s good news for 2018.
What components do punters look at most when shortlisting their bikes?
This is a tough one as some components should be looked at more closely but get over looked as something shiny or sexy catches people’s eyes. I think I’m pretty good at putting myself into the rider’s shoes and working out what is important to them but then I add my experience to this to make the best package I can.
Any plans for other models? Bossnut 29? Bossnut Carbon?
Yes there always more bikes in the pipeline. None are carbon though. You’re closer with the 29er.
My Bossnut V2 has had a fair amount of hammer and there’s a few things I’d like to change for 2018 but they are small changes or refinements really. We’ve got a load of guys and girls here that ride and race too so it’s a great place for getting feedback. And with the Peak as our main testing ground, things get a tough life straight away.
What the hell does Bossnut mean?
[Laughs] It’s a rubbish story. Put it this way, I hate naming bikes, truly hate it. And when ‘Bossnut’ was offered up – it stuck.
What’s it like coming out with a game-changing bike?
For me seeing people out on their Bossnuts having a good time is great. It makes me smile from ear to ear.
How does the rest of bike industry feel about the Bossnut?
Err… I’ve not had any hate mail! It’s the bike industry so everyone is very cool. It’s got to be a good thing for consumers really if everyone’s geometry gets better and the “that will do” mentality on lower RRP bikes just won’t cut it any more.
What’s your favourite aspect of the Bossnut?
I think it’s the geometry and the supportive nature of the suspension. Those two factors combine to really boost confidence and give the rider the sense to push on and have fun.