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​Back in 2006, when Markus Flossmann came across a couple of kids riding beat up old dirt jumpers and thought to himself "I can do better by these guys", he didn't really have a master plan. Nor did he imagine what it might all lead to. Operating pretty much alone out of an apartment in Forchheim, Germany, he assembled and sold a fairly standard dirt jump bike in a way that was quickly turning into a minor revolution in the bike industry: his bikes were only available to order online, they were not distributed through shops. The result was a quality bike that could be purchased for a lot less money than usual. With the company coming up on its 10th anniversary, we traveled to Forchheim to see how the rebellious child is coping with growing up.

Forchheim is a quiet little town, but something is lurking in this unassuming white building...

One of the key factors behind YT's early success was the product itself. The big secret to the low prices had little to do with the actual manufacturing, and a lot to do with the distribution method. By cutting out distributors and retailers, there was a lot of money to be saved - which was then passed onto the consumer in the form of lower prices. In what was to become a recurring theme with YT, bikes were shipped just as fast as Markus could get them built.

Back to the future. Dirt jumpers started it all for YT, and they are still a core part of the company's identity today.

Building on the early success in the dirt jump market, the logical next step was to branch out and focus on the burgeoning gravity market. The Tues DH became a common sight around bike parks in Europe, and it won Dirt's "DH Bike of the Year" twice to further cement its standing with the gravity crowd. (Note: "Tu es" is German for "Do it", although many Iron Horse Sunday nostalgics seem to think of it as the "Tuesday"...). At this point, the brand had yet to go global, but that was about to change.

YT's Forchheim-based service department deals with repairs and assists customers in fixing problems.

Fast forward to early 2014 and the launch of the first carbon YT: the Capra. Building on some of the design principles of the Tues, the Capra took the enduro market by storm. Unanimously lauded in the press, the biggest problem facing YT was not how to convince anybody to buy the bikes, but rather how to build enough of them to satisfy the demand. Despite doubling up on their forecasts, 2015 came around and there was still in excess of 2 months lead time on most Capra models. The fact that the company had now opened the North American and Oceania markets added to the excitement but also made it even harder for YT to keep up with the demand. The introduction of the carbon Tues in early 2015 was another additional component to add to the complexity of the YT equation.

Henning Willig was one of the very first YT employees. Today he runs the workshop floor.

YT's growth in numbers has been impressive with turnover that has been doubling every year for the last few years. The company counted 21 employees by the end of 2013, today they are 66, 4 of which are permanently located in Taiwan. A further 30+ people work at YT's assembly partner in Germany (they outsource final assembly and shipping). By 2017, the company plans to employ 115 people.

Thomas Stohr, Head of the Technical Service Department and Chief Good Times Enforcer showed us the latest Seat Post Automatic Rapid Eject prototype - aka the SPARE.

YT's customer service department has grown from 2 to 5 people so far in 2015.

YT has consistently outperformed its sales forecasts, by far exceeding targets on both the Capra and the Tues. Outside of Germany (where the company mainly competes with Canyon, another direct-sales brand), it is increasingly taking on traditionally-distributed competitors and as per YT's own research, they are now being compared to other bikes strictly on performance and less and less on price alone. At the same time, YT's target demographic has gone from 15-25 year olds to 25-40. They now sell more enduro bikes than DH bikes for the first time in the company's history.

Wolfgang Decker joined YT recently. His job is to build a customer service operation that will scale as the business grows.

YT's journey is not without growing pains. Heavy demand coupled with a supply-chain related issue over the summer caused delays in order fulfillment and more than a few unhappy people left waiting for their new bikes. Stock levels have been low, particularly in the new markets, which left many potential customers frustrated. The customer service department is in the midst of rebuilding its processes to accommodate the increased activity level, and although the team is growing fast, the phones are ringing off the hook. Even the legendary German efficiency will sometimes falter and require a little TLC to get back on track.

A crucial component of any customer service department.

For 2016, the company is taking steps to ensure that more bikes will be available earlier in the season and lead times will be kept to a minimum. In regards to 2016 bikes, the main 2 platforms (Capra and Tues) will carry over with new colors and some spec changes, and a third platform is on the way. We may or may not have seen some prototypes of this new bike kicking around, but the only thing we can say for sure is that the company will not enter the road racing market. Other than that, time will tell...

YT's design department just moved into a new building - YT's third site in Forchheim. This 2016 Capra mockup shows the direction ahead, graphics-wise.

YT puts a lot of emphasis on design, and they do it all in-house. Whether it's bikes or the recently launched apparel collection, YT employs its own designers and a fairly involved design process. Whereas in the past the company was certainly seeking for a true identity, design-wise, as of the introduction of the Capra things are looking a lot more harmonious across the product line.

The Capra is considered a good-looking bike by most people, but where will it go from here? Product Designer Mate Koroknai ponders the question...

Liquid inspiration. The sketches on the board in the background were more interesting, but we were not allowed to show you those.

Fans of YT have been asking for it for a long time already, and for 2015, the company finally answered the call: it launched the YT Wear collection, a range of casual apparel, some of which will also function on the trail. The apparel collection will continue to grow from here to include proper technical riding gear as well.

On the street, at the jumps, or in the pub, fans can now fly the YT flag and rep with pride.

So where to next? YT continues to grow, but will stay true to its roots; good times. If they make bikes, it's first and foremost to allow people to get out there and enjoy themselves. Of course, despite claiming to care more about having fun than winning contests, they also happen to have a talent-packed team of athletes on the roster. Five of the heaviest hitters in the mountain bike world, YT Team Riders Cam Zink, Andreu Lacondeguy, Kelly McGarry, Yannick Granieri, and Robbie Bourdon will all be headed to Utah next week to compete on freeride's biggest stage - Rampage. With such a team taking part, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that YT would jump on another opportunity that just presented itself: become an official sponsor of the event too. When your stated goal is to become the #1 gravity brand in the world, it's just another part of growing up.

YT CEO Markus Flossmann with Kelly McGarry's Rampage frame, ready for the gentle giant to once again do battle in the Utah desert.

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iceman2058 iceman2058 10/8/2015 7:09 AM

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