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Having recently opened their doors for the first time stateside, COMMENCAL USA is now up and running at full steam in their new facilities located in Carlsbad, California. Since they're now so close to Vital HQ, we took the opportunity to make the quick trip out to their new office to get the tour, chat with Kyle Strait and pick Max Commencal's brain regarding their motivations behind the new North American HQ.

With an aggressive, yet almost grassroots-like approach to spreading their brand presence, expect to see COMMENCAL USA at local races such as the Fontana Winter Series and possibly at your local bike shop this spring during their U.S. demo tour.

Stay tuned for the full interview with Kyle Strait, dropping soon.

Nestled away in a small business // warehouse district in Carlsbad, CA is the new COMMENCAL USA HQ. They guys were adamant, if you're in the area and want to drop by and demo a bike, just come in and say hi.

Vital: How long has COMMENCAL had a U.S. office?

Max Commencal: We founded and opened the showroom and warehouse in October 2014 and the first bikes started arriving in the U.S. in November. We were immediately able to deliver the first bikes that were already pre-ordered. The demand was immediately strong which was really great to see.

Vital: What was the motivation behind opening the COMMENCAL USA office?

MC: To survive, a brand has to be international. For many years, it has been possible to run a brand purely within a domestic market but that’s no longer the case today. It’s been three years now since we completely changed our European distribution system (with success), and we have chosen to sell our bikes directly online, without having to depend on the middleman. It was therefore logical and consistent to opt for this same distribution system on the American continent. Since we were receiving more and more orders from the U.S., delivery from Europe was not a sustainable solution. It’s for that reason that we have chosen to set up shop here.

Although we’re European, we have the same vision and mentality as the American and Canadian MTB community. Our bikes are playful, fun, solid, and powerful and we have an American market who have appreciated this for a long time.

Conveniently located only 40 minutes from his house, Kyle Strait happened to drop by to build up his new 2016 Supreme DH V4 while we were there.

Vital: COMMENCAL was distributed by BTI in 2009 or 2010 which didn't necessarily go to plan. Is there something you guys are planning on doing differently with the addition of the U.S. office?

MC: Distribution via distributors and re-sellers is a formula that is out of date. All margins that were taken by the various intermediaries are no longer accepted by the end user. We worked very well with BTI, which is a friendly and professional company, but the numbers were falling and if the quality of the bikes was never in question, it was the prices and margins that were problematic. The logic was obvious and we have therefore chosen, as in Europe, to sell and deliver directly from our online platform.

The showroom floor displaying close to COMMENCAL's full range of bikes, from kids bikes to DH rigs.

Vital: Does COMMENCAL have any specific interest in developing more U.S. // SoCal talent?

MC: As you know, we are based in Andorra. We are stationed at 4,500ft and in winter we have snow. This led us to find somewhere in the U.S. where the climate is more ‘rideable’ all year so that our teams could profit from the new premises, too. So naturally, that led us to Southern California.

We like to have a presence and to be involved in the local structure and be instrumental in local activities and organizations, like we were in Andorra for the MTB World Championships in 2015. If we can help emerging local talent blossom then we will not miss this opportunity.

The first rider to have profited from this connection is Kyle Strait. It’s with great pleasure that we have struck up this relationship with him for his riding and also for his input into new models. Nate Renner (son of FMX star, Ronnie Renner) has recently joined us for 2016. It’s just the beginning!

Kyle putting the finishing touches on his new big-rig.

Vital: What's the advantage of having a U.S. // SoCal office?

MC: If you have a strong will to have a presence in a certain country, it is paramount that you have an office and stock in that place, too. Whether it’s to contribute to providing information, customer service and/or fast delivery, it is necessary to have a competent team and direct everything from one hub, on-site. Also, as the bikes are assembled in Taiwan, if they are delivered directly to the US warehouse, it cuts down transportation and customs charges and considerably reduces delivery time. From now on there’s no need for the bikes to go through Europe en route to the U.S.

Vital: What's the overall function of the U.S. office? Do you guys have a warehouse and stock of frames and warranty parts?

MC: Yes, we have an office, staff and stock in California. The aim is to provide our clients with the same service that we do in Europe. Whether it be for questions of warranty, parts, advice, the idea is that we are on-hand to deal with anything. Note also that customers love having direct contact with the brand, people who know the range the best, the different models and who have the ability to pass on their knowledge. By this type of distribution and this direct contact, we are much better placed to deal with clients, which is very positive.

In Carlsbad, we can welcome not only clients but also suppliers, race and event organizers and journalists (*laughs*) because we manage U.S. content and communication through this office, too.

Fully stocked warehouse full of 2016 bikes and a cache of warranty parts and soft goods.

Vital: How long has COMMENCAL been direct to the consumer and what are the main advantages of this business model?

MC: We successfully started in 2012 with online sales. There are only advantages to this type of distribution:

  • First, the price! Cutting out the middlemen means we can sell the bikes at a great price without compromising quality.
  • We can deliver anywhere. If a client cannot get to a collection point then it is still possible to get a bike to them.
  • We are close to our customers. For them, talking directly to the brand provides the best advice and the best service.

Vital: For someone who owns a COMMENCAL here in the U.S., do you handle all the warranty claims or should they contact the international HQ?

MC: In Europe we have had the parts for all of our bikes since the birth of the brand. If a customer in the U.S. needs a part which is in stock in Europe, we send it from Europe. It’s simple. Since it is the same company just with two different storage locations, it’s easy to get delivered whatever is needed. That said, we do have a U.S. stock of everything for newer models.

Be on the lookout for the COMMENCAL USA demo trailer at races like the Fontana Winter Series and around the country when they embark on their US demo tour later this spring.

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