Over the course of the last year, I began seeing a certain bike out on the road that I had never seen before. A sleek and elegant road model called Franco. I had never heard of this brand, but I couldn’t escape it – everywhere I rode, there it was, with increasing regularity. Beyond the fact that it had killer looks, I didn’t give it much thought until one day when I was having my bike serviced at Win’s Wheels out in Westlake Village and noticed that Franco had just moved their HQ from Camarillo to just across Win’s parking lot.
I had heard good things about this new local bike company from some friends, including Ryan Correia, and decided to check them out. So a couple months ago, my buddy Stu Bone and I just dropped into Franco while out riding. From the outside, you would never know that inside this nondescript office park building was a plush workspace, complete with bike gallery and a fully outfitted Retul bike fit studio — the state-of-the-art motion 3D capture bike fit system.
I thought Stu and I would take a few brief moments to check out the bikes and be back on our way. But we ended up hanging out with the two partners (and cousins) Julian Franco and Hector Rodriguez for almost two hours, chatting about bikes, the bike industry and what Franco is all about. I was impressed with the bikes for sure — Julian and Hector know their stuff. Their flagship carbon roadbike — the Balcom — is the product of their own proprietary engineering, not some stock mold. And even a quick test ride confirmed the caliber of the product – very light, stiff in all the right places, and highly responsive; all without sacrificing comfort. Interesting…
But I was equally impressed by these two guys, who had the audacity to try to start a high end bike company in what everyone knows is a ridiculously competitive market.
How can you possibly expect to compete against companies like Specialized and Trek — with all their millions to spend on R&D, marketing and distribution when the product you offer is comparable in both quality and price?
Their response? Customer service. When you order a Franco, everything – and I mean everything — is custom. You choose your paint scheme, from base color to details. Integrated seat post or standard? No problem. And each bike is built from the ground up according to each customer’s specific requests regarding all components, from drivetrain to saddle to stem and handlebars. So rather than buy a bike off the shelf and spend hundreds to upgrade the components to your liking (running costs up considerably), you get the bike exactly the way you want it, soup to nuts.
Not enough? Well every customer is also given a free Retul fit with their bike purchase. Julian personally fits every customer to their bike using the highly regarded Retul fit system.
How many cyclists can say that they have a personal relationship with the owners of the company that built your bike? Well if you’re a Schleck or a Cancellara, then never mind. But if you’re like me, probably not. Just one of many aspects of Franco Bikes that sets them apart from any bike company I’ve ever come across.
Over the winter, I began to look for a bike sponsor. Even though I have had some success, its not like I’m winning Ironman or riding in the pro peloton, so most bike companies lacked interest. Others were interested, but I had to pester them for attention and follow through, which is not me. And a few – big bike companies mind you – actually wanted to sponsor me. It would not have been that difficult to get a company to send me a bike or two. No problemo. But that would be it. I’d get a nice bike, put the company name on my kit, throw a few tweets out and be done with it. But I wouldn’t have a relationship. Just a bike. And I wanted a relationship – a real relationship.
Julian, Hector and I got to talking about how we could mutually benefit from working together. They dug what I was doing and were excited about doing something with me. And I liked the idea of getting into business with a local startup. Together we could really support each other and grow together. The investment would be equal on both sides of the equation. So I’m proud to formally announce Franco Bikes as my official bike sponsor for 2011. WIth Julian, Hector and Franco I know I have two guys and some great bikes behind me, available and 100% committed to my success. And the feeling is mutual. I am committed to helping them by bringing awareness to this new company and their great product and service.
Today I took delivery on my new Balcom road bike. As you can see from the photos, I have a ridiculously cool custom paint job that makes my bike truly a one of a kind, built exactly the way I wanted it. It even has my name on it – how awesome is that? Pretty awesome. But the important thing I want to convey? You too can get a one of a kind bike and the best fit and customer service I have experienced as a cyclist.
Check out the photos and tell me if my ride isn’t SICK.
Or just give them a call at 818.865.8226. More likely than not, Julian or Hector will actually pick up the phone themselves.
For the triathletes, they are just now unveiling their new TT bike — I’ve seen it and it does not disappoint. And they will be launching a new and far more robust version of their website soon – within the next 6-8 weeks as I understand it — which will offer copious additional information for the internet consumer.
Tomorrow I take my new Balcom out for its virgin voyage. I’ll be back with a full report.
Thanks Julian and Hector – its a privilege to represent your brand.