Work less, ride more! The long-term mantra of OneUp Components is also the very same reasoning that led Jon, Sam and Chris to launch their own brand. We decided it was time for a visit to see if the guys are really spending more time putting pedal to metal and find out how things are shaping up in the world of OneUp Components.
When we first visited OneUp Components over four years ago, they were making waves with their conversion chainrings–basically sprockets that let you significantly increase the gear range of your 10 or 11-speed cassette. Back then, we’d pondered over what the guys would do if or when Shimano and SRAM decided to launch groupsets that simply didn’t need an upgrade. That day came. And seeing as most bikes these days come with a 12-speed cassette, we have now got the answer to our question: Jon, Sam and Chris have not given up. They’ve been busy designing products that they think are most needed, including their EDC ‘Everyday Carry’ tool that you can stash in your steerer tube with essential tools through to a massively generous travel-adjustable dropper post and even bars with a nice bit of flex for added comfort and control.
Founding a company by the book
What does OneUp Components have in common with an indie record label? Not much, you’d think––until you happen to flick through Derek Sivers’ book ‘Anything You Want – 40 Lessons for a new kind of entrepreneur.’ As Derek recounts why he created CD Baby, an indie platform for selling music, mainly to sell his own records, you can’t help but notice the parallels to what’s playing out in Jon, Sam and Chris’ lives. Despite it never being his intention, Derek has turned CD Baby into a multi-million-dollar company that serves indie musicians around the world. The success can be traced back to Derek’s predisposition to always put the customer at the centre. As he explains in the book, he worked instinctively without a business plan, focusing on his aims of making customers happy and staying true to his ideals. OneUp, we discovered last time, had a similar vision. They didn’t create the brand to get rich – it was in pursuit of more free time to ride and spend with friends and family. Instead of the daily commute to Vancouver, they wanted to live and work in Squamish.
Growing means being set free
The first time we visited Chris, Sam and Jon, they explained their mandatory every-second-Friday-rule. It’s a no-office day dedicated to riding. We wanted to know if the tradition has stood the test of time as the brand has grown, sales have soared, and responsibility increased multifold. Their answer: yes, largely. They shrug, quick to state that it’s not always easy, and they occasionally have to prize one or another away from a desk. Learning to step away from work is, like for so many people, a work-in-progress. In their earliest years at OneUp – when it was still comfortably considered a start-up – the three engineers had to do their share of everything including running social media, executing marketing campaigns, building up functioning supply chains and organizing logistics. Not the textbook way to launch a brand, it was a demanding, time-intensive period – and in some ways, at odds with the very reason they’d decided to create the brand. They’ve grown significantly since, and now count 13 employees going on 15, with the trio looking to strengthen specific areas where their own expertise is lacking.
(Editor’s note: for potential candidates, there’s a prerequisite that involves being big into your mountain biking.)
Just a quick shuttle …
During our first visit in 2017, Jon, Chris and Sam took us through the catalogue of classic Squamish routes behind their office. We rode trails like Angry Midget, Half Nelson and 19th Hole – and we’d have been stoked to do it again, but they have a different plan today. The bikes are already loaded into two pick-ups on the office yard when we arrive and all that is left to do is align a bent drop-out and drink a quick coffee. The guys are gesticulating wildly about the shuttle run we’re going to do but fail to mention just how intense the subsequent ride is going to be. We’ve only got tiny bike bottles and scarce snacks #trustthelocals
Steep, steeper, Canada
Stamped in glorious ‘Made in Canada’ style, with the best of them! We’re talking surfing down fluffy loamy goodness, slick rock formations that steal your breath and rock rollers that try to steal your life. Such gnarly features when dabbing became the norm, not the exception – unless your name is Jessie or Dennis – two riders in the expanding OneUp Components team, who lived for this sort of riding and had joined us for the day. We’d expected the shuttle to take us up to the ride’s highest point before we’d drop into a descent, but we were taking a more enduro approach, with pedal transitions and techy uphill sections that sapped your energy and asked for full concentration. It dawned on us that this was turning into a Big Day Out, and would need sensible rationing of our fluid intake. Forget any thoughts of only sweating on the climbs – these descents were so gnarly that you were constantly toeing the red-line of exertion.
It was a ride with endorphin levels that were off the hook, and memories of the day have cemented themselves in our mind, whether it’s the stop-you-in-your-tracks views over the sea from the edge of a crazy viewing rock, the tunnel vision that comes from biting your lip in concentration to hit a line on a rock roller, or that refreshing taste of a cool post-ride beer at the A-Frame Brewery when you’d just got your heart rate under check.
We ended the day, like so many other days, with a beer at the brewery, trying to dig deeper into the future of OneUp Components. Where was it going to go next? Was the aim to scale it up and sell it for profit? No way, they said. Jon, Sam and Chris refuted it immediately: the objective at OneUp is exactly the same as the day they signed the contracts: ride a lot, spend time with their families, and do what they like best. Thinking back to Derek Sivers’ experience in the music industry, it sounds like there’s no reason why this shouldn’t work. They’re not developing products to make the biggest profit. It’s pretty selfish, really; they’re doing it so that they have a better time riding. They’re engineering solutions that they want, which in turn help the customers. Sure, their founding product – the extra sprocket – isn’t much use to anyone any more, but the brand is doing better than ever.
‘Work less, ride more!’ is still the guiding principle of OneUp Compoents, but has since taken on an even deeper meaning. If the guys didn’t ride so much, they wouldn’t be half as clued-in to the needs and wants of their customers. Their philosophy is what enables them to seek out and engineer the right solutions. Riding isn’t just a luxury for them – it’s integral to their success. We’re stoked to see where OneUp plans on going in the future and we’ll definitely join for the ride.
Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer