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A New Zealand distributor putting Ridley firmly on the map in its home country has been granted the brand’s agency for Australia.
Auckland-based Rush Velo, owned by former NZ elite men’s road cycling champion Darien Rush, introduced Ridley to NZ in 2019, focusing on the brand’s gravel range initially and gradually introducing his compatriots to the top-end road bikes Ridley has been renowned for over many years.
With an emphasis on friendly and high-responsive service to retailers, Darien and his team have steadily built a strong presence for Ridley among independent dealers throughout the country.
Their success prompted the Belgium Cycling Factory (BCF) – Ridley’s parent company and Belgium’s largest cycling company – to approach Darien last month and ask if he would distribute the brand in Australia as well.
BCF and Ridley’s existing Australian distributor, FE Sports, had parted ways and Darien seized the opportunity to expand across the Tasman.
His company has since launched Rush Velo Australia and opened an office in Sydney, which it is sharing with long-standing industry identity John Sunde, who has been a friend and mentor for Darien throughout his racing and business careers.
Rush Velo’s move into Australia is spearheaded by Ridley’s Noah and Fenix road bikes, the Kanzo range of gravel bikes and its new Grifn all-road bike, which was Eurobike’s ‘2022 gravel bike of the year’ and won its category at the prestigious 2023 Design and Innovation Award.
It then plans to start bringing Ridley’s cyclocross bikes and mountain bike range – which has a focus on hardtails and a CX-orientated dual suspension option – into Australia from 2024.
While Ridley isn’t currently exporting its e-bikes outside Europe, Darien says if that changes, Rush Velo Australia would certainly look at incorporating them into the Australian market.
In the meantime, it will begin bringing in a selection of Ridley garments.
They will sit alongside two other brands in the Rush Velo Australia portfolio: Chrono Shoes – which previously manufactured cycling shoes for two very high-profile brands before opting to take its own brand to the market – and Bioracer Speedwear, which has been the garment provider to the INEOS Grenadier ProTour team since 2022.
Darien last week announced Rush Velo Australia would also start importing BCF’s other prestige bike brand, Eddy Merckx, from later this year.
It coincides with BCF’s impending release of its 2023-24 range of Eddy Merckx gravel and road bikes, along with news BCF is diversifying into other bike categories, with an increased emphasis on e-bikes.
Darien will be in Australia from next week to meet with existing Ridley dealers and other retailers interested in stocking Ridley and Eddy Merckx bikes.
“We will start on the eastern seaboard and will be travelling Australia extensively throughout the year,” he said.
Racing and Repping with the World’s Best
Darien first worked in the industry in the mid-1990s, in the midst of an elite road and track cycling career that included representing NZ at multiple world championships and winning the Oceania Games road race in Tasmania.
“That was how we paid our bills as competitors in those days, working in the industry, and I started with John’s Sports Plus company as a rep for Profile and other major brands,” he said.
Soon after retiring from the sport in 2001, Darien switched to the security industry and established his own company providing domestic and commercial services, including event security for all Rugby World Cup games in Auckland.
Darien was drawn back into the bike industry five years ago, through his three children and their own road cycling careers.
“The brand is also perfectly positioned between being a major brand, with the benefits of scale and R&D, but still niche enough that Ridley bikes stand out in a bunch.”
While touring Europe with his youngest son in 2018, he met with Ridley and signed up to be its distributor in NZ.
“I’d always wanted to return to the industry and we wanted a brand with a lot of credibility and experience,” he said.
“Where better to start than with a brand from Belgium? It’s the heart and soul of bike products in Europe and the mecca of cycling.
“We looked at all the options and the one that stood out was Ridley. Its global market rose significantly during the Covid pandemic, and owner and CEO Jochim Aerts has grand plans to further grow the brand.
“The brand is also perfectly positioned between being a major brand, with the benefits of scale and R&D, but still niche enough that Ridley bikes stand out in a bunch. Their sensational paint jobs help in that regard as well.”
Founded in 1997, Ridley has been a leader in innovation – from the conical headset launched in its Damocles road bike in 2001 and now standard in modern bikes, to the very aero Kenzo Fast which has been branded “the fastest gravel bike on the market”.
Ridley bikes are all assembled and hand painted in Belgium, ensuring the colours and final finish match the level of design and technology invested in each model. However, Ridley bikes are very cost competitive for each of its models.
An Awakening for NZ Riders
“Even though Ridley has been best known in Europe for its road bikes, no one was bringing them into NZ and the brand wasn’t really known at all in this country. So with the gravel scene growing so quickly in NZ, why not focus on gravel and gradually integrate the road models?” Darien said.
“Once we made the decision, everything just fell into place. Every door I knocked on was open and we’re now in 20 dealers around NZ.”
To help raise awareness of the brand, Darien established the RushVelo-Ridley Racing professional road and gravel team, which rode Ridleys to first and second in the elite men’s division of the inaugural NZ gravel national championships.
The team has also claimed NZ’s largest gravel race, the Edition Zero, in 2022 and the King of the Mountain classification at this year’s NZ Cycle Classic UCI road event.
RushVelo-Ridley Racing is now planning a calendar of races in Australia during 2023-24 and has begun looking at recruiting Aussie riders to its ranks.
“Our race team will be a big part of our marketing and branding strategy in road and gravel in Australia,” Darien said.’
“Independent dealers will also be an important part of our Australian strategy, including regional bike shops.”
To find out more about Rush Velo Australia, Ridley or Eddy Merckx bikes, contact Darien at firstname.lastname@example.org or (+64) 274 595 200.