New Software Platform to Solve Compatibility Headaches

Rotorua, NZ

NZ start-up Bike Matrix is preparing to pilot a new software platform aiming to be a go-to reference guide for bike part compatibility.

The online system will enable shop mechanics and consumers to input the make and model of a bicycle and instantly see the array of compatible parts – saving them time and giving them confidence those parts will work reliably with all the other equipment on that bike.

Bike Matrix co-founder Adam Townsend said the system has been designed to sit at the back end of existing online bike sales platforms, solving a key obstacle to online sales conversions – customer confidence they’re buying the right product.

However, the system was also intended as a tool for mechanics in bricks and mortar stores.

“Every bricks and mortar store we’ve spoken to has raised the same challenges: finding alternatives to parts that are out of stock, the frustration of customers having to bring a bike to a store to find out which brake pads they need,” Adam said.

“And they all struggle to find enough informed staff that can advise customers about compatibility without having to interrupt the mechanics.

“Store mechanics have also indicated a desire to pre-plan for that high-end Italian bike coming in for a bottom bracket creak and being able to look it up to check it they have the right in stock or if they need to order one.”

Adam and his two co-founders have been developing the Bike Matrix system since early 2022, inspired by similar platforms in the automotive industry.

“You can hop onto the Supercheap Auto website, put in the rego for your vehicle and it will tell you what parts you need. You can see which oil filter to buy because your rego is linked to a VIN (vehicle identification number),” he said.

“We’re creating the system that allows the bike industry to do that.

“There’s a company in Christchurch called Partly, about three years old, that has created a compatibility database for the automotive industry. It’s brought together a number of existing products to create a global solution for e-commerce in particular and it’s achieving an increase in online sales conversion rates of 30-40%.”

Adam said he had the idea for Bike Matrix will working in customer service for an NZ-based online MTB retailer. He did a case study for the business and worked out a 30% increase in conversion rates for its parts sales would equate to a multi-million-dollar boost in revenue.

A Decade of Bikes

Adam and his team are now building Bike Matrix’s database of bikes and parts, starting with bicycles produced since 2013.

“Before 2013, the bikes and standard to which they were built were simpler. There was less hub width, bottom bracket and headset options. Bike Matrix is largely a response to the growing rate of innovation in the industry,” he said.

“Plus, focusing on the past 10 years is a more realistic goal for what we can put together.

“It will still be in the vicinity of 50,000 bikes initially and we envisage our component database will be in the vicinity of 300,000 to 400,000 products.”

“The goal is Bike Matrix will ultimately become something companies want to keep up to date and add their information to our database. And there’s a certain point where we’ll be interested in having some wiki system where trusted mechanics in the industry can help us upload data for vintage bikes.”

Adam started working on a prototype for the system in July 2022 and, since completing a second version last December, has been working full-time on the project.

Much of his time since then has been spent liaising with bike and part manufacturers, to get their support and access to their product specifications.

That included regular contact with the world’s largest producers of bicycle drivetrains, Shimano and SRAM, who he estimated had around 120,000 products between them.

Adam said their support was crucial for the success of Bike Matrix and both have taken some convincing.

“Compatibility will be determined by what nine out of 10 bike mechanics would recommend.”

Shimano initially expressed concerns about supporting the system and steering consumers towards online sales, at the expense of bricks and mortar stores. However, he said Bike Matrix was able to show the level of support for the system from bike shops and Shimano is now one of many manufacturers that have provided product information for the database.

Discussions with Shimano and SRAM have also addressed how compatibility would be assessed.

“As the big two in terms of drivetrain manufacturing, they obviously design their drivetrains as a complete system, and they’re not particularly interested in anyone else claiming to be compatible with that system,” he said.

“They wanted to have some say in what we determined as compatible with their systems.

“I’ve drawn a line in the sand and said compatibility will be determined by what nine out of 10 bike mechanics would recommend.

“That will be our gold standard. The system needs to be dependable to bike shop mechanics.”

Adam will continue that industry liaison when he attends Eurobike next month, “which should save me about a year of phone calls and sitting behind the computer”.

When he returns home, he’s hoping to begin a trial of the system with an NZ retailer.

“We’ll begin testing with a brake pad finder in July and look to have a complete set of product categories in testing by the end of the year or early 2024,” he said.

His European sojourn in June will also include a visit to Micromobility Europe, to talk to manufacturers of cargo bikes and light electric vehicles.

He has already received enquiries from the manufacturers of scooters and scooter parts, about their inclusion in the database, and Adam is looking at the potential to expand Bike Matrix to the broader micromobility industry.

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