A brief history

Mike (the handsome one, left) and Dave (with the hat) at the Great November Ride in October 2010.“There’s got to be a better way.”   The phrase that’s launched a million ventures launched this one too.  Frustrated by the difficulty in finding frames to supply to his new race team, Mike began learning more than he ever wanted to know about sourcing bicycle parts.  While that was going on, Dave was trying to find the right bike with which his wife could try racing, without going broke.  Whining to each other about our difficulties, we decided to try and be a better solution for people like us.  

Mike May, best known to bike racers in the DC area as the founder and publisher of GamJams.net, began his marketing career in 1995 - more than a decade after he began racing bikes. Professionally he specializes in strategic communications, with much of his experience in digital media. Recreationally he specializes in technical crits and chasing premes. 

Dave Kirkpatrick, best known to bike racers as that jackass screaming “inside” before corners in every crit in the MidAtlantic, has near terminal experience in project and product management in manufacturing, construction and marketing.  A national champion sailor (you think there’s a lot of carbon in bikes, do ya?), he has yet to replicate anywhere near that level of success in cycling.  

The plan

The plan started loosely enough: figure out a way to make buying really good race bike frames not be a pain in the ass or require a second mortgage.  The mainstream cycling press considers $3,000 to be the price point for entry level race bikes.  Are they high?  That kind of coin should get you an entire high level race program – not some dumbed down, porked up, low modulus version of a race frame with mid to low tier components and a throw away pair of wheels.  Instead of throwing our hands up and walking away, we decided to figure out that better way.  

Racers are alpha consumers.  Usually, we’ve done more research into our particular needs than the guy working in the shop (check you out, reading this far down, as proof).  Between team deals, bro deals, eBay, teammates, etc, we’ve come to regard paying retail as a completely unnecessary evil.  It’s the rare shop that doesn’t probably feel a similar disdain when they see a set of shaved legs walk in the door – “aw jeez, here’s another guy who thinks he’s God’s gift to the peloton of life, probably looking for 30% off on something we’ll have to special order.”  If our early relationships with women taught us anything, it’s to know when to cut losses and move on to the next option.  

The first years of carbon composite bike manufacture were years of divergence.  Each manufacturer went away to his corner and had his engineers come up with their best answer to the opportunity.  After a few years of that, what always happens happened; models across brands started to look a lot more similar as what worked became obvious and what didn’t got weeded out.  With the slowdown of technical innovation in frame design and manufacture, the next great innovation is in the supply of those products.  

Having learned way more than we wanted to about how where bikes really come from (no storks were harmed in the making of this company), we sought an entirely unremarkable frame.   We wanted something with proven geometry and high performance but not untested, bleeding edge technology, that would ride great (who doesn’t love riding great bikes – to a huge degree it really IS about the bike), but be entirely devoid of shallow innovations or gimmicks – an entirely reliable, proven frame.  

How we save you (gobs of) money

There’s a lot of stuff that goes into a bike’s price, and a lot of it is totally necessary – engineering costs, manufacturing costs, materials, shipping and some level of profit in order to make actually doing the thing worthwhile.  Then there’s a lot of stuff that adds a lot of cost but doesn’t do you any good – Byzantine distribution arrangements where everyone needs to make a healthy margin, inventory costs, and particularly marketing costs.  

Ads cost money, and sponsorships cost money.  Sure, there are a lot of good stories to be told about how working with the world’s top teams gives you insight and feedback on engineering and blah blah blah, but really what ProTour team sponsorship is all about is paying your couple of million bucks in cash and prizes (all of which roll down hill to you, the lucky consumer) and hoping that the guys on your bikes win lots of pretty jerseys without coming up hot for injecting the blood of distilled goat placentas.  I mean, I like Cannondales, but does anyone really think that Basso wouldn’t have won the 2010 Giro if he’d been riding any one of a hundred other bikes?  

Inventory’s another bit of low hanging fruit in the cost equation.  You don’t really need a bike sitting on the shop floor for 100 days in case you need to buy it.  You either need a bike for next year or you don’t.  If you need it, you order it in the off season, spec it out exactly as you want it, wait a bit for it to come in, and off you go.  If you stack it up during the season, it’d be nice not to have to wait an eternity to get a new frame – if the frame you want to replace is even available as a standalone frame.  

Our racer-specific model

By focusing exclusively on racer’s needs, and arranging our business model to work with the racer’s competitive year, November is able to provide racers with uncompromising racing equipment at a fraction of traditional retail costs.  We don’t need to spend money and increase cost trying to be a bunch of things to a bunch of groups.  All we care about is being the best solution for racers, so we’re able to do it better.