The tipping point
My name is Leo Kokkonen. I’m the founder, major shareholder and President of Pole Bicycle Company. People often address me as a CEO but I’m not. CEO’s handle the daily tasks and lead the working force. We have today promoted our sales director Lauri Hulkkonen as our CEO. Our second biggest shareholder, Patric Wladimirov will continue working for the company but more widely. I feel that this year is our tipping point to our goal, although we have gained very good image previous years. I think that we showed the world that a small company can thrive and be successful with hard work and determination.
Our goal is to make the best bikes
I’m Pole’s innovator, designer and responsible for our strategy. We want to produce the most innovative and best quality bikes in the world. When I started the company in 2013 I got laughed at wanting to produce the worlds best bikes. Maybe I got laughed at because the people can’t see what I see. I saw that cycling industry is very old fashioned and even a little proud of it. It was time for a change. What we did was to question everything in the market. We have pushed the suppliers to work more flexible and better quality. Our biggest innovation will be using CNC machines to produce bikes that have features that would not be possible with any other methods. We have rethought the mountain bike geometry and its kinematics.
Why racing is important
Even though 98% of the riders are not racers, we think that it’s important to push the bikes to the limits. Last week I won my first race in the elite category in Finland. I’m very competitive and that is driving me forward. In June 2018 I will take part in the Trans Madeira race with our production Machine. This is the first time I will be racing a production Machine as I’ve been only riding prototypes before this. I think that our key to success lies in a concept of me as a designer and a rider. In most companies, there are engineers who are not the racers and are focusing to create a bike that the marketing department is willing to market and the salespeople are willing to sell. At Pole Bicycles we only producer bikes that I want to ride. I push the bikes forward and I try to make me faster. It sounds selfish but I think that if I can enjoy our bikes, so can our customers. I started racing fairly late in my age (29) so I needed to catch up fast. My problem was the bike. I felt as a rider and an engineer that I could go faster but I never understood why the bikes are so small and why the pedals need to kick back so much. We made a mule that we used to test everything we wanted and here we are with a bike that makes our customers ride faster because the bike is safer and easier to ride. I think that the reason why our bikes are so successful is that I don’t need to argue with anyone if I want to change something. I can push the bikes to limits that many riders can not and I also can change the 3D designs myself. This is why we are fast.
My GEAR this season
I will ride this summer our Machine and the DH prototype. These are my babies that I have been aiming at my whole career of bikes. The enduro Machine is the trail bike that I will use for all my trail and enduro riding. My goal is to gain knowledge that I will use in the future for the trail / XC bike. What I already know is that the long travel does not make you go slower if the bike is designed right. Also, a pedalable bike does not mean that the suspension needs to be very stiff. It can have subtleness that will make your ride smooth. My goal with the Machine this summer is to find parts that will be put to our limited edition Machine later. I will test numerous shocks and forks on the bike but there are some special parts that I want to point out. My goal is to make another innovation this year and I think we will again find a new concept that will change the world sees the mountain bike again.
We have started to work more closely with Mavic. Mavic will support our racers in EWS (Leigh Johnson) and World cup DH (Isak Leivsson). Mavic has become the underdog in the business after many years of being the leader probably because they refused to follow the markets to wider rims. I’ve been testing multiple rims and wheels after we founded Pole Bicycles and I’ve gone from narrow to wide with tires from 2.3″ to 3″. I’ve been talking to many pro racers about their tire and rim choices. In conclusion, I would say that Mavic has been right. Wide rims with big tires are not very efficient nor safe. What we agreed with Mavic’s engineers is that 30mm internal width rim and tires under 2.6″ is the maximum that we recommend to our customers to use.
So why the big tires and rims are not ideal? It’s a compromise we need to think rather just point out one thing. Big tires are very good at soft surfaces and that’s it. They are nice when you go slow but when the track starts to go steeper the front tire will give you troubles as it alters the trail figure too much. Also, your ride will get more bouncy. People often talk about low air pressure in tires will make your ride better and with bigger air volume in tires, you won’t get rim contact. This is incorrect because you need to have at least some kind of pressure so that the tire won’t collapse in turns. Then people say that you need wider rims to prevent the tires on folding. This is a path that will lead to huge rims that are too heavy or very weak and paper thin tires that are too weak to take a rock. With this concept, we are going to a direction that serves best for only going slower and slower. What I think is that we need a bike that is easy to ride in all situations, fast and slow. We have started to tackle this issue from another perspective that we think is the most important one and its balance. When you have a good balance on your bike, it’s easy to ride. I rather use heavier tires that are more puncture-repellent and not bouncy. Also, he heavier side-walled tire makes the suspension work better and a narrower rim is stronger and lighter than a wide one.
WTB is a company that does not have its own factories and they work cleverly with multiple factories. I’ve been using their Vigilante tires for several years and I think that they have a good balance in weight, grip and rolling. I use Vigilantes in front and back because. In front, I have a TCS fast rolling light and in rear, I have TCS fast rolling Tough. In wet conditions, I like to use their high grip versions. A Tough Vigilante weight roughly 1kg and the light version is ~800g. I used this set in Finnish Enduro race for the win when other racers went light tires. Finnish enduro is very pedaly. Our stages are roughly two minutes and you need to go all out. Sometimes I think that racing in Finland is tougher than in big mountains because you need to go all out on every stage. Still, I think that a fast rolling and a tough tire will give the best result even it’s a little bit heavier.
I encountered Trickstuff guys at Riva Del Garda festival when they came to our booth. When they came to our booth and they showed me their brakes I thought that “here we go again with a propel-head idea that never works”. The reason I was very dubious was that the brakes are tiny, they use some weird organic brake fluid and they are very expensive compared to the market. This formula hardly never works but as I know sometimes the best ideas are weird. I’ve been riding a lot of different brakes and I thought that bigger is better. Trickstuff guys explained to me that if you increase the braking forces, you need to increase the caliper size at the same time and this will lead altogether worse weight to power ratio and probably the brakes won’t last that long. I asked them for test samples what I tested the same day and I was blown away how the brakes performed. I’m totally in with their ideas and I think that these brakes are worth the price. The modulation is great, the power is great and the CNC-machined parts are just so lovely.
Pole Chain Mail Jersey
Our new jersey that is very durable is my choice for all weathers. I’ve been testing the shirt for a while now and I find the Cutlon polyethylene slash-proof material very good. Our jersey is combined with Coolmax that is 99% velcro proof. The combination is well fitting, cool and protects you from the elements. The black option of the jersey is meant to be ridden in muddy conditions and the blue and white are for sunny and warm conditions. The white Cutlon material will cool you down but the black version of it is hot as you probably already know that black will get hot.
As an inventor of Huck Norris I ride the latest stuff. At the moment I’m riding a prototype Huck Norris that will be better quality than the first batches we make. I’m working on a concept that will make the suspension work better and make the tires and rims last longer. We have seen a lot of competition entering to the market but we know that our tire insert is the best. Our system is lighter, easier to install, better protection and affordable. In the future, we will have even more features from the riders to choose from.
Special thanks to JK-Shop and POC
JK-Shops Jouni Liljander has been supporting me for eight years now with POC. I chose POC to my protection as I know they think likewise I do about product development. POC is always aiming to the best performance. The new Coron Air -helmet and the System Knee pads are perfect combination for me. POC’s goggles are very high end with minimum fogging effect and the Race Day gloves are thin as you could think a glove could be. POC’s riding gear is very durable and high quality.
Here are the complete part lists:
|Fork||Rock Shox||Lyrik RC2 180mm 42mm offset|
|Shock||Rock Shox||Super Deluxe L1/H 0 tokens (140psi o rebound 0 compression)|
|Wheels||Mavic||Deemax Pro 29″ (preproduction)|
|Tire Front||WTB||Vigilante 2.3 29″ TCS Fast Rolling Light|
|Tire Rear||WTB||Vigilante 2.3 29″ TCS Fast Rolling Tough|
|Handlebar||Syntace||VECTOR 7075 HIGH20 (760mm)|
|Stem||Newmen||EVOLUTION SL 318.2 (40mm)|
|Grips||Lizardskins||DANNY MACASKILL LOCK-ON GRIP|
Machine 200 (L+)
|Shock||FOX||DHX2 Factory (45lbs/IN)|
|Wheels||NEWMEN||Deemax Pro 29″ (preproduction)|
|Tire Front||MAXXIS||AssAGAI 2,5 3C|
|Tire Rear||MAXXIS||AssAGAI 2,5 3C|
|Stem||Race Face||Atlas Direct Mount|
|Grips||Lizardskins||DANNY MACASKILL LOCK-ON GRIP|
I hope very happy season for all mountain bikers out there. You can come to say hello any time you see me. I’m happy talk to everybody who wants to have a chat 🙂