Last month I did an interview with RIDE UK about Éclat’s new range of parts including the Jaw rim, Nathans plastic pegs/stem and the strain forks (due for release 2014). I also talked a little about Éclat’s design process and how we approach things.
Here is the full length interview and photos. Questions by Richard Rowlands.
Most people already full know what Éclat is about as a brand but let us know some history first and why the brand was started?
Éclat was kind of officially started in 2008, and as many of you might know, the same owners started it as wethepeople. One of the reasons for starting Éclat was that Harry (the boss) has all these ideas for parts etc. that needed to be brought to light in the right way. A parts company needed to be created in order for all these designs and ideas to sit within a company dedicated to BMX parts only. People always have a generalization of a brand, like you wouldn’t think about buying a hat from Rolex but they might or could make them. It’s the watches you want to buy, not that I do, I’ve got a Casio and its bang on.
Originally I remember Mike Birch who used to do the Attila stuff was helping design the products, who is at the design helm now? Who has done work for you guys before?
Harry does so much, which maybe explains why he never sleeps, however we have Andy Chenny in the U.K on the freelance team and Rich Shaw in the office in Cologne, who is also English. Mike Birch was English too, maybe there’s a link somewhere. We also have Jimmy in Taiwan, he’s really important to us because not only is he into BMX, he’s also a native and that helps when we need to keep the product developing side moving forward, he basically helps to get shit done over there.
What do you think inspires Éclat to be different? Many companies are cool to just get stuff out there on an ASAP basis, perhaps limiting the quality of their product.
We’ve talked for hours about how we want to further grow éclat, and it’s not always about being different or standing out from everyone else. Its more about creating products that are going to feel great on your bike, look good and hopefully last a bunch of drops and gaps. If you remember back to the late 90’s you can remember how terrible bikes were then, forks bents every other day and everything just felt terrible. No one complained though, because you didn’t know any different right? We try to kind of look into the future and help to predict how bike riding will evolve and at the same time keep it simple and most importantly – designed well. Remember ‘Honey I blew Up The Kid’? Wayne Szalinski had some pretty amazing inventions but he knew sweet fuck all about design or ergonomic function, I think éclat is trying to blend the ideas of function and design with innovation and progression.
So there’s a large emphasis on design at Éclat right? Is it this stringent at the manufacturing stage?
Of course it is and we take the approach that design doesn’t have to stop at any point, like it should go on throughout every step until the product is on the shelf. A friend asked me the other day about the CNC machining on the inside of the new vent sprocket, how clean it looked but that it was also really hard to see and that probably no one will ever see it or appreciate it. I guess that’s just obsessive design. Fuck it, I love it.
Éclat has never been shy to push the boundaries or try new things, mostly with great success. The Jaw rims are certainly a fresh idea, can you tell us about these?
Yeah the jaw rims were originally an idea that none of us knew would take off or even get used. The idea behind them is that if a spoke breaks you can just remove the spoke from the side of the rim, instead of going through the process of taking your tire off and putting another spoke back in. It’s a time saving wheel, however if you ride brakes then you don’t want a pair as the side walls aren’t parallel to the brake pads and there’s holes all the way round so you’ll end up with tattered brake pads haha. We had IZ testing them for a while and a few other riders, it’s a simple idea and it works well.
“We take the approach that design doesn’t have to stop at any point, like it should go on throughout every step until the product is on the shelf”
The new Strain forks and Nathan Williams signature injection moulded plastic pegs are now on the shelves, again with a new design slant. Can you talk us through these?
Well with the pegs, we didn’t want to suddenly re-invent the plastic peg, but we knew that it could be done in a way that would eliminate the whole replaceable sleeve thing and hopefully make for a better riding experience. The idea was that by using a heat-treated crmo peg we could get a smaller diameter peg (than you could with alloy), and then inject a surrounding layer of molded nylon/fiberglass. We designed it so that the plastic flows through small holes in the steel peg so that it really binds to the peg. This way, even when you grind through to the steel, the plastic doesn’t fall apart and you can rotate the peg and keep riding it.
The Strain fork came about through a long relationship with one of our manufacturers. They had been experimenting with hydro-forming steel, and we had been looking for a way to remove the welds (the weakest area) on a fork dropout. By hydroforming the blade of the fork in to the dropout as one piece, you get a fork that’s both incredibly strong, but also very light, we’re really excited about this thing! However you’ll have to wait, as it’s not out yet.
The three stems you guy’s produce; the Boxer, Sean Burns signature and the Hannibal are all quite simplistic, almost timeless in their design. You chose this approach on a product, which has been literally butchered by many in recent years, for better, and worse, some almost trying to find the new industry standard. You guys have kept this area to a minimum, why is that?
Stems are one product where you can go pretty wild with the design, and if you wanted to you could just keep on chopping them up, for us we want a balance between looking sweet and doing its job. The good thing is if it’s done in the right way the alloy is strong enough to take it, but aesthetically it can look a bit weird. For us it’s about timeless and simplistic design approaches that work best for riders, but you’ve got to get every detail right to make it work and then look for clever ways to remove weight. If you look at the deep sinks on the underside of the Hannibal stem, they are cleverly hidden when you’re riding but also save a good chunk of weight.
In some respects Éclat are better known for their team and the solid marketing you do with them. Going forward, would you like to see more kids with the same appreciation for the craftsmanship in your products, as they do with your web edits?
Going forward I’d like to see more kids have more appreciation for ALL the brands out there, everyone works hard to create parts or bikes and we all stress out and burst blood vessels so that kids can have a better experience riding bikes basically. I think it’s important that every brand gets that recognition especially as the BMX industry isn’t as big as some people would believe. As for appreciating the craftsmanship of éclat, if you like it then thanks so much, if you don’t then don’t sweat it, its just BMX stuff.
(TM Paul Robinson testing the new parts out below (testing is a term I use loosely)