When I started Porcelain Rocket in 2009, I never imagined today. I never imagined that this hobby would quickly become a business, and in only seven years, that this business would be one of the most recognizable brands in a fledgling niche industry.
Times have changed our little industry. No longer fledgling and grassroots, "bikepacking" is a real thing. Entire websites are dedicated to routes, gear, and the purpose-built bikes that make it all happen. There are several small handmade brands producing high quality gear and products to be proud of. Larger brands, that we all recognize as leaders in the bicycle touring industry, now compete for a share, and major bike brands have taken notice and are embracing bikepacking as a lucrative trend.
Despite all of this, demand remains extraordinarily high for what Porcelain Rocket makes. It's flattering, it's humbling, and it's reassuring. To know that the efforts we go to, in order to produce the best, do not go unnoticed or unappreciated. With demand comes the lure of growth; to hire more people, expand or move our workshop, to acquire more machines, and to produce more. This is, however, not my desired path. I'd much rather stay a small shop, employ one or two people whom I trust dearly, and produce insanely good gear. I'll be the first to admit that I'm a much better maker than I am a manager, and if Porcelain Rocket were to grow, it would mean much more of my time spent administrating, rather than making. I hope to never get to a point where I simply do not have time to leave the shop for a month's bike tour. That is not what sparked the business, and it will never be part of the mission statement.
In order to satisfy this overwhelming demand, we have experimented in outsourcing with a few partner shops in the USA, and while the result product has been widely acceptable, the experience of this process felt wrong. I want my hands (or those of my assistants) to be a part of each piece that leaves our shop, and outsourcing eliminates our hands from the equation almost entirely. The gear simply becomes an object that bears a familiar logo.
Now, more than ever, innovation is what drives Porcelain Rocket. In the line-up of gear, that we have built to date, you'll find many original and innovative designs. Many aspects of these unique designs have now become recognized as standards on which our industry relies. Design, innovation and making are our core values. We will never be a copy-and-paste.
Over the years, we have also collaborated with many notable builders, makers and designers around the bicycle industry. From small frame builders like Rick Hunter, MOOTS, Soulcraft, Bruce Gordon, to small boutique bike shops and distributors like Monkey Wrench Cycles and Sim-Works Japan, and industry pioneers like Wilderness Trail Bikes. Collaboration allows us to be creative with, and to realize, the ideas of others, and to produce gear that we might not otherwise have built. These partnerships are important, as they perpetually challenge our notions of how travelling by bicycle can look. I sincerely hope these collaborations never cease to come across my inbox and our work tables.
Right. So, what does this all mean? With the launch of our updated website, we will be drastically reducing the number of products we offer. We will no longer offer custom gear. As much as it might sadden the many folks who have come to know us as a go-to shop for custom gear, my aim with this shift is to seriously focus on the pieces that we have innovated, that we build extraordinarily well, and that we have become known for. This will allow us to spend our time more efficiently, and to deliver on producing the gear that people want, and ask for, the most. We will also no longer use the rolling queue style for orders. We will build in batches, and they will be available on the webstore until the batch is gone. No more waiting...
In the end, this is all about making it work for everyone. You've made it clear what you want from us, and we aim to make that happen, but in a manner that's easier and less frustrating for all. I can promise that, no matter what, we will continue to re-imagine bicycle touring gear setups, and when the time is right, you will find them here.
Thank you, as always, for the overwhelming support. I cannot begin to express my appreciation.