Glenwood entrepreneur takes on vehicle rack Goliaths
Exercise should be riding your bike, not wrestling with your bike rack.
Eric Sampson had this in mind when he designed the Max bike rack offered by his Glenwood Springs-based company Event Gear.
According to the company’s website, “Event Gear’s goal is to make it easier, simpler and faster to go enjoy the sports you love.”
Sampson is no stranger to the bike industry. His eponymous company, Sampson Sports, has been making bike frames and components for 32 years.
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Event Gear has been going for five years “to make a lot of products that don’t fit the Sampson cycling area,” he said. Event Gear makes or is making “high-end specialty products that have some sort of relationship to the core sports that we’re doing,” he said, i.e., cycling. “It’s better for the new products to have their own identity,” he added.
The Max bike rack has several features that Sampson said set it apart from other racks on the market.
Foremost among these is the weight. The Max weighs less than 20 pounds. Sampson said this makes it very easy to take the rack on and off the vehicle, so people don’t have to “chauffeur their rack around.”
For city dwellers, it also means reducing the chance of rack theft. “The product we’re producing now is very easy to use but is also portable. It’ll go on and off the car in a minute, and you can throw it in the back,” he said.
Despite how light the rack is Sampson said it will carry a bike that weighs up to 60 pounds.
Another thoughtful feature is the Big Dog hitch adapter, which accomplishes two things, he said.
First, it raises the rack a few inches to avoid the inevitable bottoming out that happens with cars that have low clearance.
It also moves the rack away from the car, so the hatch can be opened without hitting the bike, and the rack can be removed from the adapter without having to reach underneath the car.
Wheel trays on the Max have grooves for road bike tires, but are wide enough for fat-bike tires up to 26 by 5 inches. The rear wheel tray is not fixed to the frame, making adjustment for different sized bikes quite simple. And the frame is long enough so that bikes with a wheel base up to 49 inches will be sitting flat on the frame rather than having wheels hanging off the edge.
Another feature is the webbing Sampson opted to use to affix the wheels to the frame, rather than ratchet straps.
He said ratchet straps tend to break, especially with cold weather, and the webbing also easily accommodates large wheels. And it’s easy to replace if need be.
To top it off, Sampson offers an optional workstand with a Park Tool head.
While Sampson has some ideas in mind for the future that he isn’t ready to talk about yet, he expects a rear-mount ski rack to be available next year. Aside from easier access, the rear mount offers less noise and less wind resistance, increasing miles per gallon. The rack holds four to six pairs of skis or four snowboards, Sampson said.
The ski rack can be collapsed when not in use, which “lets you get into garages and have garage doors close behind you,” Sampson said.
While the Max bike rack has no need to tilt because its offset far enough from the car, “The ski rack is a little bit heavier because with skis being so big we wanted the tilt function,” Sampson said.
Sampson does his manufacturing in Taiwan, which helps him rack up frequent flyer miles. He had tried getting the work done in Grand Junction, but, “There were long lead times and high cost, so it didn’t give us any advantage,” he said. All finishing work is done in Colorado, however.
Sampson is planning a Kickstarter campaign that he said “gives us more brand notoriety than revenue.” That is valuable to him, though, as he has found that brand recognition is difficult.
“The rack business is way harder than you’d ever imagine it to be,” he said. “Yakima and Thule dominate the market, so getting market recognition is really tough.”
Nevertheless, Sampson said, “There’s no status involved in a rack” — meaning that, owning a Thule doesn’t impress people, so there’s incentive to purchase a less-expensive product.
Price is $179 for the Max bike rack and $179 for the second bike carrier for a two-bike total of $358. The work stand sells for $249, and the Big Dog hitch adapter is available through preorder for $69.
For more information, visit http://www.event-gear.com.
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