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Ventum. We talk to the founders, Omar and Diaa Nour about making cutting-edge bikes, offering customers a 360 experience and plans to join the Tour.With cycling enjoying its biggest rise in participation in decades, bike brands are looking to capitilise on the boom. But not all companies are built for success like
What’s Ventum’s long term goal?
Diaa Nour: The simplest answer is that we want to become one of the most prominent cycling brands in the world. How does that happen? Well, as well as manufacturing some of the best performance bikes in the world, we’re looking to change the customer experience. We believe that when you buy a premium product, you should get a premium experience. On a grassroots level, we’re also focused on introducing more people to our sport – especially youth. And at the other end of the pyramid – we’ve got our eyes set on a World Tour team.
What's the Ventum difference to others in the market?
Omar Nour: A whole lot. Our bikes, whether road, triathlon or gravel, speak for themselves. Our road bike, the NS1, is the first ever lightweight aero road bike to hit the market. The Ventum One, our flagship triathlon bike, beats out the competition over an Ironman race by 18 minutes. And I’m sure that our newly released GS1 gravel bike will shatter records in no time. These bikes are absolute speed demons and everything about them, from the ground up, is designed and manufactured for performance. But Ventum is much more than performance – we’re all about the experience. We think that if you believe in your product as much as we do and know it to be faster, you shouldn't just depict the advantages through specs and wind tunnel results while your bikes stand static in a showroom. To understand the Ventum "rush", you need to get on one of our bikes and go fast. Based on that concept, we have developed a "first of its kind" demo program in the Middle East. You can book a demo bike on our website. You’re greeted by our Ventum expert, who rides and gives you more details on our machines. And, of course, encouraging the rider to push our bikes to the max.
In this day and age, everything is moving to the digital space so our goal is to cut costs by going directly to the consumer and passing on the savings to our customers. That is why you will find that the price of a Ventum in the Middle East is on par with the US. If you were to purchase a bike in the US and ship it over to the Middle East, it would actually end up costing more than buying it directly here. We are trying to end the days of having to hunt for deals overseas, or waiting for the Christmas holidays to make the major purchase of buying a bike. Our bikes are only available to be configured and customised directly on our website. They are prepared by Ventum mechanics and are quickly white-glove delivered to their new owners. Not to mention, our bikes all include a complimentary fit and a three-week service, which isn’t the norm in our industry. We’re even shaking up the maintenance and servicing experience. No longer do customers have to carve time out of their already busy schedules and haul their bikes to the local bike shop only to find out that their bike won't be serviced for a week or two. Ventum owners simply book service on our website and our team comes to them to perform the service, or pick up and drop off their bike. We also have a custom paint service so you can have a one-of-a-kind work of art, a payment plan so that you can spread your purchase over multiple months, and a lifetime warranty on all of our frames. The idea is to break the standard of what consumers are expecting and provide unmatched, easily-attainable premium experiences.
How do you rate the Middle East’s cycling scene? What challenges and opportunities does the region offer?
ON: The Middle East is at an extremely exciting stage in its development of cycling and endurance sports. I moved to the UAE in 2013 and used it as a training base while I raced as a professional triathlete on the ITU’s Olympic triathlon circuit. When I first moved here, I was often the only guy out on the bike track – now athletes have to arrive before 6am just to get a parking spot. The growth of triathlon and cycling in the region over the last seven years is amazing – and there are many people who have played and continue to play pivotal roles in building that community. Couple that with the government’s commitment to developing cycling – hosting a UCI World Tour event, an ITU World Triathlon Series event and an Ironman, getting a Tour De France winning cycling team, developing world-class bike tracks and community events – and you have a truly incredible cycling scene on a global level. Like many places in the world, the COVID lockdowns have also significantly accelerated and increased the number of first-time cyclists. I believe there is a huge opportunity to introduce the sport that we love so much to many new adopters and that is always exciting. Since my retirement from professional triathlon in 2016, I hadn’t cycled much until a few months ago. I was shocked at the sheer increase in the number of people cycling but I also noticed another surprising twist: the introduction of indoor trainers and technologies that allow cyclists to train in the "virtual" world. Although there are many great things attached to this phenomenon, there are also challenges. These online platforms have made many new adopters of cycling extremely fit without developing the associated bike handling skill sets. This translates into what I am seeing out on the roads: there are a lot of people out cycling without ever having been taught how to handle a bike or explained the do’s and don'ts of public/group riding. Back in my day, the only way to get faster was to ride more, mostly outdoors, so you built up your skills at the same time as your fitness. If you are hanging with the front of a fast pack, that would mean you have some of the basic etiquette and skills to be in the front pack. That is no longer the case. At Ventum, we believe that cycling is for everyone and we work hard at creating an inclusive, friendly culture. That is why we see an opportunity to run clinics and rides where we can share our passion of cycling and transfer our knowledge to improve the enjoyment and performance of all level cyclists and triathletes.
Talk us through the process of creating your very first bike? What highs and lows did you experience along the way?
DN: Creating a bike from scratch is much more complicated than what meets the eye. It's hard to believe that something without an engine can be so laborious and complicated. Having said that, it’s one of the most exciting I’ve ever been a part of – every time my team develops a new product, I’m blown away by the innovation, attention to detail and sheer passion behind it. We start with computer models to determine the most aerodynamic shapes possible for a bicycle (CFD). After months of modeling, we move to 3D printing the bike to test its integration and compatibility. We then take the 3D printed model to the wind tunnel to see how it performs in practical situations. It’s important to note that, unlike most other bicycle companies, we test our bikes in what we call a ‘race trim’ setup – that means the bike is tested with a rider and two hydration bottles on-board. After all – it really doesn’t matter how fast and aerodynamic your bike is without those elements. It’s all about practical speed – creating bikes that make you fast in races, not just in theory. Fun fact to back that up – the Ventum one is the only bike in the world that is faster with hydration on it than without. We’ll make many more changes and improvements during the wind tunnel phase. Our flagship bike, the Ventum One, went through eleven iterations in the wind tunnel alone before it was released. Once we have proven the aerodynamics, we then turn to the structural necessities to balance strength and weight by determining the correct carbon fiber layout. Of course, throughout this process, our design teams come up with the latest and greatest visual elements for the bikes and associated accessories including custom paint options. Seeing all these different pieces come together is more rewarding than anything I can think of.
What lessons - either business or life - have you learned since starting Ventum?
DN: Believe in yourself. I know this might sound a little corny but it's true. Humans are resistant to change - when we disrupted the industry with the Ventum One, with its completely unique frame, we had a lot of doubters/resistance. I remember trawling through negative comments on Slowtwitch late into the night, after months and months of sacrifice to bring that product to market. I had to develop a thick skin very quickly and truly believe that we were on the right path just to keep going. Sure enough, most of those doubters are riding Ventum’s today…and yes, that feels good. Had I succumbed to the initial pressure and doubt, Ventum would not exist today... and I would have had a lot more sleep over the last few years. In all seriousness though – believe in yourself.
ON: Don't ever let naysayers dictate your actions. One of my favourite quotes is "The difference between a genius and an idiot is in the outcome". If you’re trying to shake things up, you have to do things differently from everyone else… or else you will end up with the same outcome as everyone else.
When you step out of that groove of comfort, it not only feels strange to yourself but your actions become an easy target for others to point out as "different" and "different" scares people. If your actions yield a positive outcome, you are a "genius". If these very same actions yield a negative result, you are an "idiot" for having stepped out of the norm. Starting a bicycle company in a saturated market and going against billion-dollar entities might not seem like a "wise" thing to do, but based on our success thus far, we are carving ourselves a beautiful segment of the market that cares not only about excellence in quality but also experience. We are ushering in a new era for cycling with the conveniences of the digital sphere merge with a tailored, comfortable and personal customer service experience. This reinforces my belief that you should make your own decisions, forge your own path, set your own goals, no matter how ludicrous they may seem, and pursue them ferociously until you make them reality and become a “genius".
How difficult is to deal with UCI rules and regulations when creating bikes?
DN: It certainly impacts creativity. That being said, the UCI has been relaxing the rules more and more every year. It also forced us to achieve innovation on the manufacturing side to differentiate ourselves from the competition on the road side (NS1). The Ventum NS1 combines forward-thinking design with the most advanced technologies available, like carbon nanotubes and graphene. The NS1 is a disc brake performance road bike with clearance for tires up to 30mm wide. The athlete gets to choose every spec on the bike which is an industry-first.
Finally, when do you think we’ll see Ventum bikes as part of the Grand Tour?
DN: The million-dollar question. Our goal is 2022 or 2023 and honestly, I can’t wait for the world of cycling to see what we can do on that global stage.
END OF INTERVIEW