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Built to Order

Roll reinvents the perfect ride

Imagine buying a car that just didn’t fit—one that was cumbersome and uncomfortable to drive and didn’t even come in the color you wanted.

That’s precisely the challenge many riders find in choosing the right bike. And that’s what prompted Stuart Hunter, the founder of Columbus-based bike shop Roll, to design a better bicycle from the ground up.

Roll Bicycle Company’s innovative modular design gives customers anywhere the ability to create a custom bike from three base configurations specially assembled for the right balance of flexibility and performance. Delivered to Kickstarter supporters late last year, the bikes are now available for anyone to order.

One of the most memorable parts of buying a bike in your stores is the Fit system. Standing in that giant plastic portal getting scanned provides detailed data on how to adjust each bike for the individual. (For those who haven’t, it’s sort of a Star Trek experience.) How do you accomplish the same precision with online bike orders?

It’s always been my belief that the correct fit is fundamental. If the bike doesn’t fit, you aren’t going to be comfortable, and you aren’t going to ride. As a bike company, ensuring customers could get the right fit was non-negotiable.

That’s why we took the Perfect Fit system we use in our stores and distilled it down to three simple measurements. Customers enter them on the website, and we can select the right size frame and adjust the contact points like saddle height, setback, and handlebars. By doing that, I think we were able to reduce the fear of buying bikes online, and in general. We wanted to remove the barriers that keep people from riding. As a designer, the bike’s function and appearance are extremely important to me. A great ride and a comfortable ride are the cost of entry. It’s so engrained in our business. But the bikes have to look great. They have to make you want to ride.

How did servicing bicycles from other manufacturers affect the design of your own bike? Did you decide, “These are all of the things our bike must have”—or did you do it in reverse order, “Let’s take these problems away, and what we’re left with is a better bicycle”?

The question really started with the customer, not the bike. We’ve been in business 10 years now, every day talking with customers. That’s where the insights came from to launch the bike company. One of the comments we hear constantly is, “I love it, but is it available in any other color?” The answer is typically no, but their expectations are shaped by experiences where personalization is the norm. I wanted that same ability to customize, and I just couldn’t find what I was looking for either. I couldn’t find my everyday bike that I could ride, have pride in, and have fun with—so we decided to build our own.

RollBikes3

Now that Roll is making its own bikes, in addition to selling those from other vendors, will you every move beyond online and in-store sales? If I owned a bike shop in another market, would I be able to buy Roll bicycles to sell to my customers as well?

We are focused on creating a complete customer experience. Obviously, there’s a connection between the stores and the bicycle company. But I often describe them as two kids with the same parents —they have the same values and ideals, but they are different businesses. The traditional bike store is disappearing. I don’t believe it’s going away entirely, so the question becomes “How does it serve its community of riders?” The way people shop and interact with brands is evolving. Our challenge is to make sure we are best serving the rider wherever and whenever they want to engage with us—whether that’s online or in-store, at home or in the community.

Bike-friendly neighborhoods are increasingly in demand for businesses and homebuyers. But most American cities and towns revolve around automobiles for access. Why was Columbus the right place to launch Roll bike shops, and Roll Bicycle Company?

Columbus is very supportive of bikes, certainly evidenced by events like Pelotonia. It raises the profile and visibility of bike riders. It improves safety and creates the impetus for infrastructure. I see that as an indication Columbus is becoming a more connected community.

The most fantastic thing about biking is that it isn’t a team sport or an individual sport —it’s both. For some, the social aspects are an intrinsic part of why they ride. Others ride alone, to have time for personal reflection. Obviously, people ride for health and wellness, or transportation —but we have a lot of families who ride together.

I always describe myself as a bike rider instead of a cyclist. I think bike rider is a more embracing and inclusive term, perhaps less intimidating. Columbus is a community of bike riders.

Details on the designs behind Roll Bicycle Company’s Adventure, City, and Sport configuration bikes are available at rollbicycles.com

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