The burgeoning national and international reputation of the Borders, and the Tweed Valley in particular, as a centre for mountain biking is paying rich dividends for a Peeblesshire engineering company.
With offices in Innerleithen and a production base in a former mill unit at Walkerburn, Bike Track People has just completed its most prestigious and potentially-significant export order.
As a result, a custom-built portable pump track – a short looped circuit of banked corners and humps designed for balance bikes which have no pedals – is now being shipped to Tokyo.
The client is none other than Strider Japan, the world leader in the production of balance bikes – a fun way of introducing cycling to children as young as two and to improve the abilities of any rider.
“It’s a real shot in the arm for our team here,” said Bike Track People boss Richard Latimer who started the company five years ago with his wife, Deirdre, and keen mountain biker Ben Wills, a Borderer who cut his competitive teeth in the spectacular trails at Glentress near Peebles.
From small beginnings, the firm found a steady niche market for an innovative range of cycling-related equipment designed by engineer Richard and “road-tested” by Ben, including ramps, rollers, skinnies and short timber tracks which were hired out to schools and clubs.
It was after Ben saw a portable pump track in action at a shopping centre in Canada that the ambitious decision was made to produce them in the Borders.
This required Bike Track People to seek out and engage the skills and expertise of local companies, and manufacturing partnerships were forged with the long-standing joinery firm of George Oliver & Son in St Boswells and DCB Welding in Walkerburn.
“Each pump track, constructed of timber with a special, weather-proof coating, takes about three months to complete,” explained Richard who now employs 16 full and part-time staff.
“Obviously, it has to be safe and functional, but also easy to assemble and re-assemble.
“Our team worked literally round the clock to complete the order, but our biggest challenge was reproducing the large and distinctive Strider logo. We checked out lots of graphic companies who were unable to help before, by chance, teaming up with Innerleithen sign-writer Gary Millie who has done a magnificent job.”
The Tokyo-bound pump track is due to arrive at its destination on April 22, but already the order book, from clients at home and abroad, is filling up.
And with pump tracks ranging in price from £6,000 to £20,000, the future looks like bright for Bike Track People, one of many firms created on the back of the region’s high mountain biking profile.