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Nathan Parker and the Lil’ Buddy
The other day I was talking with Nathan Parker from Tree Bicycle Co. about some of the new projects they have going on. We talked about some of the changes they have been making with the brand like bringing on more employees, adding more products to their line and going over how the decision to move their production to Taiwan has been. During that, he mentioned that Tree would no longer be making the Lil’ Buddy frame. I figured, okay, well what’s next? An all new frame? Well, in short… No.
I was super curious about their decision to discontinue their frame production since the Lil’ Buddy always seemed to be a well liked frame and I never heard anyone say a bad thing about it. We decided it would be a good idea to do a quick Q&A to give you guys the low down on their decision. So let’s see what this is all about…
All right, so we might as well dive straight into this. Tree recently decided to discontinue making frames. When did you guys officially decide to make a pretty heavy change like that?
We made the decision at the start of this year, so just a few months ago.
What are some of the reasons behind putting an end to the Lil’ Buddy frame? Was it manufacturing issues or something? Always seemed like people were stoked on the frame.
No, it wasn’t manufacturing issues. The frame was in it’s second incarnation and was holding up really well. We were really happy with it, it had a lot of little features that frames weren’t really coming with when it came out like taller gap between the top and down tubes, and it could always fit huge tires in the rear from the beginning. The geometry was classic, but we went with a lower 11.5 bb height which wasn’t common then either so the frame looked good, was stiff, and felt really comfortable. It sold well too! In some ways it’s sad to see it go, but we think it’s the right decision. The main reason we are stepping away from frames is because we want to free up opportunities for the team. Taking the frame out of the line means we aren’t in competition with frame companies and puts us in a place like Odyssey or Eclat, so our guys can be involved with more companies, have more good experiences. It also gives us the chance to work with people we may have wanted to but couldn’t because they had a frame deal.
So is this the end for Tree doing frames, or will you be working on some new ones further down the road?
You never know about the future, but right now we wont be making anymore frames under the Tree name. We have about 30 frames left, and when they’re gone they’re gone.
How will cutting the frames from the line up affect the brand? What about the team? Care to take us through some of the positives and negatives you guys weighed when making this decision?
Well, cutting the frames wont have too much affect on the brand. It is kind of weird for me because for the last four years I looked down and saw my Lil’ Buddy, the frame is the main part of the bike, but we are looking forward to focussing on making components the best they can be. For the team, like I was saying before, it opens up the chance for them to be involved with other companies and to have more experiences, and it gives us a chance to work with people we weren’t able to before because of the conflict with both companies producing a frame. As far as pro’s and con’s go there wasn’t really a lot of weighing it out. The first downside that comes to mind right away, is that we aren’t making the Lil’ Buddy, and we wont be making other frames. A frame is the central piece of your bike, when someone asks what you ride you say the name of your frame. We always thought having an all Tree bike would be awesome. The upside’s though are again focused on riders. Our guys can have a chance to do more, and really that’s the best thing. We just want them to have chances to live out life on their BMX as best as possible. It works as far as promotion goes too, if they get to be more involved, thats just more people getting reached by Tree.
Obviously, cutting frame production from the current costs of business will open up some funding for other projects. Will you be expanding the products line further?
With the way pre-booking works with ordering, dropping the frames doesn’t really affect our budget one way or the other, it was a product that sold well though, and unless we bring in products to replace them, that’s a percentage we won’t be making. We definitely are expanding our product line, we would have been either way because we have a lot of new ideas, but with the frame going, Im sure it will bring the new products into focus and get us moving on them a little more quickly.
Do you have any hints at some of the new products you are working on? When will we start seeing some of this new stuff popping up?
We do have some new things in the works. As usual with us we don’t print our name on anything unless we design it from the ground up and we feel it’s offering a real benefit over something else that’s available. Everything is a work in progress, but you should be seeing some info popping up on some of the new products this year and definitely at Interbike. Right now the first production batch of our Slim Ergo seat is on it’s way, and we received the first sample of the thicker version in the mail the other day. Other things to keep an eye out for, is a new straight pull hub with a lot of refinements and dialing in, forks, maybe some new handlebar designs, rims, and grips. Overtime, it will be cool to have everything, but like I said, we don’t have any interest in putting our name on something, it has to offer some improvement over what’s available.
With the way BMX has been going lately, it’s pretty hard to predict what brands are going to do. What kinds of trends and changes do you think brands will be following or making within 2012 and 2013?
That is a tough one, different brands are into doing different things, everyone will be keeping with the times, but some focus a little more heavily on innovating than others. Everyone has their thing, whether its new ideas or new ways of presenting things, usually a blend of both, and it’s always interesting to see what comes out. The companies making the products, and the people out there buying them shape our industry together so companies follow what the kids want as much as the kids are directed by the new products companies bring out. All I know is that bike parts can get better, and thankfully there are companies out there who know that and want to make our bikes better. If it wasn’t for thinking like that I’d still have 2 inch top and down tubes. Tree will be doing what we’ve always done, which is to keep trying to improve what’s available, and show the adventure bike riding can lead to. I know that doesn’t really predict anything.
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Other than the frames, what are some of the other changes you guys have been making at Tree?
Well, the team page is due for a decent update. New products are in the works, and we are going to be doing some trips this year that we are really excited about.
Where do you see Tree Bicycle Co. in a few years?
In a few years we’d like to have the full range of products we want to offer people available, have a good group of people/riders rounding out a full fledged team, and be in a position to shape BMX how we see it. We have some bigger goals a little further down the road too, that we will just have to wait and see how things go.
Anything I missed you want to add?
Bike riding is awesome, and I’m glad we get to bring people parts to help them enjoy it. Thanks for the interview.
You can find more information about Tree Bicycle Co. and their full product line on their website — TreeBicycleCo.com