Since MiRider burst onto the electric folding bike scene a few years ago, the brand has always been different. The bike, for a start, is unlike a typical folding frame design, with rear suspension and a striking look, and beyond this, its beginnings as a bike brand is not a familiar tale.
The extended Higginson family own and run MiRider as well as other companies including Festive Lights Ltd, DriBOX Ltd, and the business that started it all – Disklok UK Ltd. Based in Wigan, they own several warehouses and all brands operate out of the same industrial estate. Having this space has played into their hands, as they provide their own distribution services, have the space to assemble the bikes in-house and have a mini showroom on site.
I visited MiRider HQ to discover how the brand works and what they've got in store for the future. Stephen Alty, Commercial Director, began by explaining how the brand came to be.
“We started in 2019, but we've been in business for 25 years, so we are very good at diversifying. We saw an opportunity in the folding market and came out with a bike. We started evolving it, developing it, and quickly realised that part of the process needed to be in-house, so rather than being a trader, we went straight into manufacturing. We scoured the world for the best components, didn't compromise and built the brand on quality. Whether that was quality of liaising with the customer, or quality building and assembling a bike."
The MiRider bikes are manufactured in the far east but shipped to the HQ in Wigan to be fully built and quality checked. MiRider currently has six bike builders in its warehouse, and rather than set the bikes up on a production line, each builder will see their bike through from start to finish. A quick ride on the indoor test track and the bike is handed off to quality control.
Quality control will then check over everything the builder has done to ensure a standardised way of working and that consumers can expect the same performance from every bike. Once the quality check is complete, the bike is packed – soon to be in newly designed plastic-free packaging (even down to the tape), and passed on to distribution which, handily, is right next door.
Currently, the brand offers a single bike model, the MiRider One, but has recently launched a variation – the GB3, as Alty explained.
“Currently, we have one model with a second variant, the GB3, which is performing well. We've got ambitions greater than one model of bike. So that will be going into different sizes of bikes first, and then possibly into different modes of electric transport."
Asked what kind of electric transport we might be able to see from MiRider in the future, Alty was keen not to rule anything out.
“Nothing's off the table. We were very thoughtful with the brand name at the start. For us, MiRider is an e-mobility brand, not a bike brand. One of our big focuses has been not about building a product but about building a brand.
“We've been quite strategic with how we've done that, so our efforts and investments are currently on a 16" folding bike, but we're good at diversifying. We'll move where the markets need us to move, and ultimately we'll try to deliver what the customer demands. I don't think we discount anything."
Being in tune with what the consumer wants is key to market success, and even in the past two years, they've seen a variation in their target demographics.
“I think we're quite careful not to alienate anybody. When you look at the folding market, it can be quite traditional looking. One of our strap lines is, 'Welcome to the fold', or, 'Join the fold', but I think we kind of break that mould – it doesn't look like a traditional folding bike.
“The marketing efforts have been targeting various sectors. Yes, we're doing extremely well in the motorhome and leisure market at the moment, and that's because we've got a bike that folds down neatly. You can put it in the trunk of a motorhome and you can fit two in the boot of a car. So it's fantastic for people to use as a leisure bike, but equally, it's a great commuter."
“I think if you would look at the demographic of a typical user, typically now it's age 50+. Someone with maybe a little bit of extra expenditure, and that points towards the 'leisure' market. People with more time on their hands, using motorhomes, caravans etc. But we are quickly entering other sectors such as commuting."
MiRider as a brand has ambitions - there's no doubt about it. They're assembling between 3,000 and 5,000 bikes a year and the projections look even more positive - positive enough to consider expanding outside of the UK market.
“We're not naive to think we know everything yet, so we're still learning and evolving, but doing it means you learn much quicker. Part of that growth is into Europe and further afield, but to do so, you have lots of steps to take."
“The customer demands what we give them here. So for us to amplify that into Europe or the rest of the world, we have that expectancy. The expression, ‘walk before we run’ – I think we’re still in that stage. We're all eager to get going, but we will do it when we're ready. And we know it will be a success, as we've been to European shows and customers love it."
It's not just customers that love the bikes - the general feeling at MiRider is welcoming and the impression the staff give is of a genuine love of working in the industry. The bike builders attach a name sticker to each bike they build and enjoy following the stories of customers who ride their MiRiders across the world.
The team behind the brand may not have started the company with years of experience in the bike industry, but their knowledge of business and customer service has transferred well from their other brands. The future is bright for MiRider, and I think we can expect to see a lot of them in the folding electric bike sector and beyond.