Interview: Giant’s Kevin Dana – Wheel Wars and the 27.5″

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Words by Damian Breach | Images by Damian Breach

At the global launch of the 2014 range of performance bikes by Giant, Flow had the opportunity for a brief chat with Giant’s Global Off-Road Category Manager, Kevin Dana.

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These media events are always guarded with marketing buzzwords and well-scripted and trained responses to media questions it’s sometimes hard to get through all that and down to the real meat. Even after many drinks at the bar it’s still hard to get through the defences (we tried pretty hard… there were many beers).

You will see in Kevin’s words that Giant essentially want to be a global leader hence why Giant have more than dipped their toes into the 27.5” waters. We also got the sense that the wheel wars of the past few years may have been a distraction, or diversion, from other developments (also true for other manufacturers) and if you read between the lines Giant is definitely looking forward to developing other great things.

The big question, why 27.5”?

Giant began extensive lab testing of 26”, 27.5” and 29” in early 2011.  We also began ride testing of prototypes at the same time and we determined that 27.5” delivered many of the benefits of both without a lot of drawbacks. The bikes (27.5”) were a lot of fun to ride, they performed at a really high level, and so we made a commitment to go in that direction.

That commitment, you’re going after 27.5” full steam ahead?

It’s a huge commitment. Giant made this decision after the extensive lab and field-testing and Giant couldn’t make an impact on the market with just one or two models of bikes. It’s quite easy to re-hash some tube shape or re-hash some geometry and make one or two bikes, however Giant committed to an entire range of products – from Sport, all the way up to Performance – in both aluminium and Advance composite.

We are completely committed to an all-or-nothing approach because we believe in 27.5” so much.

Is it a gamble?

We didn’t view it as a gamble at all, rather the next generation of off-road cycling and we at Giant are committed to leading the charge. As you are already seeing there is a lot of other brands entering the 27.5” market and we’re confident that consumers are going to see many more 27.5” bikes enter the market.

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Do you think this will end the wheel wars?

We believe this will end the wheel war for Giant.

So, if there are no more wheel sizes being developed, what’s next?

Giant is always working 2-3 years ahead at any given time. I think you will find Giant focusing a little more on improving performance. Innovation can be looked at in a number of different ways. It can be an entirely brand new product that changes the game or it can be an improvement to existing technologies and constantly making them better. We’re really looking at a little bit of both in the next 3 years – it’s definitely an exciting time to be a mountain biker.

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