Imagine if you could get a demo of a top-flight bike and ride it on your local trails, with the ability to swap between sizes, or models. Well, that’s exactly what Cotic has set out to do. Chipps spent the day with Sam, Cotic’s demo driver to find out what goes into getting a top brand like Cotic to come and see you on your own trails.
It’s gone lunchtime on a wet Saturday near Rivington Pike in Lancashire and a muddy Sam Capper, still in his riding gear, is looking at a car park full of abandoned bikes. His riding companions have just left – and have left their bikes behind, which Sam is going to have to stack back in the van, ready to unload again, clean, lube and service later that afternoon. You’d think that he’d be a bit grumpy about being left with all that work, but he apparently couldn’t be happier. After all, this is his job: to ride great bikes with great people, in great locations. And that’s it. You and I would probably be happy with that, right?
Sam is Cotic’s demo fleet manager and he’s having the time of his life. For a start, Cotic’s approach to demos differs to most other bike companies. It tends not to go to the ‘bike shop open day’ style of demos where would be (or would be not) potential customers wander between stands, grabbing whatever bike is free and taking it on a coned and taped short lap of the woods before returning to try the next bike from the next brand.
Cotic’s approach is far more specific. Rather than happening upon Cotic at a demo day, Cotic organises its own demos at hot riding spots around the country and, if there’s enough interest from you and your riding pals, it will bring your very own demo to you.
It was a crazy idea, but Cotic isn’t one to do things normally. (Steel hardcore hardtails? Steel full suspension bikes? They’ll never take off… oh, wait.)
The idea isn’t to possibly influence the buying decisions of your average bike shop floating purchaser, it’s more to confirm the decision already made by a few hardcore Cotic fans (and their friends) and more about finding the right size, or spec, of a bike you’ve already talked yourself into. Some demo-ers already have one Cotic and they’re either looking to upgrade, or to add to the fleet. Other riders that sign up are Cotic-curious and keen to try a bike (or the whole range!) in an unpressurised environment. Sam certainly isn’t around to be a salesman (Cotic would argue that’s the job of the bike), he’s just there to make sure you get fitted and set up on your test bike and that you have a great time.
Like any ‘too good to be true’ job, Sam’s comes with its fair share of downsides. As well as driving around 18,000 miles a year for work, Sam flits between staying in generic McHotels, friends’ sofas and actual home home – though even that has seen him move out of the flat he shared with his girlfriend in Newcastle in order to move close to Cotic’s Sheffield HQ. He seems to have taken it all in his stride though and appears to be having the time of his life. Apart from a day or two early in the week at Cotic’s HQ where he swaps bikes in and out of his current fleet and catches up on paperwork, Sam is almost entirely out there ‘in the field’.
Before this bike-roadie lifestyle, Sam was literally on the road to being a car-bound rep for a brewery in Newcastle (another job that’s probably not quite as glamorous as it sounds…) As a student, he got ‘REALLY into beer’ though not in a way that most students do. Sam got into brewing in a big way and that led to an interest in the brewing industry and eventually a job.
Like many folk who land a fast-paced job straight out of university, he threw himself at it to the expense of many things – bike riding included. He was on his way to being a full Ginster-eating road rep when he decided on a career change.
The job for Cotic’s road demo manager was advertised and, like the 50 or so who responded, Sam reckoned that it was such a good job that he couldn’t not apply, even if he didn’t stand a chance of getting it.
He made it through to ten interviewees and from there, he made it to the final three. This final stage of the in-depth interview involved going riding with Cy Turner from Cotic himself. It seemed that Sam’s outgoing personality and his existing road life experience, not to mention his great riding skills, were just what Cotic needed.
Sam started in early 2016 and both he and Cotic found their feet. There’s not really a template for this type of job and there was a bit of making it up as you go along, but the format and rhythm of the job soon began to make itself known.
So how does it work? The first stop is to look on Cotic’s demo page on its website
And there you’ll find a list of demos that Cotic has arranged already. Sam tends to travel with around ten bikes in his van, so they can get booked up, but there are enough things going on every week that there’s usually enough demo chances to keep riders happy.
And then there are the exclusive rides. This is the really clever bit that makes Cotic’s demo service unique. If there’s not a demo in your area, or if you really, really, need to try a Flare Max against a Rocket, or a Solaris against a Soul – or if you’ve made your mind up on a model, but want to try a large and a medium, then you contact Sam and he literally brings the demo to you. And if you’ve not ridden a single Cotic before, even better, you and your pals can spend the whole day working through the range on your home trails.
These exclusive demos work for groups between four or so and 10-12. You book Sam, tell him what bikes you’re interested in and where you’re planning on meeting and riding. Sam is the first to admit that he’s not a mountain bike guide – it’s up to you to pick the route that you want to ride. He just comes along to answer technical questions, help with mechanical issues and just be cheerful at everyone. It makes sense that if you’re going to spend a not-inconsiderable amount of cash on a new bike, you should ideally get to test it on your favourite trails – and this is what Cotic’s exclusive demo service offers.
Sam reckons that nearly every one of these rides ends up in the sale of a bike. In those cases, it’s often that that rider had already made his or her mind up, but they just wanted to be sure they had the right size, or wheel size, or travel, before making the plunge. And there’s the unique opportunity to do this on familiar trails, with your mates around you for advice, competition and general pisstaking.
Apparently no one yet has organised a demo day for a birthday treat, but it can’t be long before someone does. Imagine pitching up to the Peaks one sunny Wednesday and having your mates around to celebrate your birthday with a selection of well maintained, top notch bicycles…
Obviously there’s a big cost for getting the big Cotic van full of bikes to come to a car park of your choosing, full of the shiniest of new test bikes.
No. No there isn’t. Not a sausage. Cotic maintains that if they were going to be running a test fleet anyway, then they’d much rather be talking to fans of the brand and the ‘Cotic-curious’ than fighting for air time in a crowded car park full of other bike brands. As such, it makes financial sense to keep Sam on the road, ready to help riders choose the bike that they’ve probably already made their mind up about…
The formats of the days are usually pretty similar. Sam turns up early in the morning and the riders will gather around 9.30 to sort out bikes, fit pedals and faff. “More faff than you can ever imagine” jokes Sam as he darts around, setting sag, swapping pedals, swapping stems until everyone’s happy. Then they all get to go riding. Sam comes along to answer questions (and because it’s why he’s doing this job, remember?) and it’s up to the riders to choose a route. He tends to suggest keeping loops to a shortish 45 minutes or so, rather than an all day epic. This means that they can return to the van and riders can swap bikes around (or even swap 27.5+ wheels for 29er wheels between bikes in the case of our Rivington Pike demo) and then riders can do the same loop again, but this time on a different model, or size or (yes) colour, to see which they prefer.
A day like our exclusive demo in Lancashire, tends to wind down around lunchtime, giving everyone a chance to return home (and pretend they’ve not been window shopping) or get out for another ride or, in Sam’s case, wash and service a dozen bikes, ready for the next demo the following day. Some days can be different, though, like the midweek night ride that someone organised. ‘Too busy at the weekends? Going riding anyway? Then just invite Sam along and he’ll bring the bikes…’ You may need to provide the barbecue afterwards – but if you do, Sam can often reciprocate with a bottle of his fantastic home brew.
It seems that things have come full circle for Sam: he’s still driving the motorways of Britain (from Cornwall to the north of Scotland) but he’s riding bikes and he doesn’t even have to sell the bikes to the people he rides with. They’ve probably already made up their minds.
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