Teva will exit the mountain-bike category by the end of 2014, just three years after the outdoor and lifestyle brand introduced its first freeride shoe, the Links.
The reason, according to Teva's PR manager Jaime Eschette, is to allow the brand to better position itself to focus on its core business as it heads into its 30th anniversary next year.
Eschette said the company made the decision shortly after Interbike and began telling its athletes immediately following Rampage. Shoes that are already in production, like the Pivot, Links and Pinner, will be available through the end of next year. The Virgin, the sticky rubber mid-sole shoe that is still in the prototype stage, won't make it to market. Teva is also ending sponsorship of all its international and regional competitions.
The news is disappointing not only because the product was solid (Bike’s editor Brice Minnigh selected the clipless Pivots as his favorite shoes of the year in the upcoming December issue), but also because Teva had quickly made a name for itself in the industry. From the get-go, it committed to sponsorship of marquee events such as the Best Trick Showdown at Crankworx in Whistler and the slopestyle contest at the Queenstown Bike Festival, and funded a freeride team of influential athletes like Jeff Lenosky, Cam McCaul, Kurt Sorge and Kelly McGarry, who just backflipped his way into second place at Rampage.
Lenosky, who helped Teva design the Links and was essentially the face of the brand when it launched into mountain biking in 2011, said neither the athletes nor Teva's internal product and marketing team, saw this decision coming. Joel Heath, the former president of Teva and a staunch supporter of the mountain-bike category, was replaced by a new president shortly before Interbike, but the company said that leadership change bore no impact on the decision.
Lenosky said he always felt like Teva was very committed to the category, and that the company was in it for the long-haul as he developed and promoted his signature Links shoe and the Pivot.
"I kind of feel like that guy who brought my friend to the party and vouched for him, and then my friend ends up being a jerk," Lenosky said.
That's not to make light of the difficulty of the decision to bow out of mountain biking, which was no doubt extremely tough, but Teva is owned by a publicly traded company (Deckers Corporation) and thus, must answer to shareholders. Perhaps sales of the shoes weren't as robust as leaders had hoped—shoes are notoriously difficult to sell through independent bike shops, ask any sales rep for any shoe brand—and Eschette said Teva was still in the infancy of building its network of brick-and-mortar customers. Most sales were through Teva.com.
Although it may have seemed like a quick decision, Eschette said discussions about the future of bike actually occurred off and on over the years.
"The bike program in itself has always been a labor of a lot of peoples' passions within our team," Eschette said. "It's something that's super close to a lot of us personally. The way the industry supported us, it's been amazing. We didn't make this change out of anything other than a business decision."