Video/Gallery: The Story Behind Ibis Cycles

How did Ibis get started? In this--Bike Magazine's first Founder's Event--Scot Nicol of Ibis, tells us his story

Photos by Dan Barham
Video by Mission Workshop

2013 marks Bike’s 20th year of running around with scissors and our big anniversary has us thinking about the stories we want to share with our readers–stories about the brands and people that changed mountain biking.

Ibis Cycles was the logical place to start.

Few companies have a legacy equal to that of Ibis—a company that has weathered countless storms and trends over the course of its 32 years in business. Along the way, Ibis has also created some of the sport’s most iconic bikes and products.

How did they do it? Or more exactly, how did he do it? Scot Nicol, a.k.a. “Chuck Ibis” is Ibis’ founder and leading light. Nicol has been instrumental in taking this small, NorCal company and making it an internationally-revered brand. We recently put Nicol on a stage and gave him the limelight to tell us his and Ibis’ story.

If you missed the live broadcast on April 12th, these videos (below) are you chance to see and hear it all. Enjoy.

The “Brief” Scot Nicol Show

The Full Monty–2 Hours of Scot Nicol Rockin’ The Mic

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Founder’s Event is the love-brain-child of Bike Magazine and Mission Workshop. The goal is simple: snag the creative geniuses who shaped the world of mountain biking, put them on a stage, make them answer all sorts of questions. Drink beer. Hang out.

But there’s the whole “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to be squashed by it…” question to consider. To wit, if you aren’t seeing these Founders’ Events, what good are they? We pondered that question and one of us came up with the idea to broadcast each of these events live on bikemag.com

Brilliant! Wait, how do we actually make that happen?

Trust us on this one: it’s harder than it sounds. A few minutes before Scot Nicol actually took the stage and was beamed onto viewers’ laptop screens, this is what was going down behind the scenes.

VERNON FELTON–THE WEB MONKEY
My wife is pissed. No, wait, that doesn’t even begin to describe the situation. I am peering over the top of my laptop’s screen and her eyes are shooting laser beams of doom at me. Shit is straight up hostile on date night. Wait, let me back up a second.

I see my wife once or twice a week. Usually, I’m handing her a kid or telling her about the feces-filled diaper that I kind of changed, might have disposed of, but certainly didn’t put in the trash like I’m supposed to. Once in a while we even eat dinner together… I guess that what I’m trying to say is that, with conflicting work schedules and the demands of parenting, there’s not a whole lot of time left in our busy lives for candles and rose petals and the like.

Which is why, a month ago, I scheduled a special date night for Friday April 12th. Our babysitter would come over and I’d take my wife to our favorite dessert place—this joint that’s swathed in about 12 shades of pink. It’s like some kind of baker’s version of Victoria’s Secret. We’d eat over-priced cake, we’d look into each others’ eyes….
In my dreams, we wouldn’t spend the date night with her staring at the back of my Mac PowerBook while I hammered code and swore like a sailor…. Life, however, is an unpredictable thing.

Here’s the thing, back when I scheduled date night, I hadn’t realized that Friday April 12th would also be the night we rolled out our first Founder’s Event with Scot Nicol. Furthermore, I didn’t know that we wouldn’t be able to test the Vimeo live streams until 5 minutes before show time. For weeks we’d been telling the world to log on and watch the show live and, theoretically, that would all happen.

But at 7:45 p.m. on Friday night the code is acting fickle. I’ve got a blank screen and a world of problems, I am sitting in our favorite dessert place, Greco-Roman wrestling theory, attempting to bend the Internet to my will, cursing up a storm and—no surprise—not really looking into my wife’s eyes, during our once-a-month date night.

At 7:57 p.m. I hit refresh, and the feed suddenly comes to life. Game on. The code is good. We’re live. This thing with Scot is actually going to work! I give a short, arm pump and raise my hand to high-five my wife. That’s when I notice those eyes. The laser beams. Oh. Damn….

DAN BARHAM–THE PHOTOGRAPHER
It really was a lovely beer. It was hoppy, it was cold, it was in front of me; all the things a fine malt beverage should be. It was also approximately 2,200 miles away from where I’d need to be eight hours later.

It all seemed quite simple at the time; in a wintertime, work drought-induced headrush I’d foolishly agreed to book back-to-back jobs: first shooting in North Carolina, then straight to San Francisco to cover the “Founder’s” event for Bike. It was a great plan made possible by an early flight from Asheville, set to arrive at Mission Workshop’s headquarters with plenty of time to get the lay of the land. Easy. Foolproof.

There’s a certain duality of emotion that runs through your mind when you’re sitting on the tarmac, ostensibly just minutes away from take off and are told over the airplane intercom that your copilot must be hospitalized. On one hand you empathize with the sick pilot. On the other hand, your empathy can sometimes run a little thin when you find yourself de-planed and mired in a line of irate passengers who have been informed of the absolute impossibility of any departure within the next seven hours.

West coast obligations be damned, there was no way I’d be able to make it to the Founder’s Event on time, save for the merest glimmer of hope, glowing green on black on the rebooking computer screen – a convoluted route that’d put wheels down in SFO a mere 35 minutes before Mike Ferrentino’s opening words. Straight to the venue, no messing around. It would be tight, but it might just be possible.

I’m not a rich man; I don’t flash cash around willy-nilly, and I certainly don’t bribe cabbies to run red lights, so when faced with a 7:47 p.m. arrival of bags from an interminably slow carousel, I didn’t tell him to “drive like the wind,” nor did I tut loudly when he couldn’t read my shakily thrust iPhone directions and had to pull over. I simply sat in the back seat, calm as a Hindu cow, assembled my camera with the methodical precision of a contract killer, got to the venue in time and started shooting.

Or I was 10 minutes late and arrived a sweaty, panicking mess; it really depends on who you ask.

MORGAN MEREDITH–THE PUBLISHER
I kept having this nagging sense that we were forgetting something…that we needed to do more to make this event go off without a hitch. The first time you do anything is stressful. Did we have enough beer? Will there be enough people? Should we have gotten Scot a laser pointer? We had never pulled off anything like this before. Well, at least in this format…

Bike Magazine been the soapbox for the stronger voices in the two-wheeled world for 20 years, but never before have we gone as far as to actually put those voices up on an actual stage. Thirty minutes before lift off was reserved for the technical worries about the live stream. Thirty minutes before that was absorbed by sitting down with Scot Nicol and Mike Ferrentino about what the hell we were going to do tonight.

At one point I think I said, “Just try and talk for 30 minutes. Minimum. Let’s make this live stream worth it.”

I knew Mike could set ‘em up and I knew Scot could knock them down, so I wasn’t too stressed about why we were all there and what had to be said. As it turned out, Scot was able to keep the audience rapt for two hours. What worried me was all the stuff on the edges. You know, the peripheral things.

In a way, it’s the peripheral things that inspired this event—and this new Founder’s Event series—in the first place.

As riders and journalists we sit around and talk about the bike industry horse trading, carbon layups and a wheel size that the majority of mountain bikers in the world still don’t know anything about. At times, it feels like much ado about nothing. We want to talk about something more. Something bigger than all that.

This event (and this new series of televised talks that it is a part of) is dedicated to exploring the drama and the unheard stories about brands you think you know everything about. At the end of the day, we could’ve had this discussion on a street corner or over a cup of coffee and I would’ve been just as moved by it all. It’s not always what. But it’s almost always why. There will be more. Keep it close.

EVAN DUDLEY–THE HOST
We were certainly amidst the chaos… I’ll openly admit this event went down with every critical piece coming into place at the absolute last minute. So it goes…

The big hurdle for me was getting the connection in place for the streaming. We couldn’t get any of our equipment tested until 30 minutes prior to the event, which, in turn, meant that we wouldn’t be able to get the final OK that any of this would actually work until just five minuets before the show began…. which was a nail biter for sure.

So, all of that technological stuff is going down while we were getting the space ready, our guests were starting to show up and ready to chat. In short, we were coordinating the IT demands necessary for the event to be viable – a complex web of audio, video, and connection to the world at large over two different streaming – while making sure the space was in order…. all in the matter of probably three hours prior to start time. It was pretty brutal.

But then, when it all fell into place–when we got the word that the stream was live and Mike Ferrentino stepped up on stage to introduce Scot Nicol, there was a huge, collective sigh of relief…followed by the pop and hiss of a cold beer being cracked open. Right then, I began to think, “This just might actually work.”

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