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Chris Williams – MD, Empire Cycles
I remember my first black Rally Burner BMX with its Acorn mag wheels and dice valve caps. Awesome. At ten years old, my uncle sat me on a 1988 Kawasaki KX 250 2-stroke motocross bike. This moment changed my life. I scrimped and saved and bought an absolutely knackered Yamaha YZ125 2-stroke. I loved the smell, the noise, the power, the moving parts.
Today I am passionate about using great engineering to create elite products. We offer innovative designs to the world’s mountain bikers.
Empire Cycles’ story begins in 2004 when, working for a motorcycle company, I was asked to design the cast swing arms of two models of motocross bikes. I already loved mountain biking (and dirt BMXing before that) and was into amateur motocross racing.
I brought together the needs of mountain bike frame structures with the technology already apparent in motocross. I liked the simplicity with strength of the motocross bikes. Their minimal cast aluminium pieces bolted together. I was also a designer unwilling to give away my ideas to other companies. It was only a matter of time before my own product and brand would emerge.
"The brand name, Empire, was an ironic choice. I wanted "a piece of something big” but knew that going up against established brands would be tough. Not being a man to take the easiest route, I started with a downhill product: the AP-1. This took some serious graft and confidence. I was convinced that the front end and swing arm could each be made from just single parts, using aircraft grade aluminium and bolted together leaving no requirement for welding.
"The geometry of the AP-1 was devised: high single pivot like a motocross bike, adjustable wheel base, and motocross-type bearings. I vividly remember my first time on an early AP-1. "It rode killer” I said.
"Doubters of the non-conformist design had to admit that it was a remarkable bike. In terms of comment, Empire Cycles has always managed to create a storm each time they release something to the public. It seems that the world of mountain biking is watching. I am keen to keep people talking.
"All Empire frame parts are designed, manufactured, and assembled in the UK. No exceptions. This allows for consistent high quality components as well as supporting local industry and reducing environmental impact.
"During my working life, I have come across some extremely talented people and I’ve always wanted to work with them to make products. I always wanted to make in Britain. Empire currently works with British companies such as Renthal, Hope and Merlin Engineering. They are all great people.”
Empire is a small dedicated high-end manufacturer of relatively low volume. The personal touch is a large part of what we sell. We make some of the most advanced, technologically challenging products that are made in the world and we need to shout about it.
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