"There are so many boring cycling brands out there -- and even more so in the wheel world. We want to be less precious and to encourage folks to get out and ride our stuff -- hard."
1. What is the goal/mission of HiFi?
We want to inspire people to ride their bikes and have fun. We "riff" off of musical themes for just that reason. Just about everyone gets inspiration and joy from some type of music. To me, there are parallels between rocking out to your favorite tunes and that endorphin-fueled, right-brain-stimulated mental, emotional, and physical transportation that a bike ride can bring. There are so many boring cycling brands out there -- and even more so in the wheel world. We want to be less precious and to encourage folks to get out and ride our stuff -- hard.
Everyone involved in HiFi rides bikes. Obsessively. We've all done quite a bit of racing over the years, too. We wanted to make high-performance wheels that we'd want to purchase ourselves as privateer racers and consumers. Our quality is on par with the big brands and their super expensive wheels. We don't offer the cheapest wheels out there, but we're really happy with the blend of performance, durability, light weight and affordability our products offer.
2. What is your backstory? Cycling, personal or some combination of the two.
I've had a pretty eclectic career path -- but bikes have been a staple along the way. Apparently a philosophy degree is the perfect preparation for working as, in roughly correct order, a child support case worker, a ski rental tech / ski bum, a bike messenger, film production assistant, a bike messenger again, a producer for an animation studio, an online quiz creator for a text book company while living off grid in Northern New Mexico, a bike tour guide, a book index writer, a cycling journalist, editor of Cyclocross Magazine, a cycling coach, and now one of the owners of HiFi.
I am more than the sum of my weird jobs, but they definitely offer some insight. A good chunk of them were to support my vagabond, dirtbag lifestyle -- first as a ski bum, then a bike-racing bum as I traveled the country in a shitbox motor home in search of glory. Now I'm pretty anchored to Portland and HiFi, and the majority of my energies go into expanding our little startup.
3. What is your favorite cycling route in the NW and why?
My answer to this is a little ridiculous, I readily admit. There are so many kickass routes and rides that surround us, and there's a ton to be said about the adventure that new or remote routes bring. But my fave of the moment is an urbancross circuit that we've dubbed "Frog of the North." It's right out my door, super dynamic, and brings me 90 to 120 minutes of immense joy on a regular basis. This selection is even more absurd when you realize that it traverses a Superfund site (some know it as Pirate Town, or SuperFun) and other industrial areas -- but it's my happy place. As a small business owner, access to this quick, fulfilling escape is key to my mental and physical well being.
4. What is your go-to bike in your personal lineup and why?
I have a Squid Rattlecan cyclocross bike (actually, I have two...) that I love. First off, it's just a really well-designed bike that's a blast to ride. I've also always gravitated towards smaller companies, and the feeling that my purchase directly benefits some people who are making good stuff. Dirt, gravel and mixed terrain rides are what get me excited lately -- get away from traffic and unplug -- and this steed is perfect for that. And the aluminum Squids come as raw metal -- this is the first bike I've ever painted myself. It's hard not to emotionally connect to a frame you're painting, but it also conversely makes me feel like I don't need to baby it. Ride it hard, beat it up, then strip it down to the raw metal and repaint it when the paint's trashed or you're just tired of the design. Mine already needs a repaint -- and will definitely get one before next 'cross season -- but I'll keep shredding on it for now. I'm excited to spend some time freshening it up and honing my mediocre-at-best paint skills for the next round.
5. What does the next year look like for HiFi?
We're four years in, and we're poised to really ramp things up. Customer inquiries and orders are coming from all over the country and international interest is ticking up too. More rad bike brands that we really respect are starting to pay attention to us and are into what we're doing, and that's exciting and flattering. Our goal isn't to ever become huge; we want to be the best alternative wheel brand. We need to continue defining what we mean by "alternative" -- but we want to have a good core of employees making great products, building relationships with our customers, be creative and innovative, and have fun.