Industry.AU // Shingleback Off Road

Shingleback Off Road is a true Aussie success story. The brand is built on the foundations of producing exceptional quality locally manufactured products, using Aussie made steel and materials, and showcasing very clever design and engineering.

Husband and wife team, Andrew and Kimberly, started the company manufacturing bike racks from a modest shed on their property in Victoria and literally overnight the business went through the roof (and hasn’t slowed down since!) The magazine recently sat down with pair to learn about their brand’s remarkable journey up to this point.

[R]: Wherever we travel to go riding across Oz at the moment we notice car after car fitted with Shingleback racks. From a branding perspective it was a great idea to colour scheme all of your racks the same from day one; chunky black metal frames and those orange bungee fasteners, because that really makes your racks stand out from the crowd. I guess you could even go so far to say that they’ve become instantly iconic! Given how popular your racks are and how many we see driving around it’s probably fair to say that it’s surprising to learn that the brand is still so young. To kick this off can you give us a bit of a run through of the brand’s history and how you’ve arrived at this point so rapidly?

Andrew: Yes the business has grown really fast. It might surprise a lot of people but we actually only made our first ever prototype rack back in 2016. We’d always had bikes and it was frustrating every time we had to load them onto the car using a traditional horizontal style bike rack. Loading was always a bit fiddly and then the more bikes you load the further and further away they sit from the vehicle which meant they’d bounce around like crazy and all of that leverage really isn’t good. I am a boilermaker welder by trade and I guess you could say that I’ve been into tinkering, I just love inventing things and making stuff out of raw materials. One day I thought to myself that I could improve on the design and functionality of a bike rack. It was clear to me right away that the bikes should sit vertically on the rack rather than horizontally. There are countless reasons for that but of course the efficiency of space and the ease of use to load and unload bikes are two of the key benefits of the design.

And so yeah, I made a prototype, we then started testing it and tweaking it and then in 2017 we’d reached a point where we were able to go to market and the first ever Shingle Back Off road bike rack was sold. Since then, we’ve produced and sold literally tens of thousands of bike racks to riders right across Australia!

[R]: Wowzers that is amazing! Congratulations too obviously. 

Kimberly: Thank you. It’s been quite a crazy couple of years building the company but we’ve really loved doing it and it is fantastic to be a part of such a great industry. Riding bikes is the best, after all, right! 

[R]: Haha yes, we couldn’t agree more! So tell me, what was your set-up like where you made those prototypes and early racks? 

Andrew: It all started from the back shed on our property down here on the outskirts of Beechworth, Victoria. We did all the metal work and fabrication right there. I remember our first batch was 10 racks and they’d completely sold out, all via word of mouth before I’d even finished getting them powder coated! So we took that money and bought the steel to make another batch of 10. And so on, it really just took off like that.

We’d sell a rack and that would fund us to make 2 more.

[R]: Talk about the word spreading fast. I guess you’re fortunate that there’s such a big riding community down there across the Ride High Country area. As demand grew did the company start to encounter any teething troubles? 

Kimberly: The product was great, luckily we never had any problems with the racks as their quality was so high. However, yes, we definitely couldn’t keep up with demand. Sales were ridiculous, we were constantly flooded with enquires and people wanting racks. Not just locals either, word spread fast and we began to get a lot of interstate enquires. Poor Andrew was running around like crazy trying to keep up. Every day he was welding racks and driving them to the powder coaters, and going down to the laser cutters to get more steel cut, honestly there just wasn’t enough hours in the day.

Andrew: Yeah that’s right, there’s a lot of hands on steps that go into making our racks then on top of that there’s all of the assembling and then packaging them to be sent to customers. It wasn’t long before production had outgrown the shed on our property and so we then grew to work with an engineering and welding workshop down here in Beechworth. They took on the welding and all of that but I was still doing the running around at the powder coaters and assembling. And within months, like six months I suppose, we had outgrown them again.

Demand for our Shingleback Off Road racks just exploded and it’s never stopped to this day. 

[R]: Far out! What solution did you come up with to increase your production capacity? 

Andrew: So then we went out to tender and we found a really good workshop just up the road in Wodonga. They’re really big. And that allowed us to finally get on top of the backlog of orders we had and we could start to work on designing some new stuff as well. 

[R]: Did you ever consider outsourcing production to China or somewhere overseas? 

Andrew: Never once. A lot of people told us that we should, but no way, we’re really proud to be Aussie made and doing it any other way would ‘go against my grain’. 

[R]: How did the company go when the pandemic hit? Did having your production based locally turn out to be a blessing? 

Kimberly: Absolutely, there’s no doubt we would have sunk for sure otherwise. And not only were we able to keep manufacturing and supplying right through those crazy times the demand for our racks actually increased yet again. 

Andrew: That’s right. When the pandemic really hit early last year of course everyone started to brace and we thought, “Oh shit, this could be game over for us,” but it quickly turned out to be the complete opposite for the brand. As you’d be aware, bike sales have been through the roof and all the rest of it, and that definitely flowed onto us, we’ve had to ramp up production big time in order to keep up with demand.

[R]: What was it about your racks that made them so popular right away? 

Andrew: Look I think it’s always just been the quality that speaks for itself. Our racks are really well made and I think being an Australian product that has been another thing that customers have always loved about them. When you buy a Shingleback Off Road rack you’re investing in something that functions really well and is going to last a very long time. 

[R]: What are main challenges in designing a bike rack and getting them made locally?

Andrew: When it comes to design, it’s easy to make something out of metal that is strong and super heavy. What’s difficult to make something that is strong and light! Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that our racks are by any means super light, but they’re certainly much, much lighter than they could be and against the offerings of a lot of our competitors. Our racks that hold 5 or 6 bikes, are very solid and secure and the way that we’ve been able to get their overall weight down, still using steel construction, it really comes down to clever design and engineering, I suppose.

Kimberly: I would have to agree, Andrew undersells himself and the designs of our racks, which might look simple at a glance, really aren’t so simple. And there’s so many copycats that we see, and then the customers who bought them come and see Andrew and go, “I just should have gone straight to you” because of the consideration of the angles, the type of steel, where Andrew’s saved weight, it actually gives you bang for buck, whereas the others have just gone, “I’m big and I’m heavy, therefore I’m better,” but it’s not the case. So simple and just really clever, there’s so much thought gone into it.

At first I thought I was just married to a tinkerer and I was sending him back to the workforce, but then he came good! haha

[R]: That’s brilliant to hear!

Kimberly: But yeah, so that understated part behind Shingleback and the way Andrew is, is what you see in that design, and that’s why it’s so high quality.

[R]: Another of the major key differences between a Shingleback Off Road rack and other racks out there is that you guys not only make your racks right here in Oz but you also make them out of as much Aussie material as you can. Tell us a bit about that? 

Andrew: Yeah, that’s a good question. Pretty much what you said, we’re passionate about using as much Australian made raw material as we can because not only does it support local business but we believe it’s also the highest quality product. To give you an idea, all of our racks are made from 100% Australian made steel. It’s a much higher grade than imported stuff and it also welds much better, and most importantly it lasts a lot longer. And those orange bungee fasteners that you see on our racks which you mentioned earlier, that material is also made right here in Oz too. 

[R]: I’ve noticed that the brand gets a phenomenal amount of Google reviews from customers that absolutely love their racks and with all of that feedback you must have a very clear understanding of your core customer base. So, who is the quintessential Shingleback Off Road rack buyer? 

Andrew: Absolutely, we’re always really overwhelmed by the feedback we get from customers. It makes us really motivated to keep doing what we’re doing and make our products even better. In a nut shell though our customers are riders and families that value high functioning quality products. We’ve always found that people are happy to pay a bit more for something that outperforms their expectations – and that’s our racks. 

Kimberly: That’s right. One of the things that is really important to us is that bikes can be loaded on and off of our racks easily not just by big strong men but by everyone. Even mums and kids can load the bikes onto our racks when they’re doing shuttle laps afterschool, etc. And actually that’s one thing that our ‘Sport’ rack makes even easier. We want our racks to be perfect for families and hardcore riders all at the same time. 

[R]: Wow you guys really stand by your products and it sounds like everything you value about the brand mirrors a very ethical business practice.

Andrew: You’ve hit the nail right on the head there! 

Kimberly: As the business has grown one of the things that we’re really passionate about is being able to support lots of grassroot initiatives out there in the riding community. We’re passionate about giving back and helping to grow the riding scene right across Australia. Things like local coaching academies, school based riding development programs, getting more and more woman on bikes, we’re involved in all sorts of programs. As Shingleback has expanded and we’ve been fortunate to enjoy successes we just keep expanding the amount of grassroot opportunities we can support and that has been one of the biggest highlights for Andrew and myself. We’re really grateful that the brand is in the position to do that.  

[R]: Where can people buy your racks, directly through your website or from dealers and bike shops? 

Andrew: About 80% of our sales are straight from our website. We’ve put a lot of effort into making the site really nice to navigate and to have heaps of information about our ranges as well as product support. That said we do also have a network of great stockists across the country where people can go and see and touch our racks. It is important to us that our racks are as accessible as possible. [R]