In this edition of Industry.AU we’re checking in with one of Australia’s most exciting component fabricators; Mic Williams who’s busy producing some really interesting and innovative gear from his workshop.
Words and photos // Darren Mallard
From zero to hero it seems like the brand pretty much just appeared in the MTB scene over night and over the past 18 months your presence has just snowballed. To start with tell us about your background and how you got involved with MTB?
It sure has been a bit of a whirlwind couple of years, but the out of nowhere remark is certainly fitting. I rode BMX for as long as my memory spans but, I have been around the MTB scene since about 2018, maybe a little earlier on the local scene. I raced my first couple of international races/World Cups that year and it was an extremely steep learning curve. In any case, I have been giving the racing thing a bit of a crack since then over a few MTB disciplines and just loving riding my bike.
Not only do you have a deep history in BMX and racing but, you also have a deep family history in Engineering right?
Yea, I raced (and just generally rode) BMX for a long while; since I was 3 right up till I finished uni around the start of 2017. And yea, engineering in my family runs pretty deep (on my dad’s side 3 generations) and that’s also what I studied (and now part-time teach) at Deakin University.
I work full-time as an engineer for the government too – so I’m certainly more of an engineer than anything else.
What is Williams Racing Products and what is it that you do?
Good question. I think the best way to summarise WRP is a company that manufactures parts that you want to ride, not necessarily what the industry wants to sell you. I always try to keep an open mind and am always after feedback as to what athletes actually want to ride and what’ll make them faster. That way I have full flexibility over what I make without trying to fit an agenda. At the heart of it, I just want my friends to be able to ride the best custom parts/something with their own proprietary dimensions, all with the pursuit of making their riding as fast and as fun as possible.
In the late 90’s it seemed everyone was making custom parts for their bike. It died out for almost a decade until now. What took you down the path of creating custom drop outs, linkages, and stems?
Yea, that was certainly the hay day for proto stuff. I think everything comes and goes in waves depending on the companies involved, the current track demands and of course the socioeconomic status of the industry. Now that the baseline complete bikes have become so good I think you’re seeing proto stuff come back in.
As far as taking this path, I always wanted to work in product development when I was growing up – I have always liked functional design and bike companies were always atop the list. There were a few years there where I really struggled to find purpose at work as I felt that my interests and character traits were just better suited somewhere else.
When COVID came around I’d recently moved back to the Surf Coast and was working and teaching at the university from home. Considering the circumstances and the timing I decided to commit the funds I would’ve spent going racing into WRP.
I made a few parts for friends and from there it just kind of manifested into something that I always dreamt of, but never expected to grow so fast.
Where does the Passion and drive to create such a unique product come from?
Good question. I know I daydream a lot and am a fairly open thinker, while trying to maintain a focus on pragmatism. But apart from that I’m going to be really cliche and say that it happens really authenticity, mainly just because I love riding bikes and everything that comes with it – including the equipment and the people in the riding community. When I see someone stoked on a product that I’ve made it makes me happy and makes me want to make more people stoked on more custom products, all the while being made here in Australia. As an example, all our polished parts I finish by hand with a cloth and polishing paste, so and when I see it bolted to someone else’s bike on the other side of the world that just makes me really happy.
A stem is a stem right? What is so unique about your stems?
Yea a stem isn’t just a stem. Ever since I was a kid racing BMX I was always surprised how stems (and other parts) came in such large incremental size differences. While we offer stems in standard sizes, we also have a custom stem builder program where the customer can more-or-less design whatever they want dimension and aesthetic wise, with custom engraving, colours, bolts etc. We’ve done some pretty cool stems with totally custom dimensions and have many more on the way, so they’re certainly keeping me busy.
How does your linkage allow people to run a mullet wheel setup and why do you recommend people run it?
We offer a range of yokes that allow people to run a mullet (mixed wheel size) on their 29’r – so a 27.5 inch rear wheel while maintaining stock 29/29 geo. A yoke is different to a linkage as it doesn’t change the suspension’s leverage curve – just sits in a different portion of it. The way to think of it is it’s like running a longer eye-to-eye shock with the same stroke, which in turn alters the axle height comparatively. This is how we’re able to maintain the geo of the 29/29 while running mullet (all the while with the same shock).
Everyone has different biomechanics and different tracks demand different set-ups so the 29/29 vs 29/27.5 is a double-edged sword type argument, so I would never twist anyone’s arm to say one is better or worse. For example, there are circumstances where a 26 inch wheel front and rear is the way to go (say on a dirt jumper) and there’d be circumstances a 31 inch wheel would be the way to go (the Kamikaze at Mammoth, say).
The reason I like the mullet (27.5 inch wheel on the rear) is that I don’t buzz my ass on the rear tyre, but more so is that it leans into corners better purely down to the fact it’s a smaller gyroscope. It should also be noted that a smaller wheel will accelerate/decelerate more efficiently too. It just depends what you’re after and what the track of the day demands/what type of riding you primarily do.
I can barely add 2 and 2 together on a good day. What is your process for developing a custom link so it provides the correct ride feel?
Firstly, if it’s a one-off custom part, I think it’s really important to understand what it is the customer wants out of the bike. That’s the end goal and the only thing that matters. If we have an end goal it gives us something to aim at and design to.
As for our readily available yokes, some physical dimensions are taken to verify that the custom yoke will actually fit and some maths is done to determine its effect on suspension kinematics. This can be done longhand like a lot of my initial calcs are done, but there are also some great computer programs available nowadays that are really powerful.
I’m pretty picky when it comes to aesthetic so there are often many CAD designs and 3D prints floating around. Once I’m happy with the 3D printed model I’ll launch into CNC’ing it out of a material that’s specific to the purpose and functionality of the part. We’re currently experimenting with some 3D printed Titanium parts too, which is exciting.
What bikes do you provide custom links for at the moment? If I want to tweak my rig, is it as simple as sliding into your DM’s?
Yoke and dropout wise, we currently support Commencal and Specialized and cover a few of their models, but we’ll be expanding into more brands in the future. As for my DM’s, they can be slid into anytime… but the easiest way to reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you’re after a custom stem, on the ‘Custom Stem Builder’ on our website.
Rumour has it you are working on a game changing product, any insight into what you are creating?
You have an eager ear. We’ll be posting all the details on our Instagram page, so be sure to stay up to date there.
You have some luscious locks at the moment, are you ever going to commit and go full mullet up top as well?
Haha, well the locks are actually being grown for a good cause at the minute. When it comes time to cut them I might have to have a little business up front/party out back combo – just for all the mullet fans out there. [R]