FYI: Root Designs

FYI: Root Designs

photos: Jamie cameron

Who is behind Root Designs?

Jamie: Root was started by Jim Boud and myself (Jamie Cameron). There’s a whole lot of other people who’ve helped us along the way. It’s about as close to an actual ‘trail collective’ as you can hope to achieve while staying in business.

What is it about?

Jim: We decided to start a brand that reflected the scene around us and included everybody who contributed to it. In the UK, trails are predominantly a mix of BMX riders and 24” bike riders. The UK trail scene has benefited hugely from everybody working together with the same objective. We felt it was time for a bike company to recognize this.

Jamie: Up to this point, it’s been about ‘the in-between’. There are BMX and MTB companies, but we’re unaware of anyone who’s successfully designing products that improve the current options for both.

How did you decide to start a brand focused on the most niche wheel size abandoned by the MTB industry years ago?

Jim: I wouldn’t say we focused the brand on the 24” bike. We will also be producing a BMX frame in the near future. As a BMX rider, I found myself riding more with guys on 24’s than BMX over the past few years. That’s where we really noticed the lack of options for 24” riders and where we could improve their equipment.

Jamie: I don’t think it’s completely accurate to say Root Designs is focused on 24”. We’ve got riders on all types of bikes, from 20” BMX to 29” Enduro bikes riding our pedals. They were designed with trail riding in mind, but a good flat pedal works well for pretty much any type of riding.

We’re about to make 24” frames widely available for the first time in years. However, we’re focused on making whatever products we think would benefit the trail scene in general.

Is there any backstory on how did you come up with this idea?

Jamie: We live close to Wisley, Brockham, and Leatherhead trails. The locals at all three of those spots never moved away from 24”, and they’re amongst the most skilled and dedicated pure trail riders in the world. Their supply of 24” frames had run out. That’s where we stepped in.

What makes a Root frame stand apart for those who want to ride on 24”?

Jamie: There are no compromises whatsoever. It’s the best frame we could possibly have produced for its intended purpose. I’ve specced frames with Sanko Japanese tubing in the past, and that makes a difference. We think it’s well worth the upcharge.

We use heat-treated dropouts, headtube, and BB. The BB is a Mid design, which we think is a big improvement on an external (threaded) Euro BB. The chain stays don’t kink out in the middle like every other mountain bike frame, and we haven’t had to crimp them (or put in a plate with compromised lateral strength) to fit sprockets up to 33t.

The geometry is designed to go fast and pull up. The very few 24” frames we’ve seen lately seem to be on the short/tall side for roasting.

Who’s designing the products, and where are they made?

Jamie: Jim and I both have a lot of experience designing bike products. There is no one person doing everything in that department. Jim does the 3D drawings, but otherwise, it’s pretty much a 50/50 split.

I did 10+ years designing products for the BMX industry and you get to see it all over that length of time. You get to evolve and figure out the best methods to avoid any risk of failure. We’re constantly running ideas back and forth between ourselves and then (once we’re happy) with the riders.

We have a pretty significant amount of filtering to ensure nothing wacky ever gets near to production. We’ve tried to get all our products made in the UK, but sometimes that’s proved to be impossible. We use vendors (I’ve worked with for decades) in Taiwan if we can’t get the products made here.

How was the whole creation process, from drawing, sampling, and production?

Jamie: For the frames, it was fairly straightforward once we started working with the factory we’ve ended up using. They’re incredibly experienced and knowledgeable, so we have absolute confidence in the product. Trying to work with other factories or machine shops in the UK was pretty frustrating, but that’s a part of the process.

It took years to get our pedals made to the exact specifications we were demanding. That’s a whole other story!

Who are the riders who tested Root and gave feedback for the final product?

Jamie: For the 24” frames, I got input from a lot of different people, but Elliot Woodhouse and Wilson Haines from Wisley Trails helped out a lot in the beginning. After Wilson moved out to Rotorua, Jonny Faulkner from Brockham Trails gave us a lot of invaluable input. The production frames have a shorter backend and a slightly lower standover than the original samples.

What are their thoughts on the frame compared to others that they’ve ridden in the past?

Jamie: They’re confident in the frames they’re riding now. El said there were a couple of times he landed pretty sideways, and in the past, that’d cause the back end to ‘let go’. Our frames haven’t budged an inch. The term ‘nailed it’ came up quite a lot.

What were the key parts you guys were looking for when creating it?

Jamie: To make a good-looking, gimmick-free frame with 24” specific geometry that should last for years of pulling up and going sideways. We made the frames with that in mind, but we’re aware all of those things would appeal to BMX riders who might want to give their wrists and ankles a rest as they get older.

We already have some of the most skilled BMX trail guys in the world running our frames. They would probably have never bought a frame from a long-established MTB brand that’s married to some outdated ideas.

Are most Dirt and Trails riders wrong for using 26” wheels, or 24” is not for everybody?

Jim: Not at all. There are plenty of great trail riders choosing 26. Although the smaller wheel of the 24 is obviously a closer match to the BMX. I think this is where the meeting of minds between the riders of both bikes has worked well for trail spots. With everybody taking influence from each other to create great trails.

Are there any benefits of riding smaller wheels?

Jamie: We’re friends with some of the most dedicated trail riders. The majority of them choose to ride 24” in this area. Who are we to argue? Obviously, you can slam the rear wheel in an inch further, so that’s going to provide more responsive geometry with a shorter wheelbase, etc.

It seems like the smaller wheel helps to get a better pump and really yank off a lip, especially on jumps that aren’t huge contest-style jumps.

Will you keep the frames strictly 24”, or could people see a 26” version? Would more components be added to the line?

Jamie: Never say never, but we have no plans for a 26” version at this point. The original prototypes would actually fit 26” wheels pretty comfortably, but it threw the geometry out and always felt like a compromise.

We’re planning to add a 20” BMX frame with all the features you’d expect for trails perfection next. We’ve had those being tested by Bob Stringer from ALV and Josh Byford (aka Pie) from Sheet for the last year, so anyone in the market for a new frame can buy ours with confidence.

How do you guys see the brand evolving in the future?

Jamie: We design the products for use at trail spots, and trail riders make up the vast majority of our customer base. We plan to point the soft goods towards what you’d expect from an ‘outdoor’ brand. Hopefully, that will find a home with people from all walks of life. It’d be really cool if you’re riding a Root frame, but you can get the Mrs. involved by wearing a Root jacket.

We’d like to keep growing without compromising anything we stand for. We’re going to keep adding new guys to the team and flowing product to the guys who deserve our support… no matter what type of bike they ride.