Bangkok's Concept Speed is a mighty impressive business. Started by Peach Sukontarath from scratch over half a decade ago, it has grown from a high-end cycling apparel re-seller to a brand with its own line of clothing and international ambitions. Where most bikeshops interested in representing Festka start with no more than the obligatory two demo bikes, Peach ordered a couple dozen, all in a design scheme exclusive to Concept Speed. Passionate about cycling and his enterprise, it was great fun chatting to him and we hope his enthusiasm will rub off on you when you read this interview...
What led you to start the Concept Speed brand in a market like Thailand where established cycling apparel marques were already available? Where is Concept Speed apparel made?
Peach: When I started the Concept Speed clothing label I was already representing Rapha in Thailand, although not exclusively. There were a couple of other dealers, too. Plus I carried another foreign brand. The clothes we design are made in Italy. My motivation to start CS wasn't so much to make money off it. What drove me to it was my passion for cycling and everything to do with it. Nice clothes and nice bikes are like an entrance ticket to the community of serious bike lovers who are equally passionate about cycling. Concept Speed is more than just a brand. We are a family who love to ride bikes and have great fun doing it. We ride hard, we sprint, we get the stragglers or those who had technical problems... We'll do anything for a laugh.I started with just USD1,500 but luckily my business partners trusted me. At the time there were no luxury brands present in the market here. Then Rapha came, followed by MAAP and Attacquer. But selling the same stuff as another seller brings the usual problems such as price competition and all the rest of it and I could soon see this wasn't the best way to go forward. That's when I decided to try and start my own brand.
The scale of your clothing collection is impressive. Apart from the creative work, how do you manage to stay on top of the logistics, stock control and all the other boring but super important stuff?
Peach: The first four years it was just myself and my wife doing all the work. And we only did it part-time alongside another job. It was only when the income from the sales of cycling apparel grew bigger than that from the other job that I started to build the Concept Speed store. It was really hard. I invested every penny I had into the venture. But looking back, I have to say that the hardest part is managing people. It's easy to manage yourself but it's another thing to manage the ten or so people we have now.Let me go back to the origins a bit. Were you already a keen cyclist when you started the business in 2015?
What is it like to be a cyclist in Thailand?
Peach: You need money to be able to ride a bike in Thailand. At least enought to be able to buy a car to take your bike to places where you can ride it. You can't ride in normal traffic. You have to go to a riding place where it's safe to ride with your friends. Bangkok's Sky Lane cycling park is the principal riding place here but it has become too busy recently. And to be able to ride in the countryside you would have to drive two to three hours away from Bangkok.
It sounds like it's hard work to be a cyclist in Thailand. How come it's so popular and people are prepared to invest so much money into it? Has it become a status thing?
Bill (Peach’s colleague): Yeah, absolutely. People are very proud of what they own. They love good quality and they love to show it. That's why brands like Festka and Concept Speed are big in Thailand. People love nice bicycles and beautiful clothes and carry them with pride. When you go to Sky Lane you see many people riding hi-end bikes and wearing top-notch clothes.
Peach: Ten thousand people come to ride there mornings and evenings. That's a lot of people in the same place. But our group is different. We bring cool people together and put them under the spotlight.
This environment is clearly ideal for showing off. It couldn't be more different from the situation in our country. We can ride pretty much anywhere we want except for motorways and that means that you meet very few cyclists on the road. We rarely get opportunities to show off.
Peach: Showing off is big not only in Thailand. We work with dealers in other countries where they also bring people together thus creating an environment where you get seen. But it's not all about that. We are passionate riders first and foremost. We ride hard, we sprint, we cruise. And then we stop for a beer. We enjoy ourselves. We have a good time.
So how does Festka fit in all of this? What was the motivation for ordering the fleet of custom-designed bikes from us?
Peach: We'd been following and loving Festka for quite a while. Four, five years. We were waiting, building up our business until it becomes strong enough to represent Festka. Then one day we started thinking about a Concept Speed team bike. We wanted it to have the DNA of our approach to cycling. And that was the time when my colleague Bill suggested we approach Festka with the idea. The worst that can happen is they say no.
And we said yes. Then one thing led to another and we ended up making a sizeable fleet of Festkas in a design scheme exclusive to Concept Speed. Tell us about the ideas behind the design.
Peach: The shade of blue was taken from the shop front of our first store and the particles of glitter represent the members of our cycling community. The symbol on the top tube is the original Concept Speed logo. Our motto "Devoted to Speed" adorns the fork. We wanted to show the Festka trademark carbon work so only the front half of the frame is painted. Instead of making the boundary between the painted and the naked carbon parts sharp, we opted for a broken, crackled one to give the frame an edgy look of a machine to be ridden in any and all conditions.
Are all the bikes you ordered going to individual members of your team or are some of them display pieces?
Peach: Ten or twelve will be bought by team members. The rest will be display bikes that we also want to place with other dealers. The collaboration between you and us doesn't stop here. We want to do a project like this every couple of years. We want the members of our team who participate in local races to ride Festkas.
Will the rest of the fleet be available to buy?
Peach: Absolutely! Anyone who likes the CSPD bike should get in touch with us…
written by: Janek Jaros
photos: CSPD, Festka