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Co-creation, the secret to PRO’s success

A three-spoke time trial wheel developed with Team Sky, a superior saddle crafted with riders from Giant-Alpecin – it’s all in a day’s work at PRO, where the name of the game is co-creation.

We all know the exhilaration of sitting on a bike for the first time and knowing right there and then that everything gels. But what do the seven people that make up the core team at PRO do to make sure it gets to that point? What’s it like to design something specifically for pros like Gee Atherton or Tom Dumoulin, which eventually end up on bikes available to the general public? We sat down with Marcel Gerritsen, team leader of product development and Bas Schaapveld, product developer, to find out the answers to these questions.

The kick of working with pros

One reason why PRO products work so well is co-creation – joining forces with both Shimano and seasoned pros to benefit from their expertise and experience.  ‘We can hook up with our colleagues at Shimano,’ Bas says ‘at an early stage and be the first in the market with a product that complements a Shimano innovation. And like Shimano, we test our products rigorously. That’s a huge advantage of co-creation.’   

‘We can hook up with our colleagues at Shimano, at an early stage and be the first in the market with a product that complements a Shimano innovation. And like Shimano, we test our products rigorously. That’s a huge advantage of co-creation.’

But the best part of co-creation is working with the pros. One of the most extensive partnerships of co-creation has been with the multi-champion Atherton siblings. How exactly does that work? Do you knock on their door and ask them if they’re interested in working with you? ‘That’s kind of how it goes,’ Marcel says. ‘We met them and when it became clear there was mutual interest they started coming to our office in the Netherlands, and we went to their races. The whole process is pretty much hands on. We literally plonked some of our products onto a table so they could get a feel for them, and then they chose some to test ride. They gave us feedback and we took it from there. And that’s how it works. We go back and forth fine-tuning everything until everyone’s happy. That’s when we can start actual production.’  

The best elixir

Good feedback is the best elixir: it fans the flame of passion at PRO, not that these guys need it. ‘There are two kinds of feedback,’ Bas says. ‘There’s the indirect feedback of victory. Froome winning the Tour de France or Cavendish winning another stage. That puts the product we’ve worked so long on in the spotlight. A blown-up picture of a cockpit with the words PRO on it crossing the finishing line first. We’ve got Froome’s yellow jersey from the 100th Tour de France on a mannequin in our office, for example. You can’t help but feel part of the victory. ’

The other kind of feedback comes from an independent journalist on the other side of the globe trying out and reviewing your product. Like Cycling Weekly, who said after testing PRO’s Falcon saddle that it was ‘a great saddle that we’ll be using long after this test is concluded.’ Bas feels that’s a confirmation of their hard work.

‘Sometimes you don’t even realise how fun the work is. Which is probably the key to PRO’s success.’

The key to success

And hard work it is. But one thing’s for sure, there’s never a boring day at PRO. ‘In fact, it’s almost impossible to work on one thing in a given day here,’ Bas says ‘because people are constantly sending questions and asking for help on several different projects. So we’re always switching from one thing to another: designing, packaging, samples that need testing, artwork, you name it.’ Everyday something new. ‘That’s what helps to keep your passion burning,’ Marcel says. ‘Sometimes you don’t even realise how fun the work is.’ Which is probably the key to PRO’s success.

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