Muc-Off | The story of the pink stuff | PT2

May 26th, 2015

By Andrew Dodd in Features

Part two | How the pink stuff took over

Muc-Off is the leading brand of bike cleaning and maintenance products, making everything from the classic pink bike cleaner to ultra high-tech nano lubricants and carbon assembly compounds. For 2015 they are celebrating their 21st year.

Originally Muc-Off was just a single product from the X-lite range of mountain bike components, developed by Rex Trimnell from the necessity of keeping the lovely machined and anodised parts he designed clean. But the demand for the powerful pink stuff grew and inspired a whole range of bike care products that are available in over 40 countries.

 

Muc-Off

 

Part one of the story can be found here, but here we rejoin the story in 2002…


 

X-lite continued to innovate by bringing out new hardware, and had a lot of success with riders like Steve Peat backing the products – and even taking the World Cup overall title at Les Gets in France, on an X-lite bar and stem that consumers could buy.

At the same time, the pink colour was becoming ever-more prevalent – and seemingly every bike shop in the country stocked Muc-Off, and a few other companies started producing cleaning fluids – but nothing could touch the mighty pink stuff that Rex developed back in 1993.

Muc-Off

A significant moment in British mountain biking celebrated by a brand that has supported Steve Peat for many years

“It’s funny as we didn’t know how it would sell originally. We’d think it was good when we shifted the first couple of cases, but then over the next 4-5years it slowly and steadily grew.

And really it’s one of the things that truly shaped the company. We’d have a pallet of Muc-Off, and we’d wonder how long it would take to sell – then it would sell and we’d be like ‘how do we move the pallet?’

‘oh, we need a pallet truck’

And then things moved on to ‘now we need to make the door bigger to get more pallet trucks through…’

And then suddenly we were using fork lift trucks. After 5-6 years we realised there was something special about it – the energy it created was brilliant”

Alex Trimnell, MD, Muc-Off

Muc-Off

Muc-Off HQ is one hell of a cool place. It’s full of exciting, passionate people that live and breath everything that Muc-Off is about.

Exit planet X-lite

In 2004, Rex Trimnell sadly passed away, which was a huge shock for the Trimnell family and a massive loss to the mountain biking community.  Alex stepped up to run X-lite, though it wasn’t long before he realised the potential of the simple cleaning product his father had developed all those years ago.

“When dad left us in 2004, I carried on running X-lite. Muc-Off was really growing by this point and over the next 12 months we developed a few new products and it really made me think.

Dad was the innovator. He was the engineer.

What I didn’t want to do was run X-lite for the sake of it – and I didn’t want to ruin the brand by having to learn things on the go. But with Muc-Off I really understood it as I was there from the beginning of the product’s inception. I knew the next steps that needed to be taken”

Alex Trimnell, MD, Muc-Off

Muc-Off

Every where you look there is paraphernalia from Muc-Off sponsored riders, drivers and athletes

It’s not often that you hear of a company re-branding itself after the leading product, but that’s exactly what Alex Trimnell was thinking – though he was very cautious about how it might affect the business, it was clear that Muc-Off wasn’t just being used to describe the single product – it was being used to describe all of the care products…

“Having considered absolutely everything we took a huge, difficult step in 2006 and we became Muc-off ltd.

When we started to develop chain lubes, we really didn’t think anyone would want to buy a lube with the name Muc-Off on it – as it was so well known as a cleaner. We were very concerned – but as we did it, we realised that our customers understood. They associated the name Muc-Off with bike care products”

Alex Trimnell, MD, Muc-Off

Muc-Off

What was once X-Lite Muc-Off is now Muc-Off bike cleaner – and instantly recognisable.

Muc-Off – Think Pink

Even from the early days of Muc-Off’s development, there were export accounts. Denmark and Norway were there from the beginning, and surprisingly Thailand was also an early importer.

Although not a fixed rule, pink was a reoccurring theme amongst X-lite products over the years, and thanks to the popularity of the classic bike cleaning fluid gave the company a unique identity.

Muc-Off

This is where Alex’s marketing expertise came in, as he understood the importance of brand identity – the bright pink liquid was already doing such a good job, so Alex pushed things further. The whole brand became very slick. Good design and graphics were important – but also representing the brand was too, even down to the foot wear staff wore at trade shows…

“We used a bit of pink in the X-lite days, and it became our direction.

Alex was always on top of it and we had promotional clothing and stuff ready for shows – but not just stock uniforms with our logo on – we’d have the coolest looking gear. The sort of stuff we’d wear anyway.

For a while we had custom black and pink Vans, then it was black and pink Nike ID trainers and matching clothing. Every detail was covered – it was always important to Alex – and it works”

James Cramp, Muc-Off

One of the nicest things about Muc-Off, is that the products being developed are born from a need. Alex has been a mountain biker and cyclist from day one, and most of the products come from a need. The eyewear cleaning kit for example, came from a direct need from Alex. After a typically British ride he went to clean the mud from his Oakley’s – but being a bloke he made a right mess of them and scratched the iridium coating off. So he sat down and developed a kit specifically to clean his glasses. And off the back of that came the anti-fog treatment.

Muc-off

Retro themed adverts using combining vintage adverts from Playboy with a modern bike-related twist

It’s this way of working that has propelled Muc-Off to huge success in so many markets – they make specific ranges for the auto and motorcycle market; and also for boats and motorhomes. If you go in to Halfords – take a look how good it looks on the shelf. Most car cleaners and waxes can be confusing – there are a lot of similar looking products and often it’s not clear what they are.

Muc-Off have a simple four stage system: 1 -wheels; 2 – body work; 3- protection and 4 – detailing.

You may not want all the products, but it makes it very easy to identify what you do want.

It’s simple marketing that works so well.

Muc-Off

Our favourite Muc-Off product is the Nano Gel Refill – it’s better for the environment and great for the wallet…

Team Sky

Muc-Off isn’t just about making nice looking stuff – they really do have men in white coats that scientifically develop formulas, and they will go further than other brands will in the quest for perfection. They’ve just released a friction reducing lubricant with Team Sky…

“It’s not like we just give them products and sign some paper work – it’s a partnership. When we first signed I went to Belgium to be with the mechanics and see how they work. To see what they need and what their requirements were.

The development side is paramount. It has to work for them – and for us there has to be genuine innovation. The new Sky lube is a huge thing for us, and it’s going to high-light the importance of maintenance”

James Cramp, Muc-Off

When I visited Muc-Off they took me to their development laboratory, where they have the worlds only chain lube efficiency dynamometer – a £150,000 jig that is continuously running Shimano Dura Ace chains in a variety of conditions with differing torque and rider weight settings. Whilst they wouldn’t spill the beans on the full testing process, they did tell me how each and every chain was ultra sonically cleaned back to bare metal before testing would begin with various treatments.

Muc-Off

The chain lube efficiency dynamometer has not only vastly improved the way Muc-Off develop chain lubes, but has helped the men in white coats discover some mechanical factors that will make for interesting development. Watch this space.

James told me of some specially treated chains that he took out to the Tour de France in a briefcase – secret agent style – and watched the mechanics fit them to the bikes before Team Sky went out and raced. He waited for them to return, had the mechanics remove the chains and then he took them back to the UK immediately for analysis. The treatment had worked, and did it’s part in making the team minutely faster. How cool is that!

They also hinted at some mechanical discoveries they have made in using the machine, and their findings could lead to some incredible development out side of Muc-Off…

Muc-Off

We saw stacks of tupperware boxes, each with a chain tested to differing conditions with different lube formulas. Serious number crunching!

 

Boots and beyond

I always thought Muc-Off had the potential to be on the high street, so when they released their Dry Shower and Shower Scrub, I immediately thought this was where they were heading – though it didn’t prepare me for seeing the shelves in Boots crammed with Muc-Off personal care kits at Christmas…

“They actually approached us! A company we deal with in London saw the shower scrub in the personal care range and told us there was an opportunity to get involved with Boots – we were obviously pretty excited!

And the uptake was incredible – Boots were really pleased too and we suspect it’s an area we might get more involved it…”

James Cramp, Muc-Off

Muc-Off

Our favourite bike cleaning brand has gone high street with body care products. We’d rather use this stuff than any of the major brands…

Muc-Off

How cool is that? Muc-Off on sale in the biggest pharmacy chain in the country, with prime shelf positioning.

Muc-Off – as a brand, and a range of products – is really going from strength to strength, and it’s great to see such dedicated and serious development going on, but also a sense of fun and fashion about the company. The brand sits perfectly in Boots; is easily recognised in Halfords and is by far the biggest selling cleaning and care brand in cycling right now – but Alex won’t sit on that. He always wants the next best thing – and I can’t wait to see what’s next from the progressive company.

 “Our original pink cleaner is still my favourite product – how can it not be?

But aside from that, my favourite Muc-Off product is the next product. I’m constantly having dilemmas with myself – how do I make a chain faster? How do we reduce friction? How to we make something cleaner for the environment? That’s definitely the fuel behind the development and it makes me excited just thinking about it!”

Alex Trimnell, MD, Muc-Off

Muc-Off

There is a lot to come from the Poole based company, and lots of exciting things happening behind this door right now…

 

Check out Muc-Off’s MD (mad developer) Alex Trimnell in this advert for Santander – the tiny Poole based company has gone from making a few hand made products and some cleaning fluid – to an international success story.


 

 

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