Innovation & Sustainable Mobility | TREK Bicycle Is The Challenge Sponsor for Make48 Madison
Madison is once again one of this year’s cities to host a Make48 event. TREK Bicycle will be the Challenge Sponsor with a chosen theme of “Sustainable Mobility”, an important issue in their business practice. Named one of Time’s 100 Best Sustainable Companies, TREK has a reputation for the quality of bikes they offer, as well as great customer service. They are often considered one of the world’s best bicycle companies by enthusiasts.
TREK started in a small Wisconsin barn in 1976. John Burke, the President of TREK Bicycle, told of his story of how his father, Dick Burke, met a guy named Bevil Hogg, a South African who owned a bicycle store in Madison, Wisconsin. Bevil was looking for an investor for his store and John’s father loved business opportunities. He decided to pursue his interest in bicycles. At that time, no one was building good bikes, and Bevil thought “instead of being a retailer, they should manufacture high-end bikes built in the United States. Nothing was on the market from the middle price points all the way to the top that was made in America. It was a unique idea, something completely different.” John Burke
It was over a couple of beers that the founders came up with the company name. The debate came down to the relative merits of two names: Trek and Kestrel, a swift bird of prey. The power behind the name calls on the spirit of adventure and the promise of greatness on the horizon. 45 years later, TREK is on a mission to make our world a better place to live and ride.
In March ‘22, TREK was named to Time’s 100 best sustainable companies beside some giants and game makers in sustainability and became the first major bicycle manufacturer to quantify that toll, publishing a sustainability report that found that producing and shipping each bike emits the same amount of carbon energy as an average car driving 430 miles. It now plans to reduce its reliance on air freight, use more sustainable materials, and consolidate shipments. The company’s hope, says president John Burke, is that “other companies in the bike business can do the same thing.” John Burke at 2022 Bicycle Leadership Conference
Chad Manuell, Global Director of Engineering, has been with TREK for 20+ years. Now headquartered in Waterloo, Wisconsin, we met Chad and The Free Wheelers (Claude, Nikki, Ben and Zach) when they submitted a team at the Madison-Make48 event in 2021. They ended up winning first place that year and moved on to Nationals. Their team recently shared the progress of their yard game invention BocceRoll at DesignWisconsin, an industrial design trade show event.
We spoke to Chad on the future of TREK and urban transportation, sustainability and hosting the Madison event this upcoming August.
M48: Sustainability is very important to TREK. Can you tell me how your company reacted to the news of being listed as one of the best sustainable companies by TIME?
Chad: Being recognized as pioneers for our work in the area of sustainability was fantastic! There's been a lot of effort put into making our products more sustainable. For a long time, the bicycle industry has been recognized as being generally sustainable. If you look at the larger environmental problems I am excited for the role Trek can play in being part of the solution. .
Several years ago John Burke, Trek’s President, asked us to watch Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow and then set an objective for Trek to address climate change fast and be a leader for other companies to emulate. This objective cascaded through the organization very quickly. Our Engineering team brought in a sustainability intern who ended up going full time and now has a team supporting her. One of the people on her team is a sustainability specialist in Taiwan and is focused on doing life cycle analysis of our products so that we can make improvements that benefit our climate. An area of focus for our development teams is finding sustainable solutions for five key materials/products including aluminum, carbon fiber, rubber, batteries, and plastics. Check out Trek’s Sustainability Report to learn more about our efforts to address climate change.
M48: Packaging also comes into play in sustainability?
Chad: Trek has made some amazing progress in the area of sustainable packaging. We are committed to removing single use plastic and other waste from our products and packaging. In an effort to do our part, Trek has joined he Responsible Packaging Movement spearheaded by clothing brand, prAna to join other like minded companies on a quest to reduce the massive amounts of plastic waste polluting our oceans. Visit The Trek Blog for details.
M48: Where do you see the future of urban transportation?
Chad: At Trek we believe that the bicycle is a simple solution to many of the world’s most complex problems, from climate change to traffic congestion, equitable mobility, health, and more. It's my hope that gas powered vehicles are replaced by electric vehicles and bicycles as quickly as possible. Bike share programs like BCycle enable people to conveniently travel throughout cities without a car. The increasing popularity of electric bikes is especially exciting because electric motors on bikes help more people choose a bike over a car when running errands.
M48: The Madison-Make48 challenge theme is sustainable mobility. What type of ideas are you hoping to see?
Chad: I can’t say too much, but we’d like the teams to focus on designing products that help get more people on bikes and are produced with recycled material. In the end, we can do good for the world and help address climate change fast.
M48: Do you currently use recyclable materials in your bikes?
Chad: We use recycled materials in products today and are looking at many more opportunities. Trek is a founding member of NextWave, a cross-industry consortium of partner companies—Dell, General Motors, IKEA, HP Interface, Humanscale, Herman Miller, Bureo, and Trek—that are committed to keeping plastics in our economy and out of our oceans. One of the products we have switched to recycled material is the Bat Cage which is now made from discarded and end-of-life fishing nets that could otherwise pollute our oceans. We are also using recycled materials in our Trek Cycling Apparel.
M48: What are you looking forward to at the event this summer?
Chad: It was really interesting watching the Madison and Wichita competitions. It's crazy witnessing the evolution of each team’s innovations as the clock ticks down from 48 hours to zero. At some point part way through you start thinking that some of the teams are not going to finish but they all do. It will be a blast watching the teams innovate in the sustainable mobility space!
I've been amazed every single time, watching them turn an idea into real, sellable products. I think going into the first one, I was a little bit skeptical. But after watching what a couple of the teams developed, they were really amazing. I believe multiple products that came out of both of the events I have watched are marketable and hope the TREK team will end up selling the game they invented, BocceRoll.
M48: You were at both the Madison event and Nationals with TREK’s team, The Free Wheelers. From your point of view, what should the teams know before competing in Madison this year? And how should they tackle this challenge?
Chad: I would love to see the teams show up at the event inspired to address climate fast. A couple of my favorite documentaries on climate change are Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow and David Attenbourough - Life On Our Planet.. I believe if a team watches one or both of these documentaries they will be inspired to invent the next product that will help solve many of the world's most complex problems by getting more people on bikes.
To learn more about the TREK-MAKE48 event visit https://www.make48.com/madison.
Follow TREK Bicycle at https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/ and learn more about their mission to build only products they love, provide incredible hospitality to customers and change the world by getting more people on bikes.