Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (2)

We get pitched a lot of new products, but it isn’t often that the company’s business model is unique as the product. When Tim Krueger told us he had something in the works that he was really excited about, we didn’t quite know what to expect. As the former Product Manager for Salsa Cycles, Tim is pretty much a bike industry lifer so there was little surprise that he couldn’t stay away from the little world of bikes for long.

What was a bit surprising was the business model that the aptly named Advocate Cycles would use. Taking advantage of a specific set of rules valid in his home state of Minnesota, Tim and his wife and business partner Odia started a Special Benefits Corporation. The goal? To donate 100% of their after-tax profits to bicycling related advocacy non-profit organizations. Sound far fetched? That’s exactly why we spoke to Tim to pull back the curtains and try and figure out how Advocate plans to make this a reality, and what they have planned for the future…

Photo c. Advocate Cycles
Tim and Odia cruise the beach on Watchmen. Photo c. Advocate Cycles

Bikerumor: Hey Tim, so Advocate Cycles started with Plus Sized bikes, has an interesting business model, and aspirations of funneling the profit back into cycling advocacy. How did you come up with that?

Tim: Advocate Cycles right now is my wife Odia, and I. We have been running a race for 6 years now that has put all of the money back into the trails that it takes place on, called the Chequamegon 100.  It comes from my personal economic philosophy that everything has value.  While the idea of free racing was taking off in grassroots events, we thought we should actually charge, since the act or organizing a race has value, and then give the money to a worthy cause.  Professionally, I have been in product development in the bike industry, so we decided the next step was to see if we could carry through the business model to a larger business. And since making desirable bikes is a skill of mine, that is where the idea of Advocate Cycles came from.

Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (3)
The Hayduke’s 44mm head tube allows tapered steerers, but more importantly room for that sweet head badge.

Bikerumor: When it comes to the business model specifically, your critics apparently think you’re either independently wealthy, or stretching the truth about the advocacy part. What do you have to say to the skeptics, and how do you plan to make the concept work long term?

Tim: There are a variety of very deep structures that would take pages to dive into that are not easily understood, unless you are a CPA. I don’t even really understand them, and that’s why I have some good ones helping me out. To directly answer, I am not independently wealthy, I still have a mortgage and school loans that need to be paid every month.  And I understand there will be skepticism about our promise, and that is why we chose to go the Specific Benefit Corporation route, instead of just promising it.

One advantage that we do have that makes some of this possible is that I have been in the bike industry for almost 20 years, with a lot of good contacts, and there are some opportunities we took that made this possible, that are not typically available to other people trying to start up a bike company.  One way we will try to prove ourselves to people over time is to continually publish our financial records.  I am excited about this as well so that people can start to see what the finances of the bike industry look like.

Similarly, there are always people skeptical in general that the big cycling corporations are just making tons of profit, when that is not the case in reality.  They will also see that I am not skirting our mission with fancy accounting, or paying myself some high salary.  In fact, I will be taking a salary that is about 60% of what I was being paid when I did similar work for QBP.

And to grow the company long term, we are able to use Retained Earnings just like any other company, so that some earnings can be kept within the company to grow. Retained Earnings works like a bank account before taxes, and that you can keep money within the company for growth, it is obligated as profit, so that if it is ever taken out, tax must be paid on it.  In the same manner, the same process will be used for the growth of Advocate, and that money will also be fully used towards the mission after it has helped the company with a  specific investment or growth initiative.

Additionally, this is factored into our estimate of 7-9% of revenues being posted as profit yearly, so it is not a clever way to take the promised profit and keep it.  A method like this is also closely tracked by the IRS, and even the balance of such an account can be regulated by them if they feel it is being used to dodge too much tax (in a traditional business).  Like any SBC, the judge and jury of whether we are doing a good job is the consumer, and we are keenly aware of this, which is why we will be going further than required with our promise and transparency.

Very specifically, we hope to hit about $330,000 in earnings this year, and actually be profitable in our first year, which is a feat, even for a normal business.  In 2016, our first full calendar year of sales, we are planning on hitting about $800,000 in sales, and our financial infrastructure is already set and ready for this.  From there, we will use the methods discussed above to hopefully grow around 10% per year.  Some critics are right, we could grow much faster than 10% per year by keeping all of our profits for growth, but that is not what I want to do.  In the words of my favorite author Edward Abbey, “growth, for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell”.  A rich world to me is not a large bike company, but a decent, solid company and an improved cycling culture.  We will grow in a calculated, reasonable way, while working towards our mission at every step along the way, not just promising it way out in the future.

Bikerumor: And how does the Indiegogo campaign fit into that plan?

Tim: I sunk every penny I had ever saved into starting the company. We have a great method of inventory financing lined up thanks to the early publicity we received at Sea Otter, and it allowed us to move right into complete bikes, which is where my primary forte is in product design.  Moving complete bikes in this industry is all about brick and mortar retailers.

Consumer direct business models appear appealing to many startups because of the high margins, but they are hard to do, and are still only a small percentage of units.  Simply put, bike shops sell bikes, and the best way for us to get in front of bike shops in the USA is at Interbike. Our primary goal with the Indiegogo campaign was to raise enough funds through pre-selling inventory so that we could afford an Interbike booth space, and we have succeeded.

This was a crucial step in allowing us to hit our goals, and the next step is signing up 30-50 dealers nationwide this fall.

Bikerumor: We’re familiar with a lot of your work previously, but for the sake of those who aren’t – you have a pretty lengthy background in the bike industry, correct?

Tim: Yes, almost 20 years now. Like many people, I started as a teenager without a driver’s license, breaking down cardboard boxes for the dumpster at Stadium Bike in Green Bay, WI. From there, I worked through high school and college at a variety of bike shops, and helped start a few from the ground up.  My degree is actually in Psychology, so who knows how I really got here, but after a few years as the Service Manager for New Moon in Hayward, WI, I became the Product Manager for Salsa Cycles, and led the development of all of their modern products such as Spearfish, Mukluk, Vaya, and everything since then, including a few that are not even to market yet. (editor’s note: Saddle Drive is coming soon. Hmm…)

Bikerumor: We’re assuming that experience has helped get Advocate off the ground? You have to know a lot of the right people to make a brand work.

Tim: Yes, for sure. The bike industry is entirely built on relationships.  It’s an enthusiast industry, so most people dream of owning a bike company, or at least working for one.  This makes suppliers naturally skeptical of newcomers.  Is this new guy a real businessman, or just some yahoo who likes bikes?  With the contacts and trust I had at every point along the chain, it took me only a matter of months to create what may have taken a fresh startup 2 years to accomplish.

It allowed me to put most of the energy into building the foundation of the company, which is the not-so-fun part of meeting with lawyers, accountants and consultants, because the product and supply chain development came so easily and naturally to me. The other hurdle is getting people to know you exist, so knowing you, and a handful of other journalists helped as well.  I think even you would have been much more skeptical had we not known each other for a few years.

Bikerumor: I’ll admit – knowing your background, when I heard you had a new project in the works I was instantly curious, and excited. Who else is involved with the brand at this point?

Tim: Right now, we are a very loose group of people putting in various skills and bit of work. My wife Odia and I do the majority of it, with some help from friends and a few hired consultants. I will be ramping up my time with it into the fall (I am a consultant to a financial services company to pay the bills right now), and we are hiring a full-time employee to start in September.


Bikerumor: You’re also no stranger to bicycle advocacy and organizing bicycling events, right? What are all of the events you’ve either worked on or put together over the years?

Tim: The primary thing that is still going is the Chequamegon 100, but there have been several other rides or races over the years, I worked for a bicycle touring summer camp that taught high schoolers how to go loaded touring and I’ve sat on the board of directors on trails orgs. The sister arm of Advocate Cycles is Advocate Cycling Productions, which is the legal entity of the Chequamegon 100.  This year, we also tried to grow the racing idea out to other places. We failed in one community that didn’t see the value of what we were attempting, but succeeded in starting the Hungry Bear 100 gravel race, and the Gitchee Gumee Traverse urban singletrack race in Duluth.  The most exciting thing is that there are others taking our example and doing the same thing, such as the Marji Gessick 100 in Marquette, MI so we are assisting with getting them off the ground.

Bikerumor: Do you have any big plans coming up with the Indiegogo funding that Advocate hopefully brings in?

Tim: For sure. We are planning to put about 50% of the funds as straight donations to national non-profits such as IMBA, People for Bikes, Adventure Cycling Association, and more.  We are already corporate members of those three, and we hope to add more as we are able.  While there is also skepticism about large non-profit orgs, we see them as multipliers.  Rather than spend $10,000 on a certain initiative, we can give it to them, and they can use it to lobby and promote, and turn that into a much higher amount for the same thing.  All three have excellent track records of creating change.

SBCs are about more than just giving money though, so we will also be giving 10% or more of their time back to each employee to pursue any initiative they desire that aligns with our mission.  Further, Odia is a teacher, and she has a keen awareness of underserved groups, so we are developing programs and partnerships as we speak to run some of our own initiatives, domestically and internationally.  I also want to encourage other areas of the country to try our grassroots racing method, and I want to provide orgs with the seed money to start these events, especially within the areas of longer adventure and bikepacking races.

Bikerumor: To the rider who doesn’t get Plus or Fat Bikes, Advocate seems to have started out with very niche platforms. Do you have plans for more “traditional” bikes or are you happy keeping it weird (but awesome for those of us who love big tires)?

Tim: Yes, I started with these bikes very strategically. There is still high demand for these niche bikes, and not a lot of brands offering good solutions.  I have a lot of experience making several award-winning products in this “weird” area, so I started there.  Long term, Advocate Cycles will be a full-line bicycle company with products ranging from $750-$3,000 MSRP.

Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (4)
The braze on locations may change, but the Hayduke will have full external routing for brake and shift cabling, and internal routing for a dropper post at the seat tube. The PF92 bottom bracket is finalized.

Bikerumor: Will the production Hayduke be any different than the prototype we have in our hands?

Tim: Yes, a bit. The prototype you guys have was from tooling, which means that the majority of development was complete, but there are some fine details.  For instance, the geometry, functionality, and weight of the product you have is accurate.  But cable guide placements, dropper seatpost internal routing placement, and the dropout plates all have some changes made to production to make the final product fully refined. As well, your decals were digitally printed and put on by me.  Production products have a screen-printed decal under the clear coat.

The Watchman. Available in steel or Ti. All of the features of the Hayduke, but in even fatter tire form. Photo c. Advocate Cycles

Bikerumor: You just soft launched the new Watchman fat bike for the Indiegogo campaign, but we couldn’t help but notice the new tab on the website for the Lorax. Anything you can tell us about that one?

Tim: Interbike! But we can tell you it will be the first quasi-normal bike in the line.

Bikerumor: Anything else?

Tim: I want people to know that we are realistic with this. I knew coming in that there would be skeptics, and I am OK with that.  This idea is not for everyone, and I am OK with that too.  I don’t have visions of grandeur that everyone will buy an Advocate and we will all live in some bicycle utopia.  But I do know that this is very important to a certain segment of buyers, and that they would rather have their money go to something they believe in, rather than to a large corporation. There are concrete examples that this is true, in shoes, salad dressing, beer, coffee, clothing and many other industries.  I am not trying to convince someone to come buy a bike, but rather when someone is in the normal process of needing a new bike, and they are given the choice of a few large brands and us, a small portion of consumers who’s values align will choose us.

Bikerumor: Thanks, Tim. Good Luck.

Tim: Thank you Zach! I really hope you enjoy the Hayduke!

Hands On:

Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (1)

As Tim alluded to above, the Hayduke frame we have in for testing is still technically a prototype. A tooling sample that has already been used and abused as a test and photo mule, the frame is in impressive shape considering. Hopefully that indicates long term durability – which is the impression we get from the frame.

Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (8) Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (19)

Plus sized bikes aren’t exactly marketed as light weight race machines so the 6lb 10oz (3.01kg) frame weight (medium) shouldn’t be a deal breaker. That weight includes the seat post collar and the full geared dropout system with a Maxxle. If you want lighter, the titanium frame should qualify and at $1,650 through the Indiegogo, it seems like a pretty rad deal. To use a tapered fork with the Hayduke you’ll need a headset with a ZS44/28.6mm upper and EC44/40mm lower cup which is fairly standard for 44mm head tubes. Throw in a reducer plate for the lower bearing and you’ll have a straight 1 1/8″ compatible headset as well.

Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (7) Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (6)

Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (11) Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (10)

Obviously there won’t be many 27.5+ forks being sold with straight steerers, but thanks to the dropout system and frame design the Hayduke is just as happy with 29″ wheels. Better still, the rear end is compatible with both 142×12 (silver, above) or 148×12 Boost spacing (black, above). This is critical if you want to run both 29″ and 27.5+ tires since you likely already own a pair of 29″ wheels with 142mm hubs. By simply using thicker plates for the 142mm dropouts, the system places the brake caliper and the chainline in the proper location for non-Boost set ups. If you are going to use the Boost spacing on the rear, it should be matched with a Boost specific crankset with a +3mm offset to the chainring. More on that when we cover the drivetrain later.

Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (14) Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (13) Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (12)

Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (16) Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (15)

The trade off for all that versatility is a dropout system that is heavier than dedicated dropouts, but Advocate capitalized on the opportunity by taking the system one step further with an adjustable single speed compatible option. The modular system will provide geared and single speed options in both 142 and 148 spacing. Geared dropouts are fixed in place with their own bolts, while the single speed dropouts use a set screw to push each plate back to tighten the chain and massive bolts with captured nuts to hold them in place. One of the clever features of the dropout design is that the brake mount is built into the dropout plate so you won’t have to adjust your brake based on the position of the rear wheel.

Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (17) Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (18)

The geared dropouts use a fixed derailleur hanger for maximum shifting precision since the whole plate can be replaced if you break the hanger. Again, the dropouts above are still very much prototypes but the function will be the same for production (hence the anodization discoloration and raw aluminum).

Advocate Cycles hayduke 27 plus 650b+ steel hardtail tim kreuger interview review  (5)

Built with clearance for 27.5 x 3″ or 29 x 2.4″ tires the frame should have adequate clearance for all but the fattest tires. Even with the curved seat tube, all frame sizes except the small include two water bottle cage mounts. Hayduke frames are front derailleur compatible with a top pull Direct Mount derailleur mounted to an adapter clamp. Final notes include a 31.6mm seat tube and geometry based around a 120mm travel suspension fork with a 51mm offset.

To be offered in both Reynolds 725 Chromoly steel or double butted 3/2.5 titanium, Hayduke frames are still available as part of the Indiegogo campaign starting at $650 for the steel frame and $1,650 for the titanium frame. Those prices will jump slightly after the early bird discounts are gone, and are expected to deliver by September-December of 2015.

More to come as we build up the Hayduke with Project +!




  1. This sounds like a class project assigned my kid in 4th grade.

    I think you will write a book about it and call it the “Anti Capitalist-Capitalist” The ending will be sad.

  2. It’s a great marketing angle and really under no impediments from a business perspective. They will spend less in “advocacy” than other companies do in advertising — and will get a bit more buzz from their advertising dollar . . . er . . . we mean, “advocacy” dollar. Great (and entirely capitalistic) idea!

  3. Give them a break Chasejj, trying something new and making sweet rigs sounds awesome to me. Go Tim and Odia!

  4. Way to go, Tim! The bike looks cool, and I like the advocacy angle. It doesn’t matter how much you give to advocacy, but that you’re giving at all. I’m impressed that you’re willing to give-up your profits to fuel good things for cyclists.

  5. Jbikes-What is sad is that there are 5 people (commenters) who agree with this nonsense.
    Start a company and build cool sh*t. I will buy it and so will a lot of other people if it is really good and the value is there.
    Do some cool shit with the money like buy a house and a great car, go on vacations and send your kids to expensive private schools. Expand and employ as many people as possible. That is advocacy for the greater society.

    If you have so much money that you really want to do more, then send some to the charity/cause of your choice. But don’t advertise it. Do it because you care, not as a business/guilt trip poseur model.


  6. Yes, chase, what a terrible world it would be if more companies donated profits to charity and got a publicity boost for it.


  7. Hey Chase –

    I am pretty clear now that you don’t agree with what I am doing, and that you think I should be buying cars and houses and stuff.

    I think the overriding problem will be that you and I have drastically different world views. As such, we will obviously never agree. But in my world, I will build “cool shit” as I have always done, and I will be a richer man with more trails and bike paths, and a safer world for cyclists, than I ever would with more cars and houses.


  8. Well, welcome to the world of philanthropy. I’m on the board of my local mountain bike advocacy group, an IMBA chapter. We get a lot of donations from the industry. They promote us and we promote them. End result is more trails to ride and hopefully more bikes sold. We all win—even you! I WANT their donations to be public because it sets an example and makes it easier to get others in the industry to donate. It’s not about charity, but maximizing common goals.

    Anonymous individual donations may be purer in a spiritual sense—maybe individuals should not even take the tax deduction so there is no personal interest at stake–but that’s all letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. And in the case of mountain bike advocacy, I think public donations are actually more helpful than anonymous ones.

    Welcome also to the world of corporate social responsibility and benefit corporations, whose goals include positive impacts on society, the environment, etc, in addition to a goal to maximize profit. The notion that business should maximize profit above every other consideration makes a good Ayn Rand novel, but maybe not the best world to live in. In any event, there’s plenty of room for regular corporations and benefit corporations to thrive.

  9. Well, at least now I know how to view all the comments Chase has ever made on here. Helps a lot to know the worldview.

    Tim: Kick some ass. I may be talking to you soon.

  10. Chasejj,
    you fail to understand that not all capitalistic commercial enterprises have the same ultimate goals with regards to size, profit margin, gross profit, sales, etc. Just because one is not modern “profit über alles” does not make it anti-capitalitistic. You just view it that way.
    Furthermore, you seem to be implying that all companies “owe” the world maximum profit and expansion. No they don’t. Just as you don’t owe any company your business.
    Finally, there is nothing stopping Someone like Tim from making world class bikes at volumes and then choosing how those companies profits are spent. That again is part of the “free market” you seem to adhere to but apparently do not have a grasp on.

  11. Whoever thinks that advertising that you’re giving to charity only means you’re a poser is a buffoon. Don’t think think that more people would be interested in buying his bikes if they believe in the cause AND want one of his bikes If I were in the market for this type of bike(many people make a similar bike now) and the prices were close to the same, it would be a no brainer…even if it resulted in a 5% donation.

  12. I don’t know everything and I don’t pretend to but it would seem that certain commenters don’t understand how non profit organizations work. Many organizations in the bicycle industry that fight for you and your rights as a cyclist really do scratch for the money they need. Id hope you know this before slamming to the front of the line to rip into this model but anything running this way is required to have a certain amount of transparency meaning a lot of this isn’t bragging. Add to that the fact that the organizations working to improve many of the trails you may ride, laws benefitting you on the road, overall public health and wellness, stability for some people with various barriers challenging them in life, etc. could now have one more reliable source of funding and I say you’re on your way to making positive changes in an industry that has felt pretty stale at times. Just because this would be mutually beneficial doesn’t mean it’s bad. Also pointed out is the fact that many types of businesses exist and they all have their place. Not covered yet is whether we’re all Minnesota/Minneapolis natives. Minneapolis has continued to set an example for other cities to follow putting us above many of the European cities a lot of cyclists dream about and look to to be cutting edge. This huge step was made possible by many of the various things in place that Advocate use in their business model. Companies in Minnesota helped to set the trends in the industry, give it new life, and give us a lot to be proud of.
    Anyway, As Tim pointed out, some peoples views are not going to change and that’s fine. That kind of drive and self confidence is surely beneficial to you and that’s awesome. Any support is fantastic whether it’s purchasing a product or donating to charity and tattooing it on your forehead.
    I’m just really sick of stoning the whole group for the shortcomings of a few.

  13. The Benefit Corporation model is a real thing. It isn’t about overthrowing capitalism, it’s about saving capitalism. I don’t need a fat bike, but when Advocate builds something I do care about, I will give them serious consideration. That’s called “good will” and they teach it in business school.

  14. I rather ride a Specialized bike than one of these, and I rather be in a wheelchair than riding a Specialized bike.

    I will just buy a chinese frame for alibaba, which weights less than half of this one and also cost less. This current trend towards steel is… not for me at all. Then I will donate much more than 10% to Bike Relief in Africa. A new frame in 2015 of over 3kg of weight… yeah, sure, yeah.

    For god sake, at least make a decent decal kit or a headbadge that is not embarrasing.

  15. To be clear.

    I have no issue with and encourage advocacy for cycling or other worthy causes. I would not probably support many of the causes this endeavor seeks to provide funding. But that is his personal choice. I also do not publicize my charitable giving.

    When you develop a business plan that at its center boasts of it (advocacy above financial success) it establishes unrealistic and naive goals (based on the real economics).

    My biggest criticism of this idea, is that somehow Tim’s good intentions will defeat the laws of economics. I have history on my side here, and despite the prevailing opinions of BR posters, that actually does matter.

    In closing , I find it incredibly telling how BR Mods somehow allow disgusting and childish attacks like Ricksars to remain , just because they agree with him. It invalidates BR’s credibility as a legit industry website.

  16. Chasejj,
    That’s a reasonable opinion. To be honest, I took the owners desires to mean that he would like to establish a successful company so that it can give greater and greater amounts to what it feels needed (more success = more charity). I see this little different than any company putting profits into anything other than reinvestment (and very few companies put all profit into reinvestment). Not to mention Tim can invest profits in the company and excess beyond that can then go to charity. He is just stating that this is a business plan not something that may or may not happen.
    I do agree that the goals of the company will not necessarily make it a success.

  17. Anyone that think this is a “Marketing angle” or otherwise, you obviously don’t know the person being spoke of intimately, and you also probably haven’t participated in any of the events said person pours himself into, year after year, after year, for zero personal profit, half a decade before they even owned a business.

    Some people want to make the world a better place, and some people just want to benefit from others labor.

    Game theory showcases an interesting scenario called The volunteer’s dilemma, and unfortunately the world contains many “freeriders” and few “volunteers”, and Tim is firmly in the latter, out of personal conviction.

  18. The squirting penis comment was low brow…true.
    However, calling someone out on being materialistic scum should not have been deleted.

  19. Wow,simply wow.
    We are going to sell them in my shop.
    I am going to ride one myself.
    They are going to be succeeding because of this plan.
    Many shops,like mine ,include charity and advocacy in our business plan.
    And these are sweet extremely well thought out frames.
    They are also very nice to talk to and do business with.
    The interwebs…….glad most intelligent business people ignore ridiculous comments.
    Try one before you judge. Give 9% of your income to the places they do,watch the world change for the better.
    Or be doubtful,negative and rude.
    Either way Advocate will have cool bikes at the best shops in the country.
    You can secretly wish you had one.

  20. I totally agree Bz. I am flabbergasted at some of these comments. My new ride is going to be rad. And if any amount of my purchase goes towards what I, and other people who ride, love; then that is a terrific thing.

  21. It sounds to as if Tim is happy making a profit. The difference is in what he does with that profit – giving it to support cycling is an honorable quest. I purchased one of these for several reasons – the design and the price-point fits my budget. Tim’s goals were secondary but I’m happy to donate, indirectly, to support cycling in this manner.

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