One of the most exciting aspects of this NAHBS are the international builders. And out of that crop, we have Triton Bikes Russia to really look forward to. The antics of Dmitry and his crew of titanium frame builders have been all over social media in the weeks leading up to the show (if you’re not following them, you’re really missing out).
Dmitry kicked off his bike industry career out of a need for a trials frame, one he could not attain easily in Russia. After years of sourcing them outside of the country (and a brief stint in the professional world), he saw the opportunity to up his game by bringing manufacturing in house. Today, Triton makes titanium frames across all categories and Dmitry, as you will read, is excited about basically everything.
BIKERUMOR: What is your origin story? How did your company get its start?
DMITRY: I was riding bike trials since I was a kid. In those years (1999-2000) it was pretty complicated to buy a trials frame in Russia. I got a Ti trials frame from a local frame builder and it was a nice frame. I used to go to London for a few summers to study English. I met many trials riders there and they were interested in my bike. This is when my friend Luke from Triton Cycles UK told me we should try selling Ti frames in the UK. I went to the factory where my frame was built and we agreed that they would build frames for us under our Triton name. I was 20 back then and it did work out for a bit but it was rather a hobby during my university years. I studied finance and did work for UN and one famous European investment bank and I was going to get back to it once my studies were finished. Then the crisis hit and there were no vacant positions in the investment banking/finance by the time I graduated in 2009. IB taught me to work hard but I always felt as a business owner. I decided to try bikes again. I loved it and I knew a lot about it. I drove to the shop where they’d built early Triton frames and we started building them again. I told myself: okay, I was a kid and this was fun during university times. Now I have a lot of free time and a lot of passion. Let’s try and spend one year working on this, 24/7. If it works out, I will be doing this. If not, I will try to find a job in finance.
I was poor at that time. No job, I was self-employed as a minicab driver with my Toyota. At that time I met my future wife and told her to believe in me. And she did.
A few days after writing on the forums that Triton was now back, I got a pretty good order from Jogi who is now the Triton unicycle distributor in Germany and Europe. I was happy! I fixed my car, got a new bed and I believed in this thing. This was in the end of 2009.
Later in 2010 I was not super happy with the quality of the frames I sourced. I knew I had to own a shop to properly control the work, to get the frames the way I want them. I started looking for a shop space and got to speak with a guy who was interested in this future business. He became the co-owner of Triton Bikes. He helped me out with the shop space and invested in the machines and Anvil Bikes jig and tools. I invested all of my time and money. And still do. Only in May 2012 we finally built our first titanium frame. It was a bike for a family member. The first like 15 frames were built for us for the tests. A lot of work was done. So many tools machined. Welder, machinist, assembly person employed, I asked my dad to quit his job and join the family business. Only in 2013 I was OKAY about the quality. They were good frames. In the year 2016, I love most of them.
BIKERUMOR: How has your style changed from your first year? Are you still building what you initially set out to build?
DMITRY: The first Tritons were trials bikes. We no longer build them. Our frames are pretty expensive for an average trials rider (16-18 years old). We later switched to mountain bikes and we’d built hundreds of 29er frames. I wanted to build roadies too but there was an issue. I posted about Triton at one major MTB forum and at another roadie forum. The MTB thread is still there and many customers learnt about us from the progress posts I wrote. The roadie forum admin deleted the thread immediately and thus we didn’t really get attention from road bike riders at that moment (lol). But time was passing and we started building most type of frames: MTB, Roadies, CX, touring, fat bike, semi-fat.
650B+ and 29ers are the most popular now, roadies/gravel demand is growing strongly.
BIKERUMOR: What got you excited about building bikes when you first started out?
DMITRY: I worked at a bank. I was paid some good money for creating electronic/printed analysis that didn’t instantly reflect the amount of work I did. I couldn’t touch what I did. Bikes: DAMN! You talk to a guy who has a dream, your customer. You prepare a drawing. You print a drawing. You imagine the future project in your head. And then a few weeks (or months?) later you hold the actual thing that was once an idea. This is very, very exciting. Both to the customer and myself. I managed to employ the people who are passionate about bikes. It may not be a super well paid job, but it’s a dream job and my guys share the excitement of creating an item that never existed. I still get goosebumps while writing this. It’s 3AM here and I think I have called the US suppliers/friends around 40 times today while preparing everything for NAHBS. And you know what? I am tired physically, there’s nothing left to eat at Triton shop, but I am burning HOT inside. Excitement!
BIKERUMOR: What gets you really stoked about what you do today?
DMITRY: I was preparing an investor teaser the other day and calculated the countries we’d shipped frames to. Tritons are ridden in 35 countries of the world! Main customers come from Russia, USA and Germany. But when I ship to…New Caledonia! Holy smokes that’s cool. And then my customer builds the bike and sends me a photo and writes: “Dear Dmitry and Triton team, thanks for the bike, I love it!” – at this point I get SUPER HAPPY. This business is tough. Especially when you are so far from your customers. Like, I need to wait 3 weeks to get the certain Park Tool reamer delivered. It will travel across the ocean to reach us. Or the expensive shop rent payment is due and you just bought your Ti tubing in advance and the account is empty. You are waiting for some magic to happen and just work and work. It’s freezing cold and the diesel is frozen in your car, it’s snowing and it’s icy and you fall. And it hurts because you haven’t ridden your bike for 4 months already and muscles are not used to moving. Then you hear this incoming email and there’s a picture of your customer with a happy face, riding a Triton, in Nevada or Philippines and he sends greetings. At this point I get back on my feet and say to myself in Russian “КАЙФ!” (something like FUCK YEAH”) and I smile like an idiot. And give money to poor.
UPDATE: I read that facebook post by Don Ferris from Anvil Bikes. He said that nobody cares if you struggle. Every frame builder does. It’s better when you make money.
So one more source of excitement: THE SHIT WORKS! People love it, people pay for it! I can afford to travel with my family! Our currency is super low now! People travel 40% less outside Russia than in 2014! Oil price is down, dollar is expensive. Meanwhile we build bikes and we can afford to travel to NAHBS. That’s awesome! Don, I will make more money and will invest more into your tools. Thanks for reminding me that my shit works!
By the way it’s pretty cool to be far from the main market. We are rare in Russia. There are only a handful of classic frame building shops in our huge country with 142 million inhabitants. Building bikes, riding bikes is not yet that deep in the culture as it is in Europe. This means we get a lot of attention. Newspapers and magazines, TV channels – we get a lot of coverage. For free. This brings many customers and we get noticed.
BIKERUMOR: What’s the cool thing you’re bringing to the show this year?
DMITRY: It’s pretty stupid but we won’t bring the most interesting project we are building with our friends from CycleMonkey – a Pinion/belt equipped 29er. Too bad one of the employees got to hospital two weeks ago so we had to slow down.
We are bringing a bike called Triton Streetfighter. My customer wanted a road bike for aggressive/fast riding in the streets of Moscow. A bike that he could also bunny hop over potholes. So we had built a 700c roadie with 35mm slick Kojak tires, full ENVE cockpit and wheels, wide mountain ENVE flat bar for extra control, DuraAce Di2 group for super fast shifts. The bike is bead blasted matte and it’s got blue anodized decals, all in Cyrillic. It’s pretty interesting that more you hear about Russia on the news (sometimes not in the best way, right?) the more orders we get with the decals in Russian (Тритон) and that Russian Matryoshka doll on the seat tube. We put more Russia into frames than just logos. Our bikes are not the lightest ones, but we build them to last (this sounds very American too).
BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give someone wanting to do what you do?
DMITRY: DON’T! It’s a trap! An expensive one, too.
If you do it, believe in what you do. Be prepared for some tough work for at least a few years. With some very sad and happy moments within. May the force be with you!
I’d love to thank my team and family for the work and support! Mom and dad, my wife Olya and my two sons who rarely see me, my guys: Vladimir, Oleg, Stanislav, Norbert, Nikolay, Alexander, Grigory and Konstantin. I love you guys!