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More than a distributorship, Andreani USA dispenses suspension education

Published March 22, 2023

A version of this story ran in the March issue of BRAIN.

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (BRAIN) — Andreani doesn’t consider its new U.S. distribution center here a typical clearinghouse for suspension products and tools for mountain bikes and motorcycles.

The company based in Pesaro, Italy, intends to make its distribution center partly into a learning center for retailers interested in adding mountain bike suspension service to their shops. When the decision was made to open in the U.S., Andreani acquired distributor Fast Bike International — a motorcycle suspension tuning shop — and moved into its headquarters about 25 miles south of Asheville.

“We want to make sure people understand what we do, because we’re not the regular distributor,” said Luciano Ubaldini, Andreani USA president. “There are a lot of possibilities for our B2B customers to get into something bigger, like suspension service. You just need one guy who has a bit of knowledge and the rest comes from here. Then you start a new business investment.”

Class will be in session

The 10,500-square-foot distribution center it’s leasing will have a dedicated classroom for retailer suspension education, copying what Andreani does in Italy with motorcycles. In the middle of February, Andreani hosted Cardinal Bicycle — a Roanoke, Virginia, bike shop — that wants to add suspension service.

“They’re going to drive down and we’re going to spend a day with them and show them how to use the machines, how to use the tools,” said Tom VanDevender, Andreani’s bicycle products sales manager.

He and noted suspension technician Pietro Palladino, who worked for Marzocchi for more than 20 years, will conduct the class, with the bike shop bringing its own shocks and forks. “I’ve spoken to some other local bike shops who are interested in getting their suspension labs set up,” VanDevender said. “We will set them up for success.”

Ubaldini said it starts with manufacturing the right tools.

“If you want to be a suspension technician, we have the tools,” he said. “Business-wise, if you have a lot invested in tools, you have to get a lot from it. Suspension is a bit complicated, and it’s something that not everyone wants to be involved with. But we have a way of assisting the customers, so after they buy the materials, you can come here and spend a few days with us — we drink some coffee — and you get your tools and you’re on your way.”

The classes, which will be held for bicycle and motorcycle retailers, cost $500 per person but are free with a tool package purchase. Andreani manufactures an assortment of suspension machines and tools in Pesaro, including vacuum pumps that remove the air and oil from inside the shock, an MTB Shock Tester that enables examining settings while on a workbench, various tools designed for fork tube and shock spring disassembly, and more. 

“In many cases, we make specific tools that you can't get from the manufacturer, because the manufacturer doesn’t want you to open the shock or to modify something,” Ubaldini said.

Suspension tools manufacturer 

Andreani also manufactures machines and tools for suspension companies like Öhlins, which it distributes in the U.S. 

“Fox, RockShox, Öhlins, all these suspension companies know us for tools,” Ubaldini said. “But the end user has no idea. At Fox Factory, you see Andreani machines. In the U.S., in every shop, if it’s an official Öhlins distributor, they have one of our machines with an Öhlins logo on it. It doesn’t say ‘Andreani.’ We manufacture these machines for Fox, but they have our logo. Öhlins wanted their own logo.”

While there is an emphasis on teaching suspension technology, the U.S. office houses 18,000 different SKUs between product and tools and distributes to about 430 dealers in North America and some small South American dealers. As of February, 25% are bike dealers.

When it's built out, the U.S. website will highlight Andreani’s new U.S. products, including the mountain bike fork upgrade kit Pro-Impact and tire insert SuperMousse.

VanDevender, who spent 30 years working in bicycle shops — including a recent stint at nearby Motion Makers — said part of his job at Andreani is to market its product in the U.S.

“I’ve started locally,” said VanDevender, who worked at Fast Bike Industries and sold Andreani suspension tools to BTI. “I’ve got a lot of friends in the cycling community here. I’ve been trying to get out as much as I can. We’re still waiting on the (U.S.) website. That will make things easier. 

“Ideally, since I’ve spent so much time in a bike shop, I understand the importance of how important a retail shop can be to a community. If the guys in the shop like your product, they’re going to sell stuff for you. Ideally, I would like to go B2B and work with dealers. I know early on we won’t have dealers all over the place if somebody contacts us directly, and if I can’t find their favorite shop or with somebody else close by, we’ll sell directly. But I would ultimately like to be dealer-based.” 

Not lost on VanDevender and Ubaldini is the advantage of being located just south of Cane Creek Cycling Components and a Fox Factory service center. “This is a great area,” Ubaldini said.

The Andreani Group was founded in 1988 by Giuseppe Andreani, a motocross racer for more than 10 years and who later established WP Italia, an importer of Dutch suspensions. In 2004, Andreani began distributing Marzocchi off-road forks in Italy, while the group continued making its name there through developing motorsport suspension technology. It serves as the Öhlins distributor in Italy.

Bicycle distribution and sales make up only about 30% of Andreani’s total sales with VanDevender saying bike products bring in much less money compared to motorcycle products. Despite the difference, Andreani’s bike investment and potential to help retailers has the U.S. team excited about its future.

Topics associated with this article: From the Magazine

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