Words: Rou Chater
YT is a brand that stormed onto the bike scene twelve years ago with a focus to make bikes affordable for younger riders. YT means Young Talent, for those that aren’t in the know, although with numerous world titles to the brand’s name and a history of success at some of the worlds biggest events you would have had to been living under a rock for the name to pass you buy.
Being online only not only shook up the bike industry, but it also posed a problem for some riders. While many of us are confident with the science of geometry and know one end of a spanner from the other, there are plenty of riders who find the art of buying the right bike a mystery. It’s why bike demos and the LBS will always have a place in this sport, for the newcomers that support is much needed.
YT countered this with a heavy dose of customer service and near round the clock help for anyone on the website, but a telephone call was never going to be as good as meeting the customers in person. First launched in the US, they have just put the finishing touches on their new flagship store in Guildford, located a stone’s throw from Gatwick Airport in the UK and with some of the best the South of England has to offer in the way of trails right on their doorstep.
I was lucky enough to be invited along to check it out, see what they had been creating and get a behind the scenes look at the operation. The first thing I can say is that it is slick, very slick…
The whole concept was to bring the website to life, and it’s a customer experience, unlike any other, I have experienced in my twelve years of running IMB. With easy access from the M25, ample parking and an imposing front entrance, it’s hard to miss the Mill. As you walk through the door, the coffee shop greets you on the right, and the bikes are front and centre.
Unlike some brand stores crammed with bikes and POS, this feels wholly different, the idea is to showcase each bike, rather than have every model on display. This leaves the space feeling open and exciting, each bike shares the theme of the website itself, if there is smoke on the webpage, they have smoke coming up through the floor. Check the Izzo on the website or in the Mill to see what I mean. In addition to the bikes, the full clothing range is on display too, so if you are feeling a little light on the wallet, or you don’t think a new bike would go down so well with the other half you can always go home with a new t-shirt.
Of course, the buying experience (aside from clothing) is still an online affair, you can’t walk away with a brand new bike from the store unless you ordered it online and had it delivered there. Which is an option, worth exploring too if you wanted the team to put it together for you. The YT Mill is an extension of the website in terms of the buying process, it is a place to look, touch and feel what you are getting, and of course, ride it too!
The lighting is moody, the bikes are beautifully presented, and the staff couldn’t be more helpful. Perhaps even more impressive is this place was put together in the last 6 months, during a worldwide pandemic and a full lockdown in the UK. James Lawrence, the Manager, was tasked by YT of not only building this whole thing but even finding the building and location itself. Talk about being given a blank sheet of paper on day one of the new job.
His success is what you reap though, and the location is what steals it. As a YT customer, or someone interested in buying or riding a YT, this is where you should be. They have a full workshop service that can do next day pick up and delivery should you encounter any issues with your bike. Want to demo a new rig, no problem, just book a 3hr (soon to be 4hr) slot with the team, rock up and rock out on the local trails.
The local loop features some of the best that St Martha’s Hill has to offer, which is a short off-road ride away. Further afield is Peaslake, the Mecca of the Surrey Hills with Swinley Forest nearby too. Basically, all the best riding in the South East is on the doorstep of the Mill, the team have GPX routes should you not know your way around and once the pandemic is over there will be weekly hideouts and more of a social scene building around the Mill itself.
With every bike you could ever want to ride from YT in each size the demo facility is impressive, mores though is the care and attention from the staff wishing to set the bike up. Rider height and weight are logged before you get there so the suspension can be tuned before you ride. On arrival, further tweaks are made depending on your style of riding and where you are headed.
The staff can help with anything you might be able to think of, from recommending bikes to dialling in the perfect amount of high-speed compression on the latest Fox shock. A knowledgable team who all love to ride are waiting to greet you and to help out. It’s an experience that has to be experienced and one that will be setting a standard for others to follow moving forwards. Not only are there front of house staff on hand to help, the the YT Customer Service Team is now based upstairs in the back office, so whatever you need help with they have you covered, either in person or one the phone.
It felt like every little detail have been thought of, and anything that wasn’t already in place was in the pipeline. Impressed, and with a Decoy custom-tuned, charged and ready to rock it was time to hit the trails with James, Oliver and Sebastian from YT. As the sunset over the YT Mill, while we looked down from St Martha’s Hill before another dry and dusty descent, I couldn’t help but think mountain biking just keeps getting better, if this is a taste of the future I can’t wait to see more of it.
Visit the YT Mill in Guildford now, it is well worth the trip, be sure to prebook for any demos and phone ahead for anything, in particular, you might want to see, if you just want to drop in for an ogle and a coffee, you’d be most welcome!
The Mill UK
Unit 6A Pew Corner
Old Portsmouth Road
Tuesday – Saturday 9am -5pm
YT Mill: 01483 617780
YT customer Service: 01483 617781