Breckenridge’s Rocky Mountain Underground wins ‘Best in Show’ at Outdoor Retailer Snow Show
January 31, 2018
The germ of an idea that became the Rocky Mountain Underground Gatekeeper tailgate bike carrier — a product that was awarded a Best in Show honor at last week's international Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver — was not conceived in a board room.
Rather, product designer Joe DuBois of Lafayette, and the team at the Breckenridge ski and outdoors shop, kicked around the idea at local Summit County trailheads.
Months later, they'd casually pitch the idea via a sketch on a napkin while presenting a separate ski product — the yet-to-be-released North Shore Project 110 — on a trip to REI corporate in Seattle.
"It was kind of born out of necessity," DuBois said of the new tailgate bike carrier. "As soon as the weather changes we are kind of in mountain bike mode. So in the summer we do trailhead meetings, it's our morning meeting for the week. But if you're driving in your truck, and you throw your bikes and other gear in the back, it can become a three-trip ordeal."
“As soon as the weather changes we are kind of in mountain bike mode. So in the summer we do trailhead meetings, it’s our morning meeting for the week. But if you’re driving in your truck, and you throw your bikes and other gear in the back, it can become a three-trip ordeal. ”Joe DuBoisProduct designer at Rocky Mountain Underground
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"I thought we could solve the problem better than anyone else," he added.
DuBois and RMU pondered how they could improve on the ample surface area of a standard tailgate pad to reduce multiple trips to trailheads to one easy, efficient drive. They figured they'd do so by focusing on adding functionality to tailgate carriers where it might not have been before.
To DuBois and the RMU team, it was all about finding spots for tools, spare bike parts and other necessary recreation accessories, like beer.
"Beer is part of the culture of mountain life," DuBois said. "Whether skiing or biking, we all kind of want to celebrate it at the end."
So while at that meeting last summer with REI corporate in Seattle, DuBois pulled out the napkin sketch.
"We said, 'What do you think?'" DuBois recalled. "And they jumped right on it. From August until today we've been trying to get this to market."
Through DuBois' factory connections and RMU's previous experience designing backpacks and dog collars, the team was confident they already had developed a tough enough fabric to pursue the product. The team subsequently found takeaways such as the fact that many recreators didn't like how their current tailgate was integrating with their vehicle's back-up cameras.
What customers will get via the product will be what GearJunkie.com — the online publication that awarded the Best in Show honors — described glowingly as "an evolution in the tailgate bike carrier."
GearJunkie.com and its managing editor Sean McCoy lauded DuBois and RMU for making the most of the 630D nylon pad that protects a truck. It secures up to five bikes by adhering attachments to the down tube and fork. And Gear Junkie was impressed with RMU's ability to pack onto the Gatekeeper a bunch of helpful add-ons, including a tool stowage pocket, an open compartment for muddy gear, a sleeve for a wash kit and an insulated cooler with enough room for that critical case of beer. The carrier will also come in large and small size to fit most pickups complete with a cable lock to protect from theft.
DuBois said Wednesday that the plan is for the Rocky Mountain Underground Gatekeeper tailgate bike carrier to debut at REI locations on June 1 at a price of $279.99.
Though DuBois described the vision as "only half of an idea," at the time of the summer meeting, mere months later it left folks like McCoy surprisingly in love with not just the product, but how it came to be.
"Basically, there are five or six features that you won't find in another tailgate bike carrier like this," McCoy said. "It's a nice evolution in a product that shows the evolution in their brand. They've never really been a bike company before, so it's nice to see something completely out of the box for them."
Outside the box was certainly the goal for RMU, the company's operations manager Becca Paiz said on Wednesday. The company started its summer line with its Core Pack, a backcountry-geared backpack, and RMU is also now developing its mountain briefcase and, of course, the Gatekeeper.
"We've been making skis since 2008, but we can't make money year-round making skis," Paizsaid. "We all know it's getting warmer, so we figured we might as well get into the summer gear now."
Reflecting on the whirlwind weekend, DuBois said he and the RMU crew knew they had a "good thing," in the Gatekeeper, though the Best in Show awarded provided validation.
As for the future, it's just the beginning in RMU's expansion into summer gear.
"You know, I think our product development process is quite pure," DuBois said. "We are genuinely trying to solve problems. So I don't want to give too much away, but the tailgate pad definitely is, it'll be the first product that really takes aim at the mountain bike industry and segment and we have a few other ideas that we will follow up on and supplement that product and build an ecosystem around it."
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