Advanced Sports, Inc. (ASI) earlier this month completed its purchase of Oval Concepts, thus adding the component brand to its growing cycling portfolio that already includes Kestrel, Fuji, Breezer, and SE (ASI also licenses the Terry nameplate).
Oval Concepts is most noteworthy for its expansive range of integrated and bolt-on aero bars and unique split-blade JetStream forks, both of which have seen widespread use under a number of ProTour riders and teams such as current road world champion Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and the Fuji-Servetto squad.
However, even recent growth in the European market could not overcome the downturn in the global economy, which yielded more than a 50 per cent dip in worldwide OEM sales. The company was also particularly hard-hit by the UCI's announcement that it would begin more stringently enforcing its 3:1 aero profile ruling in mid-2009. While some companies were only modestly hurt as a result, smaller outfits such as Oval Concepts – and others – were more vulnerable as several of their aero platforms were in clear violation, instantly creating a glut of virtually unsellable product and setting the company back years in terms of product development.
"In the spring when the UCI's new mid-year enforcement of the 3:1 rule for aero bars started being threatened and then enforced we took another 25 to 30 percent hit in our biggest sales and profit category," said company founder Morgan Nicol. "Stories about 'illegal aero bars' were not productive [Oval Concepts' unique JetStream bar models were incorrectly assumed by many to be non-compliant – Ed.]. I was besieged by customers wondering why I sold them "illegal" bars one, two or three years before. I guess the guy that predicted in the February 2009 Tour of California article that the UCI enforcement of the 3:1 rule could put a company like Oval Concepts out of business was not far off the mark."
Nicol suggests that Oval Concepts is in good hands with ASI, though, and product development will continue to progress moving forward with little, if any, impact to consumers. "ASI is continuing to sell the existing product line through the current Oval distribution system while adding the horsepower of spec'ing the product on 100,000+ bikes," he said. "They will continue development and expand the product offerings."
As for Nicol himself, he and wife Simona will continue to consult for ASI for the next few months and he also retains ownership of key patent technology – several of which ASI will license immediately – leaving him freedom to pursue other partners such as ones he developed with bicycle companies Ridley and Avanti.
Nicol will also continue to consult with several professional road teams such as Footon-Servetto plus a loyal following of triathletes, and is looking forward to at least one aspect of the sale.
"We want to enjoy our other two [real] kids before they grow up and go off to bigger and better things."