Detailing is massive in the car industry, with meets and competitions around the World, but where does it stand when it comes to bikes?
James Langton is the man behind No Quarter, a company specialising in custom paint and now, bike detailing.
Pete grilled James on what makes bike detailing a thing, and how he’s built No Quarter from the ground up.
Who is James Langton?
I’m the Director of No Quarter, a business I started in my parents’ garage when I was 17. I’m currently 22 years old and I live in Leicestershire. I’ve been riding since I was about 3… I’ve never stopped.
The truth is, a little by accident! I purchased a vintage-racing bike from Gumtree for £15 when I was still in college, as a means to get around. I then bought some new components to get it back on the road. I have a habit of swapping and changing bikes around so it was soon up for sale. I made a tidy profit and then went about sourcing more vintage racing bikes.
The obvious solution to me was to place an advert in my local newspaper and I also printed out flyers and leaflets. A couple of local students helped me distribute them. I then started buying large collections, offering restoration and customisation – that’s how the paintwork side of No Quarter came about.
What’s your background in cycling?
Ahhh, I was looking forward to this question! I’ve always loved spending time on my bike, but it all came together when I picked up my first issue of MBUK in 2003.
I remember saving a 2005 Kona Stuff. It was my baby; I kept it absolutely spotless (can you see where this is going?) I spent my summer holidays riding it at the trails my friends and I dug up.
Thankfully we managed not to get in any trouble over those… My parents would also take me to Chicksands at the weekends.
Detailing is something I’ve always enjoyed doing. A few days ago, I was looking at some old photographs – a few of them had my bike in the background and me in the process of cleaning it, I’ve unconsciously been detailing my bikes for over 10 years.
I regularly go to car shows with my father and I’ve always been inspired seeing how much pride people take in their show cars. It felt natural for me to try the same thing on my bikes.
Detailing is extremely satisfying. That feeling of riding your bike after you’ve spent some time getting it absolutely spotless is unmatched. I wanted to create products that people would enjoy using.
“I’ve always been inspired seeing how much pride people take in their show cars. It felt natural for me to try the same thing on my bikes.”
How did you choose where to get the product made?
I called up manufacturers and asked them for help and advice. R&D on a product like this is very time consuming, for both the manufacturer and myself.
A small pitch of your idea over the phone will get an “I’m in!” when you’ve found the right person. Nearly every part of the kit was made in the UK, many of the businesses are still family run, and have been for a few generations.
I receive samples out of the blue when they are developing something new or something that I may find interesting. This means No Quarter will always be at the forefront of cycle detailing.
What did you have to sacrifice to get to this stage?
I’ve had to put my neck on the line for this project… financially, my time, my reputation. No Quarter has always been a service business with our paintwork, but this is our first product business. I’m hoping we’ll hit the ground running.
I know it’s a fantastic product that many people will enjoy using. I think going all out on this project is something that I just had to do, I guess you can only regret the chances you didn’t take!
No Quarter will be going up against businesses that are quite a bit bigger!
I have complete confidence in the products. They really are fantastic and a pleasure to use; I know people will enjoy using them on their pride and joy.
Did you have day jobs that you had to give up?
Not really, I started No Quarter Bikes straight from college when I was 17, this then turned into No Quarter Paint, which is still operational. No Quarter Detailing is the latest, there’s also more in the pipeline…
How make or break is the company for you?
It’s my life! I spend hours each day working on No Quarter as a whole. I absolutely love doing it, following my passion and working hard to create things that make a difference in people’s lives is very rewarding. Cycling is something that runs very deep – you find a lot of people care more about their bikes than where they live or where they go on holiday, it really is a way of life.
How did you learn what you needed to know to get your own company off the ground and the product in hand?
I find the best way to go about doing anything is just to make a start. No matter what the size of the project or the business, just act upon it, even if initially it’s sending an email or picking up the phone, drawing a sketch or asking someone in the industry. It’s what I like to call “chipping away” at something. Every action you take, you are one step closer. Even if it’s the wrong action and you’ve made a mistake, you then learn not to make it again. When you look at it that way, you can’t loose and everything seems possible.
I find ‘to do’ lists the most helpful way of processing information and putting a satisfying cross through them once you’ve completed the task. I find 20 or 30 usually does it!
Finding the right people to help you is just as important. Expressing your passion and finding someone as passionate as you are about the project is invaluable. I worked with over 15 different sponge manufacturers before I knew I found the right one when the company director was willing to speak to me on his day off to help my product development, he regularly emails me to ask me how everything is going. These are the people who help turn your idea into reality.
How many prototypes/samples did you have before getting to the final product?
I’ve lost count..
I know that I must have infuriated a lot of suppliers with constant emails, and phone calls to get the products right. It took a lot of attempts to get the smell, viscosity and cleaning power of the shampoo just right. The bottle shape, the finish and even the choice of lid took a lot of time and effort. I travelled around the UK to meet as many of the suppliers in person, to introduce myself and also to explain exactly what I wanted. Every single element of this kit took a lot of work to get right; this project was at a dead end every other week!
Looking back to my original sketches and plans, my initial idea for a canvas drawstring bag wasn’t my best idea. It was soon put to rest when I actually used the bag myself, hence why we now use a waterproof pouch.
Beyond the development of prototypes, what form did your testing take?
I’ve been detailing my bikes with make-do products for quite some time, so I knew exactly what I wanted to create. It was just a case of doing it.
I wanted to see how the products performed in the real world. I handed out multiple kits to retailers and individual users. I didn’t tell them how to use it, just let them use their intuition to guide them through the cleaning process. This was invaluable to find out what worked. The theory doesn’t always work out in the real world with real people.
“As No Quarter deals with our own high-end custom paintwork on a daily basis we gain an understanding of how the bike is reacting to certain products.”
I tested the kit on different types of bikes in different conditions to see how the products held up. There is quite a lot of information on the packaging itself and I’m in the process of creating YouTube instructional videos on how to properly detail your bike, step-by-step.
As No Quarter deals with our own high-end custom paintwork on a daily basis we gain an understanding of how the bike is reacting to certain products.
I cleaned as many bikes as I could, asking for more samples and testing the products until I was happy.
Where next for No Quarter? How do you plan to go about getting extra helpers etc?
Well, I’d just like to say I am always open to collaboration. I put my direct email address on the No Quarter website. I take opportunities and I love working with other businesses.
As for the future of No Quarter, we’ve got some fantastic cycle detailing products coming out and there are also a few other projects I’m getting stuck into that are nothing to do with detailing. I really can’t say too much, but we’re definitely one to watch..
Anybody to thank at this point in the No Quarter journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?
Absolutely! When I first started, it was my parents who would drive me to the locations to pick up the vintage bikes and parts that I was to restore. I really owe them a lot. Their unwavering support and confidence in me has been the main reason for enduring the start-up process. I feel very fortunate to have such a great family. I also have a supportive group of friends.
I did promise myself I wouldn’t go all philosophical in this interview, but…
Taking on big challenges is something I really enjoy – the feeling of working out how to get there and then achieving it, I think, makes for an interesting and fulfilling life, which I guess is what it’s all about, right?
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain
Into detailing and paint? Want to know more about No Quarter? Head over to their website!