In the almost ten years that I’ve known Mike Brennan I’ve seen him go from a relatively unknown rider from New Jersey who landed tailwhips with one foot on the top tube (sorry Mike I had to!) to being a full on BMX pro. Sponsors, traveling, video parts, the whole nine yards. Over that time Mike has continued to grow as both a rider and a person and has added a wife and kids into that mix as well. He’s also put in some considerable work on the business side of the BMX industry, first with Animal Bikes and now with his latest venture Merritt. I heard the first rumblings about Merritt right before 2012’s Interbike. I usually don’t get too excited when a new company pops up but something told me that this company was going to be different. Over the past year and a half, Mike along with partner and highly respected product designer Sean Curran have been steadily growing Merritt into their vision of what a BMX company should be. With a stacked team that includes Brian Foster and some very well thought out and aesthetically pleasing products, Merritt has gone from the new company on the block to one that is well on its way to being one of the industry leaders.
First off, let’s start with your names and what your roles at Merritt are.
Sean Curran, we all do a little bit of everything, but I mostly do the design work and handle the books
Mike Brennan, like Sean said everyone has to help out with everything here. I handle the team stuff, online content, and international sales.
In this day and age there’s no shortage of BMX brands, and new ones spring up pretty frequently. What made you guys want to add one more into the mix?
Sean: We’ve gotten that question a lot and if all you did was look at the market and crunch the numbers it wouldn’t look like the most logical business move. But to be honest, if all any of us did was focus on the numbers and logic, we probably wouldn’t have dedicated so much time and effort to riding little bikes. Other than there being a lot of brands right now, it kind of made complete sense to start something. After I left Animal in 2011, I was a bit jaded about the industry to be honest and was pretty sure I was done designing BMX stuff. A few months went by though and I started to miss it and kind of unexpectedly, I got the opportunity to do some freelance work for Eclat. Doing that work definitely got me excited about designing BMX stuff again and I realized I still had things I wanted to do. Did a few projects with them then I was at the point I had to figure out what I was going to do next. Around that time Mike was a part of some abrupt layoffs at Animal and he had to figure out what he was going to do too. We worked together on a lot of stuff at Animal, we work well together and have a pretty similar idea of how we think things should be, so we pretty much said screw it, let’s go all in and do it for ourselves.
You all have taken your time with releasing parts and have chosen to have them manufactured both domestically and overseas. What made you all want to split the manufacturing between the two, and have there been any headaches in doing so?
Sean: We both wanted to make stuff in the US, for a few different reasons. There’s the aspect of wanting to support US manufacturing and put more into that and the business side of things with shorter lead times, smaller runs and cheaper shipping. Then there’s the fact that in the US you tend to work with people that are doing awesome things and there’s something worthwhile supporting people that are doing cool stuff, even if the end consumer doesn’t even know about it. That said, there are some things you can’t do here (tires) or still make more sense to do overseas. As far as headaches, it isn’t really a headache for us, but doing stuff in the states makes it a little tougher for international stuff, the distributors can’t just get a drop shipment of all our stuff.
When I first heard about Merritt I was thinking it was going to be a street oriented brand but then you all announced the team with none other than Brian Foster as a part of it. How did that come about?
Mike: When me and Sean were picking the team we didn’t want Merritt to be a street only company. We wanted it to be more. We want to keep supporting all different aspects of riding, not just what is popular right now. So when we had the chance to have one of the best all around riders ever on our team,we took it. Bf is the man.
You recently bumped Chris Childs up to the pro team (and rightfully so!). Are there any other additions to the Merritt family on the horizon?
Sean: Yeah, bumping Chris up was pretty much a no-brainer haha. We want to grow the team slowly though and it keep it at a manageable size. If a team is too big, then it gets tough to promote the riders enough and do stuff with them.
Mike: Im really excited about adding Chris to the team. He kills it and is an amazing all around rider. He rides everything and has fun doing it.
How did the name Merritt come about anyway?
Sean: When we first decided to started something, Mike was still living in Connecticut and the Merritt Parkway is one of the main highways between where he was in CT and NJ, so we drove on it a lot when first planning stuff. It was Mike’s idea and it was one of those things, as soon as he said it, I pretty much knew that was the name to use.
I know it’s like asking to choose which kid is your favorite, but which Merritt product so far are you most stoked on?
Sean: Not 100% sure, but of the stuff we’ve released already, the Pete Sawyer grips might be my favorite, super happy on the way they turned out. They feel so good. I’m psyched on the Charlie grips too, but I ride mushroom style grips, so the Pete’s win. The top load in silver might be favorite too though haha.
Mike: I’d probably say the top load Inaugural stem. I love everything about it and people have been loving them. Seeing them on other peoples bikes makes me love it even more.
Any new products in the works that you’re at liberty to speak of?
Sean: This Summer, we’re going to release taller versions of Brad’s and Foster’s bars. By having them be a larger size of their signature bars, people that like bigger bars will be able to get a pair and it still helps them out instead of doing a team bar or whatever. We’re also in the early stages of working on a BF trails tire, pretty excited about that one.
Mike: Sean mentioned a few of them. We also have a nice little multi tool that should be out by summer, real simple and small so you don’t need to take a ton of tools with you to go pedal.It has a 6 and 8 mm allen key and a 17 mm socket. Just enough.
You all use some pretty unique branding on both the Mighty Sprocket and the Inaugural Stems. How did that idea come up, and did you run into any problems getting it to work?
Sean: Those came about from just playing around and having fun with different ideas other than engraving the logo onto the parts. Little details like that don’t make something revolutionary, but they’re fun to do and they look pretty clean. We had to make some slight adjustments to the prototypes to get the fit right, but that was it really and that was simple to fix.
Mike, you’re definitely known as being a street rider but pretty much every time we talk you tell me about some trails you hit. What’s your local spot and how often do you make it out into the woods?
The closest to a local spot right now is a friends trails in North Jersey. I was trying to hit them every few weeks in the summer. There super chill and fun. I love riding everything. Trails feel like being a kid again and just getting out there with a few friends and digging, trying dumb stuff and having fun.
What about you Sean?
I’m from the era of riding when everyone rode everything (aka I’m old haha), but back then trails usually consisted of a few random dirt jumps in a field or woods. Probably didn’t get the chance to ride real trails until the late 90s. This year, a bunch of us would go to Wisconsin trails in North Jersey when we could. Real un-intimidating, but kind of tech, so it’s just fun and chill.
Between the two of you who would make it through a new line at the trails first?
Sean: It probably won’t be pretty, but Mike would most likely get through it first. He’ll just monster truck it haha.
Mike: It will probably be pretty close, I might squeak through first with a few cases and some force, haha. Its not always pretty.
Merritt’s products are available at retailers throughout the world, including the CYDI Store. You can keep up with what Mike and Sean are up to via Merritt’s social media channels.