Meet Toby Monks, Forbidden's European Sales and Operations Coordinator
Photos: Andy Lloyd
It wasn’t so long ago that you could count every member of staff at Forbidden on one hand, but as we’ve grown, so has our team. To kick start a series of Q&A sessions with the people who steer the ship, we caught up with Toby Monks, based out of our growing UK office. Toby handles sales and logistics for Europe, prefers his Druid to his Dreadnought, has a thing for the steeps and is partial to a bit of gravel...over to Toby.
It's rare to not see toby grinning from ear to ear, unless he's in the zone and pinned...
The Malvern Hills, Worcestershire (yes, where the sauce is from), UK.
What’s the best thing about living in Malvern?
Having trails on my doorstep and lunch laps! It’s the reason we moved here...lockdown meant a bit of house jumping for my girlfriend and me, but being somewhere that we can access the outdoors and in the blink of an eye was essential. I grew up in this area, but didn’t appreciate what I had on the doorstep...until now!
Eye of the Tiger...
Can you shed some light on your career path (in cycling) up to joining Forbidden?
I finished university in Aberystwyth in 2014, convinced I’d do another ‘season’ overseas in the Alps, but a badly broken arm and six months off the bike (over the summer) put a stop to that. I started working in Evans Cycles in nearby Cheltenham, as a bike builder and slowly worked through to a more customer focussed role, eventually helping with the staff training and supporting the management team.
From there I moved to Leisure Lakes Bikes [Cheltenham] and this was where I really got the bug for ‘bike shop life’. Surrounded by a really good bunch of people, I learnt a lot! Be it patient mechanics, who meant my bikes were always ticking over, great managers who put our customers first...everyone was just so rad to work with and they even took me back, after leaving to chase another summer season in Morzine, which was so flipping nice of them...thanks, Phil and Pete!
In 2018, Sandy [Plenty] at the Trailhead Bicycle Co. in Shrewsbury, called me and offered me a position in his shop...to help run it no less. I was buzzing! Shrewsbury means the county of Shropshire and Shropshire means great riding! It was a no-brainer and 18-months of hard work and fun was had! It's a busy shop, with a small and brilliant team - best to call it a family - with a customer base that’s second to none and in many ways, I was sad to leave. The Trailhead is also our longest serving Forbidden dealer and I vividly remember the first Druid - in that awesome Gloss Moss colourway - arriving; we couldn’t believe how cool it was!
What does your role at Forbidden entail on a daily and weekly basis?
So, I oversee the UK and European sales, whilst also juggling logistics, some operations, warranty processes and general doing of many things! It’s hard to describe exactly what my days look like and working for a small and dynamic company means you have to be flexible and able to support the team when required. But that’s half of the fun and it certainly keeps my days interesting and challenging. Every day starts with freshly ground coffee and that’s the only consistent element, ha-ha!
What would you say have been the biggest challenges of the past year?
Brexit and Covid. I think most, regardless of being in the bike industry, would agree!
Toby is no slouch when it comes to after work rides.
How have Brexit and supply chain issues been affecting your daily duties?
Both have definitely thrown some hefty challenges into the mix, which we’re just getting on top of now. It makes everything unpredictable, from product arrivals to shipping delays...and Brexit just compounded the problems further! It creates a pile of extra paperwork and uncertainty that literally no one was fully prepared for, even multi-nationals have struggled to navigate the import and export mess in Brexit’s wake. But I have to say a huge thanks to our freight forwarder and warehousing gurus, our dealers and of course, our customers in the EU also, for being so patient in these challenging times...
When you’re dealing with such things, out of your control, what’s your coping mechanism?
Bikes! A lunch lap is a brilliant reset and ultimately, it’s why I do this job! Failing a lunch lap, making sure I get a big ride in at the weekend is a sure-fire way to get me ready for whatever the next week has in store.
Let’s talk about bikes, after all, that's why we’re here. What kind of riding floats your boat and why?
First and foremost, mountain biking, possibly contrary to the popular belief of my colleagues, ha-ha! Anything that’s steep and loamy has me excited! Nothing beats the feeling of dropping your heels and getting stuck into chutes, turns and ruts. Or gravel…whether it’s a day ride or strapping bags on and go exploring for a few days...I really ought to do more bikepacking! But I get very conflicted, especially when I want to ride mountain bikes on the same weekend!
Steeps are the name of the game for Mr. Monks.
You mentioned gravel. What do you think mountain biking could take from that corner of the cycling world?
Inclusivity! It’s a community that’s built on getting people together, stopping for a coffee and not caring what bike you're on or what kit you’re wearing. At events, there’s no elitism and you see such a great mix of people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Everything is at ‘party pace’ when we go for a ride! It's not to say that isn’t how I approach mountain biking, but there’s certainly something different about moving in the gravel community. Bikes aren’t really serious business for most…
Back to Forbidden; you’ve been riding a Druid for a long time now and are still an ardent supporter, perhaps more so now that you also have a Dreadnought - what do you love about the Dreadnought’s little sibling?
I make no bones about it, I’m a huge fan of the Druid. It’s fun at any speed, although it's relatively short in travel, but when your heels are dropped, it can shift and the geo, a size large, and me at 5’11”, we’re a match made in heaven! My local trails are either tight and steep or relatively flowy, whilst the Dreadnought can do both of those things, for me, the Druid has the edge. With its slightly steeper head angle and shorter wheelbase, it's more manoeuvrable in those situations. I’m certainly an advocate of the ‘short travel life’ and have been for a while. Rarely have I felt under-gunned on the Druid, and if I have, it's never been the entire track, but rather on isolated sections.
With your sales hat on, how would you differentiate the Druid from the Dreadnought? What’s bigger, newer and noisier tends to get the attention; who, in your opinion, is the ideal rider for the Druid and Dreadnought?
You notice the extra capability of the Dreadnought when the going gets rough and fast; it’s ideal at the bike park, punching in laps or tackling somewhere scary - like the steeps in South Wales! The extra travel means you can ride with less body English and stay fresher for longer. The Druid suits those whose local trails aren’t so wild yet have an abundance of chunky terrain (we sell loads in the Lake and Peak Districts) loaded with square-edge hits that suit the 100% rearward wheel path, or, someone who enjoys extra input into how the bikes ride. The Druid is my go-to bike 80% of the time
You’ve mentioned in past meetings that you can see purchasing trends between the two bikes, Druid and Dreadnought, based on their locations and the subsequent terrain there. Can you add some more insight?
Yeah totally! It seems that in areas where you are riding longer or higher elevation trails, and like I mentioned, where the terrain favours that square edge hit capability, the Druid is the weapon of choice. It’s a bike that’s aimed at singletrack epics! The Dreadnought, however, is the choice for those who favour bike parks or more downhill orientated stuff, but that’s hardly surprising…
Foot out, flat out.
Back to your personal Druid, can you give us a rundown on the parts you’ve chosen and why?
Sure! It’s a sensibly specced build with an emphasis on reliability. I ride 2-3 times a week in all weather, so it sports a full Shimano XT group, including some 165mm cranks! Why wouldn’t you want some free clearance? The Crankbrothers Synthesis Enduro Alloy wheelset has really impressed me and complements the Druid’s trail demeanour, which is pretty stiff yet compliant. I run Maxxis tyres, favouring the DHR II rear, Assegai front, usually in a mix of carcass and compounds based on what’s available, but I like a Max Grip front and a Max Terra rear.
The Burgtec finishing kit is a big favourite of mine and I love the new [Mk3] stems and the bars, which feel super comfy, oh, and those new super soft Bartender Pro grips are so good, especially on delicate paws as I don’t ride in gloves! The BikeYoke Revive post, well, it’s on another level! I’ve never been so enthusiastic about a dropper post until this one found its way onto my bike; it couldn’t be any lighter to use. As for a perch, I’ve tried so many saddles over the years, but the Fabric Line saddle is the best for me and I’m partial to a long day in the saddle! Recently, in the shock department, I’ve been swapping between a Push ElevenSix and the stock Fox DPX2 that it came with.
Let’s talk about that Push ElevenSix shock as it seems to get a lot of attention at the trailhead. What are the major differences, good and bad, between this and the Fox DPX2 that comes as standard?
The Push just offers that ‘next level’ touch of sensitivity at the beginning of its travel, as you’d expect with a coil - the breakaway force is much less and simply put, it feels unreal. It adds a bit of weight, of course, it can be confusing for first-timers to set up and I don’t think it has the same pop or acceleration as the DPX2, but as someone who likes trails that dip toward the vertical side of the spectrum, the ElevenSix suits me very well indeed! The DPX2 is the all-rounder’s choice, I think and you can tune the spring rate in the car park and quickly dial it in.
What support can customers upgrading to a Push shock, for either their Druid or Dreadnought, expect in the UK?
Saddleback, based in Bristol, is the distributor of Push Industries in the UK and are fantastic to deal with. They tune in-house and never seem to be low on spares and coils for that perfect sag and tailored ride feel. Or for general servicing needs, Plush Suspension in the South of England are now geared up to look after your Push shock, know Forbidden’s like the back of their hands and also with more Push certified technicians popping up all the time, the support is there for sure!
Who should be seriously looking at a Push Elevensix, after all, they’re a serious investment?
This is a good question! I think everyone can benefit from a shock like this, especially given its tunability - both externally and also with the help of a certified Push technician. If your riding is geared mainly toward the gravity side of the sport, a Push could be a great choice for you! There’s no denying it takes a bit more time to set up and you can’t ignore that is a big investment, but that’s why we offer it as an upgrade. If you want to, we can and support you with the after-sales support, which is second to none.
Thanks for your time Toby. What’s next for you and where can we keep up with you and your two-wheeled shenanigans?
No dramas! The Ardrock festival is next for me and plenty more time on the bike before the Summer ends! I guess the best place to stay tuned is via the gram, my handle is @ultratobemance and for those that know of the legend that is ‘Ultraromance’, you’ll know how to say that and be prewarned of gravel-related content!
Flat out, no foot out.