Dirt Change: at home with Krush
It was 4.30am in the morning and Matt D’Arcy was wide awake. The music producer knew what he had to do. He rolled over in bed and woke up heavily pregnant wife Emma. “We should launch an Australian mountain bike cleaning products brand,” he told her. Later that same day Emma delivered their second daughter, Mia.
That makes it easy for Matt and Emma to remember when Krush MTB products officially came into being; July 22, 2015.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I went to bed thinking about it and I woke up thinking ‘yeah we are doing this’,” Matt recalls. OK, so we’re cutting a few steps out of the process. The idea didn’t just hit Matt out of the blue. It had been in his mind, gestating for a while.
“It sounds clichéd, but our priorities were changing with the kids and in the music industry you are in the office all the time. We are both outdoorsy sort of people but the jobs we had ended up in [Emma also worked in the music industry] and the business we had created were so far removed from that.
“It was really time for a lifestyle change.”
Trace back further and you find that years of mountain biking in Melbourne winter mud, combined with a perfectionist’s eye for cleanliness and maintenance, have also sent Matt down this path. “Matt’s idea of an awesome afternoon is a beer and cleaning his bike,” laughs Emma.
Inevitably, he started trying different bike wash brands – you know the ones we’re talking about. At the same time he was riding more and buying more expensive bikes... as we all do.
“As I spent more time in the Australian mountain bike scene, I could see it was really buzzing, there were new races and new trails popping up everywhere,” Matt recalls. But the dots didn’t completely connect until he was producing an album for a friend, whose father happened to own an industrial chemical manufacturing company.
“We just got talking and my brain started ticking over and I said ‘what if I brought some products I was using, do you think your dad could... figure out our own formula with everything we wanted in it?’” he recalls.
The answer was yes, the process started and the 4.30am wake-up happened soon after that. The first wash was developed over an initial six-month period using Matt’s own Specialized Stumpjumper as a guinea pig (brave!).
“The biggest thing I felt was that there was no Australian brand on the market selling mountain bike-specific cleaning products in a cool well-marketed way,” Matt says. “Some of the rival ranges are hugely over-saturated. You jump on their websites and they have so many products for every part of the process. So our goal was to simplify the cleaning process, be Australian-made and really push that aspect of it.”
As this was written there are four products in the Krush range that will enable you to wash and detail your bicycle from top to bottom: bike wash, foaming bike wash, after-wash and degreaser. So how different are the Krush products from other stuff on your LBS shelf?
“As far as formulations go, we don’t come from a chemist background,” explains Matt. “In developing the product we were just very specific about the things we did like and didn’t like about the [rival] products we were sampling.
“The key things were high quality, high purity, biodegradability. Value for money is also very important to us; our 500ml bike wash concentrate is a super-concentrate. Forty millilitres in a 5-10 litre bucket is good for one wash.”
And of course, Matt assures us, there is no danger using Krush with any combination of bike materials, seals, bearings and rubber. “We wanted a wash that would cut through dirt but was not so heavy that cuts into grease if it gets into your wheel bearings,” he said.
Matt and Emma launched Krush at Crankworx New Zealand in 2016. A strong response from punters was capped off when Torpedo7 bought a heap of product at the end of the weekend. They returned to Australia on a high. Less than 18 months later Matt and Emma bit the bullet, gave up their day jobs to take on Krush full-time and to make the shift from Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges to property near Mansfield in the Victorian high country. Their property is just a short drive from Mt Buller and complete with its own 600-metre MTB trail.
“We’d always had a great life where we were, but to me, when I visualised Krush growing and thriving, I always wanted to be on a property in the high country,” Matt says. “I couldn’t think of a better base to run the business from. I clearly remember telling friends we are moving to Mansfield and we are going to make mountain bike cleaning products and they said to us ‘Have you lost your mind?’.”
Matt and Emma’s marketing plan for Krush was full-on. It was them working with agents in each state, selling into about 50 stores nationwide. They were also attending heaps of MTB events and in-store demos to promote Krush. But a key change came when Bike Corp approached them late in 2017 to take over distribution. Krush is now in 187 stores and there are new accounts coming in all the time.
Importantly, the Bike Corp deal means Matt and Emma can focus on the big picture. Krush is now on-sale in New Zealand and the USA is the next target on the horizon. The product range will soon expand with a brake cleaner and a wet chain lube, and a range of casual wear is rolling out. Through all this change, one thing stays constant; all the products remain Australian-made. And the distinctively wrapped Krush VW vans continue to head out to events and demos, something Matt and Emma not only regard as vital for the business, but key to their enjoyment of it, too.
“We spent summer in the caravan going down to Tassie because we were the bike wash sponsor for the opening of the Maydena bike park,” says Emma. “So we took the kids and a bunch of mates and went riding at Derby and Maydena and that was all because of Krush. It’s just awesome.
“This is what we want to do,” she adds. “This is how you make dreams happen. You see what you want to do and jump in. We want Krush to be more than cleaning products. We want to make a brand that you would be proud to wear on your chest... Krush is about a lifestyle, an experience, it’s what we want for ourselves, and I think that feeling is infectious.”