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Taking Britain for a ride

After meeting at university and becoming best mates, Seb Inglis-Jones and William Stirrup swore that one day they’d run a business together. In 2018, they made good on their promise and became the proud names behind one of the finest examples of British manufacturing: Maeving motorcycles.

I meet Inglis-Jones as he drops Maeving’s very first bike – the RM1 – on my doorstep for a week’s test ride. Tall, good-looking and exuding cool, he could not be a better poster boy for Maeving’s products. His accent reveals a classic English education, finished at Durham University. It was there, at a philosophy debate, that he met Stirrup, and they soon realised they shared a passion for music, the environment, surfing … and arguing. “We were also very good at coming to a conclusion, which we thought would be a positive in business,” Inglis-Jones laughs.

Since neither of them had an engineering or business background, they agreed to go out into the world and work for five years to get the experience they’d need to get a start-up going. Stirrup specialised in finance and Inglis-Jones in marketing. “Those were years in the hamster wheel,” Inglis-Jones says. “We worked, like, 80 hours per week, but managed to climb the corporate ladder enough to learn what we had to learn. When we felt ready, we quit and started to pave the way for our own business.”

William Stirrup and Seb Inglis-Jones, co-founders of Maeving.

Motorbikes were not the first idea in their mind; in fact, Inglis-Jones admits that they didn’t really know what they wanted to do, just that it would be about “the environment and contributing to a greener future.” They soon realised that the sector where they could make the biggest difference was private transportation.

Inglis-Jones and Stirrup were surprised to discover that China is the country with the highest adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) – and not just because of sheer volume but in percentage too. “Eighty per cent of Chinese use electric motorbikes and scooters,” Inglis-Jones comments. “To give you an example, when we started the business in 2018, the total of electric motorbikes and scooters sold in the UK amounted to 273. The same year, China sold over 20 million.”

After months of investigating the reason behind those staggering numbers, they came to the conclusion that the secret behind China’s success was the fact that the country’s EVs had removable batteries, so people could charge them anywhere, any time, and from a standard socket. “That dealt with the big problem of range anxiety,” Inglis-Jones says.

The RM1, the first electric bike produced by Maeving, brings together the best of British engineering and the latest EV technology.

The next issue was quality. Products made in China were not up to scratch; but fortunately, Britain has a long history of craftsmanship – not to mention heritage – in the automotive sector. So Inglis-Jones and Stirrup set out to find the best motorbike engineers and designers and ended up with a team with a combined experience of over a century. That team has been responsible for manufacturing bikes from legendary British brands including Norton, Triumph and Royal Enfield. “We wanted to bring the latest electric innovation to this rich heritage in a way that could be summed up simply as ‘progress,’” Inglis-Jones says. Modesty aside, that is what the name of the company means, more or less. Maeving is derived from the English word “maven,” which means “one who is an expert or very experienced.”

“We chose it to show how proud we are of the quality of our engineering and the British motorcycling expertise behind our designs,” Inglis-Jones says. So with just £25,000 from their own pockets and a lot of enthusiasm, they built a prototype, which they took on a roadshow to raise capital. “Unfortunately,” Inglis-Jones says with a bitter smile, “we kicked off the fundraiser a month before Covid hit, so it wasn’t great timing. And then we launched our first product, the RM1, as Russia invaded Ukraine.”

Every Maeving bike is entirely built by hand at the company’s factory in Coventry.

But the Maeving creation story ends very, very well: Realising that the future of private transportation was in electric mobility, the investors came back. And the extra funding allowed the company to do plenty of things – among them, hire Triumph’s former Head of Product, Graeme Gilbert. “That’s when everything changed,” Inglis-Jones says, this time with a full smile. The first Maeving RM1 – “built completely by hand,” Inglis-Jones reminds me – rolled off the production line in Coventry in April 2022. Today the company is producing five motorcycles a day, and the next model, the RM1S, is already advertised on its website.

But back to my week with the RM1: Well, I fell in love with it the moment I laid eyes on it. It reminded me of Steve McQueen’s bike in The Great Escape; it was that cool, and it rode like a dream. Nippy and agile, first out of the traffic-light line, great on the turns … it was really, really fun. The top speed is 45mph (70km/h), which is more than enough for town (or short journeys if you live in the countryside). The official range is 80 miles; I admit that I did not write down my mileage, but my feeling is that it hardly used any juice; I charged it once in 10 days.

The Maeving RM1 is capable of speeds up to 45mph (70km/h), very affordable (from £4,995) and its removable batteries take only a few hours to fully charge.

The RM1S, coming in March 2024, has the same range but will be capable of speeds of up to 65mph (105km/h) and therefore highway-worthy. The prices are incredibly affordable for such a luxury product; an RM1 sells for under £5,000, and an RM1S for under £7,500. Considering that “mamils” (middle-aged men in Lycra) spend £5,000 on bicycles these days, and electric bicycles cost considerably more, Maeving motorcycles are a real bargain – not to mention total head-turners. Every time I took my RM1 for a spin, car drivers and bikers alike asked me about it, and people admired it when I parked it in town.

Sustainability-wise, Maeving’s new factory (due to open in December 2023) is powered by solar panels. Also, Inglis-Jones informs me, “There are fewer carbon emissions per capita per mile using our bike than using the London Underground.” Interesting.

The future looks very bright for Maeving. After 12 years of planning, determination and perseverance, Stirrup and Inglis-Jones have brought to market a product that embodies the future of British engineering and craftsmanship. And with new models in the pipeline, new markets hungry for its products, and the adoption of electric vehicles accelerating across the board, my guess is that these two are going to be busy for a while.


Words: Julia Pasarón

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