When Diaa Nour founded Ventum in 2015, he didn’t know much about the bike business. Sure, he’d been around bicycles peripherally his whole life, but the economics eluded him.
For the ebullient entrepreneur—whose distinctive curly hair overflows from beneath his helmet like an explosion of ideas—being a fish out of water was a position he’d always been comfortable in. Chalk it up to a peripatetic upbringing: born in Egypt and raised in Switzerland, Nour’s family moved to the Washington D.C area when he was 12. He enrolled in Georgetown Prep despite not speaking a word of English, but caught on quickly—learning his third language behind Arabic and French—followed by college at William & Mary.
At 41, Diaa lives in Utah’s Uinta Mountains and works as CEO of Ventum, a bike brand that has disrupted the staid cycling business with a seamless direct-to-consumer model and a commitment to unrivaled customer service. Seeking a partner for a new fleet of U.S. road bikes, DuVine connected with Ventum and the Custom Ventum DuVine Road Bike was born.
How did you decide Ventum Racing would be your next venture?
I had a career in the telecom space and was presented with a buyout opportunity. My girlfriend at the time and brother were both professional triathletes, so I was around the sport quite a bit. But the business of cycling was brand new to me, which turned out to be a huge positive. It allowed us to think outside the box about an archaic industry where mom-and-pop stores were losing market share by the day.
Why make Ventum a direct-to-consumer brand?
If you consider the price tag of high-end bikes, we’re selling the equivalent of Lamborghinis and Ferraris. At a Ferrari dealership, you expect the service to match the product. I wasn’t having this type of consumer experience at bike shops, so I thought: we have to change and elevate this buying process.
By now, many businesses have this model of cutting out the middleman and passing the savings onto the consumer. When we started in 2015, our difference was a mindset that we weren’t a bike company with a customer service department—we were a customer service company that just happens to be selling bikes.
How does this affect the way you deliver your bikes?
When other brands ship disassembled bikes, the consumer must then visit a shop, spend weeks in the mechanic queue, and pay an arm and a leg for maintenance (on top of the purchase price) before they even ride their new bike. Those are some of the pain points we try to solve.
We employ two delivery methods: one is a partnership with van delivery service Kitzuma. The bike shows up to your house fully built, no extraneous packaging. We help you adjust saddle height and switch over your pedals so you’re ready to ride then and there. This is the method for 80% of our sales in the U.S., and it saves us 19 pounds of packaging per bike.
For the other 20% of U.S. customers, we ship using our ride ready box. Your Ventum arrives with bars on, rear derailleur hung and adjusted, chain attached, and wheels sitting on either side of the bike. All you have to do is put them on.
How does Ventum continue to support customers after their purchase?
With bikes, things go wrong—it happens! Sometimes it’s your fault and sometimes it’s not, the same way your vehicle needs regular service. Our business model is rider-first, so we want you back on the road as quickly as possible.
Say your top tube cracks. Historically, you bring your bike to the dealer. They reach out to the manufacturer, who then pins the problem to the dealer’s install. The dealer contests that the manufacturer didn’t do a good lay-up job, and so on and so forth, while you’re still out a bike. For me, there’s only one person to blame: if it’s our fault, it’s our fault. We’ll replace the bike immediately and get you back riding. This is a perspective that comes with being an outsider in the bike industry.
We also offer trade-in programs at 110% of the bike’s value—we’ve got zero percent financing to break down any financial barrier to get someone on a bike. We invest in the relationships with our customers, not dealers. This also means we receive feedback directly, allowing us to innovative and bring products to market faster.
The customer comes first—but even before that comes your proto-product. Tell us how the first Ventum bike differed from everything else on the market.
We started with our triathlon bike: the Ventum One. Nine years ago, I noticed that all triathlon bikes on the market were all UCI [professional cycling’s governing body] legal. But why follow UCI guidelines for triathlons when the sport isn’t governed by the UCI?
UCI rules put limitations on the aerodynamics and weight of a bike to create an even playing field. So we designed the Ventum One from the ground up with one goal: make it as fast as possible and forget about the UCI. The Ventum One doesn’t have a down tube, there are no seat stays, and we integrated the water bottle—because bottle cages and bottles create drag. Ours is the only tri bike that’s faster with the bottle than without.
How was DuVine’s custom road bike born?
The bike we designed for DuVine is actually based on our Gravel bike, the GS1. It’s identical in weight to our road bike, but the GS1 has a more relaxed geometry (like a shorter top tube, for example), so it’s more upright. We then outfitted the custom bike with all the road gearing and components from our NS1, like Shimano’s electronic Ultegra Di2 11-speed, plus a custom stem so the seat can easily adjust to different riders throughout the season.
It’s truly one-of-a-kind for DuVine—we don’t sell the bike to anyone else, so the only way to ride it is on tour. Tom Coppock was amazingly detail-oriented, down to the millimeters of tires and type of saddles; he knows exactly what a DuViner wants and needs and I know the bike and the potential to customize. Together, we created the perfect bike for DuVine’s guests that balances performance and comfort for all types of riders.
You’re a well-traveled guy. Where are some of your favorite places to ride?
In California, I love Napa and the Bay Area. Of course, Utah is now one of my favorites—the road and gravel riding are both amazing and the mountain biking is, too. For short trips, say five days, Aspen. And believe it or not, there is wonderful riding outside of Washington D.C. Skyline Drive in Shenandoah is one of my all-time favorite rides.
As for Europe, Switzerland is fantastic: there are some incredible cycling vistas around Interlaken. I love, love, love the South of France, Monaco, anywhere on the Côte d’Azur. In the next few years, I want to ship my bike to France, pick some of my favorite vineyards and winemakers, and ride 50-60 miles a day from town to town eating cheese and drinking wine.
What about the best wines to toast a great day on the bike?
I tend towards bold Napa Cabs: Stag’s Leap, particularly Cask 23. The high-end Beringer is always reliable. Overture, Opus One’s second growth, is phenomenal. Screaming Eagle is a splurge, but it’s quite good.
If I want an everyday bottle, Obsidian Ridge, Beringer Knights Valley, or Honig. My obsession du jour is Secret Door, a collaboration between a couple producers. They make it for that year only, and then they change it—so every vintage ends up being an entirely different wine—and the 2014 is my favorite.
You’ve just completed a century ride, what are you eating afterward?
If I’m feeling like protein, a high-grade ribeye, bone-in, on the grill. Carbs wise, it’s going to be a beautiful baguette with prosciutto and cheese, namely Brillat-Savarin. Paired with a good bottle of red, there’s nothing better in life.
Parting words: did anyone try to dissuade you from starting a bike brand?
Everybody! Everyone! But ignorance is bliss. Recently I realized that if I knew then what I know now, there’s no way I’d start this.
I think of it like a marathon: when I run a marathon for the first time I’m excited about it, and nine times out of ten I set my PR on that initial course. By the third time, I know every turn and anticipate where it’s going to hurt. So consider this my first trip up Bike Brand Hill: it’s had its costs personally and professionally, but the fact that I didn’t know what I was getting into was what made it doable. And don’t get me wrong—I love it.
For more insights, photos, videos, and rides, follow Diaa Nour on Instagram.