By now most cyclists have at least heard of Boa Technology. In the last few years, the Denver, Colorado-based company that makes reel-based closure systems primarily for athletic shoes has become a significant player in the two-wheeled world. Boa dials regularly show up on road and mountain bike kicks, as well as some apparel, helmets and protective gear.
For the uninitiated, the Boa dial offers a replacement to traditional laces, ratchets, Velcro straps, or any of the other various closure mechanisms, instead utilizing a steel lace, nylon guides and mechanical reel to keep shoe snugly on foot. The device’s primary feature is the ability to equalize pressure without isolating on friction points. They’re also claimed to offer more precise fit due the micro-adjustability of click-by-click fit. Boa’s newer two-way dials make it easy to tighten and loosen shoes with one hand, and of course they never come untied.
Under the expert guidance of marketing coordinator Michael De La Rosa, we got to tour the company’s four-story headquarters in Denver’s up-and-coming RiNo district (River North) earlier this year. Here are our 10 most interesting discoveries.
1. Boa, as in boa constrictor, was founded by Gary Hammerslag, who had grown tired of tying the laces on his young son’s hockey skates and snowboard boots. Hammerslag previously spent time in the medical supply business and realized that the steel lacing being used for certain equipment could be the perfect antidote to his problems. He went to work on a prototype and by 2001 had founded the new company and established partnerships with the likes of Vans and K2. Today, Boa works with hundreds of companies and claims to have 25 million Boa-equipped products in the world.
2. Besides cycling shoes, Boa dials are spec’d on shoes for golf, snowboarding, trail running, hunting, fishing, and skiing, as well as a wide array of utility applications such as the military and construction. Boa dials are also used on medical equipment such as braces and prosthetics. Dials are broken into three main categories (low, medium, high) based on the amount of tension provided. Low is typically found on below the ankle shoes (cycling, golf, running); medium are for above the ankle (hiking, hunting, utility boots); and high is high torque above the ankle (snowboarding, backcountry skiing). The power of the dials is measured in tensile force and gear ratios, which together determine closure force.
3. Thanks primarily to sales in Asia, golf is the No. 1 application for Boa dials. Among the largest purchasers of Boa dials is Engelbert Strauss, a German manufacturer of work shoes, clothes and equipment. Boa also just set up a European office in Austria. Surprisingly, running is not a strong segment for Boa, but changing that is the company’s current No. 1 initiative.