Photo: Bike Track outdoor flooring seen here at a balloon festival. Courtesy photo.
by Joyce Marcel, Vermont Business Magazine Bike Track, Inc in Woodstock is one of those Vermont companies where, when you hear about them, you say, “Who knew?”
The company is famous for the durable, modular, hardened plastic flooring that it sells to military, government, and private organizations.
The company began as an offshoot of Eco Systems, which was founded in 1978 by inventor Gerry Hawkes. Hawkes was interested in creating products “to help reduce the human impact on the environment,” according to the Bike Track web site.
The company changed its name to Bike Track, Inc in 1993. That's when it began producing 1 foot square tiles of durable (and recyclable) plastic that hook together like Legos. The tiles, which have a hollow channel in the center, were first used to build steps and ramps. In addition, the company began selling bike racks to colleges and universities, hence the new name.
But it was the blocks that proved to be the big seller. They could be used to make tent floors that, in heavy rain, diverted runoff through their hollow spaces and kept whatever was in the tent dry. That soon turned out to be soldiers.
“The product creates channels underneath,” said CEO and President Tim Callahan “It's used for putting up large military command post shelters. The flooring is removable. And they can run all the cables under the floor. It cleans up a command structure, and makes it easy to troubleshoot technical difficulties. That's the primary use. They are used to create temporary roads and walkways, as well. It's easy to link to them together. They link like Legos. Just drop them on the ground and connect them.”
Photo: Bike Track outdoor flooring. Courtesy photo.
The blocks are sold in one-inch, two-inch, and two-inch cable-ready options and have turned out to be far better than plywood for rapid deployment tent floors. They are made of high-density polyethylene.
“Whenever they reach their end of life, the company can grind them up, throw them back into the product mix and continue using them,” Callahan said.
Hawkes retired from the company in 2000. But before he left, he had worked with the U.S. Army, National Guard, Army Reserve, Marine Corps, Air Force, Air National Guard and Navy to fit military specifications.
Since then, the flooring has gone international, and is now used by the Spanish Army, the Australian Army and NATO.
“Our best sales tool is having two units side by side,” Callahan said. “One has our products. One doesn't. When they get caught in a rainstorm, and the water floods one of them, we get a call fairly quickly. Honestly, the US Army has been a great sales tool.”
None of the tiles are manufactured in Vermont.
“The tiles are manufactured in Latham, New York,” Callahan said. “The folks there are our manufacturing arm. We own the molds and the patents on the molds. The military is our biggest customer, but just over the past two years, we've spun off into commercial and residential products. They're the same tiles, but we sell them under the name Workhorse Ground Solutions, and they have a separate website. They're geared for parties and events and occasions. And we'll have patents on that product as well. The product is 100 percent recyclable, and we have a five-year warranty. Some of the military have had the same products fort 20-plus years, and you can imagine they're not given a lot of love.”