Being Frank – Fun Never Goes Out Of Style

 

Brent Graves Cane Creek
Brent Graves, President and CEO

WARNING: This blog is not limited to topics related to Cane Creek or even bicycles for that matter. However it will always be true to its title and offer my candid view on things. Odds are that you’ll see connections between anything I write about and bicycles – or at least things with wheels that are fun to go fast on/in. Somehow my better half has survived my wheel-centric view of the world and now just rolls (pun intended) with it. Now you too can get a dose.

While product innovation and the resultant possibilities of what new products offer is mindboggling these days, a disconnect between features and experience is growing. For many products, especially those in the sports and recreation areas, brands have mistakenly correlated technology with Fun. To clarify, the mistake is that many brands see a 100% correlation between technology and Fun. Certainly, there is a correlation, but at some point Fun gets misunderstood and lost as technology sterilizes and isolates us from the core experience.

“It’s more fun to ride a slow motorcycle fast, than a fast motorcycle slow.” I read this decades ago. I can’t remember who to attribute it to. It may have been Keith Code, Nick Ienatch, or some other scribe from the motorcycles rags that colored my world as a dreamy college student. Nonetheless, I have never (repeatedly) experienced truer words. The idea is that it is more fun to feel like one is on the ragged edge, pushing the limits of machine and man even if the speed is not that great than it is to be overwhelmed and holding onto to something that can toss you off with the slightest mistake rendered by a non-racer’s wrist. The true torch bearer for this concept is the Mazda Miata. Since its introduction thirty years ago, no one that has driven one has not had fun. And during those thirty years it has always been under-powered and not fast.

Fun is an experience wherein joy, thrill, satisfaction, and challenge are rolled up into a tasty burrito. One can identify all the various flavors, but the composite taste transcends. I think of this taste as Engagement. True Engagement is when all thoughts of life outside of the current experience vaporize. It can be so complete that it cannot be realized or appreciated until after the fact. The late braking for a high-speed corner, the launch off a jump to clear an obstacle, or the timely application of throttle on corner exit wherein the backend steps out just enough for a bit of countersteer – at those moments nothing else exists in the world but the intimate engagement with the vehicle.

There is no limit to Fun, it never goes out of style, and Fun exist in as many ways as there are people. Have you ever really had too much fun? Sure one can have too much wine, too much pizza, too much stuff. But have you ever had too much fun? Have you really ever said “that was too much fun, I’m not going to do it again”? While each generation may find Fun in a different way, it is still there. And it is always something people desire. No one can prove that their fun is better than yours. That’s analogous to trying to prove a negative. We all know what Fun feels like, but it can feel different to each of us. And no one can quantify or compare your fun with someone else’s.

A product is not Fun, but it can be conducive to Fun. Consequently, a product’s features may or may not be a Fun enabler. This is where brands can get lost. In an effort to beat the competition with a more-is-better strategy they throw every feature and upgraded spec into the product while losing sight of from where the Fun is really derived. In my opinion, the product manager’s mission in life (HR tells me to say “work” instead) is to understand the origin of Fun related to her product and distill the specs and features to the point they disappear in the process of having Fun. I see it as a sacred charter because what can be better than more Fun?