Being Frank – Rim Brakes In A Disc Brake World

 

Brent Graves Cane Creek
Brent Graves, President and CEO

Eleven years ago before heading into a meeting with some Shimano Japan executives, my good friend Adam Micklin who was at the time the Shimano American OEM Sales Manager asked me “Are you going to hammer them again on road disc brakes?” I said “hell yes”, and Adam moaned. A few years later I kicked off a presentation to a 100+ Specialized employees stating that “Every high-performance vehicle with wheels on the planet uses disc brakes. It’s only a matter of time before the same is true for performance road bikes.” Let’s say that the response was not overwhelming. While my belief in road disc brakes has never wavered, it has taken longer than I thought for the changeover to take hold.

While we have seen some road bike models with disc brakes – I remember a Trek Portland around 2006 – last year was likely the tipping point. The popularity of what I call the all-conditions road bike, and what the industry calls gravel bikes, gave disc brakes a big boost. These bikes emphasized utility over weight, and even conservative road riders began to see the light. While pro racing has struggled with disc brakes in the peloton due to politics, misinformation, and race support challenges, Tom Boonen was the first to win on disc brakes in January 2017. More recently Trek has announced that their top riders will ride only disc brake bikes in the three Gran Tours this year.

As fate would have it, here at Cane Creek we are building and selling a lot of rim brakes and no disc brakes. For me it’s a bit ironic, and I can imagine from the outside it may even seem like a disconnect. I have not changed my view that discs will be the brake of the future for bikes, but that does not mean that rim brakes will disappear. First, road bikes built over the last ten years are great bikes, and the gains from year to year have been increasingly small. Thus, one does not feel the need to replace their 2010 road bike like they would their same vintage 26-inch wheeled mountain bike. Second, the advantages of disc brakes clearly shine in inclement conditions and on big descents. But the reality is that most riders don’t drop 1,500 feet on five-mile descents in the rain. Even in the dry I can ride such a descent, which happens to be two miles from my door, faster and more confidently with discs. Lastly, all else being equal, rim brake bikes are less expensive, easier to work on, and lower weight.

Where does that leave us? There are a lot of great rim brake bikes out there, and they’ll be out there for years to come. If a rim brake works for you, ride it without regret. Despite having several disc brake bikes, I still spend as much time on my rim brake bikes, and I don’t see that changing for years. A great bike is a great bike. Bike companies will continue to develop more new disc brake bikes and fewer and fewer rim brake bikes. But I expect the boutique builders to continue offer rim brake bikes for as long as I live. I would not be surprised to see some of them focus on rim brake bikes as a refuge for those riders that prefer a bike from simpler times. And whether it’s for the rider that is after the lightest weight bike possible, one that wants to upgrade their older bike, or the gal that commissions Seven Cycles to build her a classic titanium road bike, Cane Creek will still be building the one-of-a-kind eeBrake rim brake.

Welcome to our new website

In today’s connected digital world, a website is a company’s front door. With this newly designed site, our goal is to make that door a little wider and more inviting for our customers and fellow riders.

A few key features include:

  •  A fully responsive design, making it much easier to navigate and use on mobile devices.
  •  An improved fit-finder that will allow riders to enter their bike into the site and quickly see the components that fit. A limited number of manufacturers and model years will be included at launch but we will be adding information regularly as we move forward.
  •  Additional opportunities for Cane Creek to engage with riders, tell the story of our brand and why we do what we do (and why we love to do it). The site will include an all-new Cane Creek Journal featuring content from Cane Creek team members and riders sharing personal stories and videos to give riders a better understanding of what makes Cane Creek truly special and unique.
  •  An improved dealer locator that will let Cane Creek riders quickly find the nearest spot to purchase and service products, no matter where they are in the world. This will include improved mobile functionality such as the ability to get direction in Google maps or call your local bike shop with the click of a button.
  •  On-page social media integration so visitors can quickly see the latest posts on Instagram without leaving the site.
  •  And many small improvements designed to improve the overall experience for riders and share the Cane Creek story and passion for what we do.

We designed this site with you in mind and want to hear your feedback on how we can continue to improve and make it the very best experience. Please let us know what you think and thank you for support for Cane Creek.

Riding dirt in the land of the sky

They say the Appalachians are the oldest mountain range in the word. They were formed around half a billion years ago when huge plates of land slammed into one another to form the supercontinent of Pangea.

In those days the world was pushed together. What are now West Africa and the British Isles would have been within walking distance of the current Atlantic coast of the United States and the earth folded upward where those great masses of land met. Like steepled fingers they rose into a super mountain range, rivalling the height of the modern Himalayas, that ran from present day Africa all the way to Scotland by way of the Eastern U.S.

Over time – a great deal of time – the continents went their separate ways. Scotland took the Highlands with them in the breakup. Morocco even kept a small stretch that came to be known as the Anti-Atlas range. Time and weather took their toll, softening and mellowing the great mountains until they became the rounded rolling mounts of green and blue (and yellow and red and gold for those magical few weeks each October) that we’ve come to call the Appalachians.

They are not particularly tall mountains – Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the Appalachian range (and highest east of the Mississippi river), is a mere 6,683 ft and would be dwarfed by even the most modest of their western cousins in the Rockies – but they have character that’s distinct from the jagged peaks and snowy crags of the western states. They are roots and black loam and sudden coves that seem like something lost to time.

Tucked in the southern end of these mountains – at the nexus of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee – sits a collection of peaks and sub-ranges split into two main groups roughly along the Eastern Continental Divide, with the Great Smoky Mountains to the West and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east. Collectively, this expanse of rolling granite and rhododendron has been long been known as the Land of the Sky – presumably a reference to expansive mountain views and nearly year-round sunshine.

There are a lot of charms to this part of the world. In the last couple of decades the city of Asheville, tucked on a plateau in the Blue Ridge, has gained international recognition as a nexus of craft beer, amazing food, art and great music. Rivers like the Green and Nantahala have become legendary with boaters the world over. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is both majestic and accessible making it the most visited national park in the country, nearly doubling the number of annual visitors to the Grand Canyon – the nation’s second-most visited park. And, likely most importantly to anyone reading this, it’s one hell of a place to ride a bike.

From the smooth mountainside tarmac of the Blue Ridge Parkway to the rugged trails of the Pisgah National forest to the seemingly endless gravel forest service roads that crisscross the region, this area – this Land of the Sky – has a little bit of everything you could want to ride on two wheels.

In the center of all of it sits the Cane Creek Valley and, tucked in that valley next to the small stream from which it takes its name, sits the headquarters of Cane Creek Cycling Components.

So who cares, right?

Why is a bicycle component manufacturer writing about geography and history and where to grab the best beer or pulled pork plate?

Because designing bike components doesn’t only happen in an R&D lab or a factory. Bike parts are a product of the people who design, build and ride them and those people are, in turn, a product of the place in which they live – and ride.

We, as riders, are connected to place in a way that most athletes and enthusiasts of sport are not. Our kinship in this regard is more alike to the climber who’s fingertips learn the stone inch-by-inch as he feels his way upward or the boater who learns to read the shape and flow of the river ahead by the bend of light against its surface and the tug of the current against her hull.

The places we ride are inseparable from the ride itself.

At Cane Creek, we are riders first. We make products we believe in – the result of things we wish we had for ourselves as we bounded down trails and wound down hairpin mountain roads. The components we make are products of people and place.

As riders we spend a lot of our time talking about our bikes – the ounces, the geometry, the travel. We talk about trails a lot as well – the gnarliest descents, the most heinous climbs. But often the places in which we ride, and the people that make up those places, are just a backdrop to the technical details.

This new journal will be about those places and those people that make up the fabric of who we are as a company. It will be about us and it will be about you, our customers and fellow riders. There may be times when we talk about grams and millimeters, rock gardens and the grade of an epic climb but, ultimately, it’s about the love of riding bikes, wherever you are.

Because, from Scotland to Asheville to Africa, there’s an ancient kinship in the soil we kick out on a corner and the hilltops that roll away from that roadside viewpoint. They used to be one place, connected, and who’s to say they aren’t still?

Take care of your bike so it will take care of you

Spring is almost here! The winter permafrost will soon be transforming back into loam and the trails will be full of overgrowth in no time.  The social media chatter is all about shred this! And cutt’y that! And you figure it’s about time to get out and ride.  But before you head out and start shredding the gnar as hard as you were back in November, let’s take a second to go over a few critical maintenance techniques to keep your ride rollin’ smooth.  And remember your local bike shop is here to help!

Step 1: Look, wash, and listen

A clean bike is a happy bike, so bust out that bike cleaning kit and get to work.

Dialed in bike wash supplies that are good to keep handy include:

-All purpose soap (that’s not harmful to your gaskets, seals, or brake pads)

Household dish detergent works great, try to avoid harsh degreasers.

-Foam sponge & or soft brush, for your paint and cockpit.

-Stiff brush with long bristles, to get the muck and grime off your drivetrain and wheels.

– Clean drying rag

It is often more convenient to place your bike in a repair stand while washing.  Look for cracks or damages the winter mud could be hiding.  Listen for rubbing rotors or crunchy bearings.

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Step 2: Drivetrain inspection, adjustment, and replacement.

Start by visually inspecting the rear derailleur, cassette, chain, and front chain ring. Look for broken or bent teeth (including the pulley wheels on the rear derailleur), rusty chain links, fraying cables or bent hangers.  It is always a good idea to lightly go over each bolt with a wrench or key, insuring something hasn’t been backing itself out over time and is only hanging on by a couple of threads. Front chain ring bolts and rear derailleurs are infamous for that. You don’t wanna have one of those “I was just riding along” incidences leaving you stranded.

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Replace any chain rings that look “shark tooth’d”, clogged cable housing, or stretched chains.

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Make sure your bottom bracket bearings spin freely, your crank spindle is freshly greased, your shifting is crisp and your chain is lubed.

Step 3: Check yourself before your wreck yourself.

New generation hydraulic brakes are so good nowadays they are easily overlooked.  Brake bleeds and fluid flushes are not just for when your brakes stop working, they are preventative and keep the feel nice and responsive.

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Make sure the pad life and alignment are in spec and that there are now bulges or creases in the brake line.

Step 4: Suspension Black Magic

The first step in attaining the elusive “factory”, “predictable”, “confident inspiring” suspension setup is regular maintenance. Keeping up on the service intervals is critical for properly functioning suspension components.  Refer to your suspension manufacturer’s technical manual for specific instruction and care.  Cane Creek USA now offers Factory Direct Service or make a visit to one of our Authorized Cane Creek Service Centers to keep your suspension working buttery-smooth.

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If a certified suspension service center has recently tuned up your shock and fork, remember to re-measure your suspension’s sag (front and back with your riding gear on) and record it along with your compression/rebound and volume reduction settings.

Step 5: Headset Adjustment

Get your S.H.I.S straight! And don’t forget about your Headset! The threadless headset design Cane Creek patented all those years ago; makes steering stem assembly and maintenance a breeze.  Drop the fork and clean out any contaminants that may have gotten past the seals during those winter mud rides.  Make sure you re-grease and preload the bearings within spec (~12nm) for silky smooth steering. If you find your bearings are in dire need of replacing or even the entire headset – you can quickly figure out the S.H.I.S. configuration you need using our Headset Fit Finder.

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Step 6: Drop it like it’s hot

Just like your mountain bike’s intricate suspension components, your cable or hydraulic actuated dropper post requires servicing.  Extremely fast return and a “Squishy” sound while be operated are often tell tail signs it’s time to freshen up the internals.  Difficulty while compressing to “descend” mode can many times be fixed with some adjustment.  Be sure to take care of any play in the cable.  Installing a new cable along with a barrel adjuster is a quick and easy fix.

 

Step 7: Points of contact

Your pedals, seat, and grips are how you connect with the bike.  Check out how they have been wearing and replace if need be.  A fresh pair of grips can make all the difference on a hot sweaty day. And properly functioning clipless pedals with quick and confident engagement will turn you from a zero to a hero! While your “foot out flat out!”  Remember to also check the cleats on your shoes for tightness and wear.  Your tires are where your bike translates the inputs you made through the grips, pedals, and seat to the trail.  Rubber of 40 durometer or more can dry out quickly (especially when stored while in contact with cement) Look out for cracks and missing nobbies, inflate the rear tire slightly more than the front tire to help induce oversteer in turns (~25psi front , ~27psi back is a good setup for most).

Following these steps will help keep your bike feeling great and allow you to keep charging ahead this spring.

Thanks for reading!

Being Frank – Our stuff is not cheap

Cane Creek 110 Headsets

Our stuff is not cheap – by that I mean our products are neither inexpensive nor just of acceptable design and construction. Let’s take the Helm fork as an example. It is one-thousand one-hundred dollars. Whenever I have purchased a car and had to write a check, the weight of the amount really settled in when I spelled it out. My first car was “eight-hundred dollars and no/100s” not $800. We know the Helm costs a lot of money. Cane Creek Cycling is in the bicycle industry and situated in Fletcher, NC. Neither of which bring in the dough like Apple in Cupertino, CA – no Teslas in our parking lot! So we don’t take such sums lightly.

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But why would one spend so much on a Helm? Right off I’ll acknowledge that our competitors make some damn good product. I’ve worked with them directly and indirectly for years – numerous times I was fortunate to ride prototypes and receive briefings on what they were doing and why. I have also used their products on my personal rides. Their reputation for value, performance, and quality are well-earned. So their forks will provide satisfactory performance and sometimes lower price. However, we believe the Helm holds its own and provides a different riding experience. While this is not intended to be a sales pitch, if the words that follow resonate with you, then you’ll have the answer to the question at the beginning of this paragraph.

As I said in last month’s blog and you’ll likely hear me say again and again, to a person we are here to make products that we believe in and want to ride. In the case of a trail/enduro fork, we wanted a fork that could handle a hard-charging riding style, that featured enough adjustability to dial in the ride but not be overly complex, that was as user-friendly as possible, and that was designed and constructed to be robust. This is not a sales pitch, but we believe we delivered on these, and the media reviews and rider feedback support that belief.

We hand-assemble every part of every fork. We build only twenty forks at a time. We could have this fork built in Taiwan for less. There, factories use increasingly more automation to build 2,000 forks at a time. That speed and quantity decreases costs, and this is not a bad thing. However, there’s no substitute for the fulfillment and pride of building things with one’s own hands. Furthermore, we constantly learn how to improve designs when building them ourselves. The distance between our engineers and the production floor is measured in meters – like sixty – not ten-thousand kilometers. And hardly a week goes by when our engineers are not actually working in production personally. Building forks in our factory is not the only way, but it is our way.

One thing that blew me away when I moved to Switzerland some years ago was how they don’t hide the machinery – hell, they seem to celebrate it. In public buildings the HVAC components are not hidden behind suspended ceilings, wiring and switches are not encased in sheetrock, and plumbing is literally on display. Function can be appreciated, even beautiful. However we have not found a way to make visible the functional beauty inside the Helm. Nearly every part inside the Helm damper and air spring is CNC machined and anodized. We don’t use injection molded plastic. There are no cheap steel stampings. We screw things together instead of crimping or rolling. This speaks to the robustness we were after and affords the long-term serviceability Cane Creek has supported for decades.

A Cane Creek Helm is not for everyone, and we’re OK with that. But we know that there are enough of you out there that are like us – people that see themselves as defined by their riding, and that definition relies on their bikes enabling that riding – to make our business model work. Without you out there that are like us, we would not be able have this wonderful opportunity known as a labor-of-love. So we cannot say it too often or too frequently, Thank You.