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?

 

Being Frank – Don’t Believe Everything You Read

 

Brent Graves Cane Creek
Brent Graves, President and CEO

For years my better half implored me to call them out on their blatant errors. She repeatedly saw my frustration that resulted from someone not doing their job completely, yet their message was wrapped in a cloak of perceived expertise. While letting something that I believe is inaccurate or even downright wrong float past without speaking up is against my nature – many times to my own detriment! – I just did not see a desirable outcome with these issues. Consequently, I continued to read reviews of bikes and bike products that included misinformation and mistakes that the faithful readership unfortunately took as gospel. This was especially the case prior to the last five or so years when internet comment sections and forums gave people a fast, easy, and anonymous way to challenge or correct the reviewers. But the pendulum now swings too far in the other direction, however that is a topic for another day.

Working in product development provided me with firsthand knowledge of the whole story of what we did and why we did it. Certainly there were plans and targets, but there were also surprises, discoveries, and accidents that make for some rich stories. And as a bike product manager I also got the inside scoop on what the component makers were doing, the motivation behind the new design, the issues with compatibility or obsolescence, and pricing and marketing strategies.

So knowing why and how we arrived at a bike’s geometry, and how component supplier X would not sell us the component we wanted unless we also spec’d the component that we didn’t want, or why we had to choose this gear combo because someone could not get parts to physically check the clearance before production made it crystal clear when a reviewer got things wrong. But we’re all human, and we will get things wrong from time to time. The unacceptable part is that I or my team were rarely contacted by the reviewer to check facts or get the inside story – they just did not do their job completely. It is easy to dismiss the idea that it was just the company that I worked for that was not sought out by the reviewer because I could see the same issues on reviews of our competitors’ products. After all, most components on every bike come from just a handful of suppliers.

Over the years I have seen some exceptions. Actually there are three product reviewers that come to mind that I think have earned the right to be named: Patrick Brady, James Huang, and Mike Levy. I’m not saying there aren’t others, but in my experience these three made contact in efforts to investigate and report the real story and facts. Consequently, their work has always carried a lot more creditability with me. I enjoy reading their work because they have consistently demonstrated thoroughness, and I am comfortable being very candid with them about our products.

So if the product reviewers did not contact the product guys responsible for the product, where did they get the information for the story? Sometimes it was from catalogs or websites. However the copy written by marketing departments is not always as accurate as it should be and rarely delves into the real background and motivations behind the product. Sometimes the reviewer called a dealer that carried that product. But while the dealer can add some color as to how the market sees the product, she/he does not know the full story behind the product. And I read reviews many times where the reviewer just inferred things, which can be dangerous.

The point of all this: don’t believe everything you read. However, the more a reviewer outlines the process used to gather information, the more specific the information, and the more actual people related to the product are mentioned by name, the more you can trust what you are reading – and that goes for more than just bicycle product reviews!

Lighter = Faster

Welcome To Your New Weight Loss Plan

 

Lose 220 grams (half a pound) off of your front and rear brake and headset.

eeBrakes: The eeBrake is the ultimate brake from start to finish – a uniquely robust patented design developed and refined by relentless engineering, both at the computer and through real-life testing. At half the weight than that of its competitors, eeBrakes continue to set new standards by which all other high performance road brakes are judged. The same supreme upgrade for performance-oriented riders, a dramatically higher overall stiffness provides better modulation and more power.

AER Headset: Long recognized as the world’s lightest headset, the new AER now offers a hybrid steel and aluminum bearing that provides even greater durability and a 40% weight savings over comparable models. Strategic machining and precision contours provide an optimal balance between weight savings and strength. The new AER headset is now an ideal headset choice for road and mountain bike applications- a high quality durable headset with durability and lightweight performance in mind.

eeNut: The eeTop and eeNut offer a beautifully functional new concept for an extremely lightweight preload assembly. A total weight of only 9.6 grams for the full assembly, saves 30 grams over the typical top and preload. The eeNut is a unique and patent pending design providing ultra light weight, solid locking action and ease of installation in one package. The recessed cone shape provides greater tension stiffness. This increased stiffness facilitates precise headset adjustment and sets it apart from other lightweight caps.

Take The Weight Off Today:

eeBrakes

eeNut Preload

AER Headset

 

eeNut Preload – 10 grams (Comparable carbon steerer preload weight – 40 grams) eeBrake Regular Mount Front – 84 grams (DA 9100 Regular brake weight w/o pads 153 grams) eeBrake Regular Mount Rear – 82 grams (DA 9100 Regular brake weight w/o pads 153 grams) AER Headset and bearings
(H15, IS42/IS52) – 49 grams (Comparable Cane Creek 40 series headset weight – 99 grams)

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?