Journal

Being Frank – No Greed Here

 

Brent Graves Cane Creek
Brent Graves, President and CEO

If it was not so inaccurate and frequent, it probably would not bother me so much. But seemingly a week cannot go by without someone commenting how a “greedy bicycle company” did this or that. As I write this it dawns on me how hilariously off-the-mark such comments are. Actually, it can be argued that the bicycle industry would be in a healthier place if companies were better equipped at running profitable businesses. But the reality is most, and I mean nearly all, bicycle businesses were started as a labor of love versus a means to increasing shareholder wealth. Hence the popular bicycle industry saying: To make a small fortune in the bike business, start first with a BIG fortune.

So why get irked by inaccurate labeling? Oh my, I just hit one of my own hot buttons: labeling. Everyone I have ever met, whether I liked them or not, has had a complex personality. Attempting to distill that complexity into a few labels is more than a disservice, it’s criminal in my opinion. Fred is more than just a Democrat, a roadie, or a tree-hugger. The group of people that form a company is even more complex. Therefore a label such as “greedy” falls even further from what they are about. But I digress.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with or at least meet many of the leaders in the bicycle industry. And while their agendas and motives varied, none of them, with one exception, indicated or demonstrated that greed was a driver. Some just want everyone to enjoy bicycles as they do, some want to save the world with bicycles, and some want to win with the best bicycle products. Certainly there are many decisions and strategies related to how they run their business that I disagree with, but in no case have I witnessed the bicycle being used as a tool for greed.

One has to look no further than the parking lots of bicycle companies for evidence of lack of greed. They are full of WRXs, GTIs, Elements, 4-Runners, Miatas, and other fun/active-lifestyle models that are at least 3-5 years old – not new BMWs, Jags, and Porsches. One bicycle company president I worked for drove a Camry, another a well-worn Audi S4 Avant, and a VP I reported to a Ford Explorer. Don’t get me wrong, there are some car guys in the business. But they usually have toiled for years for that old 911, and the rest of their “collection” is a mini van for family duties, a 6-year old F-150 for a daily driver, and a clapped out Civic with a fart can for the teenager.

And then there is the knowledge of what things cost: tooling for a fork casting or a frame mold, the FOB cost of an injection molded brake hood or an extruded seat clamp, and the duty and freight to get it from there to here. Add to that the costs of doing business – salaries, advertising, insurance, rent, etc. – the margins everyone in the supply chain requires to stay alive, and it is easy to see when things don’t seem to add up. Like the unbelievable amounts the late 90’s Schwinn/GT group was spending. They had to have had a secret to making a lot more money than the rest of us… or they were living on borrowed time (and money). History clearly shows it was the latter.

Yes, we all strive to be profitable. However, profit and greed are two very different things. In Cane Creek’s case, being profitable ensures that we can reward our employees for their great efforts, invest in the company to ensure we are around for many years to come, spend on research and development of new product ideas, support and promote cycling in our own backyard, and be as prepared as possible in today’s uncertain world. My experience and knowledge tell me that’s the same situation for every other bicycle company. While we are all far from perfect, and you’re likely to have had an experience or two to make you question a company’s motives, I can assure you that most everyone in this business is here for the right reasons, and they are not getting rich.

eeWings – Guaranteed to Last

The Toughest Cranks – Guaranteed

Cane Creek eeWings now come with a 30-day 100% satisfaction guarantee. Regardless of the reason, a rider can return their eeWings to the place of purchase within 30 days for a full refund. That’s in addition to the existing 10-year warranty. In honor of our new guarantee, watch as Jeff and Andrew put the eeWings Titanium cranks through their paces then – when you’re done – order your set today.

Pink Headsets

 

Limited Production Order Deadline: October 5th

The precision, quality, and performance you have ridden with for years is now available in PINK!

Now until October 5th Cane Creek Cycling Components is offering a limited production run of our 110 Series and Slamset headsets in an anodized pink colorway. Thoroughly compliment the performance and beauty of the El Rosado edition eeBrakes set.

These headsets will be produced based on demand and will ship in December 2018

Don’t miss out!

Order your Pink 110 Series or Slamset headset and spacers now.

 

Slamset S.H.I.S

IS41/28.6/H4.6 (Top) |  IS52/40/H1 (Bottom) 

IS42/28.6/H4.6 (Top) |  IS52/40/H1 (Bottom) 

ZS44/28.6/H2 (Top) |  EC44/40/H12 (Bottom) 

ZS44/28.6/H2 (Top) |  ZS56/40/H4 (Bottom) 

110 Series S.H.I.S

EC34/28.6/H16 (Top) |  EC34/30/H12 (Bottom)

IS41/28.6/H9 (Top) |  IS52/40/H1 (Bottom) 

IS42/28.6/H9 (Top) |  IS52/40/H1 (Bottom) 

ZS44/28.6/H8 (Top) |  EC44/40/H12 (Bottom) 

ZS44/28.6/H8 (Top) |  ZS56/40/H4 (Bottom) 

Get your S.H.I.S Straight ! Use Cane Creek Fit Finder to correctly identify your headset here.

 

 

Being Frank – The Balanced Bike

 

Brent Graves Cane Creek
Brent Graves, President and CEO

Some good ideas get buried under Marketing. While unfortunate this is not surprising, particularly in this day and age of ever shorter attention spans, immediate stimulus requirements, and more and more brands trying to grab a piece of the market pie. But that is for another blog. This blog is about one of those buried ideas. It is not a new idea – I actually wrote a piece on this idea for a company news letter about twenty-five years ago. And it’s not an idea that I can claim is solely mine. Nonetheless, it is an idea that can enhance a rider’s riding satisfaction, ease her anxiety, and likely save her some money.

The concept of the Balanced Bike is simple to understand but can be difficult to implement. The quality and price of parts on a Balanced Bike are relative to their contribution to the performance/function of the bike given its intended use. Puncture-resistant tires on a commuter, hydraulic disc brakes on a mountain bike, and lightweight carbon wheels on a racing bike all seem to make sense – titanium cranks on a coffee shop bike, not so much. But given the large number of models available of those products and their functional relevance, the difficulty stems from determining what is really needed and what is more than enough.

The Dura Ace and 105 rear derailleurs (RD) are of the same design, they do the same thing the same way, and they are interchangeable. This has been the case for many years and is not limited to road parts or Shimano – one can substitute “SRAM, XX1, and XXO1” if so inclined. The Dura Ace derailleur weighs less due to better grade materials (a splash of titanium in place of steel) and materials processes (a dash of forgings in lieu of castings or stampings). And occasionally there’s a different functional spec, as in the case of the Dura Ace RD using cartridge bearings in the pulleys instead of bushings. Go ride new Dura Ace and 105 bikes back to back, and if you feel a difference in shifting, it’s probably due to the competence of the person(s) that assembled the bikes. However, after 10,000 or 20,000 miles the Dura Ace parts are going to maintain more of that new feel and function due to those better materials and materials processes. So if you’re a pro racer training and racing 20,000+ miles per year, Dura Ace does not put your bike out of balance. On the other hand, if you ride less than 5,000 mile per year, never pin a number on, and have a full-time job, upgrading to a Dura Ace RD instead of, say a set of larger volume, high-quality tubeless tires would not lead to a Balanced Bike.

To be fair, let’s consider two Cane Creek products: the 110 and 40-series headsets. While our engineers can make your eyeballs spin explaining the detailed design differences between the two, functionally the designs are the same. So how would each fit into the Balanced Bike idea? If you prefer to ride in nice weather, and cycling is just one of the activities biding for your limited leisure time, go with the 40-series. But if cycling is an obsession and pouring rain or sub-freezing temperatures are just challenges, the 110 would be the way to go.

Lastly, it’s not just about the brands and the marketing of their offerings. The various systems are not equal in their contribution to your riding satisfaction and performance. No one is ever going to lose a race because their seat post is 45 grams heavier (the weight of a Snicker’s bar). However, 45 grams on a rim will add seconds to your time during your club’s annual hill climb competition. After all, the rim is THE most important component with regards to weight due to the fact that it’s rotating and that it’s rotating in a big circle.

So the Balanced Bike places emphasis on the parts that will positively impact one’s riding the most and de-emphasizes those that have little or no impact. WARNING: Many times this is not in sync with how brands position and market their parts. For example, one rider’s Balanced Bike may include a mix of SRAM GX and XO1 parts. It may also be more balanced with mid-level aluminum wheels but top-of-the line shock and fork.

With all this said, if you want the more expensive stuff, go for it! As a sucker for high-end goodies and CEO of a company that offers a range of premium parts, I’m certainly not going to tell you that you shouldn’t. But make sure that you are informed and honest with yourself about what is really going to affect your riding satisfaction. Lastly, do yourself a favor and don’t skimp on those parts that really do matter for your style of riding.

Experience ee

Precision, ingenuity and the love of the ride… That’s the essence of ee

In the fall of 2016, renowned cycling components designer Craig Edwards joined forces with Cane Creek, forming a lasting partnership to not only manufacture and distribute his game-changing eeBrake but also to work hand-in-hand with Cane Creek designers and engineers to develop new products that pushed the sport of cycling into new frontiers.

From that partnership, Cane Creek’s ee line was born.

What Makes a Product ee?

In order to earn the right to be called ee, a product must meet the highest standards of function and innovation. This begins with a rigorous product development process designed to take great ideas and turn them into excellent products.

This unique approach and uncompromising commitment to meticulous execution results in products that have surpassed previous industry bests and whose beauty is truly in their function.
We use this process to guide us internally and hold ourselves to this high standard so that we know we have achieved a product of the highest quality and performance that can be deemed the best.

Three guiding principles shape the framework and practice of the ee design process:

Free of Convention:

We believe in innovation rather than following established standards. An ee product is born from questioning the norm and using a new lens to discover connections between different but related facts. When joined together, these facts can create a clear view of something novel, which has never been seen, developed or commercialized before. Something that is truly revolutionary.

eeNut

eeNut

How do you improve on an age-old design? Ignore it completely.
The starfangled nut has been around since the origin of the threadless headset and is, still to this day, at the heart of threadless headset preload design. So when Craig Edwards set out to create a lighter weight preload assembly designed for carbon steertubes he could have easily been bound by that classic design.

Instead, however, he broke free from convention and developed a recessed cone shape that created increased tension and stiffness facilitating precise headset adjustment setting it apart from both the original star nut design and other lightweight caps.

Relentless Engineering:

Engineering is the practical application of art and science. Lessons learned from earlier experiences become the foundational underpinnings of further advances. This process is repeated until the assurance has been gained that all aspects of the product requirements have taken it beyond the state of the art.

eewings spindle

While designing eeWings, we knew we wanted to design a crank that is both extremely durable and ultra-stiff while remaining in a weight class that’s comparable to leading carbon cranks. The solution? A design that relied on both relentless engineering and the choice to use titanium, a superior yet expensive and difficult to work material.

Throughout the development process, this focus on relentless engineering and testing resulted in some truly superior features including a 30-tooth hearth joint joining the crank together, hollow tube arms for a superior stiffness-to-weight ratio and a CNC machined aluminum preload with a titanium bolt for a more precise and durable setup.

Slave to Logic:

The design process draws upon intuition, imagination and systemic reasoning to explore the many possibilities of what can be created. Maintaining a strict adherence to logic-based decisions creates boundaries for product development ensuring that it is the best it can be for the right reasons.

eebrake regular mount

eeBrake pad holders offer simple and easy tool-less pad installation and removal. This was achieved by asking a simple set of logical questions:

There must be something better than the standard “set screw” design.
Why not make a tool-less pad holder?
Can a no back out feature be achieved without a tool?
Pads can bend. How can the design take advantage of a pad’s inherent flexibility?
Design idea: permanantly place the “no back out” feature on the pad holder and design a way to bend the pad around the “no back out” feature during installation.

ee Attributes

The end result of this simple yet effective protocol is a better product that achieves remarkable results. To gain the ee designation a product must display the following attributes:

Beauty in Functionality:

Performance and purpose are prioritized over preconceived notions of what a product should look like. The function of the product must be so extraordinary that the resulting form that it takes defines the appreciation of its appearance.

Peerless:

An ee product is unequalled on multiple levels. It bears uncompromised quality and is the very best that can be offered in that category.

Counterintuitive:

An ee product cannot be taken at face value, it exhibits the most unlikely idea and contradicts conventional wisdom. When a person first looks at the eeBrake, the appearance suggests one of stiffness and power, yet also of weight. The awe a person exhibits when they pick it up or see the actual reading on a scale suggest that their intuition had told them something different.

 

Being Frank – Why Be Different?

 

Brent Graves Cane Creek
Brent Graves, President and CEO

Not that it is my aim to defend a competitor, but the recent launch and subsequent dialogue around Cannondale’s new Lefty Ocho raises an interesting, if not common, debate. Some ask or challenge why it is better to do a single-sided fork, and if it is not better, then they suggest that it should not be done. After all, why should anything new not be superior to what’s currently available? If a new product is different but not necessarily superior, why do it? But here’s the thing: when it comes to function/performance, engineering is an application of science, math, and tests that ultimately lead to a solution. The key words here are “ultimately” and “solution” – note that the latter is singular. Given enough time and work, ONE best solution (i.e. design) will be discovered.

Let’s look at road racing motorcycles. In the 1980s superbike racing in the USA was very competitive and popular. And the bikes used transversely-mounted inline four cylinder motors. The four Japanese brands were winning on Sunday and selling on Monday (forget that most motorcycle shops are closed on Mondays!). As the 90s rolled in Ducati was trying to turn its business around and saw superbike racing as a way to make the brand relevant again to U.S. riders. However Ducati’s trademark engine design was an L-twin. However, for a given engine displacement, a twin makes less power than an inline four. So Ducati had a choice to give up their “unique” engine design or be uncompetitive. Fortunately for Ducati the superbike promoter saw the addition of the Italian brand as beneficial to the racing series and provided a handicap – twins could use a larger engine to offset their inherent design deficiency.

Why didn’t Ducati just create and race the superior inline four configuration? In professional racing winning is serious business, and engineers are always seeking the path to the “solution” to go faster. But racing is a marketing tool for brands, and while results are critical, there is a point wherein not compromising the brand’s DNA is even more critical. Ducati did not want to sellout their DNA to become an “Italian Honda” even if it meant fewer race victories.

So brand and product managers can get to points of serious conflict with their engineers: “If we remove this stupid hump in the top tube, the frame will be 1.7% lighter and 12% stiffer” says the engineer. To which the product manager says “but then we’ll lose our signature look and be more like the other frames out there.” This is a true example, and in this case 1.7% was 15g, or a big bite of a Snickers bar! Or possibly in the case of the Ocho, the engineer complains that a single-side fork raises hurdles that would not be there if the fork was of standard design, but the product manager responds with “but we own this look.”

Beyond the commercial marketing side of things, there is the reality that things that are different and veer off the path of the optimal engineering solution can offer other value. Going back to motorcycle engines, twins have a distinct sound, feel, and power delivery that result in a different riding experience that many riders find more satisfying. Furthermore, as I’ll bet is the case with the Lefty Ocho, going down the non-optimal path may result in new ideas in the attempt to address the constraints of an inferior design. I’m not saying the Ocho is an inferior fork, but the reality is a single sided fork is a less rigid structure. So Cannondale had to come up with innovative solutions to address the inherent lack of rigidity. It is possible, that such innovative solutions enable the Ocho to even outperform a standard fork when the standard fork’s engineers were not required to come up innovations.

And then there is “variety is the spice of life.” Regardless of brand DNA, winning, optimal design, etc. there is the reality that the world would be a boring place if only the optimal designs were available. In that world, all cars would look and drive exactly alike for maximized efficiency, we’d eat the same meals for maximized health benefit, our sunglasses would all look the same for maximum eye protection, and the houses we’d live in would be built the same for maximized use of space and energy efficiency. I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to give up Pinot Noir because it was not the optimal red wine varietal!