Being Frank – Unconditional Joy and Wonder

Brent Graves
Brent Graves – President and CEO

Like most everyone, I am consumed by the uncertainty and anxiety being caused by the coronavirus pandemic. So I have decided to force myself for a few minutes to focus on something that brings me unconditional joy and wonder: our dogs. As with bikes, we follow the N+1 philosophy. So our house has twenty short, hairy legs attached to the long and low bodies of five miniature dachshunds. While this blog is about dogs, there is a bicycle connection. Maybe you can figure it out before I tell you at the end.

Growing up I was bothered, even angered when someone would refer to my best friend as a wiener dog. Now I relish in the off-color jokes that I should not share here! If you did not know, dachshunds were bred over 300 years ago to burrow underground and confront ornery creatures like badgers in their hideouts. Their short legs, powerful torso, and loud bark were all traits specific to that task. They are also smart, stubborn, protective of family, and great companions.

Our five are all of the long-haired variety. Three are from California and two were born in North Carolina. Two of the Californians are related, and the two from North Carolina are also kin (see how I fit in the regional slang?). That leaves one guy that’s an orphan, but they are all family. Their names are Veloce, Zonda, Neutron, Athena, and Tullio. To avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, I will talk about them in order of their age.

Veloce is a seven year old female. Always with a pleading look on her face, she becomes alive outside. More so these days as she has limited mobility due to IVDD. This is a spinal disease that can lead to paralysis. Veloce has some custom-made wheels, and when she is harnessed and pointed outside, what follows is a distillation of what living is all about. Veloce is the natural hunter of the five and has tremendous vision – she is also the only one that sees and reacts to animals on TV. Though I have found most all dogs to be stoic, Veloce takes it to another level.

Zonda is related to Veloce and is a few weeks younger. He is happiest alone with people and would not mind being an only-dog. Of our five, Zonda is the least dog-like. I’d call Zonda’s coloring dirty blonde, as he looks like someone spilled bleach on his face. He’s beautiful and acts like he knows it. He trots like a show dog, usually with an aloof air that makes me really think about reincarnation. He is also the best behaved.

Neutron is like the anti-Zonda, and he is the most dog-like of our gaggle. We picked him up at seven weeks and then proceeded to drive across the country. He’s four now and is still full of puppy energy. While all of them become wired when a small animal is spotted, Neutron goes absolutely crazy. That behavior combined with his build and obsession with digging and chasing, mark the clearest connection to his ancestors. While usually the tough guy of the five, he is very sensitive and easily startled.

Athena is a real sweetheart. She will be three soon but may not make it to four. Six months ago she became ill and was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that has caused her joints to rapidly degenerate. It’s a heartbreaker because she was the most playful of the five and was always taking on two boys at a time. Walking is very difficult for Athena, but her mind and spirit are as strong as ever.

Tullio lost out in the brains department but made up for it with a shy, loving disposition and stunning looks. He never seems to be sure about anything and follows the lead of Neutron – for better or worse. Tullio is the youngest and smallest, but his presences is as big as any other’s.

Growing up in the 80s with bicycles was impossible to do without becoming a fan of the Italian brand Campagnolo. Though few know Campagnolo once made mountain bike parts (though they missed the mark), even fewer know that there were some BMX parts before that. Anyway, our dogs’ names are all Campagnolo product names: Veloce and Athena have been grouppos, Zonda and Neutron have been wheels, and Tullio was the founder’s name – the man who invented the wheel quick release. My friends Dino, Michele, and Marco in Vincenza get a real kick out of our dogs’ names.

Being Frank – What’s in a name?

Brent Graves
Brent Graves – President and CEO

Marketing and politics are considered dirty disciplines by many, but they can be used for positive results – well sometimes. However, what follows is my rant on how Marketing and its managers can become disconnected with product. This was sparked by reading about Cadillac’s new model naming philosophy (details further down) and sharing my candid thoughts with a friend who happens to be a strategic product planner at Toyota. He likely tires of my bombastic armchair quarterbacking of automotive decisions, but I can’t stop myself when I’ve got a smart guy on the inside to unload on. Here’s the meat of my rant:

“You’re right, it was an unfair characterization (calling Cadillac product planners “automotive flunkies”). But at the end of the day, the company size or complexity or culture or whatever doesn’t matter to the consumer facing something idiotic. What matters is that the product is right/well thought-out in the consumer’s eye. As with government bureaucrats who seem to forget what it’s like to be treated like a human when they go to work, it seems that many product people spend more time with spreadsheets than really thinking and remembering about how they interface with products.”

Like I said, a rant.

Being the pro that my friend is, he responded diplomatically. What stuck out to me in his response was this passage: “I tend to agree that the product typically strays from the consumer in proportion to how far we (product/brand managers) stray from actually using the product ourselves. I think the element of play, especially in product jobs, has been muted at best and eviscerated at worst.” Well, that’s depressing. I like to believe there are people at Ducati obsessed with developing sexy and fun motorcycles for themselves and me.

Let’s get back to where this started, Cadillac’s new naming philosophy. Cadillac’s new scheme uses numbers that first appear to be related to displacement or horsepower. But they are not. They are related to much less commonly understood torque. And, wait for it… are based off the torque output in newton-meters! No, Cadillac’s main market is not Germany or somewhere else that has an idea what newton-meters are. But Cadillac is a newcomer to the name confusion game. The current BMW 330i is named because it has a 2.0 liter four cylinder engine that BMW says delivers the performance of a 3.0 liter. And benefits from the legacy of those great 3.0 liter inline six engines. Traditionally the last two numbers in the BMW model name referred to the engine’s actual displacement. But now it refers to its virtual displacement. Furthermore, BMW also lays out odd model numbers (i.e. 3 series) for sedans (typically 4-doors) and even numbers for coupes (typically 2-doors). Nice. But in recent years BMW has twisted this by adding “4-door coupes” that are 4-door sedans with a coupe-like slope to the rear window. So you can buy a 4 series 4-door sedan that is basically the same as the 3-series 4-door, but you get to pay $4,000 more for the 4-series. And why not, 4 is higher than 3! And now Porsche’s first electric car the Taycan (how is that pronounced?) comes in a “turbo” version, but because it has only electric motors there is no turbocharger to be found in the car. However, the legendary 911 Turbo was turbocharged.

It appears that in the name (a pun?) of selling more units, some brands are leveraging the equity they have earned from years of well thought out models by creatively (or disingenuously if you’re so inclined) attaching those names to new models that are not what they once were. Don’t even get me going on the Mustang Mach E. Like appearances, names are not always connected to what’s within.

Not to imply that we are perfect here at Cane Creek. Back in 2014 we introduced a ground-breaking technology in the Inline shock. However, its design was not as robust as it could have been making it more susceptible to cavitation and stuck-downs. We took heat that was particularly hot on some rider forums. When we made the key improvements, the damage to our reputation had already been done. So when its replacement was being finalized in early 2017, we struggled with what to call it. It was basically all-new compared to the 2014 Inline, but it was still the same size and shape. So was it an “Inline” or not? Looking at it, one would say the new shock looked like an Inline. But we wanted to distance it from the Inline’s bad rap while acknowledging its clear lineage. We landed on Air IL with the “IL” referring to Inline. Not a great solution, but the best we could come up with at the time.

The Hellbender Neo Bottom Bracket

At Cane Creek, we are all about making advancements in technologies that make cycling better. Demand for Cane Creek to make a bottom bracket has long been on our radar. But we wanted to offer a product that was more than just another competitor. With the collaboration of SKF’s MTRX bearing technology, we were able to bring a product to market that provides unmatched bearing performance and reliability. Pair our eeWings titanium crankset and Hellbender bottom bracket, and a rider will experience the most robust crankset/bottom bracket combination in cycling history.

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Introducing The All-New Thudbuster

For over 20 years, Thudbuster has been the bicycle industry standard in suspension seatposts by providing unequaled comfort and reliability to riders around the world. We are now proud to announce the latest evolution to that legacy with the all-new Thudbuster ST. The new Thudbuster ST is superior to its predecessor in every way.  Building on Thudbuster’s proven parallel linkage technology we have completely re-designed the seatpost for increased durability, a higher rider weight limit, and additional suspension travel, as well as ease of use through tool-free elastomer change and a single-bolt seat clamp design. By improving on this already legendary design, we’re confident to say that the newest generation Thudbuster is the most advanced suspension seatpost ever made.

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Tool-Free Elastomer For Easy Adjustment of Rider Weight

Thudbuster G4 Single Bolt

Single-Bolt Seat Installation

 

50mm of Travel For Increased Comfort

 

Being Frank: More Is Not Always Better

Brent Graves
Brent Graves – President and CEO

I will admit that I am predisposed to want more of a good thing. If one piece of homemade chocolate pie is good, three pieces should be better. If a four-hour road ride in the mountains is good, then five hours should be great. If 400hp in a 3,000 lb. car is good, 500hp should be fantastic. However, there is a key word in each of those examples, and that word is “should”. But benefit does not increase infinitely – at some point too much of a good thing is just… too… much. Economists refer to this as diminishing return. The bicycle industry is certainly not immune to this concept. Actually, I think we in the bicycle industry have perfected diminishing return!

From 1995 to 2015, road frames continued to get lighter and stiffer. Less weight generally results in a bike that feels livelier and that climbs faster. More stiffness usually means that more of a rider’s limited power is transmitted to forward motion. Aluminum’s properties meant frames could weigh 20-30% less than traditional steel frames, but the tubes had to be larger in diameter to compensate for aluminum’s lower stiffness and limited fatigue life. Thus aluminum frames traded some Ride Quality for efficiency. Carbon frames could be another 20-30% lighter than aluminum and stiffer as well. But carbon’s properties also meant frames could be “tuned” to mute vibrations. Initially, carbon got a sometimes bad rap for feeling “dead” because the muted vibrations resulted in a disconnected feeling with the road.

On top of the evolutionary material improvement was the competition among brands, wherein weight and stiffness could be quantified and used to market a clearly (claimed) better frame. At the same time, a similar dynamic was occurring with rims. Here carbon enabled wind-cheating benefits with no weight penalty and greater stiffness. But throughout this frame and rim evolution Ride Quality was forgotten, dismissed, or purposely misrepresented as its inherent subjectiveness allowed.

When it became ever harder to squeeze out 50g more and increase frame stiffness by 15%, some brands began searching for another way to differentiate. This led to tube shape and carbon layup manipulation in the name of improved Ride Quality. But these gains were much bigger in advertisements than on the road. Ironically, the big improvement in Ride Quality was a byproduct of the push for faster rolling tires. Larger air volume was shown in certain road conditions to lower rolling a tire’s rolling resistance, thus making it faster. Lower air pressure was needed to realize the lower rolling resistance, and that meant a much smoother ride. This is a big deal. For example, a tire measuring 28mm on a very stiff frame and wheel combo likely rides significantly smoother than a 23mm on a more flexible/compliant combo.

Diminishing returns is alive and well on the MTB side as well. While only a very small portion of riders compete in enduro racing, the industry has moved at full speed to frame geometries deemed optimal for that discipline. There’s no doubt that the road bike based geometry was in need of change. Modern MTBs enable a much wider and arguably better riding experience than their 90s counterparts. However, there is a point where long/low/slack can be too long/low/slack. While long/low/slack, touted as “progressive geo”, enables a rider to descend steep and rough sections faster and in more control than previously thought possible, there is a price to be paid. More and more of these are point-and-shoot bikes – they utterly consume anything in their path. The geo enables a rider to point it straight down the trail and let the suspension to do its thing at the expense of handling agility.

While the progressive geo bikes can be amazing in the right environment, not all riders have the terrain or desire to ride these bikes in the manner in which they excel. Nonetheless, the bicycle industry is charging forward and applying progressive geo to more and more bikes beyond the enduro category. And this is where too much of a good thing is too much. While these bikes are amazing descending Big Rock and Greens Lick in the Pisgah National Forest, they are lethargic on twisty single track found at Glacier Ridge on Long Island or Blankets Creek outside of Atlanta. If you are in the market for a new bike, be mindful of how and where you ride and choose a bike accordingly regardless of the marketing hype. As the old saying goes: the right horse for the course.

Being Frank: To Hellbender With Bottom Brackets

Brent Graves
Brent Graves – President and CEO

We like to say that we do the products that we want to do, the way that we want to do them. But that is not the full story because we also strive to ensure that each of our products has a reason to be – that it provides real benefits that riders appreciate. Our eeWings are the toughest cranks in the world while being one of the stiffest and lightest as well. The eeBrakes offer a massive weight reduction over the competition as well as offering unmatched modulation adjustment and a patented quick-change pad design. In creating the lowest stack headset possible, we had to remove cup and cover seals and create a much more corrosion repelling bearing to make the SlamSet happen. These are some examples of products that merit being in production as a Cane Creek product.

For years there have been requests for us to make bottom brackets. These requests have been both internal and external. When we asked why, we got responses like “Chris King has bottom brackets” and “because some riders like to have matching headsets and bottom brackets”. While there was little doubt that we could sell some bottom brackets, those responses fell well short of meriting our entry into the bottom bracket business.

There is no doubt about riders’ anxiety about bottom bracket “standards”. If one is building up a frame, it can be hard to determine the compatibility and proper spacing set-up. This was more evident to us when we entered the crank market with the eeWings. While there are literally millions of bikes that will accept a 30mm bottom bracket spindle, we saw that fitment anxiety was possibly limiting our eeWings sales. But was that enough for us to offer bottom brackets? We thought not.

A couple of years ago, mega bearing and seal conglomerate SKF, announced MTRX “solid lube” technology for bicycle bearings. It turns out that an SKF employee was also a hardcore marathon MTB racer frustrated over short-term bearing life in his bike. This motivated him to explore SKF’s various bearing technologies. He found that technology created for the food processing industry was great in bicycles. This MTRX technology was developed to withstand the rigors of being pressure washed repeatedly to ensure that equipment was free of contamination that could infect food. The MTRX solid lube could not be flushed out, left almost no room for contamination to reside, did a much better job at keeping the ball bearings lubricated, and lasted much longer than grease. Those benefits are great for bicycles too!

So when eeWings began selling and fitment anxiety became a concern for us, we eventually recalled SKF’s MTRX announcement. It took a lot longer than expected to make contact, navigate bureaucracy, and validate with testing. But when we did, we found the missing piece to offering a bottom bracket that had a reason to be –  a bottom bracket offering much longer bearing longevity. When we added precision and detail in the form of minimal mass, aluminum dust covers, dual anodization, and tight tolerances, we had our Hellbender Neo bottom bracket.

Here’s a bit of Cane Creek trivia: The “Neo” part of the name is a nod to the main character in the Matrix movies. You see, MTRX is pronounced as matrix.

Coil Shock Or Air Shock

Coil Shock or Air Shock Which One is Better?

Coil shocks have made a resurgence on modern trail bikes within the last few years, and with that comes a question we often hear: should I get a coil shock or an air shock for my full suspension mountain bike? There will always be exceptions or outliers to these general concepts discussed below- your own personal riding style or preference will also affect the answer to this question.  It’s not the easiest question to answer, but we’ve broken it down into simple, general steps that will hopefully better inform you to make a more educated decision.

First, let’s understand the difference between coil shocks and air shocks.  A coil shock is linear by nature – it has one constant spring rate – the amount of force required to compress the spring will stay the same as the spring compresses through its stroke. For example, with a 450 lb spring, the force applied is 450 lbs/inch through the entire stroke of the spring – there is no change in spring rate.  Coil shocks are generally more sensitive (easier for it to compress and rebound) than their respective air shocks because there are fewer seals in the system, therefore there is less force required to get the shock moving. Because of this, coil shocks tend to provide more traction and a unique feel.

An air shock is progressive by nature- the amount of force required to compress the spring continues to increase as the shock compresses.  As an air shock moves through it’s stroke, the volume in the air spring will decrease, subsequently increasing the shock’s spring rate. Air shocks also have the ability to reduce air volume inside the shock by installing volume reducers. This is separate from simply adding air to the shock, a volume reducer only affects the mid-end of the stroke, and will not affect the spring rate at sag. Because of this, air shocks ramp-up more and provide more tuning options than coil shocks. 

Knowing the differences between the two shocks is most of the battle. But the bicycle’s linkage design also plays a big role. Essentially there are 3 different types of frame designs / leverage ratios that you should be aware of. 

A leverage ratio is the relationship between the movement of the frame’s rear suspension and the required force at any given point throughout the bike’s travel.  You can evaluate the bike’s leverage ratio curve by plotting those points on a graph. (In most cases, you can find your bike’s specific leverage ratio curve online). Generally there are three different leverage ratio curves found on modern mountain bikes: Linear, Progressive, and Regressive. A bike with that has an average leverage ratio of 3:1 means that every inch of shock movement equates to three inches of rear wheel movement.  As well, this ratio indicates the magnitude of force needed to compress the rear shock. A 150lb rider would need a 450lb spring to achieve proper sag on a bike that has a 3:1 leverage ratio.  However, leverage ratios commonly change through the travel of the bike, meaning that our clean 3:1 example will most likely not be 3:1 everywhere in travel, it is only an average based on the overall leverage ratio curve.  

Progressive Leverage Ratio Curve

progressive spring curve graph

  When the leverage ratio curve trends down on a graph, it means that the amount of force required to move the rear wheel is increasing. Terms like “ramp-up”, “bottom out resistance”, and “progression” are used to describe bikes that have a progressive leverage ratio curve. Let’s go back to our example of a 150lb rider using a 450lb spring. If the leverage ratio curve decreases from 3:1 to 2:1, the 450lb spring will continue to feel stiffer throughout the rear wheel travel.  By building a progressive leverage ratio curve into the frame itself, it can be better paired with a shock that has linear qualities because the frame is progressing through travel.

Linear Leverage Ratio Curve

Linear leverage ratio curve graph

The “Linear” example above shows a leverage ratio curve that stays the same throughout the entire rear wheel travel.  For a bike like this, the frame doesn’t have any progression built in, so if you pair this type of frame with a linear coil shock, the frame’s suspension will not have any progression.  In a scenario like this, you could risk a lack of support and harsh bottom outs. This is why you often find progressive air shocks paired with linear frame designs.

Regressive Leverage Ratio Curve

regressive leverage ratio curve graph

When the leverage ratio curve trends up on the graph, it means that the amount of force required to move the rear wheel decreases. For this example, the frame’s leverage ratio is 2:1 at the start of travel but increases to 3:1 at the end of travel. These types of frames are commonly paired with progressive air shocks because the rear suspension design requires the shock to provide ALL of the progressiveness in order to resist bottoming out. Bikes with regressive leverage ratio curves from beginning to end of stroke are uncommon.  It is important to note that most bike’s leverage ratio curves will change throughout rear wheel travel- we have provided these simple graphs to help illustrate these concepts.

Bikes are generally intended to have bottom out support, or ramp-up (progressiveness) integrated into the bike’s suspension kinematics so the travel of your bike feels more dynamic and “bottomless.” So bikes that have progressive leverage ratio curves perform well with coil shocks – because the frame has progression built in.  Bikes that have very linear leverage ratio curves perform well with air shocks – because the shock has progressive qualities. Bikes that have very linear leverage ratios paired with coil shocks is not always ideal because neither the frame nor the shock have progressive qualities. Bikes with progressive leverage ratio curves paired with air shocks can sometimes be too progressive, or provide too much ramp-up which could limit the use of travel.

Progressive Frame + Coil Shock = Bike with ramp-up

Linear Frame + Air Shock = Bike with ramp-up

Regressive Frame + Air Shock with Volume Reducers = Bike with ramp-up

These are simple examples of why certain bikes are built with a coil shock or an air shock. But this is where our individual riding styles take over. If you are a rider that really likes to stay on the ground but easily glide over rough terrain, then bottom out resistance may not be important to you. But if you are constantly looking for opportunities to hit the biggest gap or highest drop, bottom out resistance is important. In these cases, using an air shock on the three types of frames is going to be more ideal. BUT WAIT. What if you could get the same progressive benefits that air shocks have while still maintaining the sensitive off the top feel of coil shocks?

     Our new Progressive-Rate VALT spring can offer riders an option to use a coil shock on a bike that might not have been ideal for coil shocks in the past.  Because of the lack of ramp up a traditional coil spring has, certain frames bottom out easily. We have worked to bridge this gap with our new Progressive-Rate VALT springs which are designed and tuned by our engineering team to provide riders with a true rise-in-rate spring curve.  Our Progressive-Rate VALT springs maintain the off-the-top sensitivity of a traditional coil set up, and add the progressiveness and ramp-up usually found in an air spring.  Below is a graph comparison between a Linear VALT spring and a Progressive-Rate VALT spring.

 

     There’s no excuse now, coil shocks for the masses!  To celebrate this liberation from the status quo, Cane Creek is now manufacturing the DB Coil IL in black for a limited time.

 

Black Coil IL with White Progressive Spring

     

The Cane Creek Cup Is Back!

Cane Creek Cup Mountain Bike Race Series

Cane Creek Cycling Components is proud to announce the return of the Cane Creek Cup Mountain Bike Race Series!

For 2020, Cane Creek will return as title sponsor for the legendary cross country series. The series will consist of 12 races across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia between March and August 2020. Cash prizes will be awarded to individual series winners in expert and sport classes with a $1000 cash prize for the winning team.

The series is sanctioned by USA cycling and will also include the Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina cross country state championship races. Racers will also accumulate points toward national standings.

The original Cane Creek Cup was a staple of southeast racing from the mid-1990’s until 2006. It has lived on in recent years as the Southern Classic Mountain Bike series promoted by David Harlowe and Racing in the Woods productions. Harlowe will continue as the series promotor for 2020.

We are excited to return to this legendary series and help support local racing right here in our own back yard.

2020 Cane Creek Cup Race Schedule

March 22 – The Knot – Wedgefield SC

March 29 – The Dirty Possum – Lexington NC

April 19 – Race to the River – Harbinson State Forest, Columbia SC

May 2 – Dark Grind – Dark Mountain Park, Wilkesboro NC

May 24 – Bootlegger’s Blitz – IC DeHart Memorial Park, Woolwine VA

May 31 – Return to the Ridge – Angler’s Park, Danville Va

June 6 – Battle of the Bikes – Farris Memorial Park, Mayodan NC

June 21 – NC State Games – Mazeppa Park, Mooresville NC

June 28 – Stump Jump – Croft State Park, Spartanburg SC

July 12 – Bouldergeist – San-Lee Park, Sanford NC

July 18 – Sledgehammer – Ridgeway VA

August 9 – The Sizzler – Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro NC

August 23 – The Cane Creek Classic – Reeb Ranch, Brevard NC

 

More information, along with links to register for the individual races, can be found at www.canecreekcup.com

 

Being Frank – My Favorites

Brent Graves
Brent Graves – President and CEO

There have been a lot of great bicycle parts over the last 30-40 years, and I have had the good fortune to ride many of them. Even among the great parts, some stood out even more for me. Sometimes it was the design, other times it was the function or performance, and some just made me smile on or off the bike. Following is a list of some of my favorite parts – excluding any Cane Creek parts as they are all my favorite!

Without a doubt, the first one that comes to mind is Bullseye hubs. When I was racing BMX these were the cat’s meow. The design was unique, the construction was tough and simple, and they oozed coolness. I was lucky to get a set laced to Araya 7x rims for my 14th birthday, and I still have them. Along the way I laced them up into mountain bike wheels, but they found their way back to their BMX roots. The red bearing seals in my blue anodized hubs with the classic chrome Bullseye logo is timeless in my eyes.
Unlike now, fifteen years ago carbon fiber was rarely found on mountain bikes. While it had proven its worth on road bikes due to its awesome stiffness and light weight, impact resistance and failure mode were concerns in the dirt back then. One of the last areas to take unnecessary risks is handlebars. But armed with hockey stick and archery experience, Easton brought to market the Monkey Lite Bar that for many was the only carbon bar to trust. For several years I rode nothing but these on my XC race and trail bikes.

The Continental Gran Prix series of road tires have exemplified quality and performance for decades. The German-made tires have always been a step beyond in quality and over the years they closed the gap, and in my eyes now, surpassed the performance leaders. During my time at Specialized I rode a lot of very good tires (development led by an ex-Conti manager), but now I buy Continental tires. They combine suppleness, feedback, grip, and wear into one tire that gives me confidence to rail corners at 40 mph.
There are very few products that were as accepted in a multitude of cycling disciplines as Selle Italia’s original Flite Saddle. When it launched around 1990, its design and 200g weight were remarkable. But what made it legendary was that the saddle found a home on BMX bikes, DH rings, XC racers, and obviously road race bikes. While its shape didn’t fit my shape as well as some others, the Flite has always been one of my favorite bicycle parts.

My next favorite is actually a complete group: the original Shimano XTR group. When I first saw this group at a 1991 company sales meeting and internal product launch I was literally weak in the knees. As my pal Robert Egger likes to say, I was thinking about what I could “beg, borrow, or steal” to get a group. The aura of XTR seems to persist to this day, but that original XTR group truly set an all-new benchmark for design and performance. Many years later when the SRAM guys asked me what made a good front derailleur, I pointed to the XTR M900.
One of the most iconic designs for me is the Campagnolo Super Record Strada crank from the late 70’s. While no parts really worked that well back then, this crank was the epitome of gorgeous. While I think of myself as a Campy fan, I find their recent designs increasingly unappealing from a visual standpoint – sorry Dino and Mario!

Unlike most of the products on this list, Thomson’s Elite post is basically the same as it was twenty years ago, and it is still the go-to zero-offset post for many. The attention-to-detail exudes quality which is then demonstrated through years of unfaltering service. I have many of these, and several are on bikes I still ride. My fondness is likely somewhat attributed to the beautiful handmade wood box I received from Thomson when I was a product manager at Diamondback. Inside was a super smooth dovetailed box was a sample post, and outside the Thomson logo was burned into the wood.

I have more favorites, but these came to the surface with little thought. Parts like these have added a bit more sunshine to my cycling, and my desire has always been to develop products that do the same for others.

Being Frank – Where is it Made?

Brent Graves
Brent Graves – President and CEO

The question of where a product is made is more important to some than others and seems to be less important to many than it was in the past. Certainly the world feels smaller these days with the ability to see, hear, and learn about anything with a digital device. Case in point, in the mid-nineties I was traveling with a co-worker to visit potential suppliers in mainland China. While born and raised in Southern California, his Swedish ancestry was evident in his height (6’ 3” or so), fair skin, and blonde hair. Within minutes of entering this one factory nearly all the machines came to a halt and the rumble of mass production was replaced with a deafening silence. We saw dozens of workers scurrying to our perimeter where they were giggling and pointing at – no, not at us, but my co-worker. Our guide explained that the workers had never seen blonde hair! It seems hard to imagine such a scene these days. Foreign things are not as foreign as they once were.

It is increasingly rare for any product to be fully made in one place or by one entity. First, there is the question of what “made” means in this context. Does “made” include where the raw material was produced, where the processing of the raw material was done, the place where the subassemblies were completed, and where final assembly was finished? Because short of a belt and buckle made from locally sourced goatskin and brass, the belt tailored in a shop in Asheville, NC is not completely made in Asheville, NC. Second, does “made” include where the design and engineering originated? Is a car designed and engineered in Japan but assembled in the United States, not a Japanese car? If yes, how does one reconcile that with the concept of Intellectual Property? Finally, the concept of geographical Competitive Advantage continues to become less and less relevant. Is France the only place for great red wine (Napa Valley would disagree), Italy the only source for fine sports cars (Germany would have something to say about that), or Switzerland the only home of precision watches (Japan would dissent)? I can only raise enough doubt to conclude that there is no simple answer to where a product is made.

I admit that the romantic notion of authenticity or uniqueness related to the perceived country of origin resonates with me. I like my Swiss watch, German car, and American jeans. But I recognize this is a more subjective than objective response. That is fine, and everyone has a right to value products however they want. One cannot disconnect the economic realities either, as Honda employs 15,000 workers in Marysville, Ohio, and Apple pays top wages in Silicon Valley as a result of revenues derived from millions of phones made in China. Another reality is that the strength and history of a brand can transcend borders. And lastly, there are nationalistic and political factors as misguided as they often times are.

When we have to make decisions on what we do here at Cane Creek, we distill it down to: “Where do we add real value?” Almost always it is in product development. A product is a Cane Creek product because we conceived, designed, engineered, and tested it to surpass our standards – the most important of which is that we want to ride the hell out of it. We machine many aluminum prototypes in house because it can lead us to a better final design. Forks and shocks are assembled and 100% tested in our building because we believe the feel of how good suspension performs requires empathy during assembly as well as dyno graphs. If a vendor can do a better job assembling than we can or if they have capabilities that we do not possess, then we don’t limit the product’s potential just to say it was made here. After all, what does made-in really mean?