Cane Creek Partner Highlight: Litespeed & Quintana Roo

Cane Creek has a unique and long-standing relationship with Tennessee, USA-based bike manufacturer American Bicycle Group. ABG has two brands making a major splash in the industry: Litespeed (road, gravel, adventure, and mountain bike) and Quintana Roo (triathlon). While all Litespeed and Quintana Roo bicycles are spec’d with Cane Creek headsets, our relationship dives much deeper.


Litespeed manufacturing

In 1986, Litespeed‘s founders sought to provide an answer to cyclists asking for something strong and durable, yet light and agile. Up for the challenge, a team of designers began a new breed of bikes: Litespeed. “We discovered a new way to work with titanium and created a new and exciting cycling experience,” explains Litespeed’s Brad Devaney. The company grew into American Bicycle Group in 2000, at which time Quintana Roo was added.

Litespeed bikes are manufactured and assembled, while Quintana Roo bikes are painted and assembled, in American Bicycle Group’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Cane Creek employees Bryan Flack and Andrew Slowey visited Litespeed’s headquarters earlier this month. “It’s amazing, they’re like our sister company,” they explained. “You’re able to watch a bike get fabricated, welded, painted or finished, and assembled all in the same place. The facility has a very ‘homey feel’ – it was so neat to be there.”

Litespeed’s relationship with Cane Creek began in the early 1990s. “Back in the early ‘90’s we were buying Rock Shox,

Cane Creek Helm on Litespeed Mountain Bikebrakes, brake posts, and a myriad of other items from then-Dia Compe USA, soon to become Cane Creek Cycling Components. The engineers of that day and time came to visit me at Litespeed, as we had a fork testing machine [that proved to be super] helpful in testing the first threadless headsets,” Brad recalls. Today, all Litespeed and Quintana Roo bicycles are spec’d with Cane Creek headsets. Quintana Roo is dedicated solely to the triathlete. Litespeed, however, offers a full range of high-performance road, endurance road, gravel, adventure, and both hardtail and full-suspension mountain bikes. Manufacturing titanium frames allows Litespeed to offer extremely lightweight bikes with high stiffness-to-weight ratios.

We’re currently obsessing over Litespeed’s Ultimate Gravel Ultegra Di2 completely decked out in Cane Creek components. Cane Creek’s eeWings titanium cranks, eeSilk premium suspension seatpost, and the 110 headset are right at home on this titanium beast. Litespeed boasts, “[The Ultimate Gravel] features race bike agility, pack stability, climbs and descends with ease, and yes, aerodynamics – [it’s] the Ultimate do-it-all gravel bike. We’ve even added vertical compliance using tubular, aero, titanium tubes as subtle springs.” We agree… and adding additional Cane Creek components takes the bike to the next level.

 

Litespeed Ultimate Gravel bike with Cane Creek Components

Litespeed Ultimate Gravel bike with Cane Creek eeSilk suspension seatpost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Litespeed Ultimate Gravel bike with Cane Creek eeWings titanium cranks

Litespeed Ultimate Gravel bike with Cane Creek 110 headset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a lot of great component manufacturers out there… So we asked Litespeed – why Cane Creek?

Litespeed bike in manufacturing

Litespeed bike in manufacturing

 “Cane Creek engineers top quality products at a higher value than all other competition.  I spend my own money on what I believe works best with no consequence. It’s a personal choice on our bikes and we aim to deliver the same value and performance to our customers.  We ride and provide what we believe in” (Brad DeVaney).

Litespeed bike getting paintedWelds on Litespeed bike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Litespeed and Quintana Roo mirror our proclamation that the best components out there are the ones that work well without you noticing they’re there. They do the job so well – there are no quirks, no creaks, no subtle nuances you learn to forgive or work around. Litespeed and Quintana Roo deliver bikes that reflect a supreme attention to detail, are unequivocally reliable, and perform at the highest level. From their perspective, it makes sense to partner with a component manufacturer that offers the same. As a result, the rider is able to have an ideal experience on a holistic bike. Simply put: “Cane Creek keeps us, our athletes, and customers on course and focused on our tasks at hand.”

In the past Cane Creek and Litespeed had also partnered on almost all of Litespeed’s race team and demo/event tour efforts: “We partnered on multiple truck and trailer rigs rolling the country supporting athletes and customers.” Perhaps one day soon, we’ll reignite the event tour relationship…

Litespeed Ultimate Gravel bike with Cane Creek components - Made in USA

 


American Bicycle Group is located at 4126 S Creek Road, Chattanooga, TN 37406
Email: info@americanbicyclegroup.com | Phone: (423) 591-8830
Special thanks to American Bicycle Group/Litespeed & Quintana Roo and Brad DeVaney. 

Cane Creek Partner: Guerrilla Gravity

Colorado, USA-based mountain bike manufacturer Guerrilla Gravity recently launched extensive Cane Creek customization options on every model in their line-up. We shared a digital coffee with Bobby Brown, Guerrilla Gravity Marketing Manager, to learn more about the manufacturer, it’s history with Cane Creek Cycling Components, and why a Cane Creek partnership just makes sense for Guerrilla Gravity.


Guerrilla Gravity manufacturing process

Guerrilla Gravity was founded in 2011 by Will Montague, Matt Giaraffa, and Kristy Anderson. The Shredquarters, located in downtown Denver, Colorado, was established in 2013. Matt explains, “It took the better part of a year to finalize designs, prototype the GG/DH downhill bike, and begin setting up the factory,” and Guerrilla Gravity has been a production mountain bike company ever since.

There’s no doubt that Guerrilla Gravity is ultra-intriguing for mountain bike riders, from its name to its bikes. Their most common question: Where did that name come from?

Guerrilla: A community driven effort to spark change, and Gravity: The fun part of mountain biking. “We believe businesses exist to serve their communities, so we’ve made it our mission is to make mountain biking more awesome. What does that entail? Improving trail access, increasing ridership, and of course making badass mountain bikes,” they state boldly on their website.
Their bikes are making no less of a bold statement. Like Cane Creek, Guerrilla Gravity is trying to bring race-ready, high-performance technology to market at more affordable prices. “There are a handful of expensive boutique carbon brands in the US, but we wanted to offer groundbreaking performance in a more affordable package. Much the same way that you can get a DBCoil to feel really similar to more bespoke suspension options and it’s half the price. Our design philosophy centers around a high level of refinement and focus on efficiency, creating bikes that are made for goin’ fast, built to last, and are easy to work on. Plus, we provide extensive customization options, from build kits to frame colors. This means you’re building a bike that’s dialed for you.”

Guerrilla Gravity manufacturing process

Speaking of customization… Guerrilla Gravity announced the expansion of their Cane Creek OEM partnership at their 2019 Launch Event. Cane Creek Helm fork will be offered as an upgrade on every model in Guerrilla Gravity’s line up. Additionally, The Smash and Megatrail will have the DBAir CS as an upgrade, and the Shred Dogg and Trail Pistol will have the DBCoil IL as an upgrade option. “A lot of riders were really excited to see the new Helm up close, and there has been a lot of interest in trying it out for the ‘19 season. Most of our riders try to go out of their way to support domestic manufacturing and everyone was stoked to see The Smash set up with some made-in-America suspension!” Marketing Manager Bobby Brown recalls.

Guerrilla Gravity proclaims they’ve been big fans of the Cane Creek 40 and 110 headsets, as well as the Double Barrel shocks, since the very beginning, using them on the first GG/DH and Megatrail bikes: “The DBCoil IL was our go-to shock for hard-hitting Trail Pistol builds from 2017 onward, and it remains a great option for riders who want the snap of a short travel bike along with the traction and ride quality of a coil shock when speeds pick up.”

We mutually agree that Cane Creek spec option just makes sense for Guerrilla Gravity.

“We celebrate our short supply chain by aligning ourselves with other domestic manufacturers like Cane Creek. Like our bikes, suspension products like the Helm and Double Barrel are made for goin’ fast and offer a ton of adjustments so every rider can fine tune their bike for their trails. We’re really pumped to build on our history with Cane Creek… we’ve got a very special partnership project in the works that will be publicly launched at the beginning of March. We can’t wait!”

 

 Cane Creek 110 headset on Guerrilla Gravity Smash Cane Creek Helm suspension fork on Guerrilla Gravity Smash Guerrilla Gravity Smash decked out in Cane Creek components

 Guerrilla Gravity Smash decked out in Cane Creek Components


Guerrilla Gravity is located at 2031 Bryant St, Denver, CO 80211, USA.
Email: Bikes@RideGG.com | Phone: 303-955-4163
Special thanks to Guerrilla Gravity and Bobby Brown. 
Photos credited to Justin VanAlstyne | @JMVDigital_Photo

Being Frank – David vs. Goliath vs. David

 

Brent Graves Cane Creek
Brent Graves, President and CEO

Twenty-five years ago, I was the proud father of my first bike line, and many of those Diamond Back (as it was spelled back then) models included Shimano’s Rapidfire Plus shifters. The shifters were a major improvement over the original Rapidfire shifters introduced a few years earlier. However, the next year saw RapidFire Plus shifters displaced by upstart SRAM’s Grip-Shift on a large number of models from nearly every brand. While SRAM’s deft move of getting top pro riders like Ned Overend and John Tomac on Grip-Shift and the fact that Grip-Shift provided a cost and weight savings helped get them OEM spec, there was another significant behind-the-scenes factor that enabled the swing to Grip-Shift.

Though SRAM competes on the same level as Shimano these days, it was far different in the early 90’s. SRAM was an upstart with a twist shifter design for tri and road bikes. While some tri geeks used them, the shifters were a commercial bust. The mountain bike boom was in full mushroom cloud phase when SRAM decided to offer a version for flat bars. But SRAM could not get OEM spec because Shimano was effectively locking out the competition with a pricing policy. Shimano offered a significant “group discount” when a product manager spec’d all Shimano parts. SRAM cried foul and filed suit which Shimano later settled. While the settlement was sealed, the OEM spec door was then open and SRAM had some additional cash to work with. Here’s an independent account of the story: https://www.forbes.com/forbes/2001/0305/148.html#521498148713. If SRAM would have lost the suit, there’s a good argument to be made that they would not be around now.

I thought then, and still do, that it was good to have SRAM in the game. It keeps Shimano “honest”, offers all of us choice, and fosters competitive innovation. Choice then became a fundamental part of SRAM’s strategy. Whereas Shimano continued to frustrate product managers and riders with asinine limited parts compatibility, SRAM became the champion for the man-on-the-street. From parts compatibility to friendly, prompt customer service and fun marketing, SRAM became the Shimano anti-dote. However, as SRAM grew in the 2000’s it began to behave more and more like Shimano. I experienced this head-on at Specialized as SRAM became increasingly less flexible and accommodating. Part of this is a function of getting bigger and needing to operate with more structure. But I saw changes beyond that.

Those that know me personally will likely say that I am a bit more competitive than average. I believe in competition in business as well, with the fundamental principle being winning on merit. While our products compete with those from SRAM and Shimano, we really cannot compete with them business-wise – we don’t have the big money for top DH pros or Tour de France team sponsorships. Our sales are less than 0.5% of Shimano’s and similarly small compared to SRAM as well. But our small size gives us agility and flexibility the big guys cannot match. We also like to think that we are closer to the market and more approachable. So we do not shy away from developing products like the Helm and eeWings that are going to challenge the Pike or XTR. We do however, like SRAM in the early 90’s, expect a chance to compete.

This brings me to why you are not seeing eeWings on big brand bikes. We have been told by product managers of those brands that SRAM is effectively telling them that they cannot buy OEM 1X groups without a SRAM crank. Sound familiar? SRAM’s 1X groups are great – hell, I have them on all three of my most ridden mountain bikes. So bike brands definitely need to offer 1X on their models in order to be considered by riders. How does SRAM justify the same anti-competition behavior it once faced? The “our components are designed to work as a system” line, the same one Shimano has used for years, only goes so far. It even goes less far when talking about a system without front shifting – particularly when the eeWings can be paired with an authentic SRAM ring! Hey Stan, why not fully embrace your “Freedom to Mix, Freedom to Match” campaign and embrace a competitive environment that can raise all ships – and even small boats?

Let’s talk tech!

Cane Creek employees sitting at table with Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association president James Stanfill

Cane Creek presents technical clinics to professional bike mechanics at Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association Technical Workshop in Atlanta, GA

 

A bunch of people sitting in chairs in a conference room

The Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association, led by president James Stanfill, exists to promote, develop, and facilitate the education of professional bicycle mechanics. Throughout the year, PBMA hosts several Technical Workshops in key locations to provide mechanic professionals with 27 hours of continuing education sessions in addition to opportunities for professional development and networking. Major industry brands from every segment of the cycling industry are invited to attend to showcase and educate professionals on proprietary products, tools, and technologies. Cane Creek’s Alex Dawson (Technical Sales Engineer) and Andrew Slowey (Manager of Rider Engagement) hit the road to educate attendees at the Atlanta workshop on January 7th-10th, 2019.

Alex and Andrew not only work around Cane Creek products every day, but they’re also riders (real riders). This gives them a unique and intimate knowledge of the products that they were able to impart upon attendees in each of six classes over the 3-day workshop. Andrew recalls, “The participating mechanics were grouped into teams of 6-8 and given a scheduled that consisted of 3 full days of educational classes.  Each presenting company in attendance was able to tailor their class approach to most effectively use the time allotted.”

Considering that Cane Creek Cycling Components offers a wide array of products ranging from ultra lightweight headsets, brakes and seatposts to Enduro World Series-ready front and rear suspension and nearly indestructible titanium cranks, Alex and Andrew agreed that preparing to cover a wide range of information, field a cornucopia of questions, and build excitement around proprietary tech was key to a successful course itinerary. They dialed in focus on basic proprietary technologies and product features, but also shared their favorite “tips and tricks” to engage both experienced, tech-savvy mechanics as well as mechanics less familiar with Cane Creek’s products. In addition, Alex and Andrew were able to share the passion all Cane Creek employees have for creating great products.

   

Andrew says, “It’s awesome that nearly every employee of Cane Creek rides bikes, and we feel it shows in the products we make, the culture we uphold, and the progress we make as a company.”

 

Alex and Andrew share a few of their favorite tech tips below, but we encourage to you seek the help of your local Cane Creek dealer for bike/product fitment or adjustment questions and a Cane Creek Certified Service Center or our Factory Direct Service Center for all fork and shock service.

 

Alex:

  1. Alex “Mr. Safety” Dawson always says:Before removing the HELM’s lowers, always remove the air from the positive and negative air springs.  This can be done by simply pushing the negative air charge button while simultaneously releasing the air from the forks air valve.
  2. While performing a travel change on a HELM Air: After unthreading the air seal head, do not pull the air piston past the threads located within the stanchion tube. Also, during reinstall, remember to adhere to the air seal head torque specs.
  3. A good way to test the quality of a shock’s DU (or Norglide) bushings: Remove the shock from the frame. If you can easily rotate the shock’s reducer hardware with your fingers, you should install new bushings. The DU bushings that lie between your shock’s end eye and the reducer hardware exist to protect internal components to the shock and are the intended wear points, thus they are designed to be easily replaceable.

 

 

Andrew:

  1. Understanding the format in which the Standardized Headset Identification System (S.H.I.S) is written will not only allow you to correctly identify the required headset for a particular frame, but also to correctly identify the fork steerer dimension. For example a frame with a straight chamberless headtube requiring a ZS44/28.6[]EC44/33 headset also requires a fork with a 28.6mm to 33mm tapered steerer, more commonly referred to as a 1 ⅛ to 1 ¼.
  2. If a customer walks into your shop with a pair of eeBrakes installed on his or her bike, the easiest way to identify the newest Generation 4 eeBrake is the black torsion spring that spans the front face of each brake. Even the new chainstay specific direct mount received this (among many more) updates with the 4th generation eeBrake!The stronger black springs increase the amount of feel and modulation during heavy braking, especially on frames with less than ideal cable routing.
  3. The rider’s saddle position should be carefully accounted for when setting up any of Cane Creek’s Thudbuster or eeSilk all road suspension seatposts.  Saddle offset and height may need to be adjusted to compensate for suspension sag. The parallel design of the links that make up each post means that suspension movement doesn’t interrupt the rider while pedaling.

 

Cane Creek enjoyed and is grateful for the time spent with the mechanics who attended the Professional Bicycle Mechanic Association Technical Workshop in Atlanta.  Alex and Andrew hope that class discussions helped all attendees to become even more confident while identifying, installing, servicing, and using Cane Creek products.

Cane Creek from PBMA on Vimeo.

For more info on the PBMA check out, visit https://www.probma.org
Photos provided by PBMA/Jesse Capsten.

To find out more about Andrew, Alex and the rest fo the Cane Creek family, visit Our Team.

 

 

Frothing for more? Tune in to our Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube channel to learn more about Cane Creek products, tech tips, and the people behind the components.

 

Being Frank – “EVIL” Standards

 

Brent Graves Cane Creek
Brent Graves, President and CEO

“An industry standard is a generally accepted set of criteria within an industry relating to the standard function, specification, and/or compatibility of a product or operation.”

Want to ignite an incendiary response from the forum trolls? Just say there’s a “new standard” for a bicycle product. As a consumer that cherishes product of good design and function, it warms my heart when a product has an extended useful life due to serviceability and compatibility. For those that started riding before there were mountain bikes as we know them, the Silca Pista pump is a fine example. The one I bought in 1986 still does the job it was designed for, can still be serviced with available parts, AND is still compatible with the valve stems used on most performance bikes. To grasp how absolutely remarkable that is, considering how many products one can say that about. A phone from thirty years ago? How about a camera or computer? A washing machine? A television? Yes, at one time we could and did repair our own TVs. But all of the modern versions of those products are infinitely more capable, and who would choose a 25” black and white console TV over a 55” OLED with a 4K UHD flat screen for the ability to replace vacuum tubes and place a fish bowl on top?

Nonetheless, when a company announces its new product was made possible due to changes to conventional specifications, particularly how said product interfaces with its mates — the accusations range from conspiracy to greed, idiocy, malice, stupidity, and more. It seems rational to desire that one’s carefully considered purchases are as useful as long as possible. However, it is just as irrational to call someone a flaming a-hole for trying to make a product function better. I don’t think the complaints are a new thing – just that technology has made it so easy to share our thoughts even before we have thought them through. So, this has been going on for a long time, and it seems to imply that the “standard” at any given point in time should remain the standard. Or in other words, “this is as good as it gets or as good as we need so don’t change anything”.

Hmm… at any given point in time? How about 1985 before Shimano perfected indexed shifting? After all, to partake in one of the biggest improvements in bicycle history required using an unconventional linearly noncompressible housing. Maybe 1991 before the advent of the threadless headset? A bigger offender than indexed shifting because one’s existing stem and fork had to be replaced. Or what about 1995 before Hayes introduced the first modern mountain bike disc brake (that actually worked!) but required specific frame and fork mounts? And about that same time a small research team created the virtual pivot (VPP) full suspension concept that beget many, if not most of the popular designs of today. Side note here: in one of my best bonehead moves, I passed on the Outland design that later boosted Santa Cruz into orbit. What about 2000 before Hutchinson (along with Mavic) introduced mountain bike riders to tubeless tires? But those tires required a new… yes, rim standard. Would 2011 be the year to freeze product evolution? There were some damn good bikes then, but they had two or three front chain rings before SRAM perfected 1X. Yes, 1X required the use of a new standard, the XD freehub. Or the years before 29 inch wheels, suspension forks, carbon fiber frames, or wide rims?

Certainly there have been advancements that did not result in incompatibility with mainstream bike design of the day. Dropper posts, wireless drivetrains, wide MTB bars, clamp-on grips, and others. But usually the most impactful necessitated a new way to be integrated or interfaced with. That impact is a function of evolution driven by the imagination of how to expand the fun and use of a bicycle. Unfortunately there are DUB, uh I mean dumb ideas that bring change of dubious benefit, make a situation worse, are made without due consideration of the consequences, follow fads, etc. without providing that great impact on our riding experience. It would be a tragedy to deny us the experience-changing impact of bicycle design evolution due to the frustration borne from the minority of products that are true abominations. After all, who knows what 2020 holds? There is nothing that is the last word in design.

Being Frank – Best American Bike Racer

 

Brent Graves Cane Creek
Brent Graves, President and CEO

I rode Tomac off my wheel, and despite knowing that he was ill, recently retired, and not training, it was a surreal experience – one I’ll never forget and one he’ll never remember! For those of you not familiar with arguably the best American bicycle racer to date (“All-time” is a stupid thing to say as who knows what the future holds). Argue you may, but John Tomac was the fat tire version of A.J. Foyt or Mario Andretti. They raced everything and won. I won’t go into a full bio here, but Tomac was a BMX national champion, a criterium national champion, a World Downhill champion, and won multiple national and international cross country and downhill titles. He even won at the highest level of mountain bike racing while at the same time competing in the greatest professional road races like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders for top tier teams like Motorola. And he did it all with a unique style and grit that made him a fan favorite the world over. But that’s all public knowledge. Here’s the first time the story of my triumphant day has been shared.

While working for Manitou during its heyday in the late 90s and early 2000s, my initial job was to take OEM business from then-dominant Rock Shox. Manitou was killing it in the aftermarket, but Rock Shox owned the business with bike brands. While Rock Shox performed test rides with product managers, our tactic was to take it to another level and impress product managers with not only our product but our riding prowess as well – if memory serves me correct we won the Sea Otter Industry Cup two years in a row, and had great riders like Tom Rogers and Joel Smith. Thus Answer Camp was conceived. These were camps that we staged near Phoenix from 1999 through 2001. We parked the race trailer at a trailhead complete with the best technicians in the business and complemented the set-up with our complete product team. In 2001 this formula reached its zenith with us entertaining media and product managers for nineteen straight days. The days consisted of three to five one-hour or so rides that inevitably turned into races as egos and adrenaline rose.

Manitou was created some years before by a dirt biker mountain man by the name of Doug Bradbury. He and Johnny T were close friends, and at times business partners, that were both paid ambassadors for the Manitou brand. So they made their way to Phoenix for the ’01 Answer Camp. Tomac had an additional reason to attend – his young son Eli was racing the KTM future champions (and oh what a champion Eli has become!) event at the Phoenix Supercross. In 2001 Bradbury and Tomac were still rock stars in the mountain bike world that the journalists and product managers loved to be around. So what about that story you ask.

At dinner one night the banter was heavier than usual, and I think Joel Smith promised to drop Johnny on the climb in the morning. The glove had been thrown down. We were at South Mountain Park, and the following day’s ride plan called for taking pavement up for a couple of miles to the top of the technical “downhill” trail. So after breakfast I found myself in the midst of howling knobbies as we approached the start of the “race”. First Joel and then others one by one attacked out of the group. I was torched after two weeks of camp, but when Bradbury took off – I mean he was OLD, like in his fifties – I followed. Soon I found my legs and started catching riders until only Joel and Johnny were up the road. Then as my superior genetics and focus kicked in (what’s the font for sarcasm?), I caught and rode away from the best American bike racer to date. Despite reminding myself that he was retired, ill, and out-of-shape, my glow must have been seen for miles.

But the story is not over. While basking in said glow for about a mile, I was nearly knocked off my bike buy a blur that was none other than Tomac blasting past at TWICE my rate of speed. How… could… this… be? My scrambled brain could not make sense of this. How I even continued to pedal I don’t know. Then around a bend I see I helmet drop behind a rock, and as I passed by Johnny had his finger to his lips. Confusion transformed to enlightenment when the passenger van came by with Johnny clinging to the rear view mirror at thirty miles per hour. Wily world champion John Tomac had summoned a tow from the van and right before reaching a rider, he’d spring free and pass said sucker at lightspeed. While there was an explanation, I rode the remainder of the climb in a state like one feels after barely missing a certainly fatal car crash. How Tomac did a manual down a stretch of trail I had to walk down is a story for another day.

For more information on John Tomac as well as a video interview check out Bike Magazine’s article: 5 reasons why he’s john tomac and you’re not

Image credit: John Tomac

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.

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.

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!