Being Frank: Where’s the dropper?
It’s a valid question, and one that we get on a regular basis. And it nearly always comes from fans of the brand. So it would be great if we could always say that their wish will soon be granted. However, when we are asked “Why doesn’t Cane Creek offer an XXX?” the answer is never simple, and the reasoning behind the answer is not always what we’d prefer. Here I’ll share some of the factors in our decision making process.
In the interest of making this more tangible, I will frame this around the most frequent question that we’ve been receiving over the last few years: “Where’s the dropper?”
It doesn’t matter the company size, resources are always limited. I’ve worked at $1 billion and $10 million bike companies, and there is always a point where there is not enough of something needed to bring an idea to market. The situation is no different at Cane Creek. Our forty-two employees wear many hats – it is very common to see the Director of Marketing assembling eeBrakes or a sales director picking orders. So many times it just comes down to the lack of “headroom” to do a new product.
And a lot of what is required to bring a new product to market is beyond the product itself. Creating part numbers and BOMs, writing user manuals, creating build sheets, designing packaging, forecasting demand, determining pricing, creating tech videos, designing tooling, completing media launch materials, educating staff, preparing service guidelines and parts, and… well I think it’s clear that all this requires resources as well.
The limited resources mean that new products result in opportunity costs to varying degrees. To do a dropper may be at the expense of taking on eeBrakes.
Another factor is market timing. Is it too late for a Cane Creek dropper? If there are already numerous offerings out there, many of which are increasingly good, maybe we missed our window of opportunity? If the market is mature, price can become a battleground and then we have to determine if we want to jump in at the expense (opportunity cost again) of something else. There is a sound argument that Cane Creek should have done a dropper years ago. Be that as it may, it has no bearing on whether it makes sence to do one now.
If we get past the limited resources and timing, we have to truthfully ask ourselves, ‘what we would be adding? While all our products may not be as innovative or unique as we would like, we do aim for a high standard. Everyone at Cane Creek is here to make products that we believe in. That’s why we are here. Honestly, in the last couple of years we aborted two dropper projects because they would have brought almost nothing new to the market, and we would not have been proud of them.
My favorite Dirty Harry line is “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Likewise, a company must know where its expertise lies. We must truthfully ask ourselves if we have the specific skill set and experience to do what we think this product deserves. In the case of the dropper, we felt that we did.
We also need to consider if the new product is consistent with our product history, current line-up, and company values. While not practiced enough in the bicycle industry, just because one can offer something does not mean one should. This can be a juxtaposition of sorts: maybe we can make this profitable product but it may run counter to who we are and who we want to be. A dropper would certainly fit in with our history of performance mountain bike products, but a me-too product has not been what Cane Creek is about.
As is the case with the dropper, it is never black and white. But ultimately we’ve determined that we do not want to bring a me-too dropper late to the party. So what about the “saved” opportunity costs from not doing a dropper? Well, we think we have some really good stuff coming for you and us to ride.