Full Circle: My First Month at Cane Creek USA
Sometime around 1990, when I was 12 or 13 years old, I walked into Liberty Bicycles in Arden, North Carolina with my dad. I don’t remember exactly why we were there (or maybe how I talked him into taking me there) but I know it wasn’t with any intention of buying me a new bike.
I already had a bike and my parents were not the type of people who believed their kids needed new things for the sake of having them (a lesson for which I’m eternally grateful). What they didn’t understand was that the bike I had - a bright red Sears special they had gotten me four or five years before - was not suited for what I wanted to do with it.
You see, a few years earlier, we had moved from a small suburban community across town (perfect Sears special territory) to a newly cut development on the back side of Couch Mountain in Fletcher. The road we lived on was poised on the edge of uncharted territory, laced with old abandoned logging roads and miles of dirt trails. I - along with a ragtag crew of local kids who would grow to be like family to me - explored those trails on foot for hours on end, climbing old granite cliffs and picking through the ruins of abandoned stone houses.
One afternoon, out in those woods miles from any road, a group of guys passed us on mountain bikes - a rarity in and of itself in those days. I’d heard of people mountain biking. I’d probably even seen it - though I can’t remember. But this was different. The front fork of their bikes was unlike than anything I had ever seen. It was two pieces instead of one - as I recall black on the bottom with silver stanchions extending upward. It was a shock for the front of your bike.
It’s hard now, with all of the advances in cycling technology and the ubiquitous image of mountain bikes spread across the walls of every major sporting goods store or bike shop, to remember a time when seeing a suspension fork was a novel thing - but for me, then, there was something of magic to it. I realized that suddenly the freedom of movement that my neighborhood cruiser had afforded me could be extended - the edges of the map expanded.
I had to have a mountain bike.
Which led me to Liberty bikes with my dad that afternoon and the realization that, not only could I not afford a suspension fork (they were brand new at the time and far beyond the reach of an early teenager) but any new mountain bike was going to be a real stretch for me.
I’m not sure how things went down that day. It’s lost somewhere in the fuzz of nearly three decades and the typical human tendency to fail to stop and mark those moments that will become so important to us in retrospect. I remember a shop employee singing along to a U2 song on the radio and him talking to me. I guess he must have taken pity on a broke, lanky kid and he sold me his well used Univega. It was obvious he’d taken care of it but, from the mismatched front fork, it was also obvious he had ridden the hell out of it.
Regardless, he gave me a good deal and I walked out of there a mountain biker. I rode that bike for years. I took it all over those trails on Couch Mountain and eventually made the trek to Tsali - a holy place in those days.
I’ve owned a lot of bikes since that Univega but I’ll never forget it nor will I forget that first time I ever saw a suspension fork.
And so, as I sit here and write this, life has come full circle for me. You see, what I didn’t know that day in the woods was that a small company named Diacompe USA - just over Couch mountain in the Cane Creek Valley - had become the primary manufacturer and distributor of those first widely available suspension forks. I also didn’t know that, 27 years later, after that company had been purchased by it’s own employees and rechristened Cane Creek Cycling Components, that I would take over as its new Director of Marketing in the same week that Cane Creek would launch the HELM - the company’s first suspension fork.
I’ve been in this position for one month as of today and I’ve loved every minute of it. We’re a small company made up of people who share a common love of bicycles. We’re roadies, enduro bros, xc maniacs, gravel grinders and obsessive weight weenies but, most of all, we’re riders united under the flag of making cycling even more awesome.
The heart and soul of this company is poured into every design and every product by people who care deeply about quality and understand that there is another rider on the other end of every purchase - someone who will open that Cane Creek box, pick up up that HELM fork or that pair of eeBrakes and feel a jolt of excitement right before they strap them on for a ride - that same excitement I felt when I walked out of Liberty Bicycles with my first mountain bike.
I’m so glad to be here at Cane Creek, watching Couch Mountain rise up ahead of me as I drive into work every morning. This is an amazing place and I can’t wait to introduce you to the amazing people who make it all happen.
Director of Marketing
Cane Creek Cycling Components
As a footnote to this post, I have to mention an interesting anecdote shared with me by Peter Gilbert - a nearly three decade veteran of Cane Creek / Diacompe and resident historian. When I first came on board I mention to him that I grew up riding the trails along Couch Mountain and he responded that they used to ride those trails in the late 80’s and early ‘90’s - testing the suspension forks that would open up mountain biking to the world and one lanky 12-year-old-kid. I can’t say for sure that those riders I saw that day were from Cane Creek but I like to believe they were.