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Behind the Brand

Crankbrothers - 25 Years on the Trail

Words Cam McRae
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Dec 9, 2022
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"Cam, can I ask you a question?" Gaspare Licata, the Crankbrothers CEO, is always asking questions. This time it was while he was sweating out a tough road climb on his Forbidden Dreadnought, complete with Conti DH rubber in the rear. Gas was having an uncharacteristically tough day. His road background made the climbing element of his mountain biking transition easy. The other half, considering the challenging and steep descents around Laguna, has been harder won, but it's clear he's made huge gains in just a few years.

Because I was recovering from injury, I chose to ride an eMTB from Forestal. It was a light one with a small battery and modest power, but an eMTB nonetheless. The extra watts gave me the juice to loop back to finish the climb with Gaspare and, as is always the case with him, I was rewarded with an interesting conversation.

"We have a little problem with one of our products."* Gaspare speaks excellent English, with the deliberate cadence of a non-native speaker. His first language is Italian but Gas also speaks Spanish and French. The first time I met him, years ago at Interbike's Dirt Demo, he thanked me sincerely for our negative reviews of some Crankbrothers products. That had never happened before in this industry and hasn't since. All feedback is good feedback to Gaspare, and that is surprisingly rare in the mountain bike industry.

*I've been asked not to name the product in question at this time

The problem with the product wouldn't actually be a problem for a lot of companies, but Crankbrothers doesn't fit that description, at least not under Gaspare Licata's watch. The product in question is designed around some specific settings that must be adhered to so everything works as it should. Testing has indicated the product is robust and durable if these settings are adhered to but when they are not, an element can fail. Crankbrothers has had a low but non-zero failure percentage. In fact, it’s probably an acceptable number for many companies, and certainly for something that only breaks when recommended settings are ignored. The challenge is, some sales will be lost if a change is made to deal with the set up issue. That conundrum was top of mind for Gas, despite the heat and his long-chained, DH-tired beast.

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Sebastien Salvant came to Crankbrothers through the motorsport world, which gives him an interesting perspective on product. His official title is Inside Sales Specialist but he tinkers with product and wears several other hats as well.

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Incredibly long sight lines allowed Deniz to snap Gaspare several berms below us.

The Elephant

Deniz Merdano and I had ventured down the coast to Laguna Beach to look under the hood at Crankbrothers, a company we'd never visited before. Beyond sampling Laguna's renowned Singletrack, I was particularly interested in why the brand, which after a strong start, struggled for many years to make reliable products. The posts have been replaced by the reliable and smooth-actuating Highline Dropper, and the bearing problems have long been solved, but for many riders, their experiences with some Crankrothers products had left a bitter aftertaste. There was a point when the company's reputation among serious riders was in the dumpster, and it was Gaspare's mission to win back even the most jaded and cynical former customers. The approach relied on many pillars but what he hoped customers would notice was excellent after sales service and products that are excellent performers and, more importantly, strong and durable.


There was a point for me where it was really a battle and I was afraid to come to work. In the last 6 or 7 years it's been a pleasure. It's great to be able to come to this job and know we are building good product. We're not just putting it in a fancy box. – Tim Young Global Warranty and Tech Manager (etc!) 12 years at Crankbrothers
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Crankbrothers has launched into several tough segments and seen success. Beyond flat pedals, droppers and footwear, the brand launched a line of carbon wheels in 2018.

Crankbrothers is in a good spot at the moment. After releasing several well-received products that have proved to be reliable and robust, including the Highline post, Stamp pedals, Synthesis wheels, new Mallet pedals, and an entire line of shoes, their long term strategy, to win back riders and to have their posts and wheels spec'ed on quality brands' bikes, is starting to pay off. Something kept niggling at me however. The loudest complaints from the previous era were related to both the Joplin and Kronolog posts, and bearings in most of the brand's pedals. These were also some of the biggest gripes mentioned in 2016s Pinkbike Ask Me Anything when, at the urging of Gaspare, staff threw themselves to the wolves to answer complaints and questions from real riders. The failing bearings was puzzling to me considering how long Crankbrothers had been successfully making Egg Beater earlier.

As I spoke to the Crankbrothers team, both long term employees and more recent hires, I wanted to know why, under previous management, there were serious issues with durability, and sometimes product quality, that seemed to be avoidable. Even more interesting to me however, was how a ship that was slowly sinking was transformed into a water-tight and smooth-sailing vessel.

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The Candy and Mallet were born when Andrew Herrick suggested turning the Egg Beater into a line of pedals. Founders Carl and Frank hadn't considered that at all.

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Pedals have been put to good use since then.

A Brief History of Crankbrothers

  • 1997 - Crankbrothers' first product, the Speedier Lever, was designed by company founders, Engineer, Frank Hermansen and industrial designer, Carl Winefordner.
  • 2001 - The brothers from other mothers followed this up with their first real home run; the Eggbeater clip-in pedal, designed with as few parts as possible.
  • 2002 - As the business grew Frank and Carl had less time to spend on doing what they loved; designing products so they brought on Andrew Herrick, a co-founder of Pedro's tools who was also on the board of directors of Selle Royal Group.
  • 2008 - Crankbrothers is sold to the Selle Royal Group, an Italian concern founded in 1956 when Riccardo Bigolin began producing saddles in a shop near Vicenza, Italy (home to Campagnolo). Management is left in place after the purchase and the problems with reliability continued, which led to warranty challenges and some very angry customers.
  • 2008 - The Joplin dropper post is introduced but is plagued with sealing issues and tends to seize.
  • 2012 - The Kronolog dropper arrives to replace the Joplin. It's not much better and has issues both staying up and staying down. Responses from Crankbrothers often blame the issues on improper use or poor installation.
  • 2013 - Andy Palmer replaces Andrew Herrick as CEO
  • 2015 - Gaspare Licata takes the reins as CEO.
  • 2015 - All internal components upgraded, including IGUS bushings Enduro Bearings and double seal systems.
  • 2016 - Stamp flat pedals introduced and are available in two different platform sizes
  • 2016 - Highline dropper post introduced and is well-received
  • 2018 - Synthesis Wheels introduced with different layups for front and rear rims
  • 2020 - Mallet and Stamp shoes released to considerable acclaim
  • 2022 - Crankbrothers 25th anniversary sees the company staff at 55 with offices in Laguna Beach and San Clemente CA, and Taiwan.

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One of the highlights of our visit to Crankbrothers was the location. Laguna is a small slice of civilization surrounded by parkland and wilderness. A little oasis in Southern California that just happens to have great trails and a mountain bike culture that's as old as the sport.


Now it's like therapy, especially when you ride the steeps. You can't think about, you gotta get home and pick up the kid or whatever is bothering you cause then you're gonna crash. - Crankbrothers co-founder Frank Hermansen

The Brothers Crank

A few things surprised me about Crankbrothers, but the biggest shock for me was the presence of the 'Brothers' themselves. I had assumed they had left when the company was sold but he founders are still there, tucked away in a corner of their Laguna Beach offices, conjuring up innovative products and then designing them. Engineer, Frank Hermansen and industrial designer, Carl Winefordner worked together at U.S. Divers, designing products for scuba and snorkelling before they set out on their own in the bike business. "Frankly scuba diving wasn't something we had any real passion for," Carl told me, "especially here where it's so cold - but cycling is what we love."

Before starting our interview, I made sure I had their names straight, unwittingly demonstrating how the company name came to be; "especially when riding our bikes with helmets and sunglasses, our friends would say, is that Carl? They would get us mixed up all the time and at some point one of our friends said, just call both of them Crank and get it over with," Frank told me.

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Carl Winefordner (left) Frank Hermansen and are the Brothers behind the Crank. But they aren't really brothers, and they don't even look like brothers - unless they are dressed for a ride.

"When we were doing scuba, we had a living room full of buckets and buckets of snorkels and masks and fins," Frank added. "We were looking at it and going, 'can you imagine if that was bike parts instead' and that was the moment when we said, 'we gotta switch... just so we can get some free bike stuff.'" They had some early success putting their experience making things water tight to use, but for keeping water in, designing bladders for hydration packs. Carl and Frank's bladders, which they licensed to the company that became Hydrapak, were the first to incorporate screw top closures and urethane hoses, both of which are still used today, over 25 years later. The idea came about because the flow from early hydration packs was poor and the closures were too small and could burst open in a crash. Their approach to design has always been about solving problems.

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The original packaging wasn't as pretty the current designs.

"Our first product was the Speed Lever, and we almost called ourselves that, since it was our only product." The quick release was alive and well for many mountain bikers in the mid 90s. The telescoping Speed Lever connected to the QR and then rotated around that axis, peeling off the tire. The product was launched at Interbike 1996 in Anaheim. Frank described the experience; "We were in the basement where they put all the oddballs and we brought 4000 Speed Levers to give away. People were walking all over the show with them and they made this noise, 'zzzzt, zzzzt zest' when you opened and closed it and soon we were swamped. We had 100 different distributors from all over the world clambering to represent us." Those eager distributors were key; "Once we had that the next product, it was relatively easy to get them to carry it."

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Crankbrothers' first product; the "Speed Lever," was launched in 1996.

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It's nothing but serious business with these founders.

Things really started to happen for Crankbrothers when the first Egg Beater was launched but, according to Frank, there was no master plan. "We just kind of made whatever came into our head. And so the pedal just happened because we were on a muddy ride and we kept falling over and we were like, there's gotta be a better way. And it was literally like that." Much of the company's ethos is on display with the Egg Beater, both in terms of design, packaging, and graphic presentation. As Carl put it, "That was an exercise in simplicity. Yeah. Not really anything else. How few parts could we use? And started off as a three-sided pedal, but then it was like, Oh, it's simpler to go four because then you only have two moving parts.

Frank told me they tried to figure out a way to manufacture the pedals stateside; "looking at local manufacturers I mean, it would've been thousand dollars pedals. Taiwan was their best option, but that wasn't easy either. "this was before, you know, computers and Skype and stuff. So we were doing it by fax back and forth, and I don't know how it ever happened." The pair made some trips to Taiwan but, "as few as possible," and remarkably the pedals are still made in the same facility today.

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Carl and Frank in their corner of the Laguna office where the mad science happens.

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I have a hunch that the bits lying around their workspace are being used for something other than their original purpose.

Crankbrothers' Logo is one of the most recognizable in the business. What it represents is clear to any mountain biker. But it turns to have been a happy accident., according to the remarkable story Carl told me; "actually that came from an outside graphic design firm that Andrew hired and that design firm knew othing about cycling. And he had no idea that it looked like the chain rings." Frank jumped in with his own recollection; "we were like, 'hey! it's a crank.' and he's like, 'what?.' It's me and Carl as the two dots, and then the ring was Andrew holding everything together." I asked Frank if they are different sizes. "Believe me, that has come up many, many times over the years about who's who." The mystery of who represents the big cog remains unsolved.


And, and then shortly after we had a graphic designer who was here for a long time and he really owned that, I think the color identity. Yeah. We were, again, all the other mountain bike companies were just like, very bro and all this. And our color at the time was baby blue. It was very feminine kind of as, it was again, Apple-esque and we were often compared to Apple, which we took as a compliment."

crankbrothers logo

It's clear to any mountain biker what the iconic Crankbrothers logo represents, but it turns out that was just a happy coincidence. If it had been designed to represent a mountain bike drivetrain, was it going right to left originally? If so it has swapped directions in the age of 50t and more.

The Lipstick Brake

I asked Carl and Frank about a product they dreamed up that never made it to market. They told me about their lipstick brake pad idea. When rim brakes were still the default devices to slow your bike, Carl and Frank dreamed up a brake pad that could be pushed out as it wore like a tube of lipstick. Part of the inspiration for this idea was related to a property of physics that kind of blew my mind, until I thought about it a little more. Carl explained it like this; "first of all, friction has nothing to do with with area. That's not in the formula. Friction is normal force times coefficient of friction, and that's it."* (at this point Frank points his thumb at Carl and says, "he's an engineer!"). "Why," Carl continued, "does a brake have to be that big? What if we could make it a lot smaller, then you could just, you know, dial it out like a chapstick as it wore."

*At this point I was a little dumbfounded. But what about F1 tires? It turns out that wider tires are used because they generate less heat from deflection and they allow rubber with a higher coefficient of friction to be used.

Unfortunately for Carl and Frank, the lipstick brake never panned out. "It couldn't have been worse timing. Just as we were getting the product better and better the industry moved away from rim brakes. It wasn't that the product didn't work," Frank told me, "it was just the wrong time."

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We only saw a few of the more-challenging trails in Laguna, but they were very fun. This was after a really steep and challenging chute that kept on giving.

The Brothers Ride

There are certain times, Tuesdays and Thursdays in particular, when the whole company knows Frank and Carl are going to be out riding. Frank summed it up for us. "Now it's like therapy, especially when you ride the steeps. You can't think about, you gotta get home and pick up the kid, or whatever is bothering you, cause then you're gonna crash. So it's kind of like a mental vacation as you're riding. I still feel like I can get better. It's probably that bike's got better but I give myself credit all the time. If you want to keep challenging and keep growing, then you gotta push. It"


Carl has scaled back his ambitions some. "We used to ride at same level for a long time and two things happened. I hurt my back at some point, which I recovered from, but it made me think slightly differently about some of the dumb stuff we were doing. And then I had my first kid and that makes you re-evaluate risks that you take. I went more normal and he went really, really heinous."

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Andy Hilliard is the Product Line Director and Bridget Hallowell is the Sr. Graphic Designer.

People and Culture

Gaspare may have been a roadie but he worked in the bike industry and apparently kept an eye on mountain bike brands from Italy. For him Specialized and Santa Cruz really stood out. "Culturally. I've always liked Santa Cruz more," he told me. A friend introduced Gas to Rob Roskopp, the former pro skateboarder who founded Santa Cruz Bikes. "So I went to lunch with him and I said, 'I need two things. I need someone to help us change the culture in the development team and I need an athlete that can ride and help develop most of our products and help give us a cool image.' Because back then we had a lot of downhillers riding the pedals but they were racing all the time. They loved the pedals but we weren't very close to them."

Rob told Gaspare that he should meet ENVE founder Jason Schiers to talk about product development, and Cedric Gracia on the athlete side. Later that evening they were at the Santa Cruz Christmas party. "Then I met Cedric at the party and Jason, and both of them... they were not very keen to do anything with us." Gaspare however, is a very persistent and charismatic Italian gentleman. Gradually he established a relationship with both of them and each began to trust his desire to pursue a new direction for the company.

When they both came on board, this led to an improvement in internal morale as well. Cedric was invited to the office in Laguna Beach to check things out. "When Cedric came and spent two or three days here, I saw the people inside the building start feeling, 'okay, if Cedric Gracia is giving us attention and he feels he's one of us, okay. Maybe something is changing.'"


I serviced 30 seat posts in a day on Joplins and we had tons and tons of boxes of pedals coming in a day. Now it's a couple of pedals a day and if a Highline needs service it's five minutes to replace a cartridge or bushing. - Nick Mackie - Wheel Builder and Warranty Tech. 12 years at Crankbrothers
cedric gracia crank brothers

Cedric Gracia on Synthesis wheels and Mallet pedals.

Jason Schiers turned out to be an inspired choice as well. Having sold his stake in ENVE, Jason was looking for a new challenge and Crankbrothers was looking to develop a carbon wheel program. With Jason able to empower the engineering team, strong financial operations, and other capable department heads, things started to change. It wasn't always smooth though; "we had many more arguments. The volume in the company became louder - and not just because there were couple of Italians, but because we had more fights. But with the fights honesty was coming out," Gaspare told me.

"The other person I wanted to have aboard was Danny MacAskill. So through friends I tried to get his contact, but he never answered. Then I was able to get to know his agent and he said, 'sorry, but Danny, he knows about the issues you have and he's not sure about associating his image with you.'" A year later Gaspare received an email from Danny, possibly related to the AMA on Pinkbike, and he was interested in working with Crankbrothers and riding the Stamp pedals. Since then the bond has grown and Danny is an engaged member of the Crankbrothers team.

Luisa Grappone, an aerospace engineer, is a new addition to the Crankbrothers staff and she'll be heading up the Synthesis wheel program as well as expanding testing capabilities in San Clemente after stints with 3T, Campagnolo and more recently, Hunt Wheels in the U.K.

DANNY_CB_002

Danny MacAskill on his Crankbrothers Stamp pedals.

Product

I asked Gaspare about the first product that embodied the changes that were happening at Crankbrothers and represented the kind of gear they wanted to be known for, and he responded with two:

"I remember a lot of enduro riders back then were telling us they wanted the Mallet pedal to be much smaller. Anneke Beerten was one, and Cedric. So we said, 'let's listen to them.' Jeremy and Jason, our engineering team, they tested different bearings, different sealing systems and we developed the Mallet E, which was a smaller Mallet DH. Instead of private label bearings we went to Enduro bearings and developed a new double seal system. And that's when could see the distributors, even the media, they start saying, 'okay, they're not doing marketing, they're really investing into the product to make it better and better for the long term."

"What was great about the Highline was, it was the product of determination. The product of a team that was brave enough to go after the same category where we failed previously, and make it right. 'Let's show everyone, first of all ourselves, that we can make a great product.' So to me these were the key products from a cultural standpoint,. From a business standpoint, I would answer maybe the Stamp pedals, but from a cultural standpoint, these were the most important."

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Oh hey, is that Hans Rey? Every ride had a celebrity along, as is the custom in SoCal.

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Fellow MTB Hall of Famer, Richie Schley, reminding us where he's from.

How to Float a Sinking Ship

It's one thing to recognize problems and have the desire to solve them; executing these tasks is a much larger issue. Gaspare got busy determining the substance of Crank Brother's issues by talking to department heads. He put his feelings at the time like this; "if we don't change we lose, if we try to change maybe we can win. Maybe."

Crankbrothers' current strategy sees success as a long term goal, rather than one to be judged by quarterly earnings. It seems that previously corners were cut to reduce costs and improve profits, possibly because of financial performance objectives linked to compensation.* One season of bad bearings is a hiccup, several years of bad bearings (or seat posts) suggests a systemic problem, and one that isn't easily remedied.

*Gaspare wasn't keen to go down this road and was unwilling to throw anyone under the bus but after many conversations with long term Crankbrothers employees, this theme continued to arise.

Money was no longer the problem at that point. The financial backing of Selle Royal had already given Crankbrothers the opportunity to invest in engineering and tooling for new products. There were problems with reputation, durability, consumer confidence, product execution, along with warranty and customer service, at least in part because these departments were overwhelmed.

Gas told me a story that for him illustrated the depth of the issues at Crankbrothers. The company was over-stocked with wheels, so it seemed to make sense to do some kind of promotion. He asked how many wheels were in stock at the time and the answer he received was, "that depends." Gaspare's response was, "what does it mean 'it depends?'" It turned out that the computer had one number and the physical count showed a different number, and there seemed to be little interest in fixing the problem. That's just the way it was.

A lot of problems were identified out of that soul-searching process. One of the reasons products failed once they left Laguna's dry landscape was that there wasn't enough testing done in other climates. Crankbrothers enlisted their UK Distributor to see what could survive the soggy isles (Crankbrothers now does testing in many countries). That made the team realize the importance of diversity in helping to understand what mountain biking is like in other places, in terms of climate and culture. In Gaspare's words; "The more you interact with people that use their bike in a different way, in different countries, the more you realize what you've got to do to make great products."

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Gaspare brought one of his buddies out for our last ride in Laguna. Juan Pablo Raba ( the good looking one on the right) starred in Narcos as Pablo Escobar's cousin and right hand man, Gustavo Gaviria. On two wheels he's a skilled and confident descender and a beastly climber. He's even spent time riding the Shore when he was here for a role and was toured around by Caleb Holonko.

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Juan Pablo as Gustavo in Narcos (left) alongside Pablo Escobar played by Wagner Moura. Juan Pablo is much less ruthless in real life, unless you are trying to keep up with him on a steep single track climb.

Customer service had a massive role to play in the transformation of Crankbrothers, particularly in the beginning. It's quite possible some long time employees, like Tim Young, had the toughest jobs in the bike industry at one point. Today, if you make a call to customer service at Crankbrothers, a real human answers the phone and will address your concerns, and do everything they can to make sure you are satisfied. When Gaspare was just ramping up however, this was a bigger problem because many of the less reliable parts were still out in the market.

"At the beginning it was very important because we had a lot of customer returns. What we tried to do back then was, 'okay, let's upgrade the customer to better internals, if you have an issue let's try to make them happier, whatever it costs. And honestly, the guys, even before I joined, they were always very professional, understanding, and always available on the phone."*

*Gaspare noted that Crankbrothers doesn't yet have weekend or 24-7 customer service, but they plan to in order to be able to help customers in all time zones

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Crankbrothers used to make cranks. Good looking ones at that. I wonder if we'll see some in the future?


Gaspare really understands the value of quality whereas before we were looking for all kinds of ways to cut corners, 'how can we save 10 cents here or 20 cents there,' and that came to bite us in the tail and we ended up producing some not so great product that I'm not really proud of. Gaspare is looking to improve the quality of the brand by putting in top quality seals and the best bearings we can find. Instead of cutting corners he's looking at ways to be the best. – Tim Young Global Warranty and Tech Manager (etc!)
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Katie Osterloh, Crankbrothers' marketing specialist, is relatively new to Crankbrothers and the trails around Laguna, but she's getting well-aquainted with both

How do you Judge a Company?

Unlike your kids when your boss visits, employees are on their best behaviour when media come calling. It's possible that everything in the office and the nearby facility in San Clemente, is as tidy as Crankbrothers' packaging and graphics every single day, but I suspect things were cleaned up a little before our arrival. As much as my conversations with Gaspare, Carl, Frank, and other employees, felt candid and truthful, it's also likely there was some sugar-coating going on or possibly some omissions. The only way to know exactly how a company functions, just like a family, is to be a part of it, which is impossible for someone pretending to be a journalist. For me, the solution to this is to watch out of the corner of my eye and notice little things, like how employees interact with each other, and to try and get a read on the general mood of the organization. It's also about listening beyond the words people are saying to get a sense of how they feel. Everyone can be fooled but collecting enough data through these conversations, with all levels of a company, can give you a pretty good idea about what's really going on.

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Long time Crankbrothers athlete, and local resident, Richie Schley leading Gaspare (middle) and I down some Laguna slabs.

Beyond the glossy showroom in the middle of Laguna, with the sweet lunch room (where I lost to Gaspare at shuffle board*) the friendly conversations and brilliant bike rides, I feel like I picked up enough information to get a decent sense of how things work at Crankbrothers. One thing I noticed is the obvious pride employees take in the products Crankbrothers produces. When I asked co-founder Carl Winefordner what his favourite part about the reincarnation of the company was, with Gaspare at the helm, his response was telling; "I'm happiest about the fact that everyone who works here now rides bikes." From the wheel builders, the warranty chief, the graphic designers, all the way to the founders and the CEO, it's obvious these employees are happy to be able to tell people they work for Crankbrothers and to use the wheels, shoes, tools and other products, stuff they helped get to market, on their own bikes.

*thankfully he didn't have time to beat me at foosball

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The people at Crankbrothers are serious about making good products, but they are inclined to clown around as well. Business Director Matteo Bragagnolo doing a little rock climbing while Gaspare descends.

One of the elements this highlights for me is the importance of culture. Crankbrothers' location, in a mountain biking hotspot with excellent trails and one of the oldest mountain bike pedigrees in the world, is a big part of this. The office is in the valley that separates two sweet riding areas. You can start your climb to the first descent minutes from the office, and many of the best trails end even closer. Working in the industry is a dream for some riders, but many get stuck in places where there is little or no mountain biking; a soul-crushing compromise. Happy workers make better products.

In the end, the question I wanted resolved was answered. In all corners of the concern that is Crankbrothers, I found integrity, honesty, and accountability. There is also an intense drive that has led to creativity and excellence. Most of all though, the company ethos now revolves around respect for customers and a desire to make the sorts of products we all want; those that help you perform better on your bike and, perhaps more importantly, products that won't let you down on the trail and will continue to perform strongly long after they are new. And that product that had the very small failure rate based on set up instructions being missed? Gaspare and the product team decided that sales numbers are less important than building products for the long haul, and certainly less important than continuing to prove to riders that Crankbrothers is committed to quality, durability, and keeping a smile on riders' faces.

Doubters will remain, because mountain bikers have very long memories, but it's pretty clear that Crankbrothers' second 25 years is poised to be even better than the first.

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Comments

Cydwhit
Cy Whitling
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+12 Andrew Major Cam McRae Pete Roggeman RNAYEL jalopyj JT Deniz Merdano Gaspare Licata gubbinalia Andy Eunson Dan Todd Hellinga

Really dug this piece. Thanks for going deep!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae
1 month, 3 weeks ago
0

Thanks Cy!

Reply

blangshaw
Burgess Langshaw Power
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+7 Cam McRae Niels van Kampenhout Pete Roggeman imnotdanny jalopyj Gaspare Licata Dan

I recently bought some Stamp 1 pedals. Left them an absolutely scathing review about how in stock form their grip is awful due to the spindle bulge. I got a fantastic response from Evan at Crankbros - he acknowledged the problem, and sent me a set of longer pins, noting that an updated pedal was already in the works. I was definitely impressed with how Crankbros handled the situation, compared to my interactions with a few other brands to the point where I bought a set of their shoes, which I am wholly enamoured with.  I'm looking forward to seeing more of Crankbros in the future.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+4 JT Gaspare Licata AenomalyConstructs Dan

Good companies see complaints as an opportunity rather than a problem. Nice to hear CB saw it that way with you and bam, you're a convert.

Reply

jt
JT
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+4 Pete Roggeman Gaspare Licata AenomalyConstructs Dan

I've always felt a company can learn a helluvalot more by their failures than their successes IF the teams took those as valuable lessons.

Reply

Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+6 Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman Gaspare Licata Cam McRae Dan kcy4130

What?? The Joplin came out in 2008??? No...no no no no.

I feel like the guy at the end of Indiana Jones 3 who drinks from the wrong cup and turns into a skeleton and then eventual dust before everyone's eyes.

On a serious note, this was a great writeup, and a seriously good marketing piece from crankbrothers (no offense is intended in this statement Cam, it's all part of a good portfolio) - reading about this sort of philosophy and honesty makes someone who worked in shops during the height of their unreliability give them another shot.

On a less flattering note, I still like to laugh at Crankbrothers and their wheel shenanigans. I remember they had these wheels with proprietary everything, and had quite a few issues. For a later generation, they did this big marketing push with personnel interviews, articles, promos, etc. I remember reading an article about how everythings better, they heard the feedback, they changed it all up, and the new ones are great. Scroll down, and it looks like exactly the same wheel. Definitely had a good laugh at that one - that was probably close to a decade ago at this point!

Always loved the multi tools though.

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+5 Pete Roggeman Gaspare Licata Dan Lu Kz kcy4130

You think YOU feel old... I remember when the Joplin was known as the Maverick Speedball. Hell, I think i still have a few brand new "moosetongue" lever Joplins in the barn, dating back to when I had a whole crate of the things to swap out on demo bikes since it wasn't a matter of "if" they'd fail, but "when". Gotta say, though, even though the moosetongue required removing a hand from the bars, the lack of any cable or hose sure did make swapping the things out pretty easy...

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+5 Gaspare Licata jalopyj Cam McRae AenomalyConstructs Dan

Between 2016 and 2017 I did a three part series on Crankbrothers’ new Highline Dropper post that started with my litany of past experiences but acknowledged also that it was intended as the first product of a new day. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 (teardown)

Today, in 2022, that post is still going up and down, with the original cartridge, on my commuter/ATB bike. 

It has some slop, yes. And it’s slowed down a bit. But I think it’s a worthy trophy of the turnaround moment.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+3 Cam McRae Gaspare Licata yardrec

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xy9ine
Perry Schebel
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+2 Gaspare Licata mikeynets

the highline i have had super finicky actuation. wondering if it has to do with the spiral actuator mechanism, but the planets had to be perfectly aligned (lubrication, cable tension, routing, etc) to actually drop (and stay down) consistently. eventually gave up & now it sits on a shelf. is there a simple trick to these I'm unaware of?

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+3 Gaspare Licata Perry Schebel Dan

I’ve fixed a few of these where they weren’t actuating/releasing properly. Shimano 4mm housing with some lube in it was the cure every time. But I haven’t had a case where it was tricky.

I love the swivel actuator but they moved to the simpler actuator for the next gen for a few reasons (faster, simpler).

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xy9ine
Perry Schebel
1 month, 4 weeks ago
0 Timer Cam McRae

yeah, fresh cable & lube and still wouldn't operate reliably for long. post itself seemed otherwise fine (worked great on the bench). alas, couldn't be bothered with the faffing & gave up on it. *shrug*

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Crankbrothers_Rider_Support
Crankbrothers_Rider_Support
1 month, 4 weeks ago
0

This comment has been removed.

Crankbrothers_Rider_Support
Crankbrothers_Rider_Support
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+3 danithemechanic IslandLife Dan

Hi Perry,

We regret to learn of the trouble with your Highline post. Issues with the spiral cable-pull actuator of the early generation Highline were few and far between; though we did identify it as a component that can be improved upon when designing the current gen Highline that features a straight pull actuator. 

Please use the link below to submit the details of your post concerns with our service center, and one of the service technicians will respond shortly after to advise and assist you. 

https://crankbrothers.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/requests/new?ticket_form_id=114093968634

Cheers,

Crankbrothers Rider Support

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denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+5 Gaspare Licata Cam McRae jalopyj AenomalyConstructs Dan

Every Crankbrothers product I've put my hands on in the past couple of years have been top notch. Mallets, M13, M20, F16 tools, pumps, shoes.. you name it. 

Proud to admit, I had been influenced by the dark times of the company, not through my own experiences, but through the mouths of other's and kept mostly clear of the products. Boy was I wrong! I have been missing out on alot. 

Visiting the crew in Laguna and San Clemente has been an eye opener not only in the sense that the ideas and the execution are top notch, the people are freaking amazing too!
Gas, Mateo, Sebastian, Katie, Andy, Luisa and every single employee has blown me away with how grounded and welcoming they are. 

Thanks for having us along !!

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DanL
DanL
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+4 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman Deniz Merdano Gaspare Licata

what a really great article and insight into a company that really turned it around. They're so iconic.
If I worked there I'd find it very hard to not surf instead of ride
And that last image just needs a tiny wingsuit going overhead to really take the piss

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cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+4 DanL Pete Roggeman Deniz Merdano Gaspare Licata

LOL! That would be a great addition. Maybe a tiny flying Rémy Metailler figurine!

And thanks for the kind words!

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kcy4130
kcy4130
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+3 Andrew Major Gaspare Licata Dan

It's nice to see a company turn things around.

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HughJass
HughJass
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+2 Gaspare Licata Cam McRae

Last photo. What is mounted on the underside of the top tube with a wire coming out of it? 

Also, I have a first gen high line that I got under warranty after several failed kronologs. They did definitely love to blame the kronolog failures on improper set up but would then concede and send a new one. The high line however still works great and has been swapped across several bikes always in regular use on my primary bike. It has never had any maintenance besides lubing under the seal head with slick honey. It still has less play than a brand new one up on my new bike bike. It has been faultless after 6 years and I like the slower return speed.

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denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
1 month, 4 weeks ago
0

Just a 3D printed puncture repair kit and the brake hose that is routed through the top tube on Forbidden frames.

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rnayel
RNAYEL
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+2 Gaspare Licata Pete Roggeman

Absolutely love their Synthesis DH rims. They have been wonderful. Quick story, lent my bike to a friend who was visiting from Australia. He doesn't ride MTB much but is a very competent and experienced moto rider. Half way down lower oil can he puts the derailleur in the spokes and busts 5 spokes, rides out the trail without issue, the rim still intact and rolling mostly straight. A lesser rim would have buckled.

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jt
JT
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+2 Gaspare Licata Cam McRae

I've worked under a few CEO's/owners who could def take a page out of Gas' playbook. That is refreshing with a capitol R. The only thing I ever owned from them was a minipump back in my messenger days so the only frame of reference I have are the other folx I know who had various iterations of Egg Beaters that had reliability issues, from cage/clip to bearings to spindle failures. Their wares haven't really been on my radar since then. As a few other companies can attest, ridding themselves of 'that' reputation is a pretty damn significant uphill battle, and it begins by management owning the mistakes made and imparting a sense downstream that they cannot be made again. Nickel and diming a product has significant costs beyond warranties, and those costs simply can't be recouped by making better product. Consumer confidence is hard, hard to win back. Good luck to the folks at CrankBrothers. Looks like the right mindsets are in place, and I couldn't be happier for their team.

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SomeBikeGuy
SomeBikeGuy
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+2 Gaspare Licata Cam McRae

I can think of a few companies (and a lot of individual employees) in and out of the cycling industry that should be taking a lot out of this article. It's nice to get insight into the Crankbrothers resurgence.

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Reuben.Sandwich
Reuben.Sandwich
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+2 Gaspare Licata Cam McRae

Like lots of people, I had a set of 50/50 pedals. I repeatedly beat them down and they survived better than most. I bought a headset for my mk3 V10. Low stack height was the buzzword, it fell to pieces the first time you removed the fork. I was working @ Different Bikes at the time and seeing all the issues (those wheels! Urgh!) but man they had pretty packaging...

Fast forward to now, I have a set of synthesis carbon wheels on my ebike with 2000km of mostly heavy hitting dh. I've torn tyres, I've put the derailleur through the spokes, I've bottomed out rims on all manner of rocks with and without inserts and I've even ridden home on a flat tyre on a few occasions. No issues. Not one. 

I can't say enough about the quality of the rim but also the wheel build! When I registered the wheels with them I had a brief email interaction with someone who you could tell was genuine about their passion for the product and for me as a customer. I plan to hold on to these wheels for years, I'm that impressed by them. Congratulations Crank Bros, you've won me back as a customer.

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mike-wallace
Mike Wallace
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+2 Cam McRae Eric Van Sickle

Crankbrothers is a company I admire because of their commitment to World Cup DH racing.  Their pedals are absolutely everywhere in the pits and racers salivate over a fresh pair.  I doubt many of these thousands of pedals have been paid for in any conventional way.

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danithemechanic
danithemechanic
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+2 Dan Cam McRae

This is such an enjoyable reading piece.

Just the other day i was counting my CB pedals: seven pairs! 

Of wich three are some beloved Quattro, one with TI axles!

I didn't know so many fellow italians were involved in the company, and i didn't realize it was owned by Selle Royal.

I'm currently seeking employment and i'm going to write to Selle Royal for sure, it seems like they own so many cool brands and with each one they've worked hard to be a determining presence in today's cycling culture.

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cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae
1 month, 3 weeks ago
0

Thanks Dani!

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Vikb
Vik Banerjee
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+1 Gaspare Licata

I had two of the original Joplin droppers and had zero issues with them during "normal" use. Eventually I had an oil leak, but it was the 2nd or 3rd season in. At the time that was pretty solid reliability. I recall droppers shitting the bed in the first couple months at that phase in their development. 

Back when I was riding clipless [Gasp!] I had a bunch of eggbeaters in the fleet. They worked great and were easy to maintain.

I've had a bunch of their multi-tools and not had any complaints. 

I never warmed up to CB's wheels, but then I have rarely had an interest in complete wheels generally preferring to buy hubs and rims then build locally. More choice and fewer proprietary oddball parts to deal with.

Any way I'm glad to see they are doing well. I don't run into much CB stuff in my little slice of the MTB world so it was not obvious to me that they'd remained successful.

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rigidjunkie
Allen Lloyd
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+1 Cam McRae

Cool company, eggbeaters are still the only product I have ever given up a ride to replace.  A friend gave me a set to try, I made it about 1 mile into a 5-mile loop and turned around to remove them.  I threw one into the woods then realized someone would want them.  Gave them to another friend who rode them for years.  Pedals are subjective and none rub me the wrong way more than eggbeaters.

Every other product of theirs I have tried has been awesome.

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andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+1 Cam McRae

I think CB have really learned from their problems and grown better because of it. I’d have no problem buying their stuff now. There certainly was a time though where I would not say that.

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tashi
tashi
1 month, 4 weeks ago
+1 Niels van Kampenhout

Wait, Eggbeaters were considered reliable?

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hongeorge
hongeorge
1 month, 3 weeks ago
+1 Cam McRae

I still remember fondly a set of the original mallet DH pedals that came off the axle for me in Les Gets, sent them back for warranty, and received them back, fully serviced and repaired with a hand written note chastising me for "a complete and utter lack of maintenance". I think they were six months old, but hey, they fixed them.

Things did get incredibly bad at one point -  I know a sponsored racer who had three joplins fail in less than a week and had to borrow a rigid seatpost for the race day. And the headsets - they were incredibly bad, I had one where the cups were totally rusted in a couple of months, never mind the bearings.

Credit to them, they seems to have turned it round. Somehow, despite it all, I currently have a pair of Stamp shoes and two pairs of stamp pedals, and I can happily recommend them both.

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cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae
1 month, 3 weeks ago
0

It’s not the best when you get a tongue lashing from a company! It seems that the new attitude would prevent that.

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skywalkdontrun
skywalkdontrun
1 month, 4 weeks ago
0

Cool people don't need to tell people they're cool.  Just sayin'.

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