At a gala lunchtime product launch at the Sea Otter Classic, Crank Brothers director of marketing Andrew Herrick said, “we’re trying to create a new paradigm — a new design language about the bicycle.”
Crank Brothers is venturing far beyond where the company, which started with an innovative tire lever, has ever been before. While it is not unexpected that it would revamp its pedal line, its jump into stems, handlebars, grips, and seatposts (rigid ones that is; it already has the Joplin post that raises and lowers like a desk chair) comes as more of a surprise. It also has gotten behind the production of a book — a new coffee-table hardcover photo book of the 2009 World Cup mountain bike season by photographers Sven Martin and Gary Perkins called Chronology.
Re-Tooling Crank Brothers
Being a part of Selle Royal has allowed Crank Brothers to invest much more heavily in product development and to introduce a vast array of new products at once, rather than biting them off piecemeal, such as seatposts this year, stems next year, handlebars the year after. Herrick says that the tooling alone to produce all of the new products it introduced today cost a $1 million. With this ability to introduce so many products at once, it really can perhaps affect the “design language” of the bicycle, by impacting the look of components all over the bike in many different categories and price points.
Using the names across all of the components of Cobalt for cross country products, Iodine for all-mountain products, and Opium for downhill products (these are mountain bike products only), it also introduced price-point levels for each item from lowest to highest of 1, 2, 3, and 11 (yes, the product level indication goes to 11).
So in this numerical naming hierarchy, 1 is brand-entry products, 2 indicates parts intended for $800-$2,000 bikes, level 3 is performance level for $2,000 to $4,000 bikes, and 11 is the “dream bike” level — $4,000 bicycles and up. And the anodization colors are consistent between products of a given product name and number level.
Using the handlebars as an example, the Cobalt bars come in low rise and medium rise, while the Iodine bars come in high rise. The Cobalt 2 and Iodine 2 bars (there are as yet no level 1 handlebars) are matte-black anodized, the Cobalt 3 and Iodine 3 bars are more highly polished with matte and polished sections, in a gun-metal blue anodization or black anodization, and the Cobalt 11 and Iodine 11 bars are unidirectional carbon fiber.
The stems all have a wedge clamp system at the steering tube, but only the level 3 stems have wedge clamps at the handlebar, too (with an internal, wire-coil-wrapped elastic loop band connecting the two clamps inside of the shaft so they won’t rattle or fall out when not clamped on a bar). The Cobalt 3 stems have a closed loop clamp requiring the handlebar to be slid in from the side, whereas the Iodine 3 stems have a removable faceplate that slides in from the side. The faceplates and wedges are anodized in highlight colors to match highlights on the bike.
The seatposts have a single-bolt clamp with the bolt entering from the side with a spacer that braces between the rails. This makes it very easy to install and remove the saddle.
On the relaunched Eggbeater pedals, Eggbeater 1s are similar to the old Eggbeater C: stamped wings, outboard bearing, and inboard bushing. Eggbeater 2s have one cast wing and one stamped one, and they are so completely sealed that they are submersion tested before shipping them; if any air bubbles escape, indicating it’s not airtight, by inference, it’s not water tight, either, and the pedal is rejected. Eggbeater 3s have cast wings, an inboard needle bearing (instead of a bushing), and they’re also submersion tested. Finally, Eggbeater 11s have cast titanium wings and a titanium spindle, as well as the needle bearings and submersion testing.
The Candy pedal line parallels these Eggbeater changes. The Candy 1 is similar to the current Candy C. However, an aluminum pedal body anodized in a variety of colors has replaced the plastic pedal body. Otherwise, the changes at the different levels are the same as with the Candy line.
To highlight the shift in look of the bikes, Crank Brothers has assembled a fleet of “Dream Bikes”: high-end bikes from a number of manufacturers outfitted mostly with SRAM groups whose color highlights match those of the Crank Brothers wheels, pedals, stem, bar, seatpost, grips and seatpost quick-release binders as well as the Fizik saddle. These bikes will go on traveling display worldwide and eventually will be auctioned off through Performance Bike Shop. All of the auction proceeds will go to Hans Rey’s Wheels 4 Life charity foundation, which puts bikes in the hands of people in third-world countries without access to the kind of mobility a bicycle provides. The foundation has done over 70 bicycle-contribution projects in 20 countries, mostly in Africa, so far.
If lots of bike companies and consumers start speaking a new design language by buying bikes with Crank Brothers’ new color-anodized parts all over them, Crank Brothers will have achieved its goal of changing our language of the bicycle.