Being Frank – Details Matter



Brent Graves Cane Creek
Brent Graves, President and CEO

I have a watch that I really like. It was not expensive, it does not tell time better than other watches, nor does it make a big fashion statement. But one detail of the watch really impresses me. It is how the free end of the band is coupled. The rubber loop has a hole in it that mates up to a stainless steel nub that is molded into the free end of the band. So once the nub is inserted into the hole, the loop cannot move and allow the free end to flap around. I have a more expensive watch that has a nice embossed stainless steel loop, but it is bush league in comparison because it lacks that one small detail. This might seem insignificant, but the bush league loop tends to move around allowing the band to pop out.

Details can be very important, and because they are inherently small, they are many times over-looked or forgotten. So when I experience a product with real attention-to-detail, I’m left with the feeling that someone really did their job in understanding how the product would be used and appreciated. Details take time and sometimes require more resources that tend to cause them to end up on the cutting room floor. For it is easy for the product manager to hold tightly to the USP (unique selling proposition) during development and not grasp how the details may help separate her product from the competition. I once read in an automotive journal that some automakers spend an amazing amount of time trying to get the steering wheel just right. This is because it is the primary connection to our best quality evaluator – our hands. A lot of the feeling someone has about a car when shopping is related to how that wheel feels in the hands.

There are details in Cane Creek products that I am proud of. Admittedly, not all provide functional benefit like my aforementioned watch buckle, but they all represent our excitement for making the coolest product we can – stuff we want for our own bikes. Here I’d like to highlight some of those details that you may not have noticed.

The eeBrake has a centering adjuster that has gone through four iterations in the 2½ years that we have been making the brakes. While we kept improving the adjuster, we were not able to eliminate all of the play that gave a false adjustment reading. We also were challenged with keeping the adjuster from turning on its own but making it easy to turn without a tool. Ultimately we came up with a cool solution that does not have play, stays put, and does not need a tool. We also reduced the part count from four to two.

This level of attention is not limited to $650 brake sets. One of the most pedestrian products on your bike is the lowly star nut. Ironically, this funky anchor is what made the threadless headset possible, but due to its design has never been celebrated. Star nuts consist of three parts: two stamped steel “stars” and a zinc nut connecting the two. The “stars” have a black finish that has minimal corrosion resistance and zinc is heavy. Our premium star nut has chrome plated stars and an anodized aluminum nut. The result is superior corrosion resistance at about half the weight, and it doesn’t look like a part that fell out of a $5 garage sale BBQ grill.

Suspension mountain bike forks have semi-integrated brake housing guides. Regardless of whether it is a $1,000 fork or not, the guide is usually plastic and sometimes the screw is the lame self-tapping variety. Our Helm includes a forged and anodized aluminum guide with a stainless steel machine screw. Unlike plastic, it will not dry out and crack, and the screw has a satisfying engagement. Since we’re on the Helm, it has graduated lines etched on the steer tube to minimize the chance of cutting it the wrong length.

Maybe the detail that we are most proud of is the preload assembly for our eeWings cranks. Not only did we despise the plastic preloaders on our old personal carbon cranks because they easily jumped track and used janky screws (probably from the same vendor as the housing guide screws!), but they just looked cheap. And the best crank in the world deserved better. So we designed machined and anodized (outer piece black, inner piece gold) aluminum rings with easy-to-grasp numbs and included a titanium pinch screw. This is the epitome of functional jewelry – it works and looks great… and it fits on other cranks with 30mm spindles.

There are others like the eeBarKeep plugs for handlebars, the gorgeous titanium thumbwheel adjuster on the eeSilk seat post, the captured compression ring in our headsets, the brass bushing in the Helm QR lever… I think you get the picture. Details don’t guarantee that a product is a winner, but usually someone has sweated the details on the products that become favorites.