Being Frank: eeBarkeep
Brent Graves-CEO & President
Sometimes (most times?) in life things don’t work out as we think they should. This goes for products as well. While we certainly don’t have a crystal ball at Cane Creek, our historical sales data, market research, competitive analyses, and testing usually provide us a fair indication of how successful, in terms of sales, a product will be. Certainly, success can come in forms other than sales, but sales are what pay the bills. The indication of success helps us make decisions on whether or not to make (forging) tooling, how much we should invest in marketing to launch and support the product, and how much energy we put into selling it. How many we think we can sell has a big impact on the retail price, because higher volumes can lead to lower costs from our suppliers, can result in lower tooling amortization per part, and may convince us to settle for a lower margin. This is a short story of a product that has not met our sales expectations despite having some genuine merit.
Tearing the ends off of mountain bike grips and having cheap plastic caps fall out of road bars too many times caused us to believe that there was a need for a better solution to plugging the ends of handlebars, and Craig Edwards’ eeNut provided the glimpse of a design solution. It seems bar end plugs had been an afterthought rendered in injection-molded plastic or stamped steel before that, and we thought an elegantly machined aluminum part would be much better. The product criteria were defined as: positive retention, great looks, 5 grams, reusable, and easy-to-install. The idea was hatched in the summer of 2017, and we revealed the eeBarKeep a year later at the EuroBike show in Germany. While the project did not need a full year, we did have a super heavy project load consisting of eeWings, a completely updated eeBrake, eeSilk post, Hellbender 70 headset, and a trunnion version of the DoubleBarrel CS shocks during that time.
Despite my prejudice, I must say that the eeBarKeep is a cool product. Many times beauty is found in simplicity. And while machining the heart of the eeBarKeep is complex, the complete unit consists of just three parts: end cap, compression screw, and an o-ring. The low part count and elaborate machining result in a weight of only 6g per side. This is half the weight of anchoring plugs that work OK, close to the weight of press-in plastic plugs that barely work, and they look a million times (maybe some prejudice there) better than any of them. The eeBarKeep was also designed to fit aluminum and carbon mountain and road/gravel bars. This can be a challenge because the internal diameter of bars varies – particularly between aluminum and carbon. Selecting the appropriate thickness from the three o-rings that are supplied enable eeBarKeeps to fit almost any bar.
But as I said at the beginning, some things don’t work out as planned. And the eeBarKeep is one of those. Maybe it just has not received enough exposure or maybe it is not understood or valued enough, but sales are a fraction of what we expected. And as a good gardener does, we have to regularly prune our product offering to ensure what we offer gets the necessary resources. Sometimes that pruning may result in discontinuing a good product, maybe even one that we love. If the eeBarKeep does not see a demand turnaround, it could be one of those.