JOURNAL

Rider Engagement: Riders Helping Riders

Luke Bukoski
Luke Bukoski, Director of Rider Engagement

Sometime in mid-June of this year, I got a call from my boss – Cane Creek CEO Brent Graves. Brent wanted to run an idea by me and, like a lot of us, I was working from home at the time and so it wasn’t like he could just pop into my office.

By that time, Cane Creek had already been on a roller coaster ride due to the pandemic, associated stay-at-home orders and a subsequent bike boom that’s still going strong today.  We’d gone from completely closed for two weeks in April to having the biggest sales month in company history in June (a feat we’ve surpassed two more times since.)

All that business was a double-edged sword, however. Our retail sales group – which consisted of four people at the time – was completely swamped with incoming phone calls, emails and rider-direct orders through the website. On top of that high demand, our infrastructure was – to put it kindly – lacking. Our phone systems were landlines with no advanced call routing or hold queues and our incoming email was managed through a shared Gmail account with team members just picking the emails off as they came in. These tools simply weren’t up to the task. 

With the flood of new demand, we had fallen way behind. We were letting our customers down and we were letting ourselves down. Customer service isn’t an easy job and the people who do it will tell you that the reason they do it is because they like to help people. The guys on our team are riders, just like our customers, and I could see the weight they carried as it took days and then weeks to get back to customers.

It was a difficult time and we all felt it.

So that was the state of things in mid-June when Brent called. He had an idea that he wanted to run by me. I’d been the director of marketing since March of 2017 and, in that time, I’d realized that Brent and I shared a common belief that good marketing and good sales were basically the same thing. They weren’t based on gimmicks and manipulation. The key to both was to connect with people in an authentic way that helped them solve their problems and fill their needs.

Brent’s idea was to take that concept and make it official by consolidating our marketing, customer service and retail sales efforts into one place. We knew that we were struggling to respond to and generally communicate with our customers and no amount of marketing in the world was going to make up for that. Like any team we needed to come together, pitch in and make things right.

So that’s what we did.

We decided to call the new department Rider Engagement. We wanted to make sure that our focus was on reaching, relating to and helping other riders. We are all riders ourselves and would rather be on our bike than on a phone waiting endlessly for someone to answer or checking our email for a response to a message that was sent days or weeks ago. 

We moved pretty quickly, making a couple of key hires and stealing one of our top performers from the OEM sales area to join the team. The team members who had previously just been on the marketing side jumped in and started doing everything they could to answer calls and email. 

The next step was to upgrade our technology. We introduced a support center to the website with answers to common questions and attached it to a ticketing system so that incoming emails were assigned to individual representatives and tracked for response time. We ditched the old land-lines and introduced new Internet-based VoIP phones that let the team members answer calls even if they were remote and (perhaps more importantly) added a waiting queue for callers instead of an endlessly ringing line if no team members were currently unavailable. The team focused on being honest and upfront with customers about the challenges we were facing, engaging them rider to rider.

It took time and it wasn’t easy but it worked. We went from an average response time to emails of nearly two weeks at our worst point to just over 13 hours as of last month. Calls are answered and I hear the team chatting with other riders about their bikes like a couple of people standing around at the counter of the local bike shop. The feeling that they are letting someone down is gone and I can hear it in their voices.

On top of that, the folks that used to be on the marketing side of things are engaged with what’s going on with our riders in a way that I’ve not seen before. Our video production guy is constantly working with the rider engagement reps to find out what our riders need and how we can make videos and take photos to help them better understand, use and get the most out of our products. Our outside rider engagement rep who usually spends his year jumping from event to event has been all over the place – answering emails, taking orders, answering phones, appearing is support videos and lending his ideas to new engagement opportunities.

Those are just a couple of examples of how this incredible team has taken a major challenge and turned it into something that will make us a better company and, more importantly, better serve our customers. I couldn’t possibly be more proud of them and the work they do and I’m proud to be Cane Creek’s Director of Rider Engagement.

eeBrakes El TD

REMARKABLY POWERFUL, POWERFULLY LIGHT.

With a mix of turquoise, pink, purple and silver, the eeBrakes El TD are a perfect complement to a set of eeWings Tie Dye cranks or stand-alone to add a pop of color to your bike. With the same ultra-lightweight and superior stopping power of the standard eeBrakes, the eeBrakes El TD bring both style and performance to your ride.

Get them while you can. eeBrakes El TD are only available for order from November 9 through November 21. Expected to ship beginning of December.

Order eeBrakes El TD

Small Batch 2020 – IPA

Western North Carolina is known for many things – flowing singletrack followed by rugged descents, miles of beautiful and serene country roads, seemingly endless gravel tracks… and really good beer.

A staple of that regional beer culture is the “small batch” brew. These are unique and interesting beers that are produced in limited quantities for a limited time. They give both the brewer and the beer lover a chance to try something new and have some fun with the beer that they love.

This year, in honor of the brewing heritage of western North Carolina, Cane Creek is offering our own small batch series of products. Starting today, Cane Creek will offer our HELM MKII fork, Hellbender 70 headset, Hellbender 70 bottom bracket and crank preloader in a deep amber color we are calling IPA after the iconic brew. These products are available in extremely limited quantities and are only available factory-direct through www.canecreek.com.

Helm MKII 29
Crank Preloader
Hellbender 70 Bottom Bracket and Headset
Hellbender 70 ZS44 / ZS56 Headset
Helm MKII 29

Every order of a Cane Creek Small Batch 2020 – IPA product will include a commemorative poster designed in the spirit of some of the great beer labels we’ve seen over the years. Orders over $200 will also include a pint glass featuring the same commemorative design (while supplies last)

Like the beers they are named after, these small batch products are expected to go quick so get your order in today.

Being Frank: Mechanical Empathy

Brent Graves
Brent Graves – President and CEO

Nearly two decades ago I met a guy that introduced me to a concept that I had thought about but never distilled into a conscious methodology and attitude. The concept of relating to how we interface with things mechanical was something I just felt naturally. I sensed that mechanical things have finite lives that can be accelerated by slamming doors and drawers, hitting pot holes squarely, substituting a hammer for the proper tool, or neglecting routine cleaning and maintenance. While I believe this can be learned to some degree, I do believe that some, like my better half, will just never get it.

Michel Lamar was a very good mechanic and approached all mechanical work professionally. His time in the military in charge of a helicopter detail supercharged his propensity for mechanical empathy. You know, there’s nothing natural about how a helicopter flies. So one best make sure everything is right or else it falls out of the sky. Also Michel’s formative years in cycling were when road riders took it upon themselves to glue on tires, true wheels, and drill holes in parts to reduce weight(!). Back then one could not order a light weight carbon fiber stem via the internet on your smart phone – none existed.

Last month he and a handful of other buddies joined me for my 13th annual ride camp. However, the camp formula of all-day hammerfests that inherently met the definition of “epic ride” became suspect in light of the global pandemic and a couple of participants’ recent heart issues. So we halved the ride distances and turned down the intensity but added moto – pedaled in the morning and throttle twisted in the afternoon on some of the best roads in the world.

Two instances on days three and four drove home how much the time with the guys meant to me. The first was after we pulled up at a country store after blasting up some twisty roads in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Parkway. When Michel pulled his helmet off his grin warmed my heart. He could not stop talking about how much fun he was having, and I felt honored and privileged to be a part of his experience. The next day when we pulled over on a piece of The Rattler to indulge in some ice cream, the unspoken feeling was “this is living”, and clearly Michel was envisioning what his next chapter in life could look like. A week later Michel was gone.

While we worked within six feet of each other daily for over four years, I never consciously thought about the depth of our relationship. He was a great guy, quick to smile, always interested, and ALWAYS ready with a story. We connected on a certain level that was certainly fueled by our mutual passion for bicycles and motorcycles. But my reaction upon learning that some loser murdered him was deeper than I could ever have imagined. Sure it was a literal and figurative crime for his life to have been taken, but I think it hit me so hard because my last moments with him were full of pure joy and promise. Somehow the abrupt cancellation of that joy and promise made the loss unbearable.

R.I.P. (ride in peace) my friend Michel.

The Pisgah Project 2020

For the fourth consecutive year, Cane Creek has brought together a group of cycling industry companies to build a very special bike with a noble purpose – a bike that will directly fund the well-being and conservation of the Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest. The bike will be raffled with all proceeds directly benefiting The Pisgah Conservancy.

This year’s raffle bike is made possible by Cane Creek Cycling Components, Industry Nine and REEB Cycles with support from Thomson Bike Products, Maxxis Tires, Factor Components, Hayes Brakes, and Oskar Blues Brewery

The Cause 

“Since the Pisgah Project’s inception, the goal has been to thoughtfully support our own backyard – our forest” – Andrew Slowey at Cane Creek Cycling Components.

By supporting The Pisgah Conservancy, we invest in clean streams, maintained trails and a thriving environment for future generations to enjoy. The unique aspect of the conservancy is that it unifies the community. Mountain bikers, hikers, equestrians, backpackers, fishermen and the rest of the user groups all have a voice. This year’s Pisgah Project bike is built from premium products sourced from local manufacturers and partnering companies who truly care about the well-being and prosperity of the Pisgah National Forest. Organized by Cane Creek Cycling Components and backed by a fantastic partnership with Reeb Cycles, Industry Nine, Thomson Bike Products, Maxxis Tires, Factor Components, Hayes Brakes, and Oskar Blues Brewery this year’s bike has the potential to bring the total amount earned to $100,000!

Win this Bike – Support the Pisgah National Forest

The 2020 Pisgah Project raffle will last for one month starting October 22nd, through November 22nd, 2020. Riders will receive one entry into the raffle for every $20 they donate to the Conservancy. The drawing will be held and a winner will be chosen at random on November 22nd, 2020 at 4:00pm EST on Cane Creek Cycling Components Facebook live during the Cranksgiving event at Ride Kanuga in Hendersonville NC.

Buy Raffle Tickets Here!

THE BIKE – Retail value of over $8,999.99

Cane Creek Cycling Components

Designed, Developed and Built right here in Western North Carolina. We make products we believe in – products that we want to ride and are proud to claim as our own.

The Suspension: This year’s full suspension bike receives the latest innovations from Cane Creek. Including the All-New DB Kitsuma rear shock – A highly adjustable rear shock built for maximum performance in a design that is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Grounded in the DNA of the original Double Barrel line of shocks, DB Kitsuma improves on its predecessors in almost every way. It caters to all varieties of riding styles, body types, and bicycle frame designs without the need for any internal valving adjustments, changes or compromises.

Up front is the new HELM MKII fork. Helm MKII includes all of the innovative features of the original Helm fork including a tokenless air volume adjustment design, independently adjustable positive and negative air chambers on the air spring and rider-adjustable travel which allows Helm MKII owners to change the travel of their fork at home with just a few common tools!

The Bottom Bracket: The Hellbender 70 bottom bracket utilizes a bearing made of 440C stainless steel, providing exceptional ride quality and reliability.

The Cranks: Premium on durability, stiffness and weight. The fully titanium eeWings cranks are designed to keep up with the rigorous demands of the most aggressive trail and enduro mountain bikers.

The Headset: A no-compromise, best-in-class premium headset. The 110-Series utilizes optimal materials, engineering the most effective internals and designing the best aesthetics available in a headset. Backed by Cane Creek’s 100% lifetime guarantee!

REEB Cycles

The Frame: The SQWEEB is an Aluminum, 29″ wheel, full-suspension bike built right here in the USA. Utilizing a modular shock mount, the frame can be configured as 130mm travel or 150mm travel without changing rear end geometry. The SQWEEB is truly tunable to handle long days in the saddle, exploring above treeline, sending it at the bike park, or racing against the clock. The bike’s progressive geometry and playful feel will be sure to keep you sending it wherever the trail takes you.

The 2020 SQWEEB is redefined with an updated aluminum tubeset, lighter pivot hardware and oversized tapered head tube increasing stiffness, strength and aesthetics. The modernized geometry increases standover (and seat post insertion), lengthens the reach, steepens the seat angle, and is developed around 140mm to 170mm travel forks to compliment suspension configurations and terrain.

 

Industry Nine

Every ride, every mile, every jump, barrier, root section, climb, interval, berm, and drop… Industry Nine delivers unyielding performance with style. Manufactured and hand built in Asheville, NC

The Stem: Industry Nine’s A35 stems are crafted from aluminum billet into a svelte design of equal form and function. Every A-Series stem is machined, anodized and assembled entirely in I9’s Asheville, NC facility and available in a variety of lengths geared for modern trail bike geometry.

The Wheels: A custom laced set of Industry Nine Enduro 305 wheels with the revolutionary Hydra Series freehub design. 

Industry Nine’s most popular wheelset is now re-invented to improve your ride experience. The third generation Enduro 305 is engineered with a shallower rim profile designed to improve radial compliance and traction allowing the rider to minimize trail chatter while holding any line, on any trail. The latest EN305 wheelset is built with a 45% wider bead wall that reduces the chance of pinch flats and impact damage.

Maxxis

The Tires: Maxxis provide a set of race-proven tires for this year’s bike build.  Set up on the front wheel is the confidence-inspiring Assegai 2.5 wide trail tire – World Cup Champion Greg Minnaar’s signature tire. And out back is the new “Drag Minimizing” Dissector tire spec’d in a 2.4 wide trail size with the added protection of Maxxis’s well established Double Down sidewall casing.

Thomson Bike Products 

The Handle Bars: The Thomson Elite 35mm handlebars are butted and tapered in many steps for optimal fatigue life. Unlike most companies, Thomson produced bars by using advanced hydraulic press forming to ensure close tolerances, precise wall thicknesses and a smooth appearance in the bends and tapered sections.

The Seatpost: The Thomson Covert Dropper seat post set the standard for dropper posts. And it’s now available in all black. The cartridge-based system is designed to have the longest service life in the industry. Every part that makes up the Covert dropper is carefully chosen and of the highest grade quality available. 

Factor Components 

The Pedals: The Factor 601 was designed to meet the demands of these riders. From the oversized alloy shell, EZO bearings, easy maintenance, and low friction coating, these pedals are the perfect companion to rip through trails you love!

Hayes Brakes

The Brakes: The Dominion A4 is a Low-Effort braking system with predictable, progressive ramp-up and a crisp bite point. The caliper utilizes four pistons in the most structurally rigid design possible, providing; Precise engagement, a consistent lever ratio regardless of reach, featherlight lever feel, and insurance that no matter the terrain or temperature your brake will continue to perform as it did on the first ride.

Oskar Blues Brewery 

OB has traditionally been considered a Colorado Company; however, since their East Coast Brewery settled in Brevard, NC they have a stake in the conservation of the Pisgah Ranger District as they are next-door neighbors. Since establishing in NC they have been heavily involved in the local community by supporting events, funding non-profit initiatives, providing local jobs, and creating a great informal atmosphere for a post-ride beer!

The Forest

Pisgah Ranger District Facts

Managed Acreage: 162,000

Acres of Wilderness: approximately 25,943

Elevations:

  • Highest peak is Richland Balsam – 6410 feet
  • Black Balsam – 6214 feet
  • Tennent Mountain — 6056
  • Cold Mountain – 6030 feet
  • Shining Rock — 6001
  • Mt. Pisgah – 5721 feet
  • Devil’s Courthouse — 5670
  • Pilot Mountain – 5072 feet
  • Looking Glass Rock – 3970
  • Lowest point is near the NC Arboretum — 2000 feet

The Pisgah Conservancy

A primary goal of The Pisgah Conservancy is to enhance the recreational experience of visitors to Pisgah while protecting the rich natural resources that attract them in the first place. Construction and maintenance of infrastructure in the District, including trails, trailheads, buildings, monuments, parking lots, and other facilities will play a central role in accomplishing this mission. At the time of the founding of TPC, a substantial majority of the trails on Pisgah do not satisfy the National Quality Standards for Trails. For as long as TPC exists, our goal will be that 100% of the trails are upgraded to meet those standards – Protecting Pisgah’s natural resources and supporting the fantastic recreation that our forest and community fosters.

The Pisgah Conservancy will support the environmental, social, and financial sustainability of Pisgah’s trails for a variety of recreational uses. This means, among other things, working with federal, state, and local agencies and other interested parties to maintain trail stability, reduce erosion and flow of sediments to waterways, prevent unacceptable trail impacts on wildlife and cultural resources, ensure that trails and trail shelters are not in disrepair and are supported by user groups and volunteers, make sure that they serve a meaningful purpose within a trail complex (or, if not, support their decommissioning), promote user safety (including through improved signage), help open and maintain approved scenic vistas, and contribute sustainable funding for the trails. Where appropriate, we will support improvements to and maintenance of trailhead complexes and Forest Service roads to help improve parking, sanitation, and access to trails.

The Rules

▪ Raffle Tickets ($20USD each) will be on sale starting October 22, 2020 at www.thepisgahproject.com

▪ Online raffle ticket purchases made until 12:00 p.m. EST on November 21, 2020 will receive one chance in the “Pisgah Project” drawing per $20. No limit to the number of tickets an individual can purchase.

▪ “The Pisgah Project” drawing will be held on November 22, 2020 at 4 p.m. EST at Kanuga Bike Park broadcasted over a Facebook live event via Cane Creek’s Facebook account. Results will be posted on the Pisgah Conservancy’s homepage (www.PisgahConservancy.org), on Facebook, and on the Cane Creek Cycling Component’s Instagram page. The winner will be contacted with the contact information provided.

▪ The Pisgah Project is open to anyone 18 years of age or older.

▪ Contest rules adhere to North Carolina raffle regulations.

▪ You do not have to be present to win. The winner will be contacted by telephone and/or email.

▪ Should the contact information prove incomplete, illegible, discontinued, or the winner fails to contact The Pisgah Conservancy to claim the drawing prize within 7 days, or if he or she is deemed ineligible to receive the prize, an alternate winner will be selected at random from the remaining entries.

▪ Winner assumes all risks and will be responsible for all costs associated with claiming and transporting the drawing prize.

▪ Winner has the ability to select bike frame size.

▪Delivery date of the drawing prize will be dependent on model, size and color availability. Estimated availability of 12-16 weeks from the drawing date.

Buy Raffle Tickets Here!

Thank you for the SUPPORT

Thank you for supporting the Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest.  Through the funding provided by the Pisgah Project raffle bike and efforts of The Pisgah Conservancy, we can continue to enhance the recreational experience of visitors to Pisgah while protecting the rich natural resources that attract them in the first place.

 

Save The Hellbenders

 

 

We are proud to announce that $10 from each Cane Creek Hellbender 70 Bottom Bracket or Headset purchased through www.canecreek.com between October 15th and 31st will be donated to support the conservation efforts of The Pisgah Conservancy.

Our long-time partner, The Pisgah Conservancy, is an organization whose mission is to provide funding to preserve the natural resources and scenic beauty of the Pisgah Ranger District and to enhance the recreational experience of all visitors to Pisgah.

Save the Hellbenders! The slow-moving, long-lived Eastern Hellbender is the largest salamander in North America.  Hellbenders are indigenous to the pristine, mountain waters of the Eastern United States, and are listed as a state endangered species in North Carolina. The Pisgah Conservancy’s Save the Hellbender initiative is set up to protect the remaining Hellbender population and their habitats.  Hellbenders truly suffer when the land and trails around our native streams, creeks, and rivers are not sustainably built or used. Cane Creek and all of the conservancy’s partners are committed to responsible management of our National Forests.

To learn more about the Pisgah Conservancy and the work they are doing to preserve the natural resources of the Pisgah Ranger District, please visit their website: https://www.pisgahconservancy.org/

Order Hellbender 70 Bottom Brackets

Order Hellbender 70 Headsets

 

Being Frank: Our DNA

Brent Graves
Brent Graves – President and CEO

Successful organizations, whether they be company, sports team, or military unit, have a DNA that permeates every aspect of their attitude and behavior. That DNA is critical for several reasons. First, that DNA is the playbook for their operational success. It instructs what to do and how to do it. Second, that DNA enables new members to be quickly and properly integrated. Third, that DNA ensures consistency and continuity of the organization over time.

In a perfect world an organization begins with defining and memorializing its DNA when it is established. But in the real world the DNA may not be explicitly identified at the beginning. Sometimes, a group of like-minded individuals combines to work towards a goal and through that process their DNA emerges. One could argue which route is better, but the important factor is that the DNA forms the blueprint for success as the organization has defined it.

I don’t know if Dia-Compe had identified its DNA back in 1974 when it built a factory here in Fletcher, North Carolina. Nor do I know if the DNA had been explicit when Dia-Compe morphed into Cane Creek in the early nineties. But I do know that when I began as a product manager in 1992, Dia-Compe/Cane Creek and its products clearly contained certain redeeming traits. Those traits, and a likeable professionalism of their OEM salesman Peter Gilbert, caused me to spec several of their products on my bikes.

The traits I found appealing were their relative uniqueness, good quality, and notable performance. The 987 cantilever brake exemplifies those traits. If you are not familiar with the 987 but desire to become very familiar, go here: http://www.bikepro.com/products/brakes/brakecanti/diacompe.html I had a vision developing for our 1994 MTB line that was based on choosing parts that delivered function and lightweight in unique and unconventional combinations. So 987 brakes, Hugi star-ratchet (to become DT) hubs, and Manitou forks were the direction I took versus the straight Shimano XT and Rock Shox Judy approach that GT and other top brands at the time took.

Over the years Cane Creek’s products evolved and those traits got tweaked and solidified as a clearer understanding of the organization’s abilities and desires crystallized. So, a few years ago when we started discussing what our DNA was or should be, we did not have to think hard or make anything up. We just looked to our product history and identified clear patterns. “This is what we are about, we just have not put it into words” is what we said. Those words are Authenticity, Craftsmanship, and Alternative — they are the DNA of Cane Creek.

For us Authenticity is about doing what we want to do, the way we want to do it, and being honest about it – not just honest with you but honest with ourselves. It’s dangerous to think we are always right, the most passionate, or the hardest working. A major portion of the premise of these Being Frank blogs is to share our imperfections and hopefully provide you a better understanding of what we are about.

We believe in how something is constructed. Sure, function and performance are critical, but they don’t always require simplicity, attention-to-detail, beauty, serviceability, or longevity. Craftsmanship does. We strive to ensure craftsmanship in our products. Sometimes it costs us more, and the ROI is not there, but we do it anyway because we believe it is important in the long run.

We are not the biggest and don’t strive to be. We don’t try to be everything to everybody. Our How (or mission statement) is “to deliver mainstream-alternative products that provide a unique combination of design, quality, and performance to discerning cyclists in a profitable and sustainable manner.” We do not try please the masses or be the most popular. We believe that in this world of nearly 8 billion people there are enough out there that our Alternative approach will resonate with. And if you are reading this, you are likely one of the ones we do strive to please. We believe there are enough of you, and if we stay true to our DNA, Cane Creek will continue developing products for many years to come.

Making DB Kitsuma

Sam Anderson -Brand Manager
Sam Anderson –          Brand Manager

During the development of a cycling product at Cane Creek, ride testing plays a critical role in ensuring that the product meets and/or exceeds our expectations of performance and durability. As Product Manager of the Engineering, Research and Development Team at Cane Creek Cycling Components, I have the opportunity to help brainstorm ideas and then transform those ideas into deliverable products. The true reward comes at the moment we bolt that product onto a bike and ride it for the first time. DB Kitsuma was no exception to that process. We dreamed of a shock that would ultimately replace our DB AIR CS and DB COIL CS. Our plan for DB Kitsuma would expand on our 15 year legacy of twin-tube dampers with an updated damping range and higher performance. Our goal was to make the interface a lot easier to use and understand without taking away the key features of what makes Double Barrel shocks so special. Having put it to the test for the past couple of years, it’s a product I am very proud to bring to market as a Product Manager.  

Rewind back to 2018, our first samples of DB Kitsuma were CNC’ed here in Fletcher, NC out of aluminum block and were retrofitted with new and old parts to test our tool-free adjuster and key damping updates. During early design stages we try to keep our prototype testing low-profile and out of the public eye before we know the product will make it to production. However, it can be challenging to keep innovative ideas secret, especially when you are testing out products on local trails. Often prototypes can be rather large and bulky which meant we had to get creative when hiding the DB Kitsuma. We avoided group rides with non-Cane Creek employees, hid the rear shock between our legs when out on public trails, and even placed socks over our new and innovative design. Often, we found the efforts we made to hide our new design draw more attention and solicit more questions. Our goal as a development team is to stifle excitement until we know for a fact that our product is customer-ready.

By summer of 2020 we had gone through several successful shock prototype stages. Each stage inched us closer to the final product we’d been dreaming about. I personally clocked over 200 hours of moving time and hundreds of thousands of vertical feet of descending on various DB Kitsuma shock prototypes. In our final stage of testing, we felt we had successfully advanced damping performance, damping range, and dialed in ergonomics of the tool-free adjusters to our satisfaction. To prove the shock was ready for production I felt it absolutely necessary to increase the frequency and speed of testing and ride the newest version of the shock.

As a cycling company based out of Western North Carolina we are at a huge advantage for testing product year-round on some prolific trails just like the shock’s namesake. On a standard “trail ride” in Western North Carolina, riders can average between 10-20 miles and about 2000-4000 ft of descent. But only 25%-30% of the ride distance is descending which is crucial to suspension testing. Although our location allows us to ride year-round we lack the plethora of lift-assisted bike parks our counterparts may have access to in the Northeast or out West. 

To properly increase the testing frequency of DB Kitsuma I decided it was critical to travel to some bike parks in the Northeast and put more miles of descent on the shock. Keep in mind, we were testing our product during a pandemic. Given COVID-19 was at the forefront of our thoughts we had to be mindful of how we would conduct our final stages of testing. I made the decision to drive rather than fly and camp rather than rent a hotel. My girlfriend and I built out a bed frame in the back of a Ford E-150 van, filled it with camping gear, threw our bike rack on it, and headed north with the intention of getting as much riding time on the shock as possible while limiting our interactions with others. 

Over the course of 10 days we drove 2500 miles to visit Burke Mountain in Vermont, Highland Bike Park in New Hampshire, Killlington Bike Park in Vermont, and Thunder Mountain Bike Park in Massachusetts before returning home. After 6 days, 76.2 miles, and 47,800 vertical feet the goal of accelerated testing was a success. In just under a week, I managed to ride the equivalent of 30-40 standard test rides worth of downhill back home.

Bike parks are a great place to ride test because they offer diverse terrain. I was able to switch between jump trails and technical natural trails each lap and change my damping settings per lap as needed. With previous shocks, I never changed my tuning between trails at a park due to inconvenience and needing tools. After riding the DB Kitsuma shock for the past two years, I find I am eager to make damping adjustments per trail as it makes the changes so convenient and easy. I can actually tell the difference the changes are making which leads to more knob turning!

We released the DB Kitsuma shock to the public just three weeks ago and I am still putting miles and hours on the same test shock I bolted to my bike in June. After vigorous testing, the shock continues to operate flawlessly and I am constantly using all of the features it has to offer. DB Kitsuma is a durable, versatile, and unique product that every mountain biker will enjoy and benefit from using. Behind all Cane Creek products is a tight-knit group of riders who pour countless hours and effort into building and testing our components and make absolutely sure they are ready to share those products with the world. Taking an idea, making it into a prototype, and proving it is a product worth making is as rewarding as it gets in this field. I can’t wait to dive into the next project.

Being Frank: Rough Silk

Brent Graves
Brent Graves – President and CEO

We were excited about the eeSilk seat post when we introduced it. We believed it provided a compliance benefit that rivaled more complicated bicycle frame designs. This meant someone could expand their riding to rougher backroads and gravel roads without having to drop thousands on a new bike. Plus, at under 300g the eeSilk added little weight compared to many stock posts.

With the booming popularity of gravel riding (especially in the U.S.), we expected the eeSilk would be a sales success as well. While some were pushing the boundaries of drop bar riding into what had been the domain of mountain bikes, most gravel riders were looking to connect paved roads and/or get away from traffic — not descending root-strewn singletrack. Thus, a compliance post offered rider benefit anytime the surface was bumpy, wherein a dropper post only offered benefit in limited situations.

But we got hit with a double whammy. First, our industry has been stuck on selling the extreme elements of cycling. To make a tool like a competent gravel bike sexy, marketing departments and media promoted extreme riding espousing dropper posts as opposed to stress free miles of gravel road bliss on a compliant post.

The second whammy was our own doing. Some riders were bothered by play and creaking in the eeSilk pivots. For optimum compliance, the posts must be very active which requires low friction in the pivots. We erred on the side of larger tolerances in order to achieve said activeness, but some riders did not like the play some posts had due to tolerance stack-up. Harder to ignore was that the bushing spec was prone to creaking in certain conditions.

Disappointed for being so close but missing the bullseye, we set out on a redesign. At a glance the new “2.0” post looked basically the same but had significant changes to the pivot design and materials. We were adamant that no annoying pivot play would be present. The other proven design elements did not change. Various prototypes performed well on the bike and in the test lab. And so we moved on towards production.

When the first pre-production posts were installed on bikes, they didn’t function… I mean that they hardly moved at all unless you stayed seated on a big enough impact for which you should have been standing. What happened? We found that in our quest to fight pivot play, we stacked the tolerances too tightly for production. Fortunately, we were able to dial in the tolerances with rapid iterative ride testing. We modified the production parts, built new pre-production posts, and were happy. Until…

We had sold the last of the original eeSilk posts months before, but orders kept coming in. We had planned to fill those orders with the announcement of an updated post, but the issues explained above prevented this. Once those issues were addressed, we began gearing up for production and a public reveal, until we discovered that the torque for the removable pivot was way too high. The high torque spec was carried over from the original post but was not right for the new design. That was a quick fix once we figured it out, and then we were finally ready for production. Until…

While the tweaks to address the above issues were not re-designs, they were enough for us to repeat ISO testing to ensure that the overall package still exceeded industry standards. And to our astonishment, we saw issues with parts that did not have issues on the original design, the prototypes, or the preproduction samples. That’s when we hit the Pause button (it’s like the X button on America’s Got Talent, but louder). We had been pushing hard and fast because we knew the eeSilk should add real rider benefit, the gravel market was hot, and we had a backlog of demand. But it was clear that we need to take a breath and back off.

Not pushing through with orders in hand and parts on the shelf was not easy, and fortunately, Cane Creek was financially stable enough to make such a choice. We decided that some time and space would be conducive to a better perspective on the problem. We have recently been slowly increasing our attention on the eeSilk post, and as I write this, things look promising. I am confident we will re-introduce the post, and it will perform as intended. Despite the frustrations, I am proud of the work our team has done, and that we had the courage and ability to hit the Pause button.

Introducing DB Kitsuma

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Pro- Tune At Your Fingertips

We are proud to announce the DB Kitsuma, a highly adjustable rear shock built for maximum performance in a design that is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Grounded in the DNA of the original Double Barrel line of shocks, DB Kitsuma improves on its predecessors in almost every way. It caters to all varieties of riding styles, body types, and bicycle frame designs without the need for any internal valving adjustments, changes or compromises.

“The whole idea behind the DB Kitsuma shock was to take a complex and high-tech piece of componentry and make it very intuitive and easy to use for the rider.” – Jeff Laforge CC Design Engineer “From our time meeting and riding with riders and dealers at events across the country it became clear that most riders’ suspension settings are not optimal – in many cases the suspension may be hindering riders. One of the reasons is that dialing in suspension is largely a trial and error process on the trail which is hampered by access and the need for tools. Thus, we set out to make it easy for riders to get the most out of their shock by making adjustments easier and less intimidating.”

Tool-Free Adjustment

No need to crane your neck under your bike while fumbling with tiny allen wrenches to make adjustments. DB Kitsuma sports completely tool-free adjusters that are ergonomically designed to be easily accessible and adjustable trail-side – giving riders the power of a pro-tune at their fingertips.

 

See & Feel What Your Settings Are

Gone are the days of counting clicks backward and forward to know where you are and make adjustments. The entire range of DB Kitsuma’s low-speed compression and rebound circuits are controlled within a single rotation, while the high-speed circuits are controlled within two rotations, allowing the rider to easily reference where they are within their adjustment at a glance. The rider has full control and a true sense for how their bike will handle in a variety of real-world scenarios thanks to DB Kitsuma’s large multi-indexed adjusters.

 

Additionally, labels on the adjusters have been simplified to “soft” and “firm” for compression and “slow” and “fast” for rebound to better illustrate how the adjustment effects ride feel, and to give riders confidence to make trail-side adjustments.

 

Finally, DB Kitsuma simplifies the tuning process by increasing the range of adjustment while reducing the number of external positions in each circuit – making each position more meaningful and discernible on the trail. All these improvements add up to a high-performance tuning experience that is incredibly intuitive and accessible.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuned for Today’s (and Tomorrow’s) Bikes

DB Kitsuma boasts a wider range of damping adjustment on the compression circuit and increased range of rebound control over any other major shock on the market today. The rebound range has also been shifted downward for more rebound damping to accommodate the larger spring rates needed for more modern bikes. These changes combine to allow the DB Kitsuma to provide peak performance on a wider range of bikes.

Simple Yet Effective

DB Kitsuma is equipped with a single lever that switches the shock between three distinct modes, drastically affecting the shock’s feel and character. The new three position climb switch retains Double Barrel’s “Descend” mode it’s patented “CS” mode which provides a stable, yet responsive platform engineered to maximize traction and pedal efficiency while climbing over technical terrain and singletrack. DB Kitsuma also adds a new “Firm” mode. By utilizing a design that closes off the common bleed port, this third position excels at pedaling over long stretches of pavement or gravel roads on your way to the trail.

A Better Shock for More Bikes

DB Kistuma (left) vs DB CS (right) has a 16mm shorter reservoir tube

Redesigned with the geometry of modern bikes in mind, DB Kitsuma’s new valve body and tapered air-can cuts 16mm of length off the external reservoir and reduces the air can’s outer diameter at the end-eye.  All-in-all, this adds up to a new low-profile design which allows DB Kitsuma to fit more bikes free of frame-clearance issues.

DB Kitsuma (left) tapered air can vs DB CS (right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to improvements in accessibility and tuning range, DB Kitsuma has seen a series of significant improvements over previous Double Barrel shocks. These include an improved oil piston that’s been ported and polished to increase responsiveness, a new monoblock design oil seal head for improved alignment and durability, progressive bottom-out bumper for a more gradual bottom out and longer shaft bushings, larger shaft quad rings and uncut back-up rings on the air pistons to improve performance and reliability

 

Like all Cane Creek Suspension, DB Kitsuma is designed, developed and hand-built by riders in Western North Carolina. Informed by the endless climbs and technical descents of the Pisgah National Forest the DB Kitsuma was born from the experience of the hardcore riders who call Cane Creek home. This shock was developed completely in-house by Cane Creek’s engineering team and rigorously tested on some of North America’s most legendary trails.

The name DB Kitsuma honors both the heritage of the original Double Barrel (DB) shock and the legendary Kitsuma trail that lies just a short drive northeast of Cane Creek’s Headquarters. With a grueling climb that combines a mix of road and technical singletrack followed by a grin-inducing two-mile ridgeline decent, the Kitsuma trail highlights some of the best riding that Western North Carolina has to offer and showcases the versatility and performance of the new DB Kitsuma shock.

“At Cane Creek, we will only develop a product if we believe it truly adds something to cycling. With DB Kitsuma, we know we’ve done that,” said Brent Graves, president and CEO of Cane Creek. “From the fact that you no longer need to fumble with tools to tune your shock, to the increased damping and rebound range allowing for more bikes and more types of riders, to the various small improvements that add up to significant gains in performance – it all comes together to make what we think is a big step forward in mountain bike suspension.”

 

The DB Kitsuma shock is available now, and shipping right away.  Don’t wait, and get a Pro – Tune At Your Fingertips

 

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