If you have ever been lucky enough to have a conversation with Erik Noren, the ever-passionate and always misunderstood virtuoso behind Peacock Groove, you know that he has a soft spot for the ladies… in that he is a massive supporter of women’s cycling. Being based in what is arguably the fat bike capital of the world, it’s no surprise Erik saw an urgency in the lack of quality fat options for the small-statured riding segment, one that disproportionately consists of women. These are the ingredients of Cake.
In a departure from his typical “Deep Custom” fair, Cake bikes are stock-sized, production batched 24in-wheeled fat bikes made in Minneapolis. They start at a slight 11in size and top out at 19in. And, without all that extra inertia to overcome, they accelerate like crazy.
I was fortunate to interview Erik in Peacock Groove’s Global Headquarters in Minneapolis in the days leading up to the launch about the need for Cake, his collaboration with HED, and his deep-seated passion for getting people of all sizes on quality fat bikes.
BIKERUMOR: So… Cake? Why Cake? Why the need for 24in fat bikes?
ERIK: Everyone loves Cake! The need is that you’re putting all these small people on these horrible huge fucking monster truck fat bikes. People are like: they are so great! But they handle like a dump truck. So why can’t we have the best of both worlds? As I looked at it, and after years and years and years of sizing people on bikes, and sizing up bikes, and making custom bikes, it all came down to what I like to call proportional fit. I can’t put a 5’1” 90 pound person on a 29er that handles like a rocket ship. Here’s the deal: it’s not going to fucking happen. I don’t care how fucking light it is, it’s still proportionally too big.
I’m going to say right here, ‘cause I hate saying things like “women’s specific,” but let’s face it, in general, general terms, in the very general cosmos of things, women are smaller than men. Women are always dealt the disservice in our industry. From clothing to frames to bike parts, everything is basically like “fuck you.” And someone’s like “wait! They have money?! Fuck! Shrink it and pink it!”
We don’t shrink and pink it. We’re shrunk and punk. We’re doing it our way. Punk rock. We are making these bikes. They are going to serve women incredibly well. They are going to serve petite people incredibly well. They are going to serve everyone else pretty damned good. When you have someone like Natalia Mendez [Minneapolis cycling mainstay], who we all know, she’s like 3’8″ and, like, 13 pounds.
BIKERUMOR I’m putting that in the piece.
ERIK: She’s really small! She’s maybe 5 foot and maybe 95 pounds. She’s small! She’s physically small!
BIKERUMOR: And she’s a crusher!
ERIK: She came and rode a Cake that wasn’t her size and she came back and was like “when are these available?” There was no other question. I didn’t even have to ask her how it rode. I just thought: this is the ticket.
And with HED doing it, we’re going to give you a mostly American steel tubed bike with mostly American made parts. Paragon. True Temper. We’re probably going to machine some shit here. We’ll have our own headset made here.
But here’s the deal. Cake is only going to be 24in wheel fat bikes. We’re not going to have a fucking cyclocross model next year. There won’t be a road model. This is what we’re specializing in. This is what we love. I love it. It’s great. Mine rides… it’s so fast. People get on it and they take two pedal strokes, and every response has been “whoa.”
BIKERUMOR: It’s been consistent.
ERIK: It also came through the frustration of every bike that I make as a Peacock Groove is, for a lack of a better term, because there is no better term, “Deep Custom.” I do everything. I make dropouts. I’ve made my own post mounts. I make that bike unique. Other people say “yeah, every bike is itself.” Yeah, what the fuck ever, man.
When you work that hard to get just one bike done, they take anywhere from 28 to 48 hours, maybe even sometimes 80 hours- that’s what it takes. That’s a really intimate relationship with that bike. I can’t do that with every bike. So I thought, how can I get more cool bikes under more people?
BIKERUMOR: So Cake is semi-custom?
ERIK: I wouldn’t say full production, but you’ll still get to choose some colors and you’ll get to choose from what I like to call the Basic or the Adventure model – I’m ripping off the old Dodge Adventure Series Trucks, where the Adventure Series Trucks were designed to throw a camper shell on and go have an adventure. So there’s going to be a Cake Basic, no braze-ons (you know, except water bottle bosses and shit like that) but the Adventure model will have full rack mounts and fender mounts so you can literally throw some racks on it and go touring, or do whatever you want.
BIKERUMOR: Custom racks too?
ERIK: We will, yes. For our Cake Adventure model series, it’s our own handmade in-house racks. That’ll be cool.
And a shout out to HED wheels. They’ve really pushed and helped and, dude, they’re coming in the game with their own wheelset. So far it’s just like skipping anything low end, and boom. HED’s low end is everyone else’s high end. And now you can go tubeless. HED is going to be making carbon fiber 24in rims. (Ed. – We saw early versions at NAHBS last year)
Filling this gap of a semi-performance fat bike for people of smaller stature? No one has really done it. People say “blah blah” did it. No. Look at what they say. “KIDS fat bike. KIDS fat bike. KIDS fat bike.” This is a bike that Jimmy’s mom will ride and all Jimmy’s friends are going to want. It’s going to catch on; Cake is going to make it cool. It’s going to be acceptable and our goal is, and just as we’re doing our first production run, that when you order a CAKE that you’ll get it in two weeks to a month. We’re doing a production run of 30… and five of those are already spoken for.
BIKERUMOR: That’s exciting!
ERIK: There are challenges like delivery time, powder coating, and sourcing. The first year will be pretty rough because I don’t have a financial backer. I don’t have an office manager or capital. I just have people who love what they’re doing. I’ve been a production guy before. I know what it takes.
BIKERUMOR: And you’re making your own headsets now to boot.
ERIK: We’re making our headsets. When you get a Peacock Groove, included in that price is a headset. And I’m making the headsets because another headset maker wouldn’t give me an OE account. After 18 years in the industry and giving them tours around where I work and hosting them at parties they could have given me a fucking account. I’m legit. I got an EIN. I got insurance. I got all this shit. Fucking let me buy your shit. I’ve never had an experience that was so hard to just buy something.
BIKERUMOR: So you turned around and were like “fuck it, I’ll get a CNC lathe and make my own headsets.”
ERIK: Yeah. That was like four or five years ago. I don’t have a guy bankrolling me- I’m not some well-groomed guy from California, no one wants to deal. Here’s the deal. We’re in the Midwest. We’re real. We ride our bikes and don’t brag about it, you know? We just do what we fucking do. So fuck, man, ride your bike. I don’t care. I don’t care about your Strava and shit. There is no setting on Strava that tells you how many smiles per mile you have.
That’s why Cake came about. I can get more smiles out there. I can serve a completely underserved segment of people. Petite people, and especially women. In our first line up, there is no pink. Pink fucking sucks. It’s just so stupid to think that, oh it’s pink, women will love this. You’re an idiot. If that’s what your marketing is, you should be tarred and feathered and kicked out in the street.
It’s funny – It’s like, listen, let’s elevate everyone. But seeing as women are underserved, I’m going to serve them more. That’s what you have to do when you have a section of society that’s underserved. It’s like when you’re in bad debt and about to lose your job, you have to work four times as hard to keep it. You have to work even harder to get the same result. I hate that. Women get the shit in the industry and it sucks. The thing is that no one will really talk about it in open terms. You can use all the special marketing terms that you want, but here’s the deal: you all get fucked. A large percentage of Peacock Groove customers are women. When they come in, I don’t see them as that, I see them as another person with special needs or want a specific bike.
BIKERUMOR: What is the size range for these?
ERIK: Right now we’re doing 11in, 13in, 15in, 17in and 19in sizes. I might be convinced to do a 21in, but… I don’t know.
BIKERUMOR: Then it is a novelty bike for a tall person, and not for necessity.
ERIK: Yeah, I mean, a 19in should be a decent size. The point is that I’ve never done anything like this. This is pretty big. And I want Cake to be a really good company. I know a lot of people say that, but I really mean it.
BIKERUMOR: All of that said, will there will be a pink option? I have to ask. I personally love the color.
ERIK: In an upcoming production, sure. I think pink is a cool color, I just think it’s insulting that pink insinuates that it is a product for women. It’s so dumb. I would never make a product and make it pink and go ”hey broads, it’s pink. You like this?” It’s going to be just as fast in any other color.
BIKERUMOR: So that’s an inch top tube- you’re not using oversized tubing on this.
ERIK: No, there is no point.
BIKERUMOR: Why is there no point?
ERIK: The bike that we’re looking at right now is a 13in Cake bike. It’s small. Here’s the deal, in general, when you make production bikes you have to make them to fit a wide variety of people. Meaning, if you have a 13in model, that’ll fit 5’1” to 5’4”, something like that. That 5’1” person can still be 200lbs. That 5’1” person could also be 90lbs. So you’d have to bring that in. You have to kind of guesstulate what is this person going to be. That’s why when you order one, we’re going to ask you your weight. And if you do weigh 180lbs, we’ll just take that exact bike and build it will slightly bigger tubes. So it’s semi-custom.
Our 11 inch model… you can only be so big. You can only be 4’9” to 5’0.” Like, how big can you be? On average, you have to look at that spectrum and be like, that person probably isn’t more than 170 pounds.
This bike can handle that. The 1 inch top tube serves everyone for so long, so that when people question that, I’m like “you need some box shaped thing that was hydroformed in Atlantis that will make it stiff? No, this works.” It’s such a petite thing- this 11in bike. It’s just so small and cute, the tubes are so short! It’s still stiff, but with the big tires, you’re already taking some of that stiff factor out.
At this point, the interview switched gears. Stay tuned for the Erik Noren/Peacock Groove Origin Story Bonus Interview later this week. A Cake bike frameset (Peacock Groove headset included) are available to order for $1750. Complete bikes start at $3400.