Headquarters Tour: Crank Brothers – Company Profile, Inside Look & Original Prototypes!

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - reception

The lobby of Crank Brothers’ new offices, conveniently located just minutes from the trails around Laguna Beach, CA.

Crank Brothers started in 1997 with the Speed Lever, a card table and a trip to Interbike’s basement.

Well, actually, it started out with the notion of designing products, patenting them and then licensing the designs. It worked once, with a hydration system that was licensed to Bell Sports and became Hydrapak.

The story is their friends constantly got cofounders’ Carl Winefordner and Frank Hermansen names mixed up, so they combined them and just called them “crank”. Hence the first part of the brand name. They met while working for a scuba diving products company. They enjoyed working together and eventually both tired of the corporate culture at a large company. They quit and did freelance snorkel and related product design for a while, but cycling was the passion. Frank is the designer, Carl’s the engineer.

The Speed Lever was inspired by the tools used for car tires, and the idea was born during a night ride when they had to change a tire. Like all of their products, they start out as a solution to a problem they encountered and couldn’t solve with existing products.

At that 1997 Interbike, they handed out 4,000 Speed Levers and a brand was born. It was never envisioned as the high design, global company they are today, and it certainly wasn’t overnight. After the lever, they designed a high/low pressure switch for a mini pump. It was called the Power Pump, and it came out in 1998 along with a couple mini tools.

In 2001, they introduced the Eggbeater pedals, and that’s when things got interesting…

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - original eggbeaters power pump and speed lever

The original Speed Lever (center, right) next to the latest version, the relatively unchanged Power Pump (right) and the original Eggbeaters.

Growth that first year was something like 600%. All of a sudden, they had the resources to hire a real marketing team, a real sales team and more. And that was a good thing, because it was just the two of them with phones ringing off the hook, most of the time with irate customers wondering where their shipments were.

“It actually stopped being fun, and we thought about walking away,” said Frank. “We were just two guys that made something and liked riding our bikes, and all of a sudden everyone was angry with us!”

Crank-Brothers-Tour-founders

Crank Brothers founders Frank Hermansen (left) and Carl Winefordner hanging out post ride.

That’s when they talked to Andrew Herrick. Herrick founded Pedros while still in college, sold that, went to work for GT Bicycles and has had various other jobs in the cycling industry. The Crank Brothers idea intrigued him, so he came on board as Crank Brothers’ CEO and an equal partner in the company. His experience allowed the “Cranks” to focus on the products while Herricks handled the business side of things.

It was growing, but it was also 100% financed by themselves. About six years ago, they sold the company to Selle Royal, which gave them more resources and further freed them up to focus on the parts of the company they loved. Frank and Carl remain on board, but Herrick departed early in 2013.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - product testing

All design is done in house. Everyone’s free to develop ideas, but most of the new products still come from the “Cranks.” The only outside idea they brought in was the Joplin, which was licensed from Paul Turner and Frank Vogel, who called it the Speedball. That’s since been replaced by the Kronolog.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - design offices

Product manager Chad Peterson oversees the rest of the crew. He came from Patagonia and designed the new hydration packs. Above is Eric Hermawan, who’s in charge of wheels.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - design offices

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - design offices

Jeremy Pedroza (above) develops the pedals, tools and accessories like pumps, etc. He helped with cockpit parts before they hired another guy to oversee those. Yet another person works on the owners manuals and tech documents.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - rapid prototypes

In the middle of the design room is their 3D printer, which lets them prototype parts for shape, fitment and aesthetics approval. The very large Eggbeater pedal took about a week to print and is an oft used trophy for office games. An equally oversized cleat holds a placard that’s printed for each “winner” and clipped into place. Yes, those giant plastic springs really work!

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - rapid prototypes

More often it’s used to mock up small parts, like these grips, that can sometimes even be ridden. These only take a few hours to print.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - marketing

On the other end of the building is the marketing team. Bill Freeman is the sports marketing coordinator taking care of their teams and athletes. He also serves as their house photographer and has been shooting for them for years as a contractor. Next to his desk is where Global Marketing Manager (and our usual PR point of contact), Amanda Schaper, sits.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - fizik sales for USA

They even carved out little space devoted to sister company Fizik to do their US business. Hi Adam!

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - foyer

Between the two halves of the building is a small foyer with bike storage, foosball table and a big fridge for cold beverages. Adjacent is their conference room, which uses a ping pong table for a centerpiece and miniature shuffleboard table on the back wall. Good times.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - kitchen

Upstairs are the sales and finance folks as well as the kitchen, which was crafted inside the original elevator shaft. Fortunately, the architecture firm that occupied the space before them left the sliding wood gates in place. To the right are larger bathrooms with showers…many of the employees live within riding and walking distance.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - C-level offices

The second floor is also where you’ll find their new CEO, Andy Palmer. His office is shown bottom left. He brings some outside-the-bike-industry experience from working with Animal (surf/snow/athletic lifestyle clothing), Dragon (sunglasses and goggles), Ocean Minded (sandals and shoes) and others before taking this job about six months ago. The challenge, he admits, is overcoming some past quality issues:

“When you try to do something different, that can be a stumbling block in that you have to deal with the consequences of being different.

“I think some of the perception is that we still have poor quality, people still have the bitter taste of having something of ours in the past and it breaking. And we need to be responsible for that. But we’ve successfully changed the quality, and now we have less than a 1% return rate across all our product lines.”

“When you have products that look so differently, and we think beautifully, and you have some well known failures, you run the risk of having people think we put all our effort into just making pretty products and not into engineering. That’s simply not true. We’re always going to make beautiful products, but we take the technical details very seriously, and we’re all very passionate about it.”

One of the examples they used is the wheels, which have some new products being announced soon (you can get a sneak peek from our Eurobike coverage). The original models had arguably poor hubs, which illustrates some of the early problems they faced.

Andy: “When you’re a small company, you can’t get into the production cycles of the ‘A’ quality manufacturers…they’re simply looking for volumes that we couldn’t do when we were young. So we had to use ‘B’ quality manufacturers, which resulted in some quality issues. But as we’ve grown, we’ve been able to get into the better manufacturing plants and our products’ quality reflects that. That’s not to say a small company is allowed to produce a product that’s not equal to, say Shimano, in quality. It means every small company has to raise their game and find ways to match that quality. People don’t want to spend their money on something that won’t last, and we don’t take that lightly. When we read something less than favorable about our products on the forums, it pains us.”

Along those lines, Frank and Carl chimed in, too:

Frank: “It can be a love/hate relationship. We do things that look different, but we make things different because there’s got to be something about a new product that adds to the category, that justifies its existence. That means that over the years, we have accumulated many folks that love our products, and many haters. I understand this is a passion industry, and people have strong opinions on how a bicycle should be. And we all have different needs, but if you’re a true cyclist, you accept that everyone has different needs. What we’re doing comes from passion, so sometimes I’m just surprised at the hate we get. I mean, if a customer called and said they were going to be in the area and wanted to know where to ride, more than likely one of us -probably me- would head out for a ride with them.”

Carl: “I think it’s just the anonymous nature of the forums and the response a snarky comment gets. It’s not like people call us up and rant.”

And for what it’s worth, about half the office headed out for rides with us on both Tuesday and Wednesday while we visited, including Frank and Carl, and everyone there really was (is) pumped on bikes. That includes the young lady at the front desk…I overheard her completely geeking out about the new Fox forks. That passion made for a very fun visit, and everything I rode worked flawlessly. Even the Kronolog.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - service and repairs

Two separate spaces are used for service and testing.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - warehousing

The new office space gave them more warehouse space, which is used for spare parts, team and athlete shipments and warranty inventory. The rest ships directly to their distributors.

Where are they headed?

“My business philosphy is to focus on products and opportunities where we can be world class,” says Andy. “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should, so it needs to fit into three parameters: What are we passionate about, what can we be world class at and what’s going to drive our economics.”

Could that include road bike parts?

“There’s no conversation today about branching out into road, and not just because Selle Royal owns Fizik (who makes cockpit parts), it’s just not on the table. Successful brands really understand who they are and try to execute on that. Right now, that’s mountain biking. We’re not yet market leaders in the things we’re already doing, so we need to focus on that.”

To put that into perspective, Andy said Shimano is about 84% of the MTB clipless pedal market, Crank Brothers is 13%, and the rest make up the remaining 3%. So, they’re a solid second, but also a distant second. It shows both their strength and their opportunity, particularly with Shimano’s recent distribution strategy change in North America.

Frank: “Whether I’m working on a pedal or a saddle or any other part, I’m just as happy. As long as it goes on a bike.”

Carl: “I don’t think there’s any product category we’re afraid of entering, but there are certainly categories that you can’t do piece meal, like drivetrains. And we won’t ever make a frame. From a design standpoint, we’d love to do all that stuff, even a frame, but however we branch out, it has to make sense and stay true to our brand.

It’s so satisfying seeing something you make out of the trails, and being able to design something and have it out on the market quickly.

Carl: “We try to start from scratch with developing a new product. Take the Eggbeater for example. We wanted something that cleared mud quickly, was easy to use and easy to assemble. We didn’t look at the Shimano 747 and think ‘how can we make this design better’, we just started with a blank page and figured out the best way to make it do what we wanted to do.”

Andy says about 50% of their business is from the US and Canada. They have global distribution and recognition, but he thinks there’s a ton of opportunity for growth outside the US.

crank-brothers-factory-tour-ride-group-photo

Some of the Crank Brothers crew, a few journalists and Hans Rey and Richie Schley for good measure. Photo by Freeman.

Carl: “Everyone here is into bikes. Whether it’s mountain biking or cyclocross or whatever, that love of bikes is a large part of why they’re here.”

That’s why we’re here, too. Big thanks to Amanda and the rest of the CB crew for the hospitality and rides!

MORE FUN PICS

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - original eggbeater pedal prototypes

The very first prototypes of the Eggbeater pedal. It was originally conceived as a three-pronged design (right), but adding the fourth clip made balancing the springs much easier. Chronological progression goes right to left, with the final original design in the back.

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - original logo and eggbeater pedals

Remember when this was their logo?

Crank Brothers headquarters tour - original hydration pack mouthpieces

The original bite valve prototypes. Carl said if they “had only had 3D printers back then”…then looked off wistfully.

CrankBrothers.com.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

79 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
dan
dan
8 years ago

Where’s all the broken stuff?

Chunky
Chunky
8 years ago

Does their office come with spares and a rebuild kit?

ScottO
ScottO
8 years ago

In my parts box

ShartOutLoud
ShartOutLoud
8 years ago

Got some Egg Beaters and I haven’t looked back.

vectorbug
vectorbug
8 years ago

Dan and Chunky – you should call them up and ask!

jonas l
8 years ago

Great article. Their pedals may wear down fast but it’s just to rebuild and ride again. Not just buy a new pair like with Shimano. Love Candy’s and would have a hard time to change those.

kevin
kevin
8 years ago

Exactly the comments they were talking about.

I’ve been riding egg beaters/mallets/and candies for years now and yes I’ve bashed a few to shreds but they’ve always stepped up and taken care of them. I’ve also ridden bikes with their carbon and alu bars along with their stems and seatposts with no issues whatsoever. I am however afraid of that Kronolog and the issues I’ve read about them. Sounds like they’re working to resolve the known issues they’ve had on the dropper and the wheels so maybe someday.

mike
mike
8 years ago

have some of their old multi tools. Tried the pedals but had issues with them not releasing soon enough. I have yet to try a kronolog but the Joplins had some issues.

off-roadie
off-roadie
8 years ago

I do love them eggbeaters

Saris Mercanti
Saris Mercanti(@saris)
8 years ago

If you’re reading these comments “Crank,” thanks for building some of my favorite multitools!

– Saris

CXisfun
CXisfun
8 years ago

I’ll pile on: I love Egg Beaters, but I also bought twice as many as I needed because I literally always have at least one pair going back in for some warranty repair. I literally have 3 sets on my work bench right now ready to be called into service when a set breaks.

But, I deal with it because I like the pedals. I have tried just about everything else on the market and I just don’t dig the other stuff.

MM
MM
8 years ago

That blonde at the front desk is cuter in person :>

wheelz
wheelz
8 years ago

At Tyler@ Glad to hear the Kronolog issues have been fixed. Please send the updated version to Pinkbike to test. When Pinkbike gives it a thumbs up, I’ll consider a Kronolog again.

Ted
Ted
8 years ago

Totally unfair to pin the problems on the ‘B’ vendors. The vast majority of their problems have been design related. Design a pile of pooh and it doesn’t matter who manufactures and assembles it, it’s still a pile of pooh at the end of the day.

Even if the problems were quality related, then where the hell is your QC/QA program? Way to pass the buck and not own up to your responsibilities.

AZBikeFreak
AZBikeFreak
8 years ago

Used SPDs first then tried Frogs. I’ve been riding Crank Bros for 13 years now. I even use eggbeaters on my road bikes. Best performance and customer support bar none. Will never ride another brand of pedals as long as they stick around.

I heard about the issues with their hubs. So what. Shimano had the same issues with the XTR hubs for years. I blew up 10 freehubs before I finally quit them. Try to get Shimano to send you a warranty replacement freehub or even a silly spoke. Please.

Crank Bros, thanks for the great products and for providing the best customer service in the industry.

goathead
goathead
8 years ago

I only thing of Crank Brothers that has not failed me has been a t-shirt.

Mindless
Mindless
8 years ago

I will not buy anything they make. Fool me … errr.. a few times. Enough.

PBT
PBT
8 years ago

Its necesary to improve the bearing seals….I have a candy 2012 and the seal between the body and the axel is no good.

brandon
brandon
8 years ago

the internet is a weird place

Steve
Steve
8 years ago

Who’s that total babe at the front desk?

Jason
Jason
8 years ago

Where are the photos of them actually making stuff?

Bill
Bill
8 years ago

The only thing they make is lighter wallets, worn out soles from pushing out, and pissed off former customers. Everything is made in the Pac rim.

Justin
8 years ago

Snide comment:
Of course they use Macs…it’s right in line with their marketing.

Constructive criticism:
Honestly I don’t have anything against CB and I’m sure 99% of the people that work there are great people. My problem (and the problem you will hear so many snide remarks about) with CB is that they have established a reputation for themselves as a company that makes parts that look nice but are generally not; they are cheaply constructed, sometimes poorly designed, and above all, they lack durability.

If anyone with any sway at CB reads this, I implore you: please rethink your approach. Hire new people if need be–hopefully in engineering and manufacturing as obviously your marketing is quite good. Go back to the drawing board and come up with products that don’t suck; ie, products that don’t make everyone with an ounce of experience in the bicycle world roll their eyes and scoff.

/$0.02

rico
rico
8 years ago

Sweet article. Egg Beaters y’all! Those things are like magic.

filibuster cash
filibuster cash
8 years ago

As someone with TEN YEARS in the industry, commuting in Seattle and Tacoma rain and grit, probly 200 days a year on their pedals. . .I disagree with all the snide “QC” comments and the like. Multiple candies, multiple eggbeaters, NO PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER. I won’t say “best product” or anything like that, just that their pedals have been very reliable. Beyond that. . .carry on.

Rosco
Rosco
8 years ago

Crank brothers product is awesome I have a kronolog and it broke sent it back no questions asked and it’s like brand new and still going strong. Keep up the great work.

Griffin
Griffin
8 years ago

There pedals are fine if you have 4 sets…. 2 sets at crank brothers for repairs at all times, then two set at home to ride. How can they seriously say there quality is improved….. What a joke!

I’m sure they last fine if you never use them off road and don’t hit any rocks. I just don’t have time to mail pedals every week. It’s a waste of time. I hope they make some good pedals some day, that last.. I’ll buy a set. SPD’s just last so much longer!

gravity
gravity
8 years ago

Seems like a great place to work, if only you wouldn’t be expected to ride Crank Brothers pedals.

shankapotamus
shankapotamus
8 years ago

Anything with continued use will wear out eventually……do your bearing on your car work for even. Smaller parts just simply don’t last as long.

eat food,
chop wood,
ride bike.

It’s a vicious cycle of life.

Ride, Repair, Repeat x 365

SJones
SJones
8 years ago

I like the way they try to make out that the haters hate because their products look different Everyone who hates them is because the stuff brakes. Freakin spin doctor, shame on you!

gibbon
gibbon
8 years ago

Joplin (all models)
Kronolog
Directset
Should I go on?…………………….

Aar
Aar
8 years ago

Three years on Cobalt wheels with no challenges at all.

Ad
Ad
8 years ago

That receptionist has a cute smile.

Elite Consumer, M.D.
Elite Consumer, M.D.
8 years ago

[deleted]

I always want to put my money into a product that is designed by people who put form about 150 places before function, and whose best sales gimmick is Cool Packaging. Perfect for when you install your hot new pedals at the totally choked trailhead parking lot. When everyone sees that sweet metallic box your pedals come in, they’ll envy you forever. I know this because that’s what happened when I installed my hot new CB pedals this past August. Everyone came around my Beemer SUV to check out the sweet new pedals I was installing on my Budnitz prototype FS Ti frame.

ifbikes
ifbikes
8 years ago

Sweet TCX SLR.

N8O
N8O
8 years ago

I have been running CB products for the past year or so, and have to say I think they are great (cobalt carbon bars, seatpost, EB pedals, and kronolog). Yes the designs are clever, and might take getting used to, but I’ve not had all the issues that I read about online. I wish I could say the same thing about Sram (xx1 failures), Easton (hub issues), avid (xx brake failures) etc. All companies pushing technology farther will have warranty situations, at least CB stands behind their products.

Tim
Tim
8 years ago

I bought the cheapest Eggbeaters available- they were not much that much more than Time ATAC cleats. I have never had problems with them, although I don’t read as often as I would like. That said, the fact that I, filibuster cash, or Rider X have never had problems does not exclude that others have.
The pedals do seem to be the only bright spot in their line. Remember those bonded aluminum/ steel cranks? Ew.

Nick
Nick
8 years ago

Never tried EggBeaters, because my SPD’s refuse to die. As a wrench, the wheels are stinky-nasty (spokes? hubs? design? yuck). I like the ano’d colors, though! And the cutie receptionist…

wunnspeed
8 years ago

Nice article. I’ve spoken to these guys at EuroBike a couple of times and I’m a super long-time user of Crank Bros. products. Other people complain but strangely, I can barely kill their pedals. My wife was having knee problems on her SPD’s and we switched her to Eggbeaters she’s never had any pain since.

skipdapbaddamarangdoo
skipdapbaddamarangdoo
8 years ago

I absolutely love love love my Mallets. Best control and feel out of any clipless pedal I’ve tried. As for durability…..why can’t you people just take care of yourself and do regular maintenance on any of your gear. I had to take my car in after not changing the oil for 25k miles and am always baffled why it doesn’t run smoothly! Why not rebuild your pedals and service your seatposts once or twice a season? I don’t think Crank Brothers is golfing anything less than par relative to most other component manufactures out there. Considering what we put these components through it’s no wonder stuff doesn’t wear out and break more often than it already does.

So this in particular is directed at Justin: You’re entitled to your opinion but to call for someone’s job because of “design issues” is a bit crass and short sighted.

bbb
bbb
8 years ago

I love my trouble free (for over 10000 miles) basic and ugly Time Aliums and if one day Egg Beaters become nearly as reliable and long lasting (without constant rebuilding, greasing etc) I may give them another go.

It takes a lots of time and effort to shake off bad reputation.

Big D
Big D
8 years ago

Putting new bushing and bearings doesn’t solve the issues of the design that allows inherent slop to develop in the wings and causes them to ultimately fail. They simply wear out, I’ve had several pairs break(wing retention bars) and I’m a 130lb XC guy. They work decent when new, but as some have noted you are better served with a slightly heavier pair of SPD pedals.

The Other Jeffrey Lebowski
The Other Jeffrey Lebowski
8 years ago

The pretty smile belongs to Rachel. The girl can ride…

kj
kj
8 years ago

For me, my candies are like a bmw, shimano like a camry. The camry might be more reliable, but I like the bmw better (performs better for me). Your choice depends on what you value.

Ryan
Ryan
8 years ago

Hi Rachel.

K11
K11
8 years ago

i have a new crankbros carbon riser, and an really old mini pump and both have been great.

@justin, really a comment about the computers they use? i prefer clean design not just graphics, but products themselves. enve products for example are great, but huge white logo they plaster on their stuff is ridiculous, i’m just glade it peals off their wheels.

Nick
Nick
8 years ago

@ kj -Wouldn’t say that SPD’s are like Camry’s at all, oh wait, nevermind….that BMW is in the shop all the time, right?

CBontheEVO
CBontheEVO
8 years ago

bbb – I have a pair of ti eggbeaters that I’ve used the last two seasons on my road bike which have over 10,000 miles. No issues and have not rebuilt them either. They still spin as well as a new set I still have sitting in a box waiting for the next bike build.

I can’t vouch for most of their other products, but their eggbeaters and multi tools have always served me well.

Mindless
Mindless
8 years ago

@filibuster cash: Why did you need “multiple eggbeaters”? Just get Shimano, one pair will last you for a while.