Minding Our Business: Cranking Up Innovation

Randy Kraft
Randy Kraft

Crank Brothers are not brothers. Founding partners Carl Winefordner, lead engineer, and Frank Hermansen, industrial designer, share a passion for sport and excellence in design. That combination has catapulted the Laguna start-up into an international enterprise with a reputation for innovative product engineering and aesthetics.

You might call Crank Brothers the Apple of bicycle essentials. Everything but the bicycle itself, although among their extensive product line-up is a “dreambike” made up of their many add-ons.

In keeping with their devotion to sport, they recently announced their third annual race club sponsorship: Chloe Woodruff of Arizona, a national mountain bike champion, and Judy Freeman of Colorado, a racer and sports journalist. Both will compete throughout the year in multiple off-road venues, including the World Cup, and their progress will be posted at the Crank Brothers website. Crank Brothers is one of a coalition of sponsors, including Scott Bicycles, Lazer Sport helmets and Clif Bar, with coaching by Lee McCormack and outfitting by Pactimo.

Their announcement stated, “As a tribute to the golden era of racing, we’ve created a world-class women’s specific cross country mountain bike team around the idea of classic style and design… Because nothing encompasses the beauty, power, and fierce spirit of racing than a woman on a bicycle.”

Rewind to the mid-‘90s. Hermansen and Winefornder, who had previously designed scuba gear together, build a better bicycle pedal and stumble into the biking accessories market, first with the Speedlever, followed by the Eggbeater clipless pedal that put them on the map.

In a nano-second, the home-based operation on the Canyon Road became known for elegant product design, eye-catching packaging, and loyalty among independent retailers, the gatekeepers of the industry.

At a presentation to the Laguna Beach Business Club five years ago, the founders confessed they were flummoxed by business planning and operational management, so they partnered with Andrew Herrick, an industry marketing pro who helped them build a long-term plan. Herrick advised them to move more slowly following a string of second-generation disappointments.

Since then, Crank Brothers has been cranking out one winner after another, and in 2007 was acquired by Italian bicycle saddle company Selle Royal. They now operate in a real office on Broadway, with 35 employees in total. Herrick is the company’s chief executive and vice president of Selle Royal NA.

Crank Brothers still operates like a small business, with one employee or another answering the phone by name and without heavy-handed publicity. They do not disclose financials, but according to spokesperson Amanda Schaper, pedals remain their best-sellers, and tools/pumps are much in demand. The extensive product line-up includes wheelsets, bars, stems, saddles, seatposts, tools, and even athletic wear,

According to Competitive Cyclist magazine, “Don’t get distracted by their beauty, Crank Brothers components sing on the trail and their durability is second to none.”

A 2009 Velo report pointed to the importance of the company’s Laguna Beach heritage. “The area is the stomping ground of the Laguna Rads, a long-established group of mountain bike riders, many of whom were instrumental in shaping the sport in its early days.”

Laguna Rads is still around and Crank Brothers’ future seems as stellar as its past. Learn more at www.crankbrothers.com or Laguna Cyclery on Thalia Street, their first customer.


Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com. This column features Laguna businesses and business people.

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