BikeBiz catches up with Hannah Wilson, brand manager for crankbrothers and fizik at Extra UK…
Can you give us a little background on crankbrothers?
I’ve been working for crankbrothers for just over seven years now. During that time the brand has changed so dramatically it’s hard to put into words in a short sentence. Behind the brand is a team of keen mountain bikers based in various locations across the world all working together to constantly push things forwards.
The brand was founded by Carl and Frank in a garage in Laguna Beach, with the aim to develop products to improve the riding experience, and to develop components that deliver superior function through disruptive design. We’re known for our range of pedals, dropper posts, tools, wheels, pumps and now we’ve added shoes into the range.
How did you decide to create a line of shoes?
The shoe market really has been dominated by a few brands for a while now and it felt like it was time to widen that out a bit. crankbrothers has had a range of pedals for more than 20 years. Over that time, we’ve worked on various ways to customise the shoe-pedal interface through use of shims and tread contact sleeves but we always knew we could do more.
The shoe project started over four years ago and as with all our projects, it was a case of starting from scratch, thoroughly researching the market, and spending time working on every detail which makes a great range. The aim was to create a range of shoes that match our pedals and form that perfect interface between the two.
What was the development process like for the range?
Leading experts from within the cycling and shoe development world, as well as material specialists, were instrumental in the design. Throughout development, the range went through an extensive global testing process, utilising pro racers on the world cup circuit and several riders based here in the UK.
We believe it’s important to get a wide range of feedback before launching any new product. We’re lucky enough to work as part of the wider Selle Royal group and we have an incredible in-house resource of knowledge in the shoe world, so we were really able to hit the ground running.
What has the reaction to the product been like so far?
Even before we launched the range, there was excitement about the product from racers, dealers and media. I placed our first order back in February 2020 for delivery in December 2020. I was optimistic but, even then, demand far outstripped supply for the first three shipments.
We’re now in a position where we have good sales history and we have stock deliveries planned in for the next season. We’re so grateful for the shops and athletes getting behind us and supporting this new range and we’re looking forward to the future – the development never stops!
What makes the product different or unique to other competitors?
Rather than just creating a single product and then slightly modifying it for flats or clipped in riders, we created an entire range, designed to suit an individual’s riding style. Like our pedal range, the shoes are available in Mallet and Mallet-E, as well as Stamps for flat pedal riders. For each shoe, the outsoles were optimised for the needs of the different disciplines.
For instance, the Mallet-E shoe is slightly stiffer with a deeper tread for increased pedalling efficiency and more grip on hike-a-bike sections, whereas the Mallet shoes have a longer cleat track for DH performance, and the Stamps have a sticker rubber compound for grip on flat pedals. The outsole was also developed to work exceptionally well with other brands’ pedals too.
We recognise that riders may have a pedal preference and we wanted them to be able to get the benefits of running the new crankbrothers shoes no matter what their pedal choice was.
Did the stock shortages seen industry-wide affect the launch?
Stock issues didn’t really affect our launch as we plan in orders so far in advance. We did however move the launch date back slightly due to a few delays in the final product development process. Our standards for product are exceptionally high so we really wanted to make sure everything was perfect.
What are you looking forward to in 2022?
For 2022, we’re looking forward to a strong season with good supply to support dealers, to attend more events and races, to engage more with riders, and celebrate the success of our athletes. Also, it would be great if we could get our international team together for a face-to-face catch up; online meetings and phone calls are great but there’s nothing like getting together for a ride, dinner, and a few drinks afterwards!
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Just a great big thank you to all our riders, stockists and customers through this difficult time. We’ve loved seeing all the social media tags and mentions, and when out on the trail it’s still a great feeling to see our products on people’s bikes and feet.