MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) — Let’s talk technology, bearings in particular, with someone who spent his childhood testing the structural limits of BMX bikes.
“There’s a lot of stuff inside bearings that people just don’t know about,” said Matt Harvey, co-founder of Oakland, Calif.-based Enduro Bearings. “The most common bearing in the industry, for example, is a 6902-2RS. However, inside you can have possibly three different ball sizes, different groove depths, all kinds of different things can happen inside this bearing.”
Nothing screams “biking geek” like talking about the humble bearing, which might be the least appreciated and ignored bike component – that is, until your bottom bracket creaks or the headset becomes crisp. Harvey and Enduro business development and marketing manager Rick Sutton hope to change that, well, one bearing at a time at the Sea Otter Classic.
Enduro is hosting hour-long bearing removal/replacement demos—and “secrets to success”—at booth P27 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, while showcasing its product line, including its new Maxhit bottom bracket.
Featured mechanics will include Dan Large – Enduro Brand Ambassador, XL Velo Owner and Volvo NRS Pro Race Mechanic – and Giant-Liv USA Quality Control Specialist Katie Colesberry. Adam Snyder of Stan’s NoTubes will also be at the clinic.
Sutton said coming to Sea Otter with the idea of educating festival goers about bearings plays into what makes the industry “cool”.
“When you think about what cycling is, in all its features, it really is a passionate pastime, especially in America,” Sutton said. “There’s the commuter business, and e-bikes are going to change things for the better as a transportation tool as well as a recreational tool. We can pretend to be a big industry, but the fact that we’re all here That’s because it’s not a commodity. It’s nerdy cool; it’s athletically cool; it’s geek cool, and you can’t express geek and athletic unless you show up at events.
“So we can manage again. And I think that’s really important.”
Harvey agreed, adding: “At Sea Otter maybe 20 years ago a guy came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you gotta see this guy’s tool he made to remove bearings from a Shimano bottom bracket.’ So Sonny (Brunido) was introduced to me, and it was a smart tool, and I said it was fantastic, and I’ll be ordering 100. Turns out he was local to Gilroy, and now he’s the guy who makes a lot of our bearings, components and tools (as head of US manufacturing).
“It’s the bike industry. You’re at an event, and you meet someone, and the next thing you know, you’re in business.”
Enduro has been in business since 1996, primarily as an OEM bearing supplier, but is now also building aftermarket and direct-to-consumer channels. It supplies bearings to hundreds of OEM customers, from major bicycle and component manufacturers to frame builders who make 20-30 a year.
With more than 1,200 products in its catalog, Enduro does not require its distributors or dealers to carry a certain allowance, Sutton said. “It’s absolutely impossible for a bike shop to have every possible bottom bracket in their inventory,” Sutton said. “They carry popular bottom brackets with the bike lines they sell in the store.”
Sutton added that Enduro’s direct-to-consumer business is to help those who cannot find a replacement for their LBS.
“We have no problem with every one of our distributors globally not wanting to carry all 1,200 SKUs. But at the same time, we want to make sure that if a consumer needs a bearing, they have access This is the major change in our strategy in terms of direct consumption.
And returning to the Enduro focus at Sea Otter…
“We believe the best service we can provide to our primary customers, both our aftermarket channel partners and our OE customers, is to increase consumer awareness of Enduro,” Sutton said. “It goes back to what we try to accomplish at Sea Otter: create an appetite for Enduro when a consumer walks into a bike shop.”
Not only has Enduro made a name for itself for the quality of its bearings, but it is also a well-known consultant in the industry and sometimes designs custom bearing solutions. Harvey said that was how he started, working on Gary Fisher and Bianchi suspension bikes in the 1990s.
“When I started in bearings it included making special bearings for Cane Creek, Intense, Foes, some of the first downhill guys that were breaking stuff on those bikes,” Harvey said. “I’ve been trying to solve bearing problems for a long time.”
And it probably still has a few of those spare bearings tucked away.
“If someone comes to us with a GT i-Drive, we might still have the rolling stock in the warehouse from 25 years ago,” Harvey said. “Every manufacturer in the bike industry has weird bearings, and we probably have them.”
Harvey said Enduro has overcome supply chain challenges during the pandemic to meet demand. Enduro has facilities in California, Singapore, Taiwan and China.
“We haven’t been the slowest link in the OE supply chain,” Harvey said. “We were pretty much on it all the time and able to supply the factories and the aftermarket. That’s not to say we weren’t sometimes short of material. For the most part, we were able to keep up rhythm.”
Harvey and Sutton declined to say much about news last month that the U.S. Trade Representative’s office reinstated 352 expired product exclusions, affecting bicycle products from China, which were subject to a U.S. tariff. 25% under Section 301 since January 1, 2021, when the previous exclusion expired. Enduro was hit by tariffs and had to raise their prices by around 10%.
“This topic is politically charged,” Sutton said. “We have no influence on the tariffs, we can simply react to them.”
Another issue recently has been rising shipping costs, with container and air shipments doubling and tripling, Harvey said. “It’s all built into the price. That said, we haven’t increased our prices by more than 10% in most cases over the past two years. I’m pretty proud of that.”
E-bike bearings are a growing market, especially for bottom brackets and hubs, said Harvey, who added that he was working with a customer on a rear hub bearing to work with a thicker axle. to prevent breakage but inside the same hub shell.
“We’re also making a special bottom bracket bearing for a (torque) sensor bottom bracket e-bike right now for another customer,” Harvey said.
Interior components like bearings aren’t sexy, but Sutton hopes that through awareness and education at events like Sea Otter, it will change that view.
“Component companies do a great job of marketing their advantages over their competition,” Sutton said. “And riders come in and say I want SRAM this or I want a Shimano that or I want a Maxxis tire on the bike I’m buying or I want a Continental tire. Hopefully over the next three to five years people will go to bike shops and say I want my brand new bike to have Enduro bearings. We believe this will grow our business in both aftermarket and OE.”