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…