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Crank Farm develops online auction site for performance bikes

Published April 7, 2022

MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) — Chris Caughman created the online bike auction platform Crank Farm during the pandemic, a time when he got out on the bike and read a lot about cycling.

"I was struck by the number of articles and posts online detailing buy-sell scams across major platforms," said Caughman, whose 14-year healthcare background includes leadership roles in sales, marketing, strategy, and platform development.

CrankFarm is exhibiting at the Sea Otter Classic expo area this week. "It bummed me out, honestly," he said of the bike theft.

"I've had a bike stolen and was told to 'keep my eyes on the platforms.' I love cycling, and this felt like an issue worth digging into. After this experience I decided there was a better way forward. ..."

The way forward for Caughman is developing a website community for cyclists to buy and sell performance bikes through a trusted social auction platform. Based out of Nashville, Tennessee, Crank Farm went live in March to create a commission-based platform to reduce "friction" associated with buying and selling.

So far, Crank Farm has curated a list of more than 150 bike brands that can be auctioned, and is currently available only to U.S. sellers and buyers.

Crank Farm considers "performance bikes" to be ones that typically retail between $1,000-$10,000 plus. Auctions can be set to run for three, five, or seven days, with reserve and non-reserve formats allowed. If a bike sells, the seller pays Crank Farm 7.5% of the winning bid up to $500. There is no listing fee.

Winning bidders pay Crank Farm 1% of the winning bid up to $40. Crank Farm recommends to sellers for shipping but also provides tips for doing it yourself. Buyers and sellers can leave feedback on the transaction.

Among the up to 10 photos a seller can post, one has to be of the bike's serial number. Crank Farm also urges buyers to use the registration service Bike Index as a resource.

Is that enough to deter the listing of stolen bikes?

"No, but it is a start in the right direction," Caughman said. "We have other processes in place, too. For example, we require a valid U.S. credit card on file before you can bid or sell, and we work with partners to vet every bike listed with law enforcement. If a bike listed on our website has been reported stolen, we will intervene and cooperate with law enforcement."

He encourages all cyclists to register their bikes through the manufacturer, local bike shop where purchased, or through registry organizations like Bike Index or 529 Garage.

"At the very least people need to write down and photograph the serial number so they have it in the unfortunate scenario that they need to report it," Caughman said.

Sea Otter is providing Caughman the opportunity to get the word out with swag and offer a chance to demo the site from his 10x10 branded booth. "Many cyclists go to Sea Otter to ride and then walk the exhibit area with their bikes," he said. "We are setting up a photo area for anyone that wants to photo a bike for a Crank Farm listing. Quality photos are important."

Launching the site required Caughman to bootstrap and receive assistance from friends and family. The company goal for the first year is to support the sale of 1,000 bikes through the platform. "This is certainly ambitious for a brand-new company, but I am optimistic," he said. "This would result in 2,000 happy cyclists, more riding, and the ability for Crank Farm to give back. That would be an epic first year, in my opinion."

Crank Farm is at booth A16 at the Sea Otter Expo.  

Topics associated with this article: Sea Otter Classic

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