You are here

Enduro Bearings hoping to educate, raise awareness about the humble bearing

Published April 8, 2022

MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) — Let's talk tech, bearings specifically, with somebody who spent his childhood testing the structural limits of BMX bikes.

"There are a lot of things inside bearings people just don't know about," said Matt Harvey, co-founder of Enduro Bearings based in Oakland, California. "The most common bearing in the industry, for instance, is a 6902-2RS. However, inside you can have possibly three different ball sizes, different groove depths, all sorts of different things can go on inside that bearing."

Nothing screams "bike geek" like talking about the humble bearing, which could be the least appreciated and ignored bike component — that is, until your bottom bracket creaks or headset turns crunchy. Harvey and Rick Sutton, Enduro's business development and marketing director, are hoping to change that, well, one bearing at a time at the Sea Otter Classic.

Enduro is hosting hour-long bearing removal/replacement demonstrations — and wrenching "secrets for success" — at Booth P27 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, while also having its range of products on display, including its new Maxhit Bottom Bracket.

Featured mechanics will include Dan Large — Enduro brand ambassador, owner of XL Velo, and a Volvo NRS Pro Race Mechanic — and Katie Colesberry, Giant-Liv USA's quality control specialist. Adam Snyder from Stan's NoTubes also will 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 we think about what cycling is, in all of its functionality, it's really a hobby of passionate pursuit, especially in America," Sutton said. "There is the commuter business, and e-bikes are going to change things for the better in terms of a transportation tool as well as a recreational tool. We can profess to be a big industry, but the fact that we're all here is because it's not a commodity. It's nerdy cool; it's athletically cool; it's geeky cool, and you don't get to express geekiness and athleticism unless you show up at events.

"So we get to geek out again. And I think that's really important."

Harvey concurred, adding, "At Sea Otter maybe 20 years ago, a guy came up to me and said, 'Hey, you gotta see this guy's tool that he made for removing bearings out of a Shimano bottom bracket.' So Sonny (Brunido) was introduced to me, and it was a clever tool, and I said it's fantastic, and I'll order 100 of them. Turns out he was local in Gilroy, and now he's the guy who makes a lot of our bearings, components and tools (as U.S. manufacturing manager).

"That's the bike industry. You're at an event, and you meet somebody, and next thing you know, you're in business."

Enduro's been In business since 1996, primarily as an OEM bearing supplier, but it's now also building aftermarket and direct-to-consumer channels. It provides bearings to hundreds of OEM clients, from the big bicycle and component manufacturers to framebuilders who make 20 to 30 a year.

With more than 1,200 products in its catalog, Enduro doesn't ask its distributors or dealers to carry a certain allocation, Sutton said. "It's absolutely impossible for a bike shop to have every possible bottom bracket in its inventory," Sutton said. "They're carrying bottom brackets popular with the bike lines they sell in the store."

Sutton added Enduro's consumer-direct business is to help those who can't find a replacement at their LBS.

"We don't have a problem with the fact that every one of our distributors globally doesn't wish to carry all 1,200 SKUs. But at the same time we want to make sure that if a consumer needs a bearing, that they have access to that bearing. That's the major shift in our strategy in terms of consumer-direct."

And dovetailing back to Enduro's goal at Sea Otter ...

"We think the best service we can provide to our primary customers, both our distribution partners in the aftermarket and our OE clients, is to create more consumer awareness for Enduro," Sutton said. "It goes back to what we're trying to accomplish at Sea Otter: to create an appetite for Enduro when a consumer walks into a bike shop."

Not only has Enduro made a name for its bearing quality, it is also a known consultant in the industry and occasionally designs custom bearing solutions. Harvey said that's how he got started, working on Gary Fisher and Bianchi suspension bikes in the 1990s.

"When I got started in bearings, it included making special bearings for Cane Creek, Intense, Foes, some of the early downhill guys who were breaking stuff on those bikes," Harvey said. "I've been trying to solve bearing problems for a long time."

And he likely still has a few of those aftermarket bearings stashed.

"If somebody comes to us with a GT i-Drive, we might still have the bearing in the warehouse for it from 25 years ago," Harvey said. "Every manufacturer in the bike industry has some odd bearings, and we probably have them."

Harvey said Enduro has met the supply chain challenges during the pandemic to fulfill 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've been pretty much on it the whole time and able to supply the factories and aftermarket. That's not to say we weren't out of stuff sometimes. For the most part, we've been able to keep up."

Harvey and Sutton declined to say much about last month's news that the U.S. Trade Representative's office reinstated 352 expired product exclusions, affecting bike products from China, that were subjected to a 25% U.S. Section 301 tariff since Jan 1, 2021, when the previous exclusion expired. Enduro was affected by the tariffs and had to raise prices about 10%.

"This subject is politically charged," Sutton said. "We don't have any influence on the tariffs, we can just react to it."

Another issue recently has been rising shipping costs, with container and air shipments doubling and tripling, Harvey said. "All of that is being built into the price. That said, we haven't raised our prices more than 10% in most cases in the last 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 he's working with a client 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 client," Harvey said.

Inboard components like bearing aren't sexy, but Sutton hopes through awareness and education at events like Sea Otter will change that view.

"Components companies do a great job of marketing their advantages vs. their competitors," Sutton said "And bike riders go in and say I want SRAM this or I want a Shimano that or I want a Maxxis tire on the bike I buy or I want a Continental tire. We're hopeful over the next three to five years that people will actually go into bike shops and say I want my brand new bike to have Enduro Bearings in it. We think that will grow our business in both the aftermarket and OE."

Enduro Bearings brand ambassador and mechanic Dan Large holds his bearing clinic on Thursday.
Topics associated with this article: BRAIN Source Book, Sea Otter Classic

Join the Conversation