Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Mountain bikes
After two decades in Washington state, the pioneering manufacturer of downhill mountain bikes moved to Colorado in early 2020 to usher in new growth with more models.
With a heritage in downhill mountain bikes, the company is different than most mountain bike companies, according to Lance Canfield. "They'll start with a hardtail and work into designing a full-suspension bike and then a downhill bike. That's usually the last one that they'll do, because it's the hardest one. I went straight to the 12-inch travel bike," he says. "It was fantastic, and it gave me a huge advantage in racing. I immediately started winning every race that I competed at."
Big changes are afoot for the company, as brothers Lance and Chris Canfield have split their company, Canfield Brothers, into two separate ventures: Canfield Bikes, owned by Lance; and Suspension Formulas, owned by Chris. Canfield Bikes will continue to use the Canfield Balance Formula (CBF) suspension patent that the brothers developed. Chris, the patentholder on CPF, will continue to license the technology to other bike manufacturers like Colorado's Revel Bikes.
Relocating to Colorado's Western Slope is something of a homecoming for Lance and his partner, Michelle Good. He was raised in Utah and worked with the company now known as MRP in Grand Junction. "I already knew that I wanted to be in Fruita," says Lance. "I lived here 15 years ago and I just love it here. I'm a desert guy."
Good notes that Fruita has a great mountain bike community, and culture. "We're close to a kind of a like-minded talent pool," she says. "People that are passionate about bikes and we thought it would be a great place to build our team as we grow. Also, the year-round riding is a huge benefit for us and having easy access to high-country riding and bike parks. Canfield was born to go downhill a little bit more than up."
The central location was another lure, she adds. "One of the biggest issues about being in Washington is having to ship product all the way to the East Coast. It takes a little bit longer. So being in Colorado gives us the opportunity to be able to shift kind of more centrally."
Where Canfield Bikes manufactures
The Canfields built the bikes by hand for the first five years of the company. "We were spending all of our time working on frames and not really working on growing the business," Lance says. "We didn't have time to design up new bikes."
That bottleneck led to the decision to move production to Taiwan. "Taiwan is where most of the bikes and components are manufactured these days," explains Good. "Lance explained to me that Taiwan is kind of like what Detroit was back in the day for bikes. They have the resources and infrastructure to specialize in bike manufacturing. We've got a number of manufacturers that we work with there. We do some components as well as bikes."
Adds Lance: "They're all really close and there's so much going on in the bike industry that it is really easy for them to shuffle product around from different companies. There's one company that cuts the tubes for our frame. There's another sandblasting company, there's an anodizing company, a paint company, and a sticker company. They're all separate companies and all work together as the infrastructure to provide a finished product. And so working in Taiwan gives you all of that infrastructure and all of those connections are already made."
The company initially manufactured Lances's patented pedals with a larger company in China, but he had to send them a cease-and-desist order because they were misusing the technology. With Taiwanese manufacturers, Canfield Bikes hasn't had any problems with companies "backdooring" or stealing proprietary technology, Lance says. "They're really good about that kind of stuff."
Now that the brothers have split the business into two companies, Lance plans to expand the Canfield Bikes catalog and hire new employees. He plans for the company to reach about 20 employees by 2024.
First, Canfield will start introducing several new models beyond its Balance suspension model and its Nimble 9 hardtail frame. "We've got a couple of bikes that we're going to be coming out with this fall that will be also trail bikes, but with bigger wheels, which is kind of what we need in our line right now," Lance says. "With our downhill heritage, we'll be introducing a new downhill bike this year as well."
"Getting back to building a whole bunch of really cool bikes is my goal," he adds "I want to continue to lead the charge on the newest, latest, greatest technologies."