Coincidental to this stroll down memory lane, CyclingTips has an episode of their very good "From The Top" podcast up now, with the founders of Curve Cycling, that sounds a lot like our journey. They share a lot of the questions and worries that we face every day.
A bigger part of our history than what happened, or how Larry's screwed up wheel builds turned me into our wheel builder, or what model of hub we used, was how we chose to go forward and interact with our customers. The blog was foundational to this - we decided at the very start that we would be as transparent as possible, avoid the false proprietary claims that were growing like mold throughout this new landscape of DTC (or "rider owned" as some chose to call it) bike brands, and just treat everyone as though we were friends. Of course this had some strange side effects, one of which was that we got dozens of emails of the "hey, love what you guys are doing and I'd like to do it myself - hit me up with all your contacts and everything so I can get on it, would you?" variety. That's still a head scratcher.
More important than that ridiculousness was that we knew that not every interaction would be conflict free. The bike industry has a long history of "JRA" - just ridin' along - incidents, which for the two of you who've never heard this phrase goes broadly along the lines of "I was just ridin' along when my frame spontaneously broke in half in a way that looks exactly like I backed into it with the car. I'll need a warranty replacement." This isn't to say that weird stuff doesn't happen, and it's not to say that most people are dishonest, nor is it even to say that this JRA thing is that big a deal. But people like that are out there, and even among people with the best of intentions, there are differences of perspective and expectation, and those can create conflict.
Mike proposed what we call "the NY Times rule," which simply put is that we should never have a customer interaction that we wouldn't feel comfortable trying in the most public of courts of public opinion - the cover of the NY Times.
Though there are the odd times when we can't amicably resolve a difference between our perspective and a customer's, we believe that this rule has served us and our customers as well as possible over the years. Our approach has cultivated an audience and customer base that works very well with our mindset. It's never been a fast growth curve, but it's worked close to well enough often enough that here we still are 10 years later.
Next time, more of a "things that happened in our timeline" discussion of how we got stupid enough to finally make our own product - the Rail 52.