It's pretty common for people to summarize what we do as simply importing generic carbon bike parts and selling them here for a profit. It's true that we do in fact import frames and wheelgoods, but to say that what we do is only importing is like reducing osteopathic surgery to mere manual labor. There's a bit of nuance lost there, and many layers of activity invisible in the finished product, but very much responsible for what actually is produced.
Let me give you an example. Here's a picture of a new carbon fiber stem we brought in to start testing. We know the supplier this came from, having bought from them before. Their stuff has so far been stiff, lightweight, beautifully finished - in a word (Dave's word), baller. So we had high expectations when we ordered the stems. When they first arrived I was a little disappointed in the weight. They came in around 20g higher than I'd like - not a deal-breaker, particularly when a good deal of that excess can be trimmed with a ti bolt kit. Besides, I was principally interested in the stiffness. Dave started testing a 100mm version earlier with a set of 3T bars, and reported admirable performance. I planned to test yesterday, so mounted the 110mm stem on my bike and clamped on some Deda RHM 02 bars. I tightened down the faceplate to spec and then straddled the bike to check the position. When I placed my hands on the hoods the bars slid down like they were greased and of ABEC 5 quality. I loosened the faceplate, re-adjusted the bars, tightened down about 25% tighter. Again, they slipped. Repeat, redux, repeat again until I've nearly rounded out the inside of the stem bolts and am using so much force that I'm boring the screw heads into the carbon faceplate. And the bars are still slipping.
Now it may be that my particular stem is having trouble with these particular bars, or it may be that this stem in general will not work with a glossy painted bar of any type. It doesn't much matter. Worst case scenario the stem design or construction is flawed; best case scenario is that 1 out of the 3 we ordered is misfire. Either way the stem is going into the garbage, and will never be available for sale from November. No matter how ineffably beautiful it is, and how many of them we think we could sell. We're not going to tell our customers these can only be used with matte finish bars, or threaten to void the warranty if they discover some new condition under which they don't work. Customers aren't coming to us for a project or an asterisk - they want a solution. We don't have confidence that this product is an unqualified solution, so it doesn't make the cut.
We keep our product line lean for two reasons. The first is that we want to be dead to rights certain that everything we sell meets our own high standards - not just as the guys who run the company, but as passionate racers whose skin, teeth and means of gainful employment all depend on the reliability of our equipment under extreme duress. But the other reason you won't see us with half a dozen road bikes, a handful of cross frames, a couple of TT frames and a stable of MTB frames on offer is that for each discipline our objective is to pick the bike that we believe - personally, through our own experience and testing and qualifications - is the best representation of performance and value that we're able to offer. We don't open a Taiwanese bike catalog, see a pretty picture and remark, "Ooh, I bet we could sell a bunch of those." Instead, whenever we shop for a bike for you, we're shopping for one for ourselves as well. And we love the bikes we have now, so if we ever come out with a new one it's going to be a meaningful improvement over our current Wheelhouse.
That's no small part of what we think a bike company should do - help customers choose. I don't understand brands that offer a bunch of different bikes all aimed at the same racer / deep enthusiast audience. That doesn't feel like an effort to be of any use to customers; it just looks like a wide net in which to snare as many of them as possible. Give me Trader Joe's over WalMart any day. I believe no small part of a brand's proposition is to relieve customers of some of the burden of decision-making. Making decisions all the time is hard, and without brands it would be utterly paralyzing. If you trust that the brand understands you and what you want, and is able to deliver it to you, your life is easier. Now the flip side of this is that the total universe of customers available to us is smaller. If someone really wants a bike with pencil-thin seat stays, we will always disappoint them. Nothing to see here, please move along. We're OK with that - we'd rather score a direct hit with a fewer number of customers than talk a multiple more into giving us a shot and then hoping they're not disappointed.
There are a lot of things that companies (bicycle and otherwise) do to make up for a lack of the editing and screening function that Dave and I put so much energy into. Warranties, 30-day return policies and similar programs all make it a little easier for a customer to take a chance. Programs like that are easy to implement and are simply a function of economics - you figure out how likely they are and add in margin accordingly. But wouldn't it be better to trust a company enough that you don't feel like you're taking a chance at all? We're only a year old - we're certainly not that company yet, not for most people. But that's where we are aimed. We want our customers to see, understand and trust all the decisions we make.
Importing carbon fiber frames and rims - hell, anyone can do that. It's just paperwork and patience. But are you gonna buy pins for your shattered clavicle on eBay and let some guy on Craigslist put them in for you?