Profile: Cycle care brand Crankalicious on attention to detail and gaining traction overseas

Like most journeys in the bicycle business, Crankalicious was borne of a frustration and a notion that there was room for improvement on existing products. Here, brand manager Tony Hetherington talks making cycle care goods in the UK and growing exports…

Mixed in the very same space where 11 year cleaning and lubrication business Dodo Juice makes a plethora of car care solutions, Crankalicious came to fruition thanks to much of the same knowledge of chemicals and the physics of keeping moving parts moving.

Tony Hetherington, brand manager for Crankalicious since the label burst on to the scene in 2016, joined with three passions: “cars, bikes and cleaning”. A cyclist himself, Hetherington said that there’s few things more fun than starting a business that centres on dirtying bikes.

“The first six to eight months was all riding, dirtying, testing and cleaning different bikes. It was important to us to come to market with a full range of products in order that we quickly attract distributors. That also gave us more development time to perfect our recipes. Gladly i-Ride saw something in our brand and has since run with it getting us into bike shops, Wiggle and Evans Cycles, so the market’s really taken to our brand.”

With UK progress gathering pace, the recruitment drive will continue overseas, we’re told.

“We’re now in six countries having tied up some new partnerships at Eurobike. So you’ll now find Crankalicious in Belgium, Poland and Holland, among others, but we would be keen to develop our western European presence and, when the time’s right, make progress in the United States,” says Hetherington. “That’s not to say our work is done in the UK. We’re proud to produce right here in Elsenham and have plenty more shops locally we’d love to supply.”

Producing 100 to 200-litre batches at its Essex headquarters, the production line stays fluid, adapting quickly to demand with all raw materials held on site. This short lead time advantage is a big perk for stockists, but it’d be wrong to assume quick turnaround doesn’t mean a high focus on quality control. The on-site scientists tell us that small errors can prove costly in this business.

“If you’re making 500 litres of a product that’s 80% water then small errors aren’t often costly. That said, we measure things like dyes on threepoint scales to get our measurements below a single gram in many cases. Consistency and precision is key, get the recipe wrong and side effects on the end product can happen,” explains one of Crankalicious’ lab technicians.

It’s this attention to detail that has caught the eye of Team Wiggins, whom the firm supplies with product since signing the prestigious deal in March. This will become a central pillar of the firm’s marketing drive going forwards, supporting bike shops just as the winter begins to take its toll on bikes.

With the Team Wiggins deal in place the firm says that it’s more than happy to pitch its products and pricepoints at the premium end of the market. As such, the packaging is smart, informative and won’t look at all out of place in high-end boutique bike shops.

Point of sale material has been carefully developed to show off the vivid colour palate against a matte black backdrop with ‘handmade cycle care’ displayed prominently on each display unit.

For the countertop a five tier freestanding unit is offered from i-Ride, as is a much larger square shelved display capable of hosting the entire cycle care range.

Further supporting shops, Crankalicious has developed a clever sample system under the ‘Kwipe’ (Quick wipe) banner. These sachets, delivered in a countertop display box, enable customers to sample any one of five products in the wipe on format.

Pairing both the firm’s knack for marketing and the Kwipe product, Crankalicious bolstered its fanbase with a clever April Fools’ joke earlier this year. Tapping into the ‘weight weenie’ mindset, a Kwipe sachet featuring coarse sandpaper was created, with Hetherington pretending to sand down a carbon frame in a short flick promising weight savings. Dubbed the weight wipe’, Hetherington tells us, with a smile, that customers actually added the product to baskets before the penny dropped, thanks to the promise of ‘marginal grains’ in the product notes.

Despite the good humour, there are some seriously well considered products creeping into the range. Particular highlights that perhaps aren’t commonly found within other ranges include specific Merino garment wash, lycra specific care products and matte finishing spray specific to carbon fibre frames. The latter, we’re told is no easy product to manufacture and one which many get wrong as a result.

“Matte finishes are, at a microscopic level, quite abrasive, while glossy finishes are flatter and without the same gaps. As such it’s quite difficult to make a product that doesn’t just ‘fill in the gaps’ and turn the frame to gloss. Our Carboniferous cleaner manages it though, so while specialist, it’s a great product to have in your shop’s artillery in order to impress customers,” says Hetherington.

If a theme runs throughout, it’s that attention to detail is something Crankalicious takes great pride in. The aforementioned Aqua Merino care product is lightly scented, as are many more of the products. In this instance, it’s with a Mint and Cedar fragrance that is shown to repel moths and thus associated damage; a subtle, but very clever detail.

In total there are 18 different cycle and clothing care lines in varying volumes. Furthering the workshop supply, experience from the car care side trickles through to around 15 different accessories, ranging cloths through to cycle-specific sponges. Made available in very special cases is a branded mechanic’s bag, as sported by the i-Ride reps as they introduce the brand in store.

If you are interested in carrying Crankalicious in store the main contact is distributor i-Ride, contactable on 01444 243000.

For international distribution enquiries, contact Hetherington on: tony@crankalicious.com.