Giant announced this week that it launched its own range of single-crown suspension forks. Reportedly, "Crest" forks will offer performance and reliability that matches or exceeds present offerings from the likes of RockShox, Fox, and SR Suntour.
Giant won't be the first bicycle brand to develop and sell its own suspension components, but it may be the first to succeed. Cannondale, Specialized, Trek, K2, AMP, and Scott headline the list of bike brands that went out surfing and crawled out burping after launching their own fork or shock. Giant's bid for a piece of the suspension market, however, could stick.
Giant Crest 34 Details
• Use: Trail / XC (not e-bike approved)
• Construction: Air-sprung, aluminum steerer, crown and stanchions, magnesium lowers.
• 34mm stanchion tubes
• Cartridge damper
• Travel: 100/120mm
• Adjustments: Low-speed compression & low-speed rebound, air-spring tokens
• Self-adjusting negative spring
• Remote lockout option
• Weight/Price: NA
• Contact: Crest landing page
Giant Bicycles is internationally recognized as the most vertically integrated manufacturer in the cycling industry. In layman's terms, that means raw materials like plastic, steel wire, bare carbon fiber, and aluminum ingots enter at one side of the factory and bicycle frames roll out the other side. Giant's brand is a global powerhouse, but their manufacturing division also makes and assembles bicycles for a number of prestigious names.
To meet those production demands, Giant Taiwan consumes volumes of components - numbers that defy imagination. Much of those are purchased from notable suppliers like SRAM, DT Swiss, Shimano or Maxxis. Larger numbers come from lesser known, more economically friendly sources, but over time the Giant factory has taken over much of that business, using its manufacturing expertise and economy of scale to further pad its bottom line. Now, it seems, Giant is ready to fold a significant portion of the forks it has been purchasing from the big three suspension makers into its in-house manufacturing machine.
After you've made a ten million elite level carbon and aluminum suspension bikes and a gazillion dropper seatposts, a single-crown suspension fork should seem like a piece of cake. Unlike the aforementioned bike brands, Giant actually makes their own stuff, so they have the ability to control their quality, evolve the technology, and make incremental improvements as production moves forward.
Consider also that suspension for technology has reached a point of stability, The greatest leap forward in the past five years has been the addition of a rubber bag on top of the damper cartridge. This is a perfect time, then, for a large, vertically integrated manufacturer like Giant to enter the suspension business with a lower priced, equally performing product that is targeted to OEM customers. For the right deal, that "Crest" logo could just as easily become "Trek" or "Specialized."
Can Crest Suspension Succeed?
Every indication points to a massive commitment to future production.
We know very little about Giant's Crest fork, beyond the tech that is sparsely peppered into their press release and video. What we do know it that follow-through, not vanguard technology is the key to success in the suspension arena.
If Giant demonstrates a manufacturing program of continuous improvement, and can successfully navigate global customer service, warranty returns, and technical support, they could easily become a
Why the Others Failed
The reason bike brands failed is that they don't make their stuff and their overarching concern is selling bikes. Five engineers whose main duties are designing and trouble-shooting bikes are tasked with coming up with a suspension fork. They work with a reputable manufacturer and eventually, one appears and it's probably good, but then the team goes back to work on bikes.
Forks arrive and get sold and that continues until a problem arises. At that moment, the fork is usually out of date anyway, so it's easier and more economical to drop the program entirely rather than to start over. Bikes are your bread and butter, not suspension - if you're a bike brand, you always have a fall-back position. The exception here is Cannondale, who established a separate suspension division for their Lefty and made a valiant, long-term commitment.
If you are a suspension maker, that's what you live or die for. The reason that Fox and RockShox are still around is that everyone from the top down lives and breathes suspension, and that creates the environment of constant improvement and the stream of micro-innovations that make their products both durable and trustworthy. Arguably, follow-through and customer support makes or breaks suspension companies, and this will be Giant's greatest challenge.
key player - especially in the emerging e-market, where customers are less brand motivated when it comes to key components like wheels, drivetrains, and, um, suspension. If I were Fox, SRAM or SR Suntour, I'd be concerned about this.