Aaron Gwin to Join Crestline as Rider & Part-Owner for 2024 - Full Interview & Podcast

Feb 15, 2024 at 12:49
by Henry Quinney  

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When the UCI team list was released for the upcoming season, there were many answers to be found about who will be riding what. One inclusion that didn't reveal any details, however, was Aaron Gwin's name under his eponymous racing team. What bikes were they riding? What would this team look like? And will Gwin himself be lining up at World Cups this year or be confined to the commentary box as he rehabilitates from an arm injury sustained early last season?

We now have all the details. In short, the bikes will be from Crestline, but don't go thinking this is a standard sponsorship deal. It will run far deeper, with Gwin taking part ownership in the brand that was founded a mere couple of years ago. Although not their first outing at World Cups, the RS 205 VHP frame was raced under Sam Blenkinsop last year, this does feel like a big step up for a brand that is still so relatively young. In an interesting twist, this isn't a standard multi-year sponsorship deal, and Gwin will be coming on as a partner as an owner of the business at Crestline.

Gwin will be joined by Canadian racers Seth Sherlock and Mikey Delesalle. The team will race 2024 UCI downhill World Cups, World Championships, and select National races.

Aaron made time for us during a very busy team camp. While it might sometimes seem to be all glitz and glamour in mountain biking, I love the fact that we're still raw enough to sometimes be about propping up a laptop in short-term accommodation as you pack in as much preparation and planning as you can, and answering questions honestly that fans of the sport will likely want to know about. I'm thankful that even as mountain biking becomes more pro the level of access athletes and team owners are prepared to grant media is so great, and it personally only makes me love mountain biking and World Cup racing even more.

The team will race Crestline’s RS 205 VHP

Henry: Aaron Gwin, thank you for coming on The Pinkbike Podcast. Now this is quite exciting because you are at a test camp. You're literally getting ready for the season as we speak. And although it's quite late and even people checking out the UCI team list will have seen you registered, they don't know what bike you'll be riding. I don't know what bike you will be riding. It's all very exciting. So fill us in, what are your plans? What will you be riding as we go into this 2024 season?

Aaron: Yeah, man. So it's been a journey for sure. For starters, this off season has been different than pretty much any other off season I've ever had - I think just at the point in my career that I'm at and the things that I'm hoping to do in the future. We have the bike park here at Windrock now that we're running and we've been putting a lot of time into that. We've got the race team. I've had a race program for about seven years now, but I'm running it under my own name now, which has been exciting and we can dig into all those details. Then yeah, actually I am adding a bike brand to my list of businesses now too. So I'm partnered as an owner of the new bike brand. And because of that, the deal has just taken more time. Like I was really kind of patiently going about trying to find the right fit, kind of moving forward for the rest of my career and then once I'm retired as well.

The bike brand I'll be riding for is Crestline Bicycles. I'm super excited. It's been kind of crazy, and different than maybe some people would expect or think. But really, like I said, it's been a different journey this off season. I've been trying to really find good alignment more than anything. And I think long term for me, I've always wanted to start my own bike company.

I thought about it a few times and you know, so this is basically, like I said, there's a lot of alignment between myself and the guys running that thing, and I feel like it's a perfect fit for everybody. And so I kind of get to be a part of that now.

Henry: How does this differ from your setup within Intense? Because that was more than just racing, right?

Aaron: Yep. Yeah. So Intense, I was hired to be like one of their factory riders, but to also manage their factory race team for them. So the race program, Intense Factory Racing, the last five years was owned, operated and managed by myself and my team that I put together. So Intense was, per se, the title sponsor of the program and we ran that whole team.

I've kind of been doing that for a long time, even back with YT, Martin technically owned that program, but I kind of put it all together. We've just been inching that way for a long time now. So yeah, not much has really changed now with Gwin Racing. It's really the name, but a lot of the staff and a lot of the people are staying the same. There are some changes but it's a continuation of what we've been doing, just under my own name now.

The RS 205 VHP is, as the name would suggest, a virtual high-pivot with an idler.

Henry: You talk about buying into this Crestline project. What's that going to look like in terms of how Crestline is structured? Are you going to hold some sort of position within the company? Are you a silent partner that just happens to race the bikes?

Aaron: No, so I'm not buying in. Basically, the goal there is to be an equal parts partner with Troydon and Mark, the other two owners. So we'll each own a third of the company as the goal moving forward and there's a clear path for me to basically get there. So that's kind of where we're at. We're all in this thing together. And, yeah, just excited. We already have a lot of plans and a lot of things we're talking about.

I think for me, I've had such a fun and cool career. I've been fortunate to ride for some of the absolute best bike brands in the industry and work with so many cool people. I think over the years, I've obviously learned a lot and gained a lot of experience. And I don't know, I have always looked at it. I'm like, man, if I could do this myself, and if I didn't have any rules or guidelines I needed to work around, like, how would I do this? Or how would I start a bike brand?

So I've even been to the factories in China and Taiwan years ago and done some research and always considered it. It was just really hard to do while I was in the middle of chasing championships and stuff. But that's ultimately what I've always wanted to do. We had chatted about it a little bit with Intense on the ownership stuff. I know a lot of people think that I had ownership there. We definitely talked about it, but you know, it was kind of waiting to see if it was going to be the right fit down the road.

And we ended up going different directions there, which worked out well for me and just what I want to do in the future. Like I said, I think I've been working under a traditional sponsorship model for so many years, and you renegotiate these contracts every two or three years and you're just kind of in this like a revolving door. And I was like, man, I really want to find a home and build something that's mine or I'm a part of it long-term. You know, you put all this time and effort, it's hard to be switching every couple of years.

It just worked out really well. You know, I was thinking about starting my own thing again. I also talked to quite a few brands this off season, just like we're looking for the right fit and the right alignment going forward and chatting with Troy a lot at Crestline, we really just hit it off. And I think we have very similar visions to what we want to do in the future and kind of how he views things and how I view things.

Yeah, it was kind of crazy how it all came together, but we kind of just got to a point where it was like, man, like, why don't why don't we do this together? It worked out really cool that way.

Words to live by.

Henry: So reading between the lines, it sounds like a stake in ownership, almost equity in the company for sponsorship. Would that be how it worked?

Aaron: No, the sponsorship and the team thing is honestly kind of separate. I committed to running my race program probably three months ago and we had secured enough funding through our co-sponsors and stuff. I really wanted to support Seth and Mikey, specifically, who are the two younger riders that are on my program. Obviously it's a little bit of a more challenging year financially for a lot of bike brands, so I would have loved to keep Dakotah and some of the boys on the program as well, but with budgets and how things were moving, they had some really good deals come at them that they needed to make a decision on in a couple of weeks. And I knew I was getting into this transition period where I was looking for something a little more unique that I knew it was going to take more than a couple of weeks to lock something down. I just, I really wanted to continue to go racing, to keep a lot of the base of our staff and our people we've built the last five, six years and support these kids.

And so it was like, all right, let's lock in the team and get everything we need. And then basically had co-sponsors on board and have then just been looking for the right partner on the frame side. I was open to a couple of different opportunities and different things. And we spoke with quite a few brands. I'm fortunate to still be pretty close to a lot of brands I've ridden for in the past and even brands I haven't. So kind of kicked it around with a few people and was just looking for the right fit.

Ultimately, I was hoping for something like this but definitely wasn't going to force it. So that's why the announcement has come late. I wasn't trying to hold off for dramatic effect or anything. I just wanted to find the right fit and was in the fortunate position to not need to be in a hurry to lock a frame brand in. We didn't need the funding at this point. Thankfully, I'm pretty tight with a lot of brands. So if I say, “Hey guys, I just need race frames” they'll send them to me. So it was really trying to find the right fit long-term if it was possible. I was just willing to be pretty patient and methodical to see if that worked out.

It ended up working out and we got a long-term plan with Crestline. Basically I'll just come in as an owner straight away. I'll run the race program as well. My race team will all be on Crestline bikes.

I'm running that segment of the business along with being a partner now with those guys. It'll basically be us making all the decisions on everything we want to be and do moving forward. So really the bigger thing there. The team is a piece of it, but it wasn't why we did the deal. We did the deal because I think we're going to be great partners moving forward and at managing this bike brand in the future and all the things that that will look like.

The Gwin Racing team will feature a solid lineup of young talent, including Seth Sherlock and Mikey Delesalle, who will join Gwin as teammates.

Henry: Some races want to remove the complications of having to organize themselves. I think for many individuals, that's one of the main pulls about going to a bigger, more established team. There's probably a sweet spot though, a trade-off where having the bike you want to ride and having the influence you want within that company that supports you, whilst also not having it be so impactful that it can distract you from your racing. How do you feel that balance is going to be for you this season?

Aaron: It's never easy. I've done this a few times now, so it's not my first time. I think for me, because I've done it a few times, I know that if I have the right team and the right engineers and people that are motivated, that we can make a winning bike. I don't want to sound over the top, but that's not that difficult anymore. I feel like I have the right group of people even now. Dev and my engineer that was with us at Intense and a whole bunch of other people. So if I want to make a fast World Cup winning bike and I don't have a bunch of rules put around what that needs to look like, that's pretty easy for me to do at this point. So it was a little less about the bike directly, this contract, and more about finding the right alignment with a company, like somewhere where I feel like I can really work for years and years and we can really build something that doesn't need to turn over every couple of years. That was more important.

Obviously, the bike is important. I haven't actually ridden the bike yet because my elbow is still healing. I've been back on the bike now off and on for a few months, but it had a couple of complications with it that I've just had to really be very patient with my rehab and kind of do things slower than I would like to. But overall, I'm on schedule for what the doctors say I should be, but I always hope that it will go faster.

I've been back riding really in the last week and this is the first time I've been able to ride without a lot of pain. I've just been riding my trail bike and slowly building up. Seth flew out here about a week ago, my teammate, and he's been testing and riding the bike and he really likes it. And we're already looking into what we have got in terms of different options and things to test there. So we're going to start doing that here in the next couple of days.

Mikey's actually flying in tonight as well. We're really going to get busy now. I've been waiting for everything to come together and I'm excited. The bike definitely looks really cool. And the way it went together is probably the cleanest, nicest bike to put together and the way it looks that I've ever had. The thing is sweet, like really cool.

It's super light, it's very well done. Talking to Troy at Crestline, I think that's where a lot of the alignment was. It's not like, hey, can we just pump out 50,000 bikes a year and do all this stuff? I mean, we're definitely planning to grow and expand into a lot of areas in the future, but whatever we do, we want to do it right. We want it to be quality. We want people to be really happy with the bikes they get, and enjoy great customer service.

We were aligned on a lot of those things. It’s a crazy one, and very different from things I've done in the past, but because of my elbow and just the circumstances, it kind of was what it was. But I'm stoked, dude. I'm excited for a long future with the brand and to be able to be an owner in it and actually participate at that level is a dream come true for me.

An early prototype of the Intense from 2022.

Henry: The track record would back you up with your ability to develop a fast bike and program where all the things come together. We know it's not just the frame. There's so many contributing factors that have to meld together to contribute towards a fast setup. You've been around and working with other teams, but also embedded with a scene where you do hear things, you hear the gossip, you hear the rumor mill. What do you think is the biggest inhibitor to a lot of brands making a fast bike? Because people throw a lot of money at it and not everyone ends up doing it. I’m sure we both hear the same rumor of people not getting on with a bike, or maybe even across a whole team, no one rider really liking their race bike.

Aaron: Yeah, it's tricky. I mean, even with Intense it wasn't easy. It wasn't like we got there in a year; we had some setbacks, we had big delays with COVID, I had a couple injuries along the way that slowed it down. We got to a point where I really needed an engineer that was going to be able to take the feedback I was giving and put that into what we were looking for. And so when Devin came on board, I feel like it really helped fill a couple of those gaps as well.

I mean it's not easy, and I feel like while working with Intense we were so thorough in the way we went through things to get to that finalized race bike. Any gaps I had left in kind of learning, I felt like we figured them out with that bike. So now I think if you have a solid group, I know what numbers, kinematics values and other certain things pretty good.

You’ve still got to work around a lot of things, right? Fortunately at Intense, Jeff said, “Okay, build whatever bike you want” and whatever one we can get dialed in the quickest, and just go for it. So we had kind of no parameters, but with a lot of brands have a certain suspension platform or a certain marketing thing they're trying to push, or they've spent a bunch of money on some new technology or something which… Well, maybe sometimes it's more marketing than function because you don't want to just build the exact same thing that everybody else is building. But sometimes you can back yourself into a corner by doing that as well. Maybe it's not the easiest to set up or the best functioning bike. So there are a lot of different reasons that could be difficult, I guess.

racing in the finals at the 2008 Mt St Anne World Cup Downhill Mountain Bike race
Aaron has had the chance to ride plenty of different suspension layouts in his time, including at his first World Cup outings with Yeti.

Henry: I think if we look back, what was it 10 years ago when that four bar patent expired in North America and people went from telling you that their non four bar system is the absolute best, but how many of those brands were quick to migrate. I think that patents can play a big role in that as well. This Crestline - to the keen observer, there will be some obvious distinctions to the Intense, but to the more casual one there are some similarities. It has got a similar silhouette to the intense, most notably with that idler.

The idler thing's both literally gone up and down. Super high idlers a couple of years ago, they're coming down even with brands like Commencal coming to a mid-high idler. How important do you think that is? Do you think it's a race specific thing? Do you think it's a rider specific thing? And in your testing with Intense, did you find it to be faster?

Aaron: I don't know that there's a magic answer to anything. I think it's really having a well-rounded setup at least for me. I like bikes that kind of do everything well. I don't like to back myself into a corner by making a bike that can just smash bumps, but it's got a really rearward axle path and it's hard to turn.

I usually land in the middle on kind of everything because I feel like when you're racing, you need a bike that's going to be able to do everything pretty good. Then you as a rider need to just maximize those strengths and make the most out of it. The thing that's interesting with the Crestline and I'm really excited about is, I never felt like we really got a hold of that VPP suspension platform with Intense. We went down the road a little bit and I just wasn't familiar with it at the time and I felt like we were in a place where it was like, “Hey, you can make a whole new bike or we can keep messing with this one.”

With Intense when it started off, it was more of a sizing issue at the beginning. Then we had some issues with the kinematics and at the same time as when the wheel sizes were changing to the mullet wheels. And so we were prototyping with that and then we had COVID and then I had crashes. It was just really hard. We never got a chance to really maximize that suspension platform for what I wanted. We got to a point where it was like, “Okay, I know this other one works. I know we can get there pretty quick. Like, let's just do that.” So with the Crestline, it's a VPP platform, just like the older Intense was, but I feel like the kinematics and everything is all really close to where I feel like I would like to be.

It's not a crazy rearward axle path like a lot of bikes.The Intense was rearward enough where you needed the idler pulley. If we would have gone just a little bit less on the axle path we wouldn't have probably needed it. The Crestline falls pretty close to that so I'm excited

We can do whatever we want with that thing. We've got a good team of engineers, and a good geometry starting point and the kinematics. A lot of that actually is pretty funny. Neko Mulally helped a lot with the kinematics on the Crestline with Troydon. So with Neko, before he left Intense, we went out and bought a bunch of the top bikes. We decided what we wanted to do with Intense as far as where we wanted to go with that suspension system in the future. I just wanted to ride everything and see what was what.

We were still at that time where mixed wheel sizes were kind of becoming the new thing. So not every brand had a production mixed wheel size bike out yet, even though their factory teams were on one. I really wanted to get a Santa Cruz, but they didn't have any and we tried. So because of that, we rode the Specialized and the Trek and the Commencal.

I knew Neko was going to go start his own thing and we've always been really tight and I was like, “Hey dude, if I'm going to go buy all these bikes because I want to know kind of like really do a deep dive here”. Not that any one of them are perfect, especially in stock form. A lot of times the race bikes are a little different, but we spent a bunch of time actually here at Windrock testing all those bikes. And we both came to the same conclusions on what we wanted and the direction we wanted to go.

When he started Frameworks, he started putting those kinematics and geo into those bikes. When I moved forward with Intense with those other two bikes, I basically did something pretty similar. So Neko was kind of a big help with Troydon and figuring out the kinematics and the geo and everything for this Crestline downhill bike. So it's kind of funny, like it's the same feedback that went into this bike as into what we were doing. So it's actually pretty close compared to where a lot of things would start, I think.

Gwin amp Brosnan World Champs bikes 2015
Much success was enjoyed aboard the asymmetric demo.

Henry: You’ve mentioned kinematics a couple of times and sort of settled on the attributes that you would want anyway. What do those attributes look like? Are you after something particularly progressive or, dare I say, quite linear?

Aaron: I think it depends. Every bike’s gonna react a little differently especially with what type of pivot set up, whether it's a VPP or four bar six bar or whatever. You can run the same kinematics but they're always going to feel a little different depending on what bike you're on. There are also some other factors that can change some of those things as well.

I think for me, with the kinematics, I've found a setup that's a little bit more linear. I think it's more consistent through the stroke. It was something at Intense, and the YT was like that too, and the Specialized was before bikes were getting really progressive. If you do that in some ways, at least what we were finding is that it's really hard to get the bike to hold up at the top part of the travel. You kind of find, at least for us, this setup where it's really hard to get the bike to have enough hold in the mid stroke support. So when you push into the bike to pump it or to make it turn or get in and out of corners, you've really got that platform to push on. So it doesn't feel like the bike's really wallowy and soft.

If it's a super progressive bike, a lot of times it's softer through that first half of the stroke. Then when it finally does ramp up, it really ramps up deep in the travel. So for us, you end up stiffening the bike so much to get that mid stroke support, but then it's just unreal to try to hang on deep in the stroke. There's a range of acceptability. There's not one number that just works all the time. Your shock tunes and so many other variables go into that.

As far as kinematics go, that's one thing cool about this Crestline is we already have a bunch of different links and we're making some more stuff. So we have a lot of options that can tweak that thing. But I've found that I've kind of started to lean more towards a more linear setup.

Aaron Gwin
Race bikes have changed a lot over the last 10 years.

Henry: I think especially with a race bike you do need so much mid stroke. Progressivity, people often assume it enables you to go faster and it does, but you can also feel like you're in free fall, which can be no good. Back in the day you were famed, especially when you were on Trek or even Specialized, for having an ultra hard setup, especially in the fork. Rob Warner would always be shouting about it. It visibly looked so stiff. Is that something you've persevered with? Do you run a stiffer fork compared to other people the same weight as you?

Aaron: Yeah, I'm probably still on the stiffer side with how I run things, but not like I used to be. The suspension performance and technology have gotten so much better in the last 15 years. I felt like when I was racing, like on Trek, for example, back in 2011 and 12, we were on a 26 inch wheel bike. They were quite a bit smaller, even frame size wise than what we're racing now.

And the suspension and the frame technology, everything about it was just not as good as it is now. So for me to hit stuff as hard as I felt like I needed to hit it and not slow down, I basically just had to make the bike really stiff. It was hard to hang on to. If you were doing bike park laps, you would be miserable. But for a World Cup race bike, if you just wanted to slam into stuff and not slow down, and get the bike to maintain geometry and not be pitching and diving and the steep stuff when you're hitting big holes, I just ended up going really stiff. It was a really fast setup, even though it was tough to hang on to. But nowadays, the suspension works so much better. The bikes work a lot better. The wheel sizes are big. Everything kind of goes to where you don't have to run it that stiff. And it's just way more tuneable, like everything. You can run something that's going to have really good small bump sensitivity, but still have good hold up deep in the travel.

Back then I remember it was like a lot of guys were like “Oh, I just want it to be really supple on the bump.” So they'd run like a softer setup, but then it had no hold down deep. And for me, I thought “I'll skip around on top.” I just need the thing that slams into walls real fast. So I just made it stiff, but thankfully these days you don't have to go so extreme to get the bike to hold up.

Henry: As we look into this season, you obviously mentioned the continuing issue with your elbow. It also sounds like you're very much thinking of the big picture with this Crestline project. Will you be having a run at some races, particularly something like World Champs? And how's that gonna interact with the commitments you might have to Discovery? Will you be commentating again?

Aaron: Yeah, just shout out to all the people that are supporting us and giving me the freedom to do what I want to do. My plan is to come back to racing as soon as I'm 100% fast and strong and healthy. So we'll see. It's been hard, dude. I've never been off the bike this long. I think eight months now and I'm kind of cruising around on a trail bike now for the first time not having a lot of pain when I ride. So that's been really exciting, because usually I ride my bike almost every day and I love it. So being off the bike for eight months has been… I mean, we've been busy for sure, but it's been hard. I've missed it a lot. But I just want to be smart. I don't want to make it worse. I want that thing to heal so I don't have issues down the road. And so just trying to be patient. My plan is to come back to racing as soon as I'm basically 100%. So if that's the first World Cup - sweet - if it's a few rounds in sweet. We have a good gap before World Champs. So my my goal for the last four months or so is to then really make a good push for World Champs this year and so that would have me on the bike and up to speed around the beginning of July and I'd probably do like US National Champs and Crankworx Whistler and as much racing as I can. Hopefully a World Cup or two at least before that and then see if I can go win that race would be awesome. It's in Andorra this year. It's probably my favorite track or one of my favorite tracks and then I'll finish off the season from there. The plan is just to race as soon as I'm back up to speed and feeling good.

I'm chatting with Warner Brothers about the commentating stuff right now. And the plan on that if I miss any of the World Cups, I'll be commentating at those. And then we'll probably work on some TV stuff even at the races I am racing as well. So super excited about that. I don't feel like I'm done racing. I want to keep pushing at it, but I do enjoy the commentating as well. So I want to be at the team supporting or at the races supporting my team, regardless and if I'm there and I can't race, I'd love to do the commentating. So that's the plan.

Fierce competitors and true gentlemen. Greg Minnaar congratulates Aaron Gwin at the finish line.
The 2017 battle between Minnaar and Gwin was one for the ages.

Henry: We see this sort of rejuvenated Minnaar going on to this Norco deal, you're still wanting to talk about winning world champs. Do you care about the whole GOAT debate? Does that mean anything to you?

Aaron: I mean, I'd probably be lying if I said no, right? I'm pretty competitive. I wouldn't say if I was to keep racing, it's because I want to win more races than Greg. I think I love riding my bike. I love racing and I felt like it was really hard to sit on the sidelines last year because I felt really good coming into the season. I had a good year before that.

I felt like we were in a good place with the bike and the equipment last year. I felt physically better than I ever had coming into a year. And then I just went out on my third practice run and missed the whole year. So it was hard, man. The whole plan was to try to be back to winning races and win that World Cup overall title and maybe world champs last year. That was the goal. The hunger to do that is definitely still there. I wouldn't say it would be trying to chase Greg's record, but if I was able to beat it, I definitely wouldn't be mad about it.

Aaron Gwin is edging ever closer to getting back on top of that World Cup podium.
The pace was there at the end of 2022. At Val Di Sole, no less, where Gwin has enjoyed significant success in the past.

Henry: Did you feel, coming back in with those really strong 2022 results, somewhat vindicated? You were really, really pushing on with YT and then moving to Intense and then developing the bike. And there was the question of does he still have it? You know, that sort of commentary was floating about. People often forget that you might be a bike racer for some of your life but you're a human for all of your life and all your live long days. Did that weigh on your mind at all? And did you feel vindicated kind of getting towards the sharp end again?

Aaron: I would say I was just happy because I know the work that I put in and I feel like you know people don't see all the stuff going behind the scenes. It was very challenging. You know for three/four years before I had that good season in 22, the types of injuries I had, how random they were where, I felt like there was literally nothing I could have done. You come up over a blind rise and there's a huge loose rock in the track and you land straight on it and have a huge crash - first practice run - you're like, man, I couldn't have done anything better or different to avoid that. It was just one of those things that happened. I had some parts failures. I had just weird stuff happening. I felt like the whole time I had the speed, I hadn't changed. I battled through some bike stuff for sure. Like setup wise, trying to be comfortable.

And then, with COVID and the injuries and everything kind of compounding, I just never had a chance to like put more than a few months together without some sort of setback. So I think for me I never lost hope. I always know if I'm comfortable and I'm fit, I can compete for wins. It's not easy to have both of those things come together at that level, a lot of things need to go right. But I still feel like I could do that for five more years if I wanted to. That's just my belief. So I wouldn't say I felt vindicated, because it wasn't about trying to do it for anybody else but myself. I just really love the feeling of being comfortable and being on a downhill track and being able to ride that pace and compete for wins. That's always been everything for me when I go racing. So it was more just really fun to be able to start doing that again and I felt like the best was yet to come. We weren't able to quite get there with the injury but we'll see what happens in the future.

Henry: When you turned up to World Cup racing, there were a lot of people who'd been plugging at World Cups for years and maybe having the sort of conversations that you and I are having now. “When I'm comfortable, when I'm happy, I know I can deliver”. And then you turn up and you make winning look so easy. Did it feel easy at the time, winning all those races so early?

Aaron: It never feels easy. It's always been hard. I think, and as I've gotten older, I appreciate it more because I know after winning a lot of races for a lot of years and I would have never said it felt easy. The gap was different back then. I think the sport has just elevated so much. Back then it was just if I had my best run, nobody's going to touch me and I'm probably going to put a big gap in everybody.

Now if you're going to put eight seconds into somebody, it's going to be, unless there's a very unique situation with weather or something… I don't know that that's happening. So just the depth of the field now has just risen so crazy, and there are so many people I feel that are capable of kind of running at that speed. You still do have those top couple of guys that kind of end up winning consistently.

Even last year we had a different World Cup winner every single race except Jackson won two. And then with world champs, Charlie won it. So a different winner every race. It's just the depth of speed and talent is just bigger and better than it's ever been. And like everybody is on a full program now. Like they're all fit, they're all fast, they all have good bikes.

For the most part, it's like, it's just more competitive now, which is great as a fan and a little harder as a racer.

Sharing a podium as teammates in 2022.

Henry: As someone that's been running programs for a couple of years, and has that role of picking riders and selecting riders, if you had a blank check book and weren't interested so much in rider development, who would be the riders that you would pick? If you could sign any one rider from the male elite and female elite, which two riders would you think would be the best investment to go win races this year?

Aaron: That's a tricky one. You're putting me in an awkward spot too because I'm friends with a lot of those guys. I would say, just to keep it simple, if I had the access to money a little sooner in the off season, I would have kept Dakotah. We'll just say that. Dakotah and I, we had a really good time riding and working together.

And it was really cool to see him find some consistency in his speed. He has so much skill and talent on a bike. So to be able to start putting those other little pieces together and kind of start believing in himself that he could do that every weekend. It was really fun. It sucked to be off the bike last year, not racing, but to be able to spend a bit more time with him and the other boys on our team and to see the success was really fun. And I know we were both pretty bummed to not be able to keep doing that this year. So yeah, if I had a contract, maybe I'd just buy him out of his contract.

And for female elites, if you're looking for results, it's really hard to go against Vali right now. I think she's so strong and she's young and I honestly feel like she's still got some progression left. I think there's still some areas there. Like I think there's a good chance she's going to just keep getting better. So yeah, I mean, that would probably be like if I had to pick.

I mean, a bunch of them are awesome. I really love Nina's vibe, attitude, her energy, personality and everything. Every time I see her, I feel like she's smiling and she'd just be somebody really fun to be around. I don't know, just pick any of them really, can't miss Rachel. They're all amazing, and then there's some new junior riders coming up too. Some of those junior girls are ripping. So yeah, we'll see.

A classic team announcement, and a fun way to address the rumours when Gwin left Trek for Specialized.

Henry: And it's so close right now that we're in the field. Through the season, rumors swirled as this is probably the silliest season to date. It feels like it's had a bit of everything. Is that something that you ever keep an eye on in terms of caring what people think is happening? And also as someone that's hunting down deals, it must be kind of strange to hear if X is going to say sign with Crestline, that means I'm not going to Crestline. “Am I going to give any credence to that?”. Is that something you ever consider?

Aaron: No, not really. I know a lot of people now, both brands and riders. So I usually know where everybody's going to end up, three or four months, half the time before it's announced, sometimes sooner. I mean, a few of the athletes call me to help them figure out their deals sometimes. So I'm usually pretty clued in to what's happening. And I kind of just like to laugh at it because a lot of people will be very sure about certain things happening and like it's a hundred percent done deal. I heard it and whatever and you're like, man, you are way off, but it's cool. I think it's fun. It makes it exciting. I'm a huge fan of motocross as well. And as much as it's cool to see a rider like being with a brand forever and if it ends up working long-term, I think it's really cool, but it's also pretty cool to see people just pop onto the track with a different color bike and different gear and a different team. It keeps it fun every year. So I think it's cool. I follow some of the forums a little bit loosely. My wife gets a kick out of reading stuff sometimes. But for the most part, I'm usually pretty clued in on what's happening before most people know.

Henry: At Pinkbike, if you meet a pro rider on their new deal, you would never say if you found out because you’re going on an organized group ride with them. If me and you went riding and you rocked up on a Crestline and hadn't announced it yet, that's not fair game. Whistler bike lift queue, that's kind of different. What's the craziest rumor you've ever seen about you, where you're going over the years?

Aaron: Oh dude, there's been some really good ones. I'm kind of drawing a blank now on what they've been. I know that there's a couple, my wife if she was here would probably yell it at me, but I don't remember. Like everything from KTM motorcycles to… you name it.

Henry: I remember KTM, that was a huge one. That was a whole thing. I was convinced.

Aaron: Yeah, there's a lot of people even now that think that I'm an owner of Intense and they say it like it's fact and I never was. We had chatted about it earlier and I think I maybe had mentioned that in an interview and so people kind of jumped on that but it's funny the things that, not just even sponsorship stuff, like certain things that fans are like “Oh yeah that happened” and you're like man that never happened or if it did, not like that. But that's a power of the old social media.

The bikes use many of the same parts that the previous programme ran, although there are to be some small changes.

Henry: It can run rampant. We know that these are different times for the bike industry. How much has that affected putting this program together? Let's face it, Crestline, they make some really interesting bikes. I think they have a lot of people's curiosity, but they probably weren't the first name to think of when thinking of Aaron Gwin’s new World Cup frame brand.

How different has that process been this year and what's your kind of temperature take on where the bike industry is at currently?

Aaron: I know it's a tough time for a lot of bikes, right? And I'm sensitive to that and aware of that. I think and I hope it's just kind of a natural implication of the last couple of years we've gone through. I mean, with COVID to have a surge in bikes like that, but then have the supply chain shortages and the long lead times and everything where everybody was trying to get outside and buy bikes.

So to me, it's not logical that that level of bike sales would just continue and continue and continue. And you go from having no bikes and selling everything to eventually these are all going to show up and everybody's back to work now, and the world's like back to normal and literally everybody has a brand new bike. So it's probably going to be a few years before they start to buy another bike.

I'm interested to see what happens in the first few quarters of this year, through the spring and summer to see if things are in the aftermarket world and certain things with certain parts and companies I work with starting to turn around a little bit again. So I hope for everybody that it's turning around and I feel like it will. I think cycling and mountain biking is bigger than it's ever been. There's so many people riding. I think it's just that a lot of people bought brand new bikes a couple of years ago. So I think it's going to be a little bit of time till they're ready to buy them again. I don't feel too freaked out about it, but obviously I'm in a different position than some of the brands are.

Henry: And what will these Crestline bikes be equipped with? Will it be the normal mix of Fox, E13, etc?

Aaron: Yeah, we'll see. I mean right now the way Troydon's approached it is that he just wants to make really quality bikes and put the best parts on them. Right now, there's not a bunch of different options of part kits available. They usually just spec them with one kit, which is usually a really high-end kit. They literally only make e-bikes and they did a limited run of 50 downhill bikes. So you can't even buy the downhill bike right now. We'll change that in the future for sure.

But yeah, it's kind of funny. I mean, I'll get some hate for it but if I could only have two bikes in my arsenal, I'd have an e-bike and a downhill bike because I think people think I'm joking when I say I just really like going downhill and I don't love to pedal - but I really love to go downhill and I don't really love to pedal. So e-bikes and downhills for me are the most fun. So I thought that was funny. We both kind of got a kick out of it. Troydon's like I don't know, I made an e-bike and a downhill bike because those are the bikes I like to ride the best.

We want to make really fun bikes that we love and share them with other people. So we'll definitely be expanding the lineup in the future. And we're already chatting about what that's going to look like. We're open to working with whoever on the parts side of things. We just want to work with great brands and spec really good products. So if you have those things lined up, we're not gonna kinda rule anything out really.

The riders and staff are currently shaking the bikes down at a team camp.

Henry: Yeah, I think for a certain section of the consumer having the ability to buy a race replica almost can be really, really valuable. In terms of Gwin Racing sponsors, apart from Crestline, who else will be featuring this year?

Aaron: We're still finalizing a couple of those deals, but more or less it should be pretty much all the sponsors that I had last year. There'll be a couple small little tweaks, but I've been fortunate to be with a lot of these brands for quite a while. We'll be working with a lot of the same brands and that info will all come out soon. We're working on everything. This whole deal, like I said, I was pretty patient to let things come together right. I just wanted to find a brand where I felt like there was a really good future there that I could be involved in for forever really. And so that was the priority. And that's what I'm super excited about with Crestline.

As far as parts and all that, we kind of ironed out the last few details. We’ve got the bikes, and we’re testing. My whole priority was, it would have been nice to announce everything months ago, but as long as my guys on my team are taken care of and they have the parts and the bikes and what they need to do their training right now and stay on schedule, that's been my priority. Obviously, it'd be cool to have kits and everything, logo it up, immediately and all that stuff, but that'll come here in the next month.

The priority was just the boys and making sure they were sorted and letting these pieces really come together. We're finalizing the last few little co-sponsors now. We'll be testing all week. We have all of our final products now and then we'll get graphics on jerseys and all that stuff in the upcoming weeks and shoot a bunch of photos.

Henry: Amazing. Well, thanks for filling us in on the details. It sounds like you've got a lot on and are a very, very, very busy man. Thanks again for coming to The Pinkbike Podcast and best of luck, not only with the season, but also your arm. It must be so frustrating. It's going to be great to get up riding regularly, I'm sure.

Aaron: Thanks. Yeah, appreciate it, man. Yeah, it's doing all right. I’ve got a full range of motion back, which I'm super excited about, and finally starting to ride pain free, which is, I can't tell you how happy that makes me. So we're on the right track and I’m excited. I'll probably get on the downhill bike in a few days, actually. I'll go do a couple of cruisers on an easier track and just start going through the process. The plan is to come back as soon as I'm fit and healthy. We've got a lot of cool projects going on and plan to be at all the races and be heavily involved in a lot of different areas of the sport. So excited, man. Thanks for the time.

Henry: Amazing. Thanks, Aaron.

Author Info:
henryquinney avatar

Member since Jun 3, 2014
336 articles

  • 117 58
 I'm clearly just a moron, but I don't really understand Crestline bikes. I feel like it started out with a dude buying a Megatower and then using a dremmel tool to make it a high pivot. Then he drove up to Cascade Components and talked them into making a link so that his Megatower could be stroked to 205mm of travel and sold as a DH bike.

Then they strategically entered the "I'm retired with a retirement account managed by a wealth manager" market by producing a $14,000 ebike.

Don't get me wrong, it's a cool bike. But I feel like it was (until this moment) a re-branded Santa Cruz modified to be a high pivot. Feels like they just got a lot more legitimate, but the bikes still look like a "Copy" and "Paste without Formatting" from Santa Cruz.
  • 34 3
 Kind of seems to be the way of the bike industry as a whole. A lot of bikes copying other bikes with little tweaks here and there.
  • 46 9
 Not sure if it's a real company or just a rich tech bro's hobby. Only bike they actually sell is a $12,000 e bike.
  • 163 2
 That's a lot of writing for a 'Looks like a....' comment.
  • 36 0
 The horst link / FSR link patent expired, and tons of brands produced variations on that suspension design. Now the VPP patent expired, so brands like Crestline are making VPP bikes. Such is the way of the bike industry.
  • 27 2
 Yeah….but mostly with e-bike focus? It’s pretty cool but I also don’t quite understand it.

I guess maybe I’m just a raging fanboy at this point but I can’t get over how much cooler the We Are One story is than anything else I’ve heard recently in the bike industry. They entirely designed and made their own carbon bike and carbon bar/wheels within North America at some sort of manufacturing scale? And it’s cheaper than other similar-spec competitor bikes made overseas? How is this possible? How is WAO doing this and how are they still in business? Is the owner forced to drive a ‘96 Tercel?!?
  • 18 0
 There are only so many ways to design a bike linkage without getting overly complicated, vpp is one of those ways. Even with vpp, you are usually looking at at least 12 bearings depending on how you drive the shock. It's hard to make something look different from other brands when the motion and the design principles behind them are the same, especially now since people hate curved tubes.
  • 44 20
 Hot take: Santa Cruz is dead. I gladly welcome any new players because the “premium default” aesthetic was getting boring.
  • 25 17
 Bag on Crestline if you wish but they are trying to approach things from different angles and are certainly disrupting the status quo. Super stoked to see this and watch how it all unfolds.
  • 15 1
 - with the exception of the V10, that thing will forever be the ultimate bike.
  • 5 10
flag mariomtblt (Feb 16, 2024 at 8:42) (Below Threshold)
 You are a moron haha nice catch there
  • 7 0
 @AddisonEverett: That being said, remember how the original Outland VPP looked? It was radically different from any current iteration of VPP. www.mtbr.com/threads/outland-vpp-suggestions-please.729830
  • 9 0
 @benede1976: Dude, everyone knows the '93 Camry is where it's at for longevity, frugality and true street cred vibes. lol
  • 32 4
 @Dustfarter: "...disrupting the status quo." Chill bro, this is Pinkbike. Not Techcrunch. Lmao
  • 6 1
 @benede1976: Ministry cycles is also onto something. Name brands on price tags is the only reason for markup.
  • 13 0
 @blissindex: as long as Santa Cruz have Jackson = far from dead
  • 4 0
 @jwdenver: But those they're actually selling. Because they're local to the NW, we're probably the first to see them, but they do show up a fair bit more than I'd have thought, given the price.
  • 1 0
 @benede1976: Given what goes into doing composites right when you're trying to do it as scale, I agree. Doing a full-on brand profile with factory tour would be a neat Pinkbike special.
  • 5 17
flag psycln (Feb 16, 2024 at 10:55) (Below Threshold)
 another bike design this guy can screw up?
  • 11 2
 @jwdenver: These are highly skilled riders making the bikes they want to ride... in small batches because it's a start up. This is not the case of some covid newbs or tech bro's with deep pockets trying to make money the hard way through an ego project.
  • 12 1
 just in case anyone doubts how hard the owners shred, here is a shredder following Mark Clemmens, one of the founders lol

  • 6 0
 @benede1976: I have it on good authority the WAO owner was able to upgrade to a 93 Landcruiser with 297k miles and a 'decent' interior (no lockers) recently.
  • 4 5
 There is a reason why Specialized places a neoprene diaper over 60% of the bike, for an entire season.
  • 3 1
 @alexsin: Taking a look at it, while its called a VPP bike, it isn't one by the current definition. It's more like a DW link than the VPP tm* that Crestline, Intense, or Santa Cruz use. The two lower links under the bb co rotate with the rocker link at the top, not counter rotate like current VPP tm* platforms do. It actually looks most similar to the 3V0 system that Ministry Cycles developed, specifically the version that Jamis is using. That is a really cool bike though, I hadn't seen it until now and now I want one haha.
  • 1 1
 @alexsin: I should say, there is a difference between a virtual pivot point suspension system and a VPP tm* bike. There are loads of bikes that use virtual pivot points, Niner, Giant, Pivot, Ibis, WAO, Prime, Comencal, the list goes on. Even horst link bikes could be considered virtual pivot points. But what would fall under VPP tm* are counter rotating dual link bikes like Intense, SC, or the Crestline bikes.
  • 1 1
I'm shopping for a Bronstein right now. Maybe I'll wait for the death discount.
  • 1 4
 @FUbob: let me guess, you drive a BMW 3 series… BOOOORRRRIINNNGGGG!!
  • 4 2
 @benede1976: my takeaway from casual conversations I’ve had with wao employees while I lived in Kamloops is that you are partly correct, the business model for the arrival leaves smaller profit margins than the big companies rely on, but also that during development of the frame they focused on creating a manufacturing method that removes nearly all room for error and maximizes repeatability, which significantly cuts down on labour costs as well as material wastes. Basically they put time into developing the best possible bike, not just a marketing strategy saying they made the best bike.
  • 3 1
 @AddisonEverett: your obvious subject matter expertise is not respected by these animals called pinkbike users. It’s obvious you know what you’re talking about, while everyone else is just reading their own posts over and over while ignoring everyone else. LOL
  • 3 1
 you think $14k is the top of the ebike market? LOLOLOLOLOLOL
  • 20 3
 Must have been a really nice dremmel.
  • 4 11
flag cuban-b (Feb 16, 2024 at 17:14) (Below Threshold)
 @crestline: word of advice - never respond, no matter how justified.
  • 2 2
 If you copy something at least copy the best one out there.. and thats what they did… but they shouldn’t have copied the price as well
  • 2 0
 @AddisonEverett: from what I could see there is 1 triangular lower link, not 2 lower links like you describe. Google crest line lower link and search images.
  • 3 0
 he is a word magician: uses so many while making meaning disappear!
  • 1 0
 @Superboost: the two lower link bike was the one linked by @alexsin, an old Mongoose Outland VPP. Crestline does use a triangular link near the bb. Here's that link again if you want to take a look, it is a really cool design. www.mtbr.com/threads/outland-vpp-suggestions-please.729830
  • 1 0
 @bigtim: I love Szechuan
  • 2 3
Guess again, dipstick.
  • 3 0
 “Copy and Paste without formatting” too good!!
  • 3 0
I'm with you. I don't understand the finance behind these projects that are so fringe-market. How does anyone get paid? Like Atherton bikes... Unlikely they have actually turned a profit. Crestline I'm sure is also in that boat. Where the heck does the money come from?
  • 1 0
 @stravaismyracecourse: bro, aren’t you aware of middle out compression?
  • 2 0
 I think I see their vision going forward : race DH bikes under Gwin for marketing and sell expensive high profit 180mm ebikes. Their sales volume will be low, but they can operate as a small company. When you're a business man, money in the bank = Gwinning.
  • 1 0
 @benede1976: My good friend Matt rides with Mark & Troydon. They were riding Suicide Trail (Thousand Oaks) daily and rather than get one or two laps on it after work before the sun went down, Matt put a thousand watt battery pack set up on his V-10 and he’d get 3 times as many laps in. Crestline’s evolution into E-Bikes was because that’s what they were using for the kind of riding they were doing. It was a very organic evolution. They needed a bas ass bike, and didn’t want to waste time pedaling and getting fewer laps in.
  • 1 1
 @BigDukeSixx: no point trying to convince these people. Let them be triggered every time they see someone on an ebike having fun. If they assault someone they end up in jail so even better
  • 2 1
 @BigDukeSixx: I get it. E-bike means moar laps and less pedalling. Why use 1000 watts when you can fit 2500 I always say. And let’s be realistic pedal strikes and low BBs are super impractical, if there was a way to fold them up or even remove them entirely and just stand on little peg-like footrests that would be great. And maybe have the propulsion delivered via some sort of mechanism near where my shifter currently sits…? Hell I’d be all for it, I could do like 100 laps a day and maybe never have to pedal again.

I was just saying, it’s a weird thing for an e-bike company that does not sell unassisted bikes to be sponsoring a pedalling DH rider. I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before. But obviously they’ve done some math and either anticipate selling more DH e-bikes as a result of this……or are perhaps working on a production pedal bike?
  • 1 2
  • 32 0
 There is a high pitched mosquito whine starting around 14:00 that fades in and out. That or I’m having a stroke.
  • 15 2
 There is a high-pitch whine, you're not going mad. It's something that we couldn't remove during recording sadly.
  • 13 14
 @henryquinney: You guys need better mics and a proper audio interface...
  • 24 2
 @microwaveric: Disagree - bring back the bucket boys setup
  • 7 23
flag Sethimus (Feb 16, 2024 at 10:56) (Below Threshold)
 thats so annoying lately, also happened in the last kerr podcast on ride companion. check your fucking equipment before you start recording ffs.
  • 5 1

That was the ambassador’s phone melting from the nuclear blast of Gwin on Crestline!
  • 2 0
 I kept thinking my truck was making a new weird noise i couldn’t pinpoint for about 15 min till i finally paused the pod to get a better listen to the noise, only to realize it was the pod.
  • 4 0
 I’m just relieved to know that I’m not too old to hear that frequency.
  • 38 0
 Hi all - as always, I'm keeping my audio on these pods authentically crap. That said, it's being remixed as we speak and I will re-up as soon as possible. If you can hold tight that would be appreciated. Thanks all! That said, the YT audio will stay not great. However, I think it is very much passable, even if not perfect.

Thanks all. Especially @Sethimus for the compassionate and kind words. Cheers.
  • 6 1
 @henryquinney: A simple notch filter at the frequency of the whine. Not difficult...
  • 5 4
 I wonder how many F1 drivers/hockey/football players give an interview to their biggest online magazine and the audio is total crap with a high-pitched whine like that. I don't mind bucket boys audio when it's just the PB team chatting, but this one was seriously hard to listen to. Filtering out the high-pitch frequency isn't that hard even for someone who isn't interested in quality audio recording, just google it.

When Aaron Gwin comes in to announce big news, please take a moment to check and make things record properly. That's just being respectful to the person who's being interviewed, and this itme it was very unrespectful.
  • 4 0
 @deciduous: You've never watched hockey on Comcast sports net I see. For years it was mediocre audio and video filmed through petrolatum jelly.
  • 35 13
 "if I could only have two bikes in my arsenal, I'd have an e-bike and a downhill bike"

100%. Only people who hate fun could be mad at this.
  • 7 3
 Yes. The 2 bikes I need to replace. 2016 DH bike and 2020 emtb. So fun.
  • 9 13
flag paulpimml (Feb 16, 2024 at 13:15) (Below Threshold)
 Might be 100% true for retired DH racers. Fun is certainly my main focus and a capable enduro bike does it all. I'll go for the e-bike once my body degraded enough to not feel the difference going downhill - 30 years on the mountainbike but still hope to get at least another 10 years before the switch.
  • 14 2
 Also, people need to stop being so concerned about what other people have.
  • 11 2

'Might be 100% true for retired DH racers'

Might be, but certainly not exclusively.

'and a capable enduro bike does it all.'

Yea, but it doesn't. On the way down? Sure. On the way up? Nope. I promise you can get more laps on an eeb.

That said, I respect that it's your choice to ride however and whatever you want. So enjoy!
  • 2 1
 He may say that, but when I saw him at Greer Ranch he was on an Enduro bike
  • 4 0
 @Dogl0rd: I'm sure he was. I'm also positive he rides his DJ at the pump track.

The statement was, 'if I could only have two bikes...'

That's the beauty of being able to buy whatever you want though. You can have 100 bikes if that makes you happy.
  • 7 2
 @paulpimml: Yeah but the going downhill on an ebike is SO much better - grip, weight everything works well. My normal trail bike is scary to ride anywhere near that fast
  • 2 0
 Might be a niche product lineup, but DH and eDH for when you don't have a shuttle are fun, plus when you look hard into these markets, particularly Bosch powered 180mm+ eBikes that are playful, the options are limited.
The Enduro/Trail market is saturated with really interesting offerings, no point completing here.
  • 24 2
 Woah. Did not see this one coming. This will be sick!
  • 17 0
 This is awful; there's a video version, an audio version and a transcript - what the hell am I going to complain about.
  • 21 7
 He's not buying in, and Crestline is still sponsoring Gwin racing...so these guys gave away a third of their company for nothing? Sure Gwin's a legend but maybe they've overestimated the power of marketing.
  • 23 0
 Yeah, but he also aludes to the fact that he'll likely be provided equity over time and not right away. Which means they may not be "giving" anything away. He could also still have "ownership" or "operational" power day-to-day and not receive actual equity/shares until requirements relative to performance or time are achieved.

My gut is he's not taking a "salary" through his racing program and Crestline has built in some structural achievement requirements into the equity compensation he'll receive, aside from his sponsorship inputs, which will play out over the next few years. ie. do a good job, get some results, Crestline hits xxx revenue targets, and you get 10% equity at YE. Repeat 2x additional years.

Maybe not exactly, also, there's a lot of ways to structure those sorts of things.
  • 21 0
 100% of nothing is still nothing. If Gwin can bring exposure and valuable insight for R&D he'll be well worth the 33%. Its about the size of your slice of pie, not the angle of the cut.
  • 6 0
 Gwin was really vague about the nature of the agreement. Said something about the goal is to be full partner at some point, but that he didn't buy in. So I'm wondering if this is sort of a longer term equity building arrangement of some sort, or an option to buy in at some point in the future if things go well for everyone.
  • 10 1
 No, they gave away a third of their company to afford one of the biggest names in racing in the hopes he grows their company tenfold.

If their profit was say, $100k a year split between two founders at $50k each with enough money left over to fund the development of the ebike, they are going to see that every year. More than likely a small company like theirs is going to struggle with generating enough buzz to sell those bikes.

With Gwin as an owner, they might split their proceeds three ways, but their revenue will be dramatically higher.

It'd be like offering Elon Musk to be a co-owner in your taco truck. He may not do anything but demand free tacos, but you in turn become one of the best know taco trucks around.
  • 1 0
 Kevin O'Leary, from Shark Tank, enters the conversation... "You're dead to me."
  • 4 0
 I doubt he can divulge the specifics of the deal, but it's likely a rent to own sort of situation, where Gwinn pays "rent" with his racing/TM gig/media exposure in exchange for a stake in the company. It's all just speculation, of course. I often find Gwinn interviews incredibly boring, almost like reading PR copy, and yet here I am talking about him. I think that says a lot.
  • 4 5
 sound's like he hasn't even been able to ride the bike before making a deal. Understandable as he's injured but it's not exactly a sound due diligence process ahead of inking a deal. Taking everything at face value it's hard to avoid being cynical that this is a last min desperation move from both Gwin and Crestline.
  • 2 1
 @darlos-finest-son: it sounds like Seth Sherlock has had time on the bike. I would assume Gwin trusts his impressions since they both spent time on the same Intense frames.
  • 2 2
 @PHeller: maybe but then you have to ask yourself has this worked out yet for any of the others that thought the same? YT, Intense? Didn’t see any huge influx of Intense bikes since Gwin became part owner. Also he’s not won a bunch and is older so at some point reality kicks in for anthle and you have to ask yourself what are you getting? I suspect a similar thought was done with Minaar and SC (he was already supposed to have been retiring) so now are you paying a premium price for someone on their way out and could that investment have been better used on an up and coming athlete?
  • 3 1
 @jaytdubs: Sure let's talk about the size of the pie. What's the TAM for DH race bikes + overpriced ebikes?

Also, R&D? Sure Gwin would be able to contribute to kinematics, geo, but do you really think he knows anything about frame design, carbon manufacturing, QA/QC? MTBs have converged on the linkages, proportions and angles - there's hardly anyone doing anything wildly different these days.

If I was seriously thinking about buying an expensive bike from a tiny company, my concerns would be on durability, quality, and whether the company will be around in a few years to support the frame. Gwin's presence doesn't change any of that.
  • 4 0
 @PHeller: Good point and before this merger happened, Crestline wasn't struggling with their ebike sales. They just released their new special edition 180 ebike. Their small frame bike is already sold out
  • 2 1
 @Jesse221: I do think that Aaron provided a lot of value to YT. Aaron proved that the tues was a competitive race bike, before Gwin it was a budget freeride bike (which is still cool) but Aaron changed the way people think about YT to this day. I do agree with a lot of what you said though, I don’t think he has brought the same value to intense or a lot of the other products he has had a hand in developing in the last 4-5 years.
  • 1 0
 @CaMKii: Sure, all of your points are valid, 100%. But the argument against cutting Gwin in as a major equity owner assumes Crestline is otherwise an indefinite going concern, I'm not sure it is.

My guess is that they're facing existential questions as a brand, as most small bike manufacturers likely are, and that they're betting the farm on this move. If these assumptions are correct then why not give a guy like Gwin significant equity interests that vest over three or four years?

Seems like a no brainer if the alternative is going the way of Gorilla Gravity (RIP)
  • 1 1
 @bbachmei: really? I somewhat disagree. There are a lot of trp brakes out there which he literally developed. Not to mention the drivetrain he developed… which to be fair is less of a thing than the brakes.
  • 3 2
 @bbachmei: maybe with YT I’m just not so sure since I think I was seeing more of them just as Gwinn jumped on so maybe helped, maybe timing. Personally I think if I was a smaller company I’d question the decision as I don’t think he’s as good a brand ambassador as others. The whole time with intense I don’t think I saw too much YouTube content with him etc.. so would using someone like Yoann or Remy or even Pink Bike team if you’re focused more for racing get you more publicity? If part of his job was team management with intense then in this day and age I’d say more stuff like PB team and Syndicate is part of the program.
  • 13 4
 It is cool. I feel like brands figured out that 20 year olds without daddy money cannot buy 8K DH rigs. So they are brining back old dudes so the old dudes that dream about clearing 4ft double finally lift their ass and get a new shiny 8k DH bike Big Grin
  • 28 0
 Excuse me?… it’s 5’ doubles good sir! How dare you underestimate our abilities!
  • 3 1
 @Ebab: yeah yeah, 5 ft in real life is more like 3 footer Big Grin

same with fishing and stuff
  • 9 1
 Aaron Gwin has been saying that the bike geo numbers are really close to where he wants them for the last 15yrs and has yet to develop a bike that works for him. He’s mtb’s KOM for corporate talk. I hope he doesn’t turn Crestline into the equivalent of onza or kenda.
  • 11 1
 A suprise to be sure, but a welcome one
  • 14 3
 so many words
  • 4 2
  • 1 1
  • 9 0
 Aaron Gwin?... a new starving talented privateer that has finally found a pro team?
  • 8 0
 After seeing the crib he sold out west I’d suppose he could have bought Crestline outright and still had enough left over to put an ice cream stand at Windrock.
  • 10 1
 I was worried it would be another Commencal team. This is cool.
  • 7 1
 I saw a guy riding a new crest line DH rig at panorama mountain last summer. I said hey nice bike! He said hey thanks man! and I continued to ride my poopy Scor 4060 LT. The end.
  • 10 1
 does NOT lla session
  • 5 1
 Gwin specifically says in the interview that he still hasn’t ridden one of the bikes, and that Seth just got on one for the first time like a week ago - WAY after this deal was presumably done. It sounds like it’s much less about Crestline as it is today, and more about:

1) Existing manufacturer relationships and a platform that is currently rideable without requiring insane R&D investment for a race-capable bike
2) Co-owners willing to throw cash at it to give Gwin leverage to make it what he wants

My read on the interview is that Gwin is relatively happy with the bike as it stands, at least on paper, but seems even happier about the fact that he’s being given a TON of freedom to build a bike and a brand that is his, and will continue to be something he can count on down the road without political BS that he seems to have run into with other brands.
  • 9 1
 Exactly - which lines up with the answer he gave when Henry pushed him on his claim that he knows what to do to develop a race-winning bike: that he just needs a good engineer and an environment free of any other constraints on what kind of bike to produce. And whereas Mulally had to start from ground zero Gwin has some cash and his reputation to kick-start the whole process with an organization that already knows how to deal with the nuts and bolts of producing frames. Makes a lot of sense and I hope it pans out into an American version of Atherton. With its own bike park as well.
  • 1 2
 @nilswalk: kinda weird that he feels the need to do with crestline though after spending the last few years doing exactly that with Intense
  • 9 2
 Congratulations @crestline @troydon big news, bike looks sick.
  • 6 3
 The idea that brands need to sell the exact bike that pro's race is so silly. Pro DH Skiers race "pro stock" skis that aren't sold to the public. Make a bike to win. Don't make a bike to sell bikes and try to have a pro athlete win. Or just sell the bike how the pro wants it.
  • 3 3
 Ya but skis cost like maybe $40 USD to manufacture
  • 3 16
flag BermSkid72 FL (Feb 16, 2024 at 9:09) (Below Threshold)
 @skiboot1: race stock skis cost around 50k or more to make excluding engineering and testing. Custom molds and hand made. About the same cost as a carbon frame process. Aluminum prototype frame could be as cheap as 5k if the right person is driving the project.
  • 10 0
 @BermSkid72: hahahahaahahahaha
  • 4 1
 That DH frame looks so good. I think for Crestline this is a very good move. Make those frames available in Europe Smile . I would love to try one of these bikes. I remember an old interview with Gee, Sven asked if he’s interested in enduro racing and he said that he doesn’t like to pedal…it looks like common problem Smile )). Good luck Aaron this season. I really want to see you winning the world champs!!!
  • 4 1
 Interesting. Odd that he signed up and went through the whole process without ever even riding the bike. I fear he may be jumping head first without testing out the water. But I only hope for the best for him and his team!
  • 5 0
 He said they bought and tested a bunch of different bikes, settled with the platform and kinematics they liked with the ability to tweak without being stifled to look a certain way. As much as it is and isn't about the bike, he has the base he wants and will work with it once hes able to ride.
  • 5 0
 Drinking game, every time "excited " is mentioned :-)

Best of luck this season Gwin Racing! I really hope it pans out
  • 6 3
 How come there is very little info on the owners? What do they know about designing and building bikes, did they just hit up an overseas manufacturer to make them a frame they hope works well and are just marketing?
  • 5 0
 Because this is an article about Aaron Gwin?
  • 6 1
 if looking good makes you go faster, that bike should be a rocket
  • 17 15
 Bag on Crestline if you wish but they are trying to approach things from different angles and are certainly disrupting the status quo. Super stoked to see this and watch how it all unfolds.
  • 3 1
 Honestly never even heard of them. Why don’t people like them?
  • 4 0
 @thenotoriousmic: My first guess would be the current lineup. Their entire catalog right now consists of a $12k eeb, or a DH bike you can't even currently buy. Not exactly appealing to the average MTBer, or even most of the Pinkbike crowd, for that matter.
  • 8 5
 @thenotoriousmic: because people are still so anti ebikes.... As Gwin mentioned, basically: pedaling sucks and the fun part is going down the hill. hence bike parks being so popular.

People seriously need to get over their own Egos about Ebikes, They are wicked fun, expensive yes but hey, thats a Mountainbiking problem.
  • 5 2
 @HeatedRotor: So far, this is the only comment that calls out every Crestline hating “bro it’s an overpriced Santa Cruz bro” crap everyone keeps repeating themselves with. And WTF is it with people going after Gwin now. Dude has done more in DH racing than any other clown making garage comments here x 10.
  • 8 4
 @HeatedRotor: I'm sure Sur Rons are fun but most ebikers don't want them on the trails. The same can be said about normal riders not wanting ebikes on trails. Also, hikers probably can say the same about ALL bikes. Access is a big issue where I'm from. Ebikes are contributing to additional access issues whether or not people want to admit it or not.
  • 5 6
 @mooseindahouse: Who mentioned throttled electric moto's? dont understand that part?

Normal riders not wanting ebikes? why? my ebike and Enduro are closing in on weight...

you're talking some rubbish with no fact. All of our trail networks including all the parks here will happily accept ebikes... there is not 1 good excuse to exclude ebikes from Trails.
  • 7 4
 @HeatedRotor: I was replying to your comment about people's egos when it comes to ebikes. I think that's unfair to assume that is all it's about. There has to be a limit on what access we allow in our parks.

What if we phrase it like this?

Many ebikers who don't want Sur Rons on the trails clearly have hurt ego's and need to get over themselves.
  • 2 7
flag thenotoriousmic (Feb 16, 2024 at 16:51) (Below Threshold)
 @HeatedRotor: biggest problem being the erosion caused by e-bikes and the fact the general public can’t tell the difference between them and a regular mountain bike and blame regular mountain bikers for causing said erosion.
  • 5 1
 @thenotoriousmic: the erosion thing has already been disproven as far as class 1 ebikes are concerned. Same as a regular bike. Perhaps more erosion from more people using the trails, but not if those riding emtb s used to ride pedal bikes.
  • 2 6
flag thenotoriousmic (Feb 16, 2024 at 17:15) (Below Threshold)
 @psullivan65: that absolutely hasn’t been disproven at all. They cause a lot more erosion especially on the steeper looser climbs that you’d have to push or carry a regular mountain bike and on flat soft / wet boggy ground where you can just chew through on a ebike. It’s just a fact that a heavier bike with big plus sized cut spikes and motor is going to create more erosion than a regular bike and then there’s the fact you can ride one further / do more runs = more erosion and the fact that they allow more people to access trails that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to which again creates erosion.
  • 7 1
 @thenotoriousmic: Now you are really talking rubbish. our trails have seen no difference in 'erosion'.

Just stop. Go out an ride your bike. If you really want to talk about trail destruction, get the young shredders off them. they blow up everything. Young/Pro's do considerbly more trail damage than an ebike.

Your showing the whole Regular fit biker Ego, Either that or just jelly you cant afford one.
  • 4 0
 @thenotoriousmic: ok. These bikes are only 10-15# more than regular bikes.should we ban Clydesdales? Maybe we should ban people over 200 pounds. It's minimal at best. Emtbs are under 1 HP. Who's riding emtbs with cut spikes? You are correct, we do get more runs in.
  • 4 1
 @mooseindahouse: LOL the only argument you have left that deflects from your fragile ego is that “it’s an access issue”… please, like you ever cared about that before last year. Nice sur ron analogy too. Just shows you know nothing and are just as jealous. It’s so f*cking obvious
  • 1 2
 @mooseindahouse: also, you didn’t even reply to his comment lol
  • 3 1
 @thenotoriousmic: your argument would suggest that we do not allow any bicycles on trails…. You guys need to stop crying
  • 3 0
 @cuban-b: I think he might be confused about the difference between emtb's and e-motos like a Surron. Which do have more power, aggressive tires and a big difference in speeds. Not class 1 ebikes.
  • 1 2
 @cuban-b: I own 3 ebikes what are you talking about?
  • 2 6
flag thenotoriousmic (Feb 17, 2024 at 4:05) (Below Threshold)
 @HeatedRotor: you’re talking absolute bollocks and you know it. The only way you’d believe that nonsense would be of you’d only ridden in horse blinkers and ear pods and you’ve never once looked behind you. You’re well aware of the erosion you’ve caused and the damage your motor does to the trails. You just don’t care because you’re just another selfish self centred mountain biker. Pig headedly claiming you’re doing no wrong and plowing ahead regardless isn’t doing you any favours and don’t blame mountain bikers they’re your biggest ally it’s the other trail users you want to worry about. On and turn up to those dig days.
  • 2 4
 @psullivan65: it’s not so much the weight it’s the fact you can ride them through soft boggy ground which hikers like to use and they chew up steep technical climbs which makes them dangerous for other trail users and just generally annoying when they grassy trail hikers use now resembles a land drover track.

Around here they’re all riding hillbillies and shortys because rolling resistance doesn’t matter and 150mm cranks so they can pedal through the ruts they’ve created.
  • 1 0
 @thenotoriousmic. That might be the case where you live. : where I'm located above 9000 feet in Colorado, its kitty litter, loose over hard. Trail damage mostly occurs by riding to early in the season before snowmelt and when wet. This occured before ebikes and will continue, regardless of ebikes or not.
  • 1 2
 @mooseindahouse: how is this a response? Reading comprehension > you
  • 2 5
 @thenotoriousmic: LOL just stop. You’re showing your jealousy and lack of education. If you could afford one you wouldn’t be complaining about them. Just go back to school, work a little harder, get that job, and you’ll get there one day - I believe in you! Smile
  • 2 0
 @thenotoriousmic: weird, considering i helped build a heap of trails at Herbert forest when I lived close.
im also part of a 'dig crew' that looks after several local trail loops.

as i said, Ebikes make no difference.

You prove yourself more and more. clearly.
  • 1 1
 @HeatedRotor: and as I said you’re fully aware of the damage you’re causing as you wheel spin up that climb you’d be off and pushing on a regular bike. You just don’t care because you’re just another selfish self centred mountain biker. As long as you’re having fun f*ck everyone else right?
  • 1 0
 @cuban-b: they’re not even expensive if you’re struggling I’m always looking for new employees.
  • 1 0
 @thenotoriousmic: this is why you’re poor
  • 1 1
 @thenotoriousmic: you’re such a f*cking loser - at least be original and come up with a new insult. Continuously repeating yourself in all your responses isn’t convincing anyone. Stop embarrassing yourself. But since I’m such a nice guy I’ll let you try again Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @cuban-b: I’m embarrassing myself? No points for guessing how you’re doing in life after that little temper tantrum. Clearly not a happy camper are you? Not the kind of person I’d have in my working environment anyway so unfortunately I’m going to have to withdraw my offer of employment. I hope you find your feet though.
  • 2 1
 @thenotoriousmic: LOL. You are most certainly a sandwich short of a picnic arnt you
  • 1 2
 @HeatedRotor: if you say so. It must be a coincidence that five years ago you and all the other Americans were always crying in the comments anytime we rode a trail in the rain because of erosion and well now look at you. Like I said you’re filth and you only care about yourself.
  • 1 0
 @thenotoriousmic: Weird, I've built more trails for others than you ever could dream about. I literally used my own money to buy a digger.

Dont give me that crap.

Im not american, dont treat me like that rubbish.
  • 2 0
 @HeatedRotor: haha let him be triggered by bikes. He’s gone mad. being a prick about everything to everyone means he has no friends which is his own version of hell. Sad, really.
  • 3 1
 Can someone smarter than me explain what that idler pulley is doing in this configuration? Does the angle of the chain between the chainwheel and cassette effect how freely the linkage is able to move?
  • 6 0
 Same idea as any other high pivot bike. The high (effective) pivot location means the rear axle moves backwards as the suspension compresses. That means when the suspension compresses, the distance from the cassette to the chainring gets longer, which creates pedal kickback. It also means that tension on the chain interferes with the suspension compressing. The idler moves the chain up closer to the pivot location to minimize those issues; while the distance from the cassette to the chainring grows a lot when the suspension compresses, the distance from the cassette to the idler only grows a little (and a little bit of growth is good for pedaling efficiency).
  • 3 1
 Yes! Absolutely love Gwins dedication to DH racing. Absolutely the guy who made everyone get their act together when it came down to balls out race runs. What a machine he was. Huge respect.
  • 1 0
 I wonder what options he had to choose from? Im guessing not many as he’s already been at the big companies along with the state of the industry these days.

Glad he might actually be racing though. He’s certainly moved around like crazy. There were so many big team announcements from him over the years.
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  • 2 1
 Should be interesting to see what Seth ends up on. Crestline doesn't have an enduro bike and hasn't seemingly had in prototype phase. Even if they did, there are probably not many, and limited time until EWR starts.
  • 2 0
 I'd be much more concerned with when EWR ends than when it starts...
  • 22 0
 I’m racing downhill haha
  • 2 0
 @sethsherlock: thanks for correcting me. For whatever reason I thought one of you on the IFR team had raced Enduro, but was mistaken. Good luck out there!
  • 9 0
 @PHeller: Yeah I was racing all the enduros over the last two years but am back to focusing on downhill full time this year! Wouldn’t be opposed to racing an enduro or two at some point but it’s not my focus anymore. Appreciate it man!
  • 3 0
 @sethsherlock: cheers for responding in the comments
  • 2 0
 All companies experience hiccups. I’m curious how negotiations will go down when they need to take on additional capital from a new or existing investor.
  • 2 0
 @henryquinney: "...seem to be all glitz and glamour in mountain biking...". Can you please let us know what drugs you are on, where to get them, cost, etc? LOL :*)
  • 1 0
 It's good to make real mountain bikes.. but if u want Crestline to be successful like a real success u need to make affordable budget bike 150 to 300 dollars target lil kids ..like Walmart bikes
  • 1 0
 Jesus was a b-boy that is left field isn't it... reckon that was a last minute deal, so many people thinking Yeti or even back to Trek or Spec
  • 1 0
 Koop is that you?
  • 3 0
 Gwin is making some serious lemonade out the lemons he got.
  • 4 1
 Seth and Mikey look so depressed in the team pic...
  • 1 0
 Only 50 of these floating around?! Will be interesting to read about first impressions on this bike. @pinkbike @henryquinney first ride review coming soon?!
  • 2 3
 N+1 article, I thought Henry decided he hated the n+1 culture in the bike industry and was going to focus on the Buy-Sell content and only talking about people repairing, repurposing and building bikes using plastic they harvest themselves from the pacific garbage patch?
  • 3 0
 He kept that pretty gwincognoito
  • 3 0
 Please stop the autoplay. There isn't even a pause button!
  • 2 0
 I wonder who will be wrenching for him since John Hall is with Intense now.
  • 2 1
 Gwin's a class act at all he does, I wish him and his team all the best, would love to see them at the pointy end of the field.
  • 3 0
 he is a word magician: uses so many while making meaning disappear!
  • 1 0
 I really didn't fancy him as a racer, mostly because he was so dominant and my favourites' nemesis. But man, I could listen to Aaron for hours and hours.
  • 1 0
 Stoked to see what come from this. Love Gwin’s commitment to growing racing.
  • 2 0
 Sounds like there's a lot of alignment Smile
  • 2 0
 very unexpected and very cool. best move!!!
  • 2 0
 This is a total Gwin for Aaron and Crestline!
  • 3 1
 Never heard of this bike brand in my life.
  • 18 0
 Now you have. See how that works?
  • 2 3
 Because it barely exists in the wild
  • 1 1
 @Eatsdirt: I’ve still not heard of crestline, marketing tdoesn’t work on me…
  • 1 0
 Your autoplay is bullsh!t. at least give me the option to pause or turn it off. player controls aren't working.
  • 2 4
 This is not a criticism toward Crestline Bikes - as I think their approach is elegant and sophistacted, which a very small audience on pinkbike can fully appreciate - but my experience in the bike industry is that many self proclaimed leaders or masters of the bike world simply do not posses the business acumen, emotional intelligence, and hard-working discipline that is required in such a dynamic and trend driven industry. The hubris and entitlement displayed is top notch - too many companies fail because leadership is not honest with themselves and fail to adapt. They take business decisions personally and drive their own companies into the ground just to make a point.
  • 2 0
 Another great project! All the best and good luck!
  • 1 0
 This man is just living the dream!!! He rides bikes, own a bike brand and team, owns a bike park.. The life I wanted
  • 1 0
 I knew he was doing somthjng like that ... few months ago thought he should have taken over Turner bikes
  • 1 0
 Very cool! Definitely an interesting bike!
  • 2 1
 Bet I can guess the Windrock 2024 rental bike brand lolol
  • 3 0
 except that there were only 50 RS205 VHP ever made
  • 1 0
 @GlazedHam: They are gearing up for another run. They posted on IG a couple weeks ago asking if current owners would be bothered by them making more DH frames.
  • 2 1
 Should just add this to the team moves page!
  • 1 0
 Guess the “Windrock rental fleet contract “ theory is shot.
  • 2 1
 False high pivot, this is just a normal vpp with an iddler.
  • 1 0
 Looks like a Sess… wait… Nomad…
  • 1 2
 I'm a bit confused from looking at Crestline's website....all they offer is an ebike frame and a special custom eeb version. no actual bikes....
  • 1 0
 It comes off as money being his key motivation to do anything.
  • 1 0
 Gwindrock vs rock crico saga intensifies
  • 2 0
  • 2 1
 Yess!!! Fck yeah Gwin!!
  • 3 4
 Assymetric Demo is still the best looking DH bike that’s been made…
  • 2 1
 it always looked so good to me too!

(was gonna say "all bikes are asymmetric" but meh I know what you all mean)
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