The Growth of Gamut USA
Gamut are a real homegrown American success story. In a world were much manufacturing is shipped off to the Far East and the huge production facilities over there, they stand out as a company who do things differently. Anybody who has seen their chainguides arrive as OEM spec on Specialized bikes might understandably assume that they are a big player, but they'd be wrong. Gamut's story is one of a father, two sons, a childhood friend and a garage just outside San Francisco. That they have managed to land one of the biggest contracts in mountain biking is a testament to their ingenuity and dedication.
For 2014 they are releasing an all-new trail lineup which is a huge step for the Bay Area natives. With their roots planted firmly in downhill, this is the first time they have strayed out of that market and it marks a new and important step in the company's development. Before we look at the new products, we sat down with Gamut's founder, Juan Graziosi, and asked him about where the company started and where we can expect to see it head in the next few years. When you started off 15 years ago, it was just you and your dad?
My dad is an industrial engineer by trade, but he has had several machinist gigs over the years. He also worked out of the garage on weekends to make ends meet when we were kids. Mainly doing side jobs he got from various companies nearby. He paid us $10 to help to do manual work - it was good money for a kid, although it probably violated some child labor law. He also raced his Alfa Romeo and rebuilt his own motors, refurbishing Alfa fuel pumps and fuel injections which he sold to other Alfa enthusiasts. I was racing downhill and my dad and I were travelling from race to race each weekend. I needed a chain guide, but after he saw the prices, he said we should make a few ourselves. We bought some material and stayed up late a couple nights getting some prototypes built. They were raw, unfinished, a little finicky to work with but once you set them up correctly, they did the job. You had the ideas, he had the skills?
For the most part, yes. He was very savvy and would always design a high functioning product, but I found they lacked simplicity and some panache. I was 15 and mostly concerned with making my bike look cool while he couldn't have cared less about the aesthetics - a familiar father-son debate! With opposing views came loud arguments, or as Mike [my brother] called them, “Graz-hole shouting matches.” Fortunately, it usually produced an outcome we’d both be happy with. Usually... Are you a trained engineer?
Nope. But growing up with a garage full of tools and a father who would only let us race things if we did our own mechanic-ing, we got to be fairly handy. Funny story - my brother welded chromoly handlebars he stole from my sister's ten-speed onto his go-kart frame so it would comply with the new height spec for racing. It still hangs in the garage as a reminder of his hackery... How was the first guide made?
We bought a few sheets of aluminum, cut them to length on the table saw then popped them into the CNC machine. Incidentally, I ran my fingers through the table saw cutting the aluminum, no bueno, blood everywhere. After that it was all the manual jobs: drilling, tapping, deburring, assembling, etc. Your roots are firmly in downhill, is that where Gamut started?
Yeah, in DH, dual, and 4X. Our first guides were merely for my own use, but a few friends offered to buy some at Donner in 2001/2002 at the “Racin’ at the Ranch” series. After that, Mateo and Mike jumped in to get things organized and we launched the brand in 2004. It took you 5 years to go from homemade parts to starting your company, how tough was it?
For us it was a hobby so it didn’t feel like a struggle until we had our “oh shit” moment. Brandon [Sloan, Director of Performance Mountain Bikes] from Specialized wanted to meet for OEM consideration. He put in an order with us. After the initial elation of imagining our product on the Demo, we realized we were screwed... We weren't sure we could deliver. We had to have Mateo pull a few graveyard shifts on the CNC machine and Mike would relieve him in the morning. We ran the machine for over 30 hours straight once cutting bashguards while we manually broached axles and made rollers on the manual lathe. Fast forward 10 more years, you guys are pretty well-established, but you are still based in the Bay Area in California, still doing your manufacturing in the US.
After some nice growth, our garage turned into our “prototyping lab” and small run production house. We actually do outsource some of our parts locally and some overseas. But all our product are still assembled by Mike, Mateo, and myself here in the Bay Area. Usually on the weekends. Oh and Simon, our intern who once asked me to bring him a Starbucks. Kids these days... This trail range marks a shift for you guys away from just chainguides for gravity racing - why the move?
As much as we love perfecting the chain guide, it’s a niche market, we realized that if we wanted to expand we would have to move into new territory. Over the years we’ve made prototypes for various products but never brought them to market. We’ve made suspension internals, pedals (with and without exotic materials), aluminum brake rotors which almost cost me my life during “testing” as well as some others. Some of this you’ll see soon... You are also expanding your staff and production facility, why this new direction or is it more a normal evolution?
It’s the right time given our desire to do more. It’s funny, people have always assumed we were a “big
” company. Few people understand that it’s basically four guys, three with day jobs who meet every weekend to make mountain bike parts. Our facility is still a garage, but we do have a proper office and warehouse now to work from. We also have some engineering talent we work with that love our brand and we have Simon, our high maintenance intern.
Gamut's Trail Range
The TTr chainring is Gamut's take on the thick/thin, narrow/wide chainring. After a year in development and four different iterations tested, the TTr ring was born. The triangle cutouts around the boltholes save weight and the amount of material removed is precisely calculated to remove the maximum amount of material possible without compromising the strength. The smallest ring in the range, the 30T chainring, uses a slightly different layout to its larger brethren as the size placed particular demands on the construction. There are no triangular cutouts around the boltholes, instead material is machined out to a depth of 1mm on either side, removing some excess material but keeping strength in the structure. It also features 5mm keyed-in offsets for the bolts, these space the ring out away from the spider, to make sure the chain never comes in contact with the crank. One added benefit of this layout is that the offsets are threaded, so the crankbolt mounts directly onto the ring.Features:
• 4mm 7075 T6 aluminum
• Type 2 hard-coat finishes for durability
• Compatible with 9, 10, and 11-speed drivetrains
• Compatible with 104 BCD cranks
• Available in 4 sizes: 30/32/34/36T
• Weight: 34 to 40 grams
• MSRP $49.99
Trail SXC Chainguide
Anybody familiar with Gamut's chain devices will instantly see that this is a big step away from their previous offerings. Where in the past they have produced relatively simple back-plates paired with a spider-mounted bashguard, their new guides do away with the bashguard completely and retention is taken care of by the head of the guide. For those who are running a 1x setup with a clutch derailleur, but want some extra security without too much of a weight penalty, this guide might be your holy grail. The back-plate is a minimalist aluminum frame, with as much material as possible removed to reduce weight to an absolute minimum. At the top, the guide is keyed directly into the back-plate to minimize twisting. The head of the guide is made of polyurethane and is held together with two bolts so it can be easily popped off and stripped down. Gamut say that as more and more people are asking for more compact guides, they are looking to produce a stripped down 30-36T version of the guide, which should shave some extra weight. They are also currently working on an evolution of the Trail SXC with an integrated lower bashguard – Trail SXR.Features:
• 6061 T6 Aluminum back-plate and polyurethane slider
• Red anodization and laser marking
• Mounting options: BB, ISCG03 and ISCG05
• Works with 30 to 40T chainrings
• Weight: 40 to 50 grams depending on mount
• MSRP at $59.99
Trail S Chainguide
The Trail S is the Trail SXC’s big brother: in addition to the upper guide, it has a lower guide, also in polyurethane, to keep your chain held on at both ends. It comes in three different sizes, with each size optimized for the size chainring it is mated to. Due to a clever trick of machining the weight is fairly consistent between the three sizes, as the larger guides have had material more aggressively removed to keep the weight down.Features:
• 6061 T6 Aluminum back-plate and polyurethane sliders
• Red anodization and laser marking
• Mounting options:BB, ISCG03 and ISCG05
• Available in 3 sizes: 28-32T, 33-36T, 37-40T
• Weight: 80 to 89grams
• MSRP at $99.99
The Cillos stem line is Gamut first step into broadening their product offering. It is made of forged aluminum and as a matte anodized finish for nice and smooth look. The Cillos stem is only available as 50mm but Gamut is working on more sizes.Features:
• Forged aluminum with custom M6 taper head bolts
• Matte anodization in grey or black with laser marking
• Bar clamp: 31.8mm
• Available in 50mm (40mm, 60mm and DM coming soon)
• Weight: 150 grams
• MSRP at $109.99