DEVELOPING THE LOAM LEVER
We are pretty excited about our brand new dropper lever (AKA your thumbs new best friend). A lot of people agree that one of the best upgrades to a mountain bike in the last decade is the dropper post, but we noticed a lot of dropper post levers on the market are more afterthought than icing on top. So we set out to make a premium lever, that combined satisfying ergonomics with precision and durability.
When we were testing out levers, we found that some hurt your thumb, weren’t easily accessible or were too short, which makes pressing them difficult. We wanted a lever that felt crisp, was easy to push and had a natural feel through its stroke. The “feel” of the lever was something we obsessed over during development, because we didn’t just want something that worked, we wanted it to actually feel fun to press.
Not only did we want to make sure the lever was satisfying, we wanted it to maintain that feeling over time. Living in the PNW teaches you quickly about wet riding conditions, and a side effect of this area is grime and water will get in to the nuts and bolts of your bike. Levers on the market that use materials like plastic/injected carbon degrade quickly even in normal riding conditions, plus we learned some of our competitor’s levers used electronic bearings not rated for outdoor use. These levers get difficult to press and can fail over time. This led us to using materials like all stainless hardware, and an oversized high quality sealed bearing, because we wanted a lever that wouldn’t bind up or fail during its lifetime on your handlebars.
After we picked what materials to use we wanted to expand on the ergonomics. A key to this would be adjustability, everyone has a different preference of cockpit set up and our Loam Lever needed to fit into that. That’s why we made this the most adjustable lever on the market, with 2 position side to side and pivoting reach adjustment for precision placement. And we also made sure it would be compatible with any mechanical dropper post on the market.
Next up? Prototype time.
When we got our first batch fresh from the factory oven, we sent them out to our pro rider squad. Gathering feedback from rowdy riders is crucial to find early indicators of what’s working with your design and what’s not. People like Kyle Warner and Jeff Kendall-Weed were key to the design evolution of the lever. With their riding schedule they are able to thrash products in ways that would take most of us years. And sure enough, after racing (and winning) the Mexican National Enduro Series in Oaxaca with our first prototype, Kyle was able to get us early feedback that helped us get to our final design.
After this round of feedback we switched to a single bolt that keeps the clamp and lever body together. Then we came up with a clever interface that allows for the metal to actually move as needed to ensure firm contact and no slipping. And finally, we switched to a set 2-position clamp, similar to a SRAM shifter, rather than a sliding adjustment. We also set to work on the fun stuff, like what color should the grippy injection molded pad be? We went with orange, teal and grey.
When our design was production ready, we sent a small run of levers out to friends and riders in the industry that we knew would give us their honest feedback. Steve Moakan, owner and trip leader at Chasing Epic, (a company who offers all inclusive guided mountain bike trips in the Rocky Mountains and Southwest) is a great sounding board for our products. As a small business owner, and someone who needs everything on his fleet of bikes working flawlessly, his opinion is an important one for us to consider. Good thing he liked it!