Q&A with Hustle Bike Labs founder Craig Payne
While tumbling down the side of a cliff still clipped in to his bike, a thought occurred to Craig Payne—maybe there was a better pedal solution out there.
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Any mountain biker can tell you that the clipless-versus-flat-pedals debate is the oldest and most heated in the community, and one that often turns casual conversation into childish warfare. An avid mountain biker and founder of Hustle Bike Labs, Craig Payne is no stranger to the pitfalls and advantages to both sides of the argument.
While on a mountain biking trip in Moab several years ago, Payne nearly fell to his death when he hit a rock garden with too much speed and tumbled over the side of a cliff. He had been riding with clipless pedals—a misleading name for a pedal you clip into—and wasn’t able to detach himself fast enough to get his feet on the ground.
Payne recognized that, despite the increased efficiency of clipless pedals, it was in moments like that he’d wished for a faster way to free his feet. He knew there had to be a middle ground between the two types.
A couple of years and many prototypes later, Payne created the Rare Earth Metal (REM) Pedal System, a pedal that gives riders the freedom of flats without sacrificing the connection of clipless.
How did you discover Rare-Earth Magnets?
Craig Payne: I was talking to a neighbor who installs gas pumps and saw this shiny thing sticking on the side of his toolbox that sparked my curiosity. When I asked him what it was, he told me that if I could pull it off the toolbox he’d give me his truck. Of course I accepted the challenge. I tried to remove the object but it felt like it was welded to the toolbox (though it wasn’t). I couldn’t pull it off. He suggested sliding it, and when I did, it moved. He told me it was a neodymium magnet that’s used on gas hoses and nozzles, so when people drive off with the nozzle still in their gas tank, it slides off instead of spewing gas everywhere.
At that moment I realized that this was what I had been looking for. I was kind of rude at that moment because when the thought hit me I kind of ran off and was like, “Thank you, I hope I can repay you one day but I gotta go!”
How does the REM Pedal incorporate the best of clipless and flat pedals?
CP: With clipless, it can be hard to get clipped back into the pedals if the trail is rowdy or if the weather is beating on you. The inertia kicks in and starts messing with your head, so it can be hard to get back in. But with our pedals, it’s like getting into a flat. There’s no clipping in—you just step back on it.
There are 98 pounds of pull force so you can push and pull on the pedal and remain connected to the bike like clipless, but you can slide in and out of it with instinctive movement like a flat. You don’t have to think about it because everything is natural.
What prepared you to enter the startup world?
CP: I was actually a cowboy on a ranch a couple years back. Working on the ranch, you have to be a problem solver because you can’t run to Walmart or Home Depot. Mother Nature dictates what you’re going to do that day, so you have to be creative and utilize what you have.
I was also in the restaurant industry, which is chaos. You have to be light on your feet and think outside the box constantly. The restaurant business definitely prepared me the most for this startup world because you get used to the fast pace, lack of sleep, and excitement.
What do you wish you would have known at the start of this process?
CP: That’s a very easy question to answer because I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning of this process. I’m the kind of person who jumps off the cliff and figures it out on the way down, which is good and bad. I just wanted to get started, so I started with an invention company. It ended up being a horrible mistake, and then I hired a bad attorney. The first year cost a lot of money and it caused me a lot of problems moving forward.
What I take from that is to do your studies on the people that are going to bring your vision to life. Make sure they have the credentials to do what they say they’re going to do. Hire smart people and hire people that you trust, because that cost me probably a year and a half of time, plus several thousand dollars. In the end it was a learning experience, so I’ve moved on and I try to share that knowledge with others.
What is your most valuable takeaway from the ICELab @Western Catapult startup program?
CP: Connecting us to people in the industry. You can’t put a price tag on that. That’s been a game changer for me. Starting those relationships with Active Interest Media, Outdoor Industry Association, and Outdoor Retailer, those are the mentors that I have today that I will carry on after the program. The knowledge that you get from those people of what to do and what not to do is so valuable, it’s something I wish I had at the beginning.
I have so much gratitude towards everyone involved, to me that’s the biggest thing. I want to express my gratitude to those groups and those people. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them.
The REM Pedal is set to debut at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market this November. For more information, contact Craig Payne at Craig@hustlebikelabs.com.