MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) — Chris Caughman created online bike auction platform Crank Farm during the pandemic, a time when he got out on the bike and read a lot about cycling.
“I was struck by the number of articles and online posts detailing buy-sell scams on major platforms,” said Caughman, whose 14-year healthcare background includes leadership roles in sales, marketing, strategy and platform development.
CrankFarm is exhibiting this week in the Sea Otter Classic exhibit area. “Honestly, it disappointed me,” he said of the bike theft.
“I was robbed of a bike and told to ‘keep my eyes on the rigs’. I love cycling, and this felt like an issue worth investigating. After this experience , I decided there was a better way to go. …”
The way forward for Caughman is to develop a community of websites for riders to buy and sell performance bikes through a trusted social auction platform. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Crank Farm went live in March to create a commission-based platform to reduce the “friction” associated with buying and selling.
So far, Crank Farm has curated a list of over 150 bike brands available for auction and is currently only available to US sellers and buyers.
Crank Farm considers “performance bikes” to be those that typically sell for $1,000 to $10,000+. Auctions can be configured to run for three, five or seven days, with reserve and no-reserve formats allowed. If a bike sells, the seller pays Crank Farm 7.5% of the winning bid up to $500. There are no registration fees.
Winning bidders pay Crank Farm 1% of the winning bid up to $40. Crank Farm recommends BikeFlights.com to sellers for shipping, but also provides tips for doing it yourself. Buyers and sellers can leave feedback on the transaction.
Of the maximum 10 photos that a seller can publish, one must bear the serial number of the motorcycle. Crank Farm also urges buyers to use the Bike Index registration service as a resource.
Is this enough to deter the list of stolen bikes?
“No, but it’s a start in the right direction,” Caughman said. “We also have other processes in place. For example, we need a valid US credit card on file before we can bid or sell, and we work with partners to verify every bike listed with law enforcement. If a bike listed on our website has been reported stolen, we will intervene and cooperate with law enforcement.”
He encourages all cyclists to register their bikes with the manufacturer, the local bike shop where they purchased them, or through registry organizations like Bike Index or 529 Garage.
“At the very least, people should write down and photograph the serial number so they have it in the unfortunate event they have to report it,” Caughman said.
Sea Otter offers Caughman the opportunity to spread the word with swag and offer a chance to demo the site from his trademark 10×10 booth. “A lot of cyclists go to Sea Otter to ride their bikes and then walk around the show area with their bikes,” he said. “We’re setting up a photo space for anyone who wants to photograph a bike for a Crank Farm listing. Quality photos are important.”
Launching the site compelled Caughman to get started and receive help from friends and family. The company’s goal for the first year is to support the sale of 1,000 bikes through the platform. “It’s certainly ambitious for a brand new company, but I’m optimistic,” he said. “That would translate to 2,000 happy riders, more riding and Crank Farm’s ability to give back. It would be an epic first year, in my opinion.”
Crank Farm is at booth A16 at the Sea Otter Expo.