Photos courtesy of Easton Cycling and Easton Archery
On Monday it was announced that Chris Tutton, owner of Canadian bicycle component company Race Face, agreed to purchase Easton Cycling from its parent company BRG Sports (owners of Bell, Giro, Blackburn and Riddell, and formerly known as Easton-Bell Sports). The deal is expected to be closed for an undisclosed sum by mid June.
Tutton, worked for Race Face from 1994 to 2008 and led Easton-Bell’s OEM division from 2008. He then brought Race Face out of near insolvency in 2011. He plans to keep Easton Cycling’s R&D lab in northern California, and house all sales and marketing staff in its Vancouver, British Columbia, headquarters.
“The team at Race Face is very excited to welcome Easton to the RF family,” Tutton said in a statement. “The core competencies of both companies will help to strengthen and expand both business units. There are also undeniable synergies in sales and distribution to be realized worldwide as well as wins with offshore vendor production networks currently in place.”
Made from arrows
Easton traces its heritage to Doug Easton. In the fall of 1921, the 15-year-old archery enthusiast was hunting near his home in Watsonville, California, when a shotgun propped up against a car fell, discharged, and seriously wounded him in both legs. For much of 1922, he was confined to the hospital and his home while recuperating. To help him pass the time, a friend gave Easton a copy of a new book written by Dr. Saxton T. Pope, “Hunting with the Bow & Arrow”.
The young Easton became fascinated with archery and began to craft bows from yew wood and wooden arrows from straight-grained woods like cedar and pine. His work was quickly recognized, especially his arrows, which were soon regarded as the best tournament arrows in the country. At 17, while shooting a round of archery at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, he met an older man who complimented him on his craftsmanship. Easton credited his work to a book written by Saxton Pope, only to learn moments later, when the man extended his hand, that he had been conversing with his mentor.
Easton made bows and arrows on a part-time basis for the next ten years, supporting himself primarily by driving a delivery truck. In 1932 he decided to devote himself entirely to his craft, moving to Los Angeles, and opening Easton’s Archery Shop. He made friends with some of Hollywood’s elite who shared his enthusiasm for archery. Easton began producing broadheads and in 1938 toyed with a broadhead design that used an aluminum ferrule.
Having outgrown his shop, Easton moved to a larger facility in Los Angeles, where he began to experiment with aluminum as an arrow shaft, the result of his frustration with the inconsistencies of wood. He presented his first set of aluminum arrows to Larry Hughes, a local archery champion. Over the next two years, Hughes enjoyed strong results with his experimental arrows, culminating in his winning the 1941 National Championship. However, Easton would not be able to take advantage of Hughes’ success because World War II soon intervened, and for the next several years the military commandeered all supplies of aluminum.
A year after the war ended, when aluminum finally became available again, Easton continued his work on metal arrows, which soon led to his first trademarked aluminum arrow shaft, the 24SRT-X. By 1949, Easton stopped making finished aluminum arrows, electing instead to manufacture the shafts and avoid competing with his customers. In 1953, he incorporated the business as Jas. D. Easton Archery, but it was still very much a one-man shop, supplemented with help from his wife, young son James, and occasional part-timers. The 24SRT-X was so successful, however, that in 1956 he hired his first two full-time employees. A year later, he needed more room and moved the business to Van Nuys, where he took over a new 10,000-square-foot building. Over the next decade he introduced the XX75, which would become the best selling arrow shaft in history.
Today Easton Archery operates as an independent company.
Aluminum tubing with Jim Felt
Steel had been the main tubing material used by framebuilders for more than a century, and the advancement of aluminum tubing in other sporting goods prompted a young motorcycle mechanic and self-taught engineer to build a lightweight and stiff frameset for triathlon and duathlon competition in the late 1980s. Jim Felt caught the attention of the engineers at Easton Sports in Van Nuys, California, in 1990 and they hired him to develop their new bicycle frame tubing. The relationship lasted four years before Felt launched his own company.
Aftermarket launched in 1998
By the late `90s, Easton saw the value in a new material called scandium in a licensing partnership with Ashurst Technology. Its reach into the OEM market also included carbon fiber handlebars, seatposts, road forks and stems. By 2005, Easton acquired Velomax wheels, rounding out its product line, and in 2011 enjoyed Tour de France success when Australia’s Cadel Evans, racing for the BMC team, won the world’s biggest bike race using Easton wheels and components.
According to a company statement, the Race Face and Easton Cycling will “continue to operate as separate entities.” However, the statement said the brands would have a shared cost agreement to reduce overhead.