From Howick with Love

CXP Racing might be a small team, but their products are world-class and globally sought-after

Words and images by Tim White, originally published in Spoke Issue 86

Deep in the backstreets of East Auckland’s Howick, a small industrial unit sits in a modest building on a road that’s easily lost in the sprawling streets. Blink and you’ll drive past it, but keep hunting and you’ll find a hidden gem, a bicycle nirvana. I don’t know if it’s a strategic decision to have almost no signage, but maybe that’s what adds to the joy of discovering such a goldmine.

Bruno and the crew at Cycle Express must be doing something right to survive in the harsh climate of independent bicycle dealers. They must be doing something exceptional to be the only bike shop in New Zealand that also produces components found on the bikes of top pros and hometown bros.

CXP Racing is owned by Bruno Pfister, an industry original and respected player. His no bullshit approach and straight-talking style is a testament to his 20 years in the bicycle industry. His personality can be seen in the components he produces in-house on any given day—they’re dependable, well thought-out, and there for the long-haul.

Bruno is a BMXer through and through. He grew up watching the sport evolve through parts improvised by dads, like GT founder and engineer Gary Turner, and racers, like SE Bikes founder Scot Breithaupt. Both paved the way with design and in-house manufacturing, building some of the best bikes available at the time. 

Bruno is no different: he spotted a need and had the knowledge, but just needed the machines and materials to bring his designs to life.

Starting with BMX components was a no-brainer: BMX racing is in his blood and now pumps through his daughters’ veins. The intense, unforgiving, and sometimes ruthless sport of BMX racing is the ultimate testing ground for components, and almost an incubator for product advancements. If a part can handle the punishment from an elite pro, then you sure as hell know it’s strong enough.

It was only natural for CXP to move into mountain bike components. Chainrings were one of the first products that were easily adapted to the modern MTB scene and its endless tooth counts, mounting standards and profiles. Bruno has also branched out into stems, offering a sleek looking 45mm option made from German 6082 aluminium. He also has a 35mm-long version in the works.

CXP also found a calling for small components that larger manufacturers decided to retire too soon. The GT linkage parts long forgotten by the industry giant are in demand. Each set is hand-machined and sent all over the world, and it’s just one of the niche parts that keeps the lights on and coffee beans in the machine. But when you know the industry as intimately as Bruno does, these little details build upon his already unique list of parts available online.

The shop’s name, Cycle Express, was too complicated to etch onto the components, so the simple acronym CXP was born

Diving into conversation with guys like Bruno, you catch a glimpse of how a brand can take shape. The shop’s name, Cycle Express, was too complicated to etch onto the components, so the simple acronym CXP was born. Maybe a marketing executive could explain all the inner details about whether the name change was a good idea, but you simply can’t beat the logic.

It’s possible that it takes an engineer’s mind to pull back the layers of a process to expose the real point of doing something right. CXP has clearly taken cues from other brands, such as Profile Racing and Wolf Tooth, but Bruno blends these inspirations into components that are uniquely CXP. The bluntly named Direct Chainring is a thing of CNC beauty, better priced than most of its competitors, and will fit most MTB cranksets.

It’s always a treat visiting the workshop and there’s always something new on the table. Simply getting to the final stage is no easy feat; the workshop is littered with prototypes of all shapes and styles as a testament to the process. 

Only Bruno’s wife would know the hours he puts into his creations, but really, she’s to blame. Why, you ask? Well, she said “yes” to the first CNC machine.

I wonder if, at the time of the machine’s purchase, anyone would’ve predicted it would one day produce Olympic-level parts being used on medallists’ bikes around the world, all from the depths of East Auckland. This micro-economy in niche New Zealand-made exports has gained international recognition, with no signs of slowing down. Irrespective of the global market, everything about the bike shop, machine shop, and overall vibe within this crew is done with passion and quality.

The good news is things aren’t slowing down for CXP: a new machine and workshop extension should take the shop’s capabilities to another level, complementing the range of CXP-branded components that are manufactured off-shore. 

There are some new products in the pipeline, including MTB stems in more sizes, Shimano-mount narrow wide chainrings, pedals, some Kona Stinky parts, and an ever-growing list of requests for linkage parts long forgotten by larger manufacturers. If it meets the minimum order quantity for production, anything is possible. 

Days after writing these words, my buddy, Paul, dropped by my bike lair. He spotted a new stem from Bruno on my desk and, after picking it up and turning it over a few times in his hands, said “I can’t believe these are made in Howick!” His amazement was really what makes CXP killer—the pure incredulousness that Bruno is just out there doing it and doing it well.