Behind Spooky Brakes: An Interview with Founder Harrie Van Der Burgt
by Ty Kurth
I remember the day when I needed a set of cyclocross brakes. The place was Amsterdam; I had a layover coming back from France and had some time to do some exploring. I ended up going into the city and getting a bite to eat. There was a neat old bicycle shop tucked away in the corner of the market square. Entering the shop was quite memorable, the shop was tiny and dirty with the usual inventory you would find here in the states. But hanging on a hook near the corner hung a used set of Mafac looking cantilever brakes. I asked the Dutch shop keeper if they were for sale. The shop keeper smiled and said, “’cross is good ya”! Smiling, I said, “yea it’s good,” and out the door clutched a used set of Spooky brakes for 25 euro.
Since then I have always wondered where these great ’cross brakes were made, and who made them. I have seen the usual ’cross brakes out there: Empella Froglegs, SRP Mr. Grumpys and the newer TRP brakes. But for some mysterious reason, I wanted to know more about these Spooky Brakes. Back in 2005, when I was fully involved in the bike industry, I asked a co-worker and a great friend, “What are Spooky brakes?” He said, j0kingly, “Spooky brakes received their name because when you go to stop, you can’t, hence the name ‘Spooky!’” So I decided to do a little research and contacted Vladimir from Tufo North America, who is the distributor of Spooky in the States. Vladimir gave me the contact info of the man who came up with the brand. Thus began a rare interview with Harrie Van Der Burgt who invented Spooky brand brakes.
TK: Harrie, How did you come up with the name Spooky Brakes?
Harrie: The name “Spooky” came up after I designed the logo. I just put together two brakes and we had a logo. We are self-made men at Spooky brakes.
TK: Who were the founders of Spooky, and what’s the history of why you made them?
Harrie: Dick van der Bruggen and I were, and are the only two people that make Spooky brakes. I’ve been in cyclocross for more than 25 year as a rider; Dick is my best friend and also a rider. I had the idea after reading about pro riders that had a very expensive bike with polished old Mafac brakes that they used every year again. We contacted Richard Groenendaal and he used them from day one of Spooky brakes. We also worked together with Empella with the early frog leg brakes, which were also produces by us. After two seasons Empella went to Taiwan without telling us, we decided not to put negative energy in fighting them, but put all positive energy in Spooky. In the first season of Spooky, 1999/2000, Richard Groenendaal won the World Championship here in the Netherlands. Many riders, shops and pro teams used the brakes in the years after that victory. A few years ago more and more copies appeared on the market and we lost the market to cheaply-produced Asian brake sets. Still in the Netherlands, we are the guys that started up all the brakes after the Mafacs.
The carbon brakes were the last item they copied; now we only supply some teams and friends. Richard Groenendaal is our all time favorite in cyclocross, and we see him often at the races.
TK: How are they made and where are they produced?
Harrie: We make the brakes ourselves after getting the separate parts together from specific suppliers we work together with. All brake sets are made in the Netherlands, and all parts designed by Dick.
TK: Tell me about the straddle cable hanger, how did you come up with such a unique design?
Harrie: The straddle carrier was a design by me as there was a request from our distributor to include it in a set of brakes. It needed to be simple to make and give a unique own look to our brakes. I think that has worked. I called it LEA Light Eccentric Adaptor, but LEA is the name of my sister that died in 2000 of cancer and I took her name and tried to find logical words for the letters L, E and A. She was always there when I was doing the cyclocross races and I still miss her. This way I see her name everywhere on the internet and other places where the Spooky brakes are.
TK: Who are some of the pros who use them?
Harrie: At the moment, the Rabobank and AA Drink teams use the brakes.
TK: Thanks to you and Vladimir for the words and photos!
We reviewed Spooky brakes, along with a ton of other cantilever brakes in our brake shootout in Issue 7. You can try to obtain your own set of Spooky brakes through your local bike shop, or by contacting Vladimir, who owns and runs Tufo North America.
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