In awe of his bike - Photo: Now and Here, from Flickr

In awe of his bike - Photo: Now and Here, from Flickr

I get calls every week asking if I can “fit” someone to their bike. This is the way most people view the process in my opinion. They may not even own the bicycle yet, as they may see one in a bike shop, read about it in a magazine or be exposed to advertising and marketing. They may have a favorite cycling team and are enamored with the concept of being able to ride the “same” bike as their favorite bike racer or triathlete. Let’s face it, many bikes are so gorgeous that you just want to be a part of the crowd who has one!

It is well known that people get very attached to their bicycles and this is why bicycle marketing and peer pressure works so well. I have a very high success rate with my fittings but the ones where I failed involved one of two things; either the client could not be made aware enough of changes in position to allow me to find their ultimate best dimension set, or they would rather be less comfortable or efficient as long as they didn’t have to modify or reject their bike! This is why I wrote this article. My question is, do you own the bike or does it own you?

The first case, lack of awareness, is thankfully rare. I believe that just like an eye exam, people sometimes can’t (or won’t) permit themselves to discriminate between one position or another. I would surmise that ophthalmologists encounter this periodically where a patient just can’t tell what lens makes the eye chart easier to see. I am constantly learning new ways to help people get the most out of fittings but this phenomenon proves my point that fitting bicycles to people effectively is not easy.

The second case is more interesting. This involves three instances where my clients brought in their own bikes for a fitting. I did the standard procedure, 1) measure their bike, 2) do the actual fitting procedure on my custom sizing cycle and 3) take those measurements and attempt to set up the existing bike to those dimensions. These were all triathlon bikes, two Cervelos and one Trek. The solution in all the cases was to move the saddle back and to shorten the reach while raising the handlebars. The rider’s comfort and power increased, but at a cost. The cost was the beauty of the bike! Their beautiful baby now looked like “Frankenbike” and in two of the three cases, they rejected the fit in favor of looks or a more “aggressive” position.

I wonder about the claims of an “aggressive” position because I can easily disprove many positions by two key criteria: comfort and power. So, if you own the bike, you treat it as a tool to help you perform your sport. If the bike owns you, the burden is on you to adapt to the bike and you are being disrespectful to it and its designers by modifying it. The added twist of peer pressure can make the acceptance of a modified stock bike very difficult. I have heard reports of people being ridiculed at triathlons when they show up with their bike, knowing it is comfortable and fast but also having seeds of doubt sewn by their competitors and peers. Some people can handle it, some can’t, I have discovered. I think it boils down to who owns who in the relationship of bike to human.

There is a balance point in this mess and paradoxically the custom bike that is expertly designed for an owner is both owned by the rider and appreciated for its beauty and performance. The industry doesn’t promote custom bikes for two reasons, however. The first is, mass produced bikes are much more profitable. The manufacturers can design bikes around bike racers that they sponsor and then have a built in demand for them regardless of their usability by the consumer who may be 20 years older than the racers for which the bikes are designed.

The other problem with custom bikes is in the initial design of the bicycle based on fitting data. The computer term, GIGO, or Garbage In, Garbage Out, applies to custom bikes in a big way. The traditional Local Bicycle Shop, or LBS, has a business model as follows. While they do sell bikes, they make their money on accessories and repairs. Thus the LBS paradox. Since bicycles are harder to sell, harder to fit and have lower margins, fewer and fewer people are truly qualified to professionally sell bicycles! This explains why the LBS typically has younger, less expensive personnel and they sell on price rather than value.

The term Bike Fit is the hot phrase in the industry now and it seems everybody is a fitter. I have studied this paradox and have come to the following conclusions. First, I don’t stock scads of accessories, but do have the expertise to design a bike around a person so well that the people that do experience my services are very happy. I also find that if someone just wants the least expensive commodity bike that there will always be a less expensive one. Finally, since people are looking for the best deal, I ask that they consider who owns who; if you own the bike, the best deal is a bike designed for you. If the bike owns you, the best deal is a bike that you can worship and admire independently of its actual performance for you and with you. Either are ok, but learning which camp you are in is very enlightening.

Thank you so much for reading and I look forward to seeing your comments!

Originally posted 2009-04-14 08:01:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Ritchey setback seatpost, single bolt, micro adjustable. Photo: Kevin G Saunders

Ritchey setback seatpost, single bolt, micro adjustable. Photo: Kevin G Saunders

The seatpost is a part of bicycles that gets lots of attention for style points. Some people like straight posts, others set back. Many carbon seatposts are on the market and some are incredibly light.

The function of the seatpost is to locate the saddle in the right place for your body. It is not rotating weight so its weight is not critical. Many people put form over function here and I get lots of questions regarding my recommendations for simple two bolt posts over the fancy lighter ones.

The simplest answer I give is, seatposts need to micro adjust for saddle angle. This is why I like posts like Thomson for two bolt models and Ritchey for single bolt models. My setup bike has many saddles mounted to seatposts and almost all of them are Thomsons.

Everyone’s pelvic floor is a little different regarding it’s angle relative to their spine. As such, everyone needs a little different saddle angle. This is much more pronounced on triathlon bikes. If your seatpost has little notches that have multiple degrees between each “setting”, odds are that your perfect match will be in between a detent.

Do you feel that your saddle is angled wrong? The seatpost could have something to do with it. Your saddle setback relative to the bottom bracket and the handlebar height and reach also play a big role. When I design a bicycle around you, this is another little point that is considered that impacts your comfort, efficiency and of course your satisfaction in choosing a KGS custom bicycle or frame.

Originally posted 2009-09-16 04:59:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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North American Handbuilt Bicycle ShowI am taking a couple of day trips to Austin to see the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show. Of course lots of friends will be there and I hope to meet many more. I will tote my camera along and am sure to have some great shots to post soon.

Originally posted 2011-02-25 06:27:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Navy Seals in action. Photo: US Navy

Thanks l;kj;lNavy Seals in action. Photo: US Navy

“The only easy day was yesterday.” – Displayed at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. This statement gives a glimpse of the rigors of Navy Seal training, considered the toughest military training in the world. Active.com Triathlon featured an article on a couple of Navy Seals, SO1 David Goggins and CDR Keith Davids, Commanding Officer SEAL Team ONE, who competed in the 2008 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon and shared some insights to their training. The article is called 11 Tips for Triathlon Success by a Navy Seal, by Gale Berhnardt.

As a proponent of cycling as The Fountain of Youth, I think we all have a lot to learn from these special individuals. Their insights can help us in life, bicycling or triathlons.

Here is an excerpt from the article that I think is appropriate for us all:

Triathlon Training/SEAL Mentality

Training to be a Navy SEAL is far more challenging than training for an Ironman. Given his experience as a SEAL, and his recent Ironman success, I asked Keith to give triathletes some tips for success. Here is what he said:

  1. Eliminate self-limiting thoughts. More often than not, people have preconceived notions about what is possible for them to achieve. They sell themselves short. Abolish thoughts that hold you back from achieving your true potential.
  2. Optimize your skills. Everyone begins at a different place and each of us are dealt a different set of genetic cards. Use that to your advantage and optimize your assets.
  3. Be willing to spend the effort and energy to be successful. Anyone can succeed if they are willing to work at it. Too many people want to reap rewards without the sacrifice that is necessary to achieve any goal.
  4. Enjoy the journey. If you can enjoy the pursuit of excellence, you’ve got it made. Aiming to enjoy only the end result makes it impossible to endure the necessary sacrifices to achieve any goal really worth having.
  5. Be a student. The more you understand about what it is you’re trying to do and how to do it, the easier it is to be successful. Be a student of your passion.
  6. Persevere. There are many things that can get in the way of successfully achieving any goal. You have to be willing to figure out how to get over, under, around or through those obstacles. Keep trying.
  7. Develop mental toughness. It is not the physical challenges that keep men from successfully surviving the SEAL training, it is mentally giving up. You need to start believing that you can do it, you can be successful. Others have been successful before you, you can do it too.
  8. Be prepared to suffer. When you are training for an event as large as a 140.6-mile triathlon, it is a long haul. There is going to be bad weather, aching body parts and times when you are just plain tired. Know that some stress, followed by rest, will make you stronger physically and mentally.
  9. Take strength from others. This tip is particularly valuable for race day. Right when you are thinking things are really bad for you, look around. You’ll see that others are suffering too. Knowing you’re not the only one and that other people will suffer generates energy, if you’re willing to accept it.
  10. You must want success. Doing something that is difficult requires that you want to be successful with every fiber of your core. The intense desire to succeed helps you overcome obstacles that crush other people.
  11. Avoid over-training. It is easy for highly motivated people to over-train. Achievers are often rewarded for doing more and working harder. While you must work hard and do the prescribed work, you must also rest in order to reap the benefits.

You may not be capable of becoming a Navy SEAL, but I’m willing to bet you are capable of successfully becoming a triathlete. Some of you are capable of being quite competitive in the sport; perhaps one of the top in your area, the state, the nation or perhaps the world.

Be inspired, inspire others.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Originally posted 2009-03-03 05:00:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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This is what it’s all about. The essence of triathlon.

22 May 2016

I just got home from the Champion’s All Women’s Triathlon produced by Red Licorice Events at Pace Bend Park. The photo of two winners was nice enough to share. Here is the entire set on Flickr. Thanks for looking. I appreciate your comments too. Tweet Originally posted 2009-04-25 16:25:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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On the road to mediocrity, from Seth’s Blog

21 May 2016

I subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog and often get pearls of wisdom. His short entry today described my place in the bicycle retail biz, fighting mediocrity, as well as how all of us succumb at one time or another. On the road to mediocrity Along the way, we settle. We settle for something not quite […]

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Buying Luxury Discreetly

20 May 2016

Forbes.com just posted an article called Ten Ways to Buy Luxury Discreetly and in addition to sharing that article, I wanted to share with you some of the comments clients have made when coming in to get their KGS bicycles. The subhead to the article reads, “The financial crisis has made conspicuous consumption gauche. For […]

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How KGS Custom bicycles are like hot peppers

19 May 2016

Many of you know that I subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog and appreciate his perspective and wisdom. In reading his post today it struck me that the challenges of educating people on the value and feel of a true custom bicycle are not unlike describing the taste of hot peppers to one who has never […]

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Bikes for Travelers – A new spin on a travel bike

18 May 2016

The coolest thing about blogs and the web is the possibility of meeting new people with a common interest. I got an email this morning from Bobby who has a very cool blog called Urban Cyclotron where he talks about travel bikes. He found the KGS site and noticed that I had designed a cool […]

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If you don’t know bicycles, (or even if you do), know your bicycle dealer

17 May 2016

At KGS Bikes, I meet many people who are not bike racers, who are not bike mechanics. They simply want their bicycle to be comfortable and safe, want it to work well and they want the experience to be fun. Most people don’t understand the difference between a custom bicycle that is designed around them, […]

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