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The Evolution of Bike Fitting and Frame Design Pt. 1

I’m honored this week to present the first segment of a 2-part conversation with legendary frame builder Ben Serotta. He willingly devoted hours to our interview and went beyond my list of quirky questions.  Although we certainly discuss frame geometry and design, Ben is also one of the early godfathers of bike fitting with the invention of the Serotta Size Cycle in the mid-80s and in the early 90s, the formalization of one of the first bike fitting schools, the Serotta International Cycling Institute in 1998.  His relentless pursuit to provide the best fitting bicycle, lead to his passion for fitting as he found them to be undeniably intertwined.  He has designed bikes riders on major professional teams like 7-Eleven and Coors Light and for riders participating in national championships, world championships, Olympics and grand tours. Part 1 of the conversation with Ben focuses on the following great topics 1.) Ben’s history in frame design 2.) Finding the fit–Serotta Size Cycle and SICI 3.) The challenge of bike fitting and bike fitters

THE DIVE: Ep. 12 Topics

Ben’s History in Cycling
  • The Whitcomb apprenticeship with Richard Sachs and Peter Weigle
  • Bike builder or college?
  • “Most people who cycle intuitively realize there is some correlation between how well you can ride and how comfortable you can ride and your position on the bike.”
Serotta Size Cycling and Fit in Frame Construction
  • C.O.N.I – The beginning of measuring cyclists and connecting them to bike sizes
  • New England Cycling Academy and the first Fit Kit
  • Cycling is about movement
  • The contact points on the bicycle and the impetus behind the Serotta Size Cycle
  • “If you are going to do something, just do it really well.  If there’s anything you can do to raise the bar on what’s come before, then there’s an obligation to try to do that.”
  • “I want to know that every bike I deliver is exactly the right bike for every cyclist.”
  • You have to know how to use a tool or it’s just a tool.  
  • “I started making size cycles to sell to the stores we were selling bicycles through. Then I realized that was different than just handing somebody a chainsaw for the first time and pointing them in the direction of the wood.  You have to know how to use a tool. You can have the best tool in the world but if you don’t know how to use it, the results will vary.”
  • One customer went to two different dealers with the size cycle and received 2 different size recommendations.
  • Michael Sylvester‘s influence on Ben’s decision to create bike fitting education
The Challenge of Bike Fitting
  • The more people who understand bike fitting, the more they’ll appreciate it
  • Not all bike fitters are created equal
  • The challenge of bike fitting is a lack of regulation
  • If you want to hang your shingle as a true, top-notch bike fitter, you have to have both the natural ability to read someone as well as this inquisitiveness as well as experience.  Good bike fitters are open to learn with every fitting and learn a little bit with almost every fitting.”
  • People becoming fitters are not screened before entering the profession.
  • “There are lot of good, competent bike fitters, but there’s only a handful of bike fitters than can universal do an excellent bike fitting on anyone that comes in.”
  • The average fitter has a difficult time defining the line of their own competence.
Photo Credit: Bicycling Magazine, Ben Cieri
Photo Credit: Bicycling Magazine, Ben Cieri
I started making size cycles to sell to the stores we were selling bicycles through. Then I realized that was different than just handing somebody a chainsaw for the first time and pointing them in the direction of the wood.  You have to know how to use a tool. You can have the best tool in the world but if you don’t know how to use it, the results will vary.
Ben Serotta

Serotta Design Studio

Biography from https://benserotta.com/ by Ben Serotta After opening up a small retail and repair shop as an off-school activity in the late 1960’s I traveled to London, England where I apprenticed in building steel bicycle frames. First represented in the 1976 Olympics, Serotta bicycles bore witness to America’s rise as a modern cycling power. Contracted by US powerhouse teams 7- Eleven (1984-1988) and Coors Light (1991-1994), along with numerous smaller national and international programs, Serotta became the dominant US builder of high performance racing bicycles. By 1990 our bicycles had been raced to National, European and World Championship titles in road, time-trial, track, mountain and triathlon events. Ever driven to raise performance standards, I worked directly with hundreds of elite athletes while developing a unique approach to the human/machine interface, resulting in the company’s two-pronged approach to elevating cycling performance: personalized engineering and a paradigm change in bicycle fitting methodology. These revolutionary paths inspired the development of a proprietary range of shaped, “size-specific” bicycle frame tubing, dubbed the “Colorado Concept” and the first SizeCycle (an infinitely adjustable stationary bicycle). Like dual cornerstones, these advances became the foundation for the next 25 years of my company’s work. In 1998, Serotta launched a hands-on teaching program for bicycle fitting, which later became knows as SICI (Serotta International Cycling Institute). In turn, SICI graduates have gone on to become integral to the development of more than a dozen other bicycle-fitting organizations. To date, more than 1,500 fitting technicians, coaches and medical practitioners have come from around the world to attend SICI programs and seminars. In August 2013, in a hostile restructuring by new investors, I was forced to part ways with Serotta Competition Bicycles, and in an instant I’d become separated from many of my friends, business associates and fans. In the time since discovering silver linings from my unexpected disconnect, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with a broad range of organizations from across a wide spectrum of the bicycle industry- from highly customized hand-crafted bicycles made in North America, to the one-size-fits-all world of public bike share bikes produced in Asia. Better still, I’ve had the gift of the opportunity to meet, ideate and create with some incredible people with whom I might never had the chance to work. In January 2018, I formally and publicly re-entered the bicycle business with the opening of the Serotta Design Studio.  It’s not a 3-click to purchase company, nor will you find my new bicycles mixed in with a line-up in general retailers.  With this new endeavor, I wanted to establish a direct relationship with each cyclist who places her/his trust in us to deliver an exceptionally wonderful product. It’s not that I have anything against retailers as a whole, not at all.  It’s just that I’d rather not dilute the information flow, so that I really know we are delivering the best product for each client.  Besides, it’s more fun and more informative getting the direct feedback. In a way, ‘The Studio” is both a continuum and a new beginning, building on a great  legacy that’s fed by a fresh and almost limitless stream of new ideas and opportunities.” I remain as dedicated as ever to improving life experiences through cycling. Want to learn more about Ben’s current projects?  You can find his work below: https://benserotta.com/ https://www.serottadesignstudio.com/


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