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The Evolution of Bike Fitting and Frame Design Pt. 2
I’m honored to present the 2nd installment of our interview with legendary frame builder and designer Ben Serotta. If you’ve been following the news as of late, Ben recently announced the official re-launching of the Serotta brand. This means that in the near future, the iconic Serotta logo will be gracing some amazing titanium, aluminum, and steel bikes. To connect part 2 of the interview with his recent news, Ben also announced the creation of the Serotta Cycling Service Professionals Network which will be “a first-of-its-kind, peer-reviewed network of service professionals to provide bike fitting, maintenance, and related support services to new, returning and current Serotta customers.” This is potentially a remedy to what Ben mentioned in the pod regarding the consistency across the service and fitting landscape–how is it possible that two bike shops could suggest 2 different sizes and setups for the same rider a week apart?
In part 2 of the interview, we discuss the cycling industry’s role in fitting, ben’s passion for getting cyclists on the proper fitting ride, bike geometry and frame tolerance accuracy.
THE DIVE: Ep. 13 Topics
The role of the Cycling Industry in Bike Fitting
- Why there is no regulation of bike fitting in the industry
- In order to improve fitting, the industry has to be willing to set aside self-promotion
- Fitting requires support from the bike industry and the medical community to be recognized as a profession unto itself
- “Bike companies are mostly concerned about selling the next bicycle.”
- Cyclists would benefit if fitting became standardized across the industry
Bike Geometry and Bike Design
- “With the exception of a few people, perfect position changes.”
- “You design a bicycle knowing that perfection is a range for people.”
- Designing a bike to cover a “range”
- The focus of the interaction of the cyclist and the bike and why gleaning vast information about a cyclist is important to frame design
- “You’re riding experience is optimized if you understand the cyclist first.”
- “A bike is just an assemblage of parts until it’s ridden and then it becomes a bike.”
- “What makes a great bicycle is what happens when it’s being ridden and that varies based on the individual.”
- Wanting the best ride for a customer even if it’s not on one of his bikes.
- “On the one hand, it’s hard not to love the idea of somebody being able to just click 3 times and then all you have to do is ship a bike and there’s a lot of that taking place these days but it’s not very genuine if what a bike company professes to do is to deliver the ride experience of your life. It can’t be done that way.”
- Ben’s bikes are only fit by him and a small network of fitters he approves
Bicycle Frame Tolerance and Accuracy
- Same model, same make, same size will have a different weight or range as much as 20% in either direction from part to part
- People would likely not pay for the increased cost of more precision
- The variance on high-end bikes
- While Bike Cad is extremely accurate, builders cannot cut to a 10th of a millimeter
- Ben’s view on bike measurements like stack and reach
I wasn’t deeply interested in bike fitting until I finally came to the realization that I couldn’t promise delivering the best bicycle if I didn’t understand bike fitting better than I did. And the people selling my bikes needed to understand bike fitting better and so forth. I saw it as an absolute need. I wasn’t driven to be a bike fitter until I realized I had to do that as part of wanting to deliver the best bicycle.
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:
Images Credit, Bear Cieri: