I was recently asked to do an interview by Kate Bongiovanni, a contributing writer for the Competitor magazine group. Below you will find our question and answer session. Hope you enjoy the read! Perhaps you will gain a little more insight into who I am, how Elite was started, and the philosophy of how we try to conduct ourselves. Thank you to Kate for her interest, time, and efforts to conduct the interview.

How old are you?

I am a very young 39 years old.

What do you consider your hometown?

I am a Philly boy through and through (go EAGLES). However I will always have a heart felt fondness for “sweet Jamaica, mi island home”.

How did you get interested in the bike industry?

I was an active athlete who understood what sponsorship meant and what the responsibilities were for both parties, from my first title sponsor, Steve from (what was once) Steve’s Multisport. I learned a lot from Steve, and did what I could to properly promote and support him and to be an effective contributor to his multisport business.

I read about how you (David) kept breaking bikes and continued to search for a ride that would work for you without crumbling underneath. Why did this happen? And why did you decide to start Elite Bicycles?

The old adage when referring to racing bikes was, “Strong and stiff, lightweight, aerodynamic. Pick two”. I was definitely interested in the aerodynamics and coming from a peak performance and personal training background I knew that fit and geometry would be crucial. Even then I knew that following the body’s natural functional movement would/could produce the most amount of power. This, combined with a rigorous lower body strengthening routine, would result in too much power for the back end of the aero / lightweight frames to handle. Steve and I sat down and talked about what we could do differently with geometry and strength to gain all of the characteristics I desired in a bike. The conclusion was the creation of the T6 (time trial / 650c). Utilizing the highest quality Easton (still our primary tubing manufacturer) aero tubing, true race geometry, reinforced BB, chain stays / seat stays, and a “close enough for jazz” 2.5 lb frame. Of course, there were features of the first frame that sounded great on paper but in practice were not the most advantageous. Example: 650c wheels were thought at the time to be the end all-be all, however after further testing it was found that they start to be a disadvantage once the head tube is longer than ~140mm without head set. So after each design change we would re-evaluate the functionality of the whole bike and rider positioning and make what changes we felt could enhance the overall experience.  This is a practice that is still performed today with every new frame made, and every final adjustment.

How has the company grown since you started?

Exponentially. When Elite began, it was essentially the house brand of Steve’s Multisport. Steve’s closed down at the turn of the century, and Elite Bicycles, Inc. was re-incorporated to my name as sole shareholder. Elite Bicycles moved its headquarters to my living room, and its storage to the basement of a local shop where Elite matters were worked on at night after the shop had closed for the day. Since then we have moved into our current space, enjoying multiple years of acknowledgment by the Philadelphia Business Journal as one of the fastest growing businesses in the area. We are currently in the planning stages of a move to a much bigger location and a considerable expansion in service and products for everyone from children learning to ride to daily commuters, from weekend warriors to the most discerning professional athletes.

How does Elite Bicycles differ from another company?

We CARE. Not just about athlete and making the best product and position for them now, but how they will evolve in the sport, and what we can do for them in the future. All athletes are welcome to return as often as they wish to tweak and change the set up of the bike to reflect the physical changes they make over time or change in distances they wish to compete at. In addition we do our best to educate our athletes on a myriad of topics, including kinetic engagement, forced muscle partners, proprioception, cycling technique, roadside maintenance, and much, much more.

We also pride ourselves on providing free service for Elite Bicycles athletes at many high profile races (including Columbia and Eagleman), to ensure that our athletes have no troubles during an event they have put so much time and effort in preparing for. Truth be told we will help almost all athletes that come by, with only a few exceptions (read:  ungrateful pros with a sense of entitlement who don’t understand what being a factory sponsored athlete means); but, for the most part we are simply there to put every athlete’s mind at ease come race morning.

We will also be providing free pre-race tech support to all participants of all of the Rev3 triathlon series of events for the 2010 race season.

We allow each athlete to help with the aesthetics of the bike as well; the client can choose whatever design and/or color they wish and incorporate personal flare into the finish of the frame. We have previously done company logos, symbols of meaning, I heart ____ , signatures, animal patterns, etc., and we will do whatever the athlete wants. We love making them personal. So if you are thinking about a new Elite, start with the color and theme – it’s the hardest part.

Word of mouth says that Elite has a rather large Mid-Atlantic following, especially in the D.C. area. What makes Elite special and what might explain this following?

We work hard to make a trip to Philadelphia worthwhile to each and every athlete that comes through, regardless of where they traveled from. We have athletes fly in from all over the world, and it is important to us to impress upon our clients that by coming to Elite they are truly joining a family. Barring the odd advert or web banner here and there, our Elite family has grown almost exclusively via word of mouth sales. We have been fortunate to have so many followers this close to home, and I think part of the reason we do is because we make such an effort to always be available to our clients. We offer free fit checkups for life, and all of our clients know of the exceptional mechanical and customer service they will receive with every visit. We strive to build and maintain a relationship with every athlete who comes in, and people appreciate that. Our clients appreciate what we do for them, and are happy to tell everyone they talk to about their experience here in Philly. We always tell people that if you are going to buy an Elite we will do everything we can to make it perfect not only because we want you to be happy, but because when people ask you about your bike we want you to freak out about how great it is.

Your bio mentioned your extensive triathlon experience. Are you still racing today? How do you stay active?

We have a long running shop ride in the evenings during the warmer months, but we have been so busy over the past year or so that it is getting tougher and tougher to find time. Between running Elite, fitting, and designing, there is not a lot of time left to dedicate to racing, and I am unfortunately no longer the stud athlete I once was. Once I get started and can consistently find time for longer rides, it shouldn’t take TOO long. The fire is still inside, it’s just isn’t quite as easy these days!

This post was written by: DGG

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  1. good interview Dave.