Elite Bicycles … Pursuit of Perfection

I recently had the opportunity to chat with David Greenfield, President of Philadelphia based Elite Bicycles. I think you’ll enjoy what Dave had to say about the art of bike building and triathlon in general.

SB: Explain to us a little bit about your involvement in the sport of triathlon. How you got started, why, etc.

DG: My desire to train and compete in triathlon all began on a drunken morning 1994 when I realized there had to be more to life than drinking, partying and being overweight and out of shape.

I saw a triathlete magazine in the window of a bookstore, remembered seeing Ironman Hawaii coverage on TV, and thought it would be a great way to turn around my life. The next day, I quit my job as a nightclub employee, and found a job with hours that would allow me to begin my new life.

To my surprise, I had some natural talent and began entering local races. A steady and hard-earned progression brought me from through the pack and into the pro ranks. As a Jamaican citizen, I got the chance to compete with the Jamaican national team, and used that credential to race on the international triathlon circuit, including the 1997, 1998 and 1999 World Championships.

I have also been present in several Ironmans, including Hawaii, where my pro debut on the Big Island was an educational experience.

SB: How did the vision of Elite Bicycles come to be?

DG: When I was racing, I was unable to find a bicycle that had all the things I was looking for; proper fit and geometry, lightweight design, true aerodynamics, and the right power transfer.

I looked for the support and advice of my local shop-sponsor and we sat down, spec’d a perfect bike and went about finding the right engineer and builder. Elite was born.

SB: What are the goals of Elite as an organization?

DG: We have three separate goals; first, to be recognized as the leading builder of racing bicycles for competitive athletes, and secondly to help every Elite owner reach their maximum potential by building frames that incorporate all the things the most demanding pro would want from their bike.

SB: What sets Elite apart from everyone else?

DG: There are a few of things that set Elite apart:

We are one of the very few bicycle companies who build frames using tubing supplied by American manufactures, and all of our fabrication is done by hand in the US. (Almost every other major bicycle manufacturer builds in Taiwan or China).

Elite uses the highest quality raw materials available on the open market today: this includes aluminum tubing, carbon fiber forks and seat stays and paint. We also pride ourselves on using the industry-recognized leaders in the arts of welding and painting.

Elite is also one of only a handful of companies that builds customized bikes for the most discriminating rider. These custom frames allow Elite owners to get the best possible combinations of sizes and materials for unequaled value.

SB: Is it possible to name one single most important consideration when looking to invest in a bicycle?

DG: Correct fit is the single most important consideration in purchasing a bicycle. Without a proper fit, even the most expensive bike will not perform to expectations and can be both uncomfortable and even harmful for a rider.

At the same time, a proper fit on a less expensive bike will allow a rider to get the most out of his/her effort and equipment.

SB: You have some impressive athletes in the Elite family of riders. Care to drop some names?

DG: Two-time Olympian and Gold Medalist Sheila Taormina, National and World Amateur Champions Cecily Tynan and Joe Bonness, Ironman Champion Yoko Okuda, International Ironman and World Cup contenders Steven Sheldrake, Brent Foster, Jamie Yon, Peter Kotland, Todd Wiley, Laurie Hug, Fiona Dockerty, Peter Clode, Amy Farrell, and MaryEllen Powers are among the Elite Professional Team members.

SB: What are a few common mistakes or misconceptions that you see in the bicycle buying community?

DG: Buyers tend to believe that bigger is better and that the companies who spend the most marketing dollars build the best products, when in fact the reverse can be true. There are no technology advantages in this industry that are not readily available to even the smallest builders – it is the manufacturer’s choice as to where they want to position themselves in the industry.

Smaller companies can provide tighter quality control than mass produced manufacturers, and because of lower overheads, can deliver more value and customer service than the larger bicycle manufacturers.

SB: What significant changes (good or bad) have you seen in the industry over the years?

DG: I see a lot of companies who are making changes for the sake of change, with no regard to either performance or value. For sure, many changes in the design and materials used in bikes today are delivering both cost efficiencies and performance to consumers.

At the same time, many of these changes seem, to me, to be frivolous or designed for planned obsolescence.

The trend towards using cheap labor in the Far East for the complete build and assembly of high-end bikes by American companies is also troubling to me.

SB: And to follow up my previous question, what changes would you like to see?

DG: I would like to see high-end bicycle manufacturers that play on their country’s cycling heritage to clearly state where the bicycle components are built and assembled.

I would also like to see industry standards set for sizing and compatibility of components and parts so that consumers can easily purchase upgrades or replacement parts.

SB: What does David Greenfield do when he is not immersed in the art of bicycle design or the sport of triathlon?

DG: Like many small business owners, I spend almost 100% of my time either working on Elite or supporting Elite athletes at triathlons around the world. If I’m lucky I can get out for a quick ride or run, but for the most part I’m totally concentrated on Elite tasks.

SB: What additional knowledge would you like the masses to walk away with about Elite?

DG: I would like people to know that we are dedicated to building the absolute best Elite bikes we can, and delivering a high level of value to the athletes who ride them.

People should know that we’re an all-American company who values the “Made in America” label and is true to it. We’re not Trek, we don’t sell thousands of bikes every year. But we do have a very loyal group of customers who can and do attest to our level of materials, craftsmanship and service.

That concluded our chat. Elite continues to experience exponential growth year after year. But still manages to provide the personal attention to detail that has become their trademark. Stay tuned at www.elitebicyles.com

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