Innovation vs. Imitation

How to get the best bike fit!

My wife and I are finally tackling a new kitchen in our home (the one we have was 60 years old). The shape of the kitchen will require some custom sized cabinets to be built. After we went through the process of checking into cabinet builders, we settled on one who’s been doing this all of his adult life. He also sports a lot of gray hair, so he’s been doing it a while. How does this relate to bicycle fitting? Read on...

Over the last years, R+E Cycles has pioneered in the arena of bicycle fitting. We’ve even developed our own complete fitting system, NEXT-fit™. This includes techniques, software, and even our own tools. These represent major investments for a small company like ours, but our customer's comfort is important to us. One of our most famous creations, our NEXT-fit™ fully adjustable fit bike, has been copied and is being distributed (by a really big company) to many other shops around the glove ( I guess we should’ve patented that one, but then again, they say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery).

It's a Small World!
In 2012, I was on vacation in Idaho, when I realized I forgot my bike shoes. So, I drove into town to pick up a pair at a local shop. As I walked in, I was greeted by the owner, but my eyes went right to the back room where I saw a fitting bike that looked just like the one we had designed in 2004. I asked the owner "Where did you get that fit bike?" He proudly answered "I have a machine shop outside of town, and I make those." As I looked over this new fit bike up close, I asked "Where did you get the design?" He said "We actually make those for a custom builder back east, and they sent us the design."

I walked him over to the computer on the counter, and brought up our NEXT-fit™ website. I said "Wow, that's great copy of our design, don't you think? If I had patented it, we would have a different conversation, but since I didn't, I would like to talk to you about buying one." The next day he gave me a tour of his machine business, and then gave me a really great deal on a fit bike that we had designed. Actually, this saved us a lot of time because we were in the stages of thinking up a sturdier design of our original bike.

A little side note: The original copier of the NEXT-fit™ design has since gone broke (that karma's a @#$%). The fit-bike design remains though, and has been picked up by a huge bicycle company. So, when you see one in a shop, and you are likely to, the least you could do is think of us;-). Heck, maybe even mention our name to the fitter using the bike.

Does the fit-bike make the fit?

Alright! Back to business.
The interesting thing to me is that people sometimes assume that they could get the same quality and type of fitting at another shop because they are using our fit bike design. As more and more shops get these bikes, more and more people ask me “I know that shop X has a fit bike like yours, can I go there and get fit?”

So, I’ll have to answer that this way. Does a skill saw make one a great cabinet builder? Everything that we’ve created: the NEXT-fit™ bike, the software, the measuring tools, etc... are just tools. They do not aid in performing a better fit, they just help us to do what we do more efficiently.

It’s like that cabinet builder. He can build a cabinet with a hand saw and a standard hammer just fine. The electric saw and nail gun he uses don’t make the cabinet better, they just help the cabinet builder do the job faster.

Now, if I buy a Skilsaw, a nail gun, and then take a weekend seminar at a big box store, that doesn’t mean that I’m a cabinet builder.... it just means I have the same tools as a cabinet builder, and some basic knowledge on the subject. With a lot of practice, I will eventually be able to build a nice cabinet, but probably never as good as a real cabinet builder.

Big company X that is now distributing a copied version of our original NEXT-fit™ bike design is giving weekend seminars to folks who work at the shops that buy them. That’s a step in the right direction, but I would suggest checking the stats on your fitter. That’s the really important thing. How many years have they been fitting? Do they do it full time, or just once in a while? How many years do they have in the bicycle industry? Are they sporting some gray hair on their head?

The moral of the story is:
It’s not the flashy tools, lasers, fit bikes...etc. that will make your bike fit comfortably. It’s all about the fitter...the person using the tools.

The original fully adjustable fitting bicycle
The original NEXT-fit™ fully adjustable fit bike completely designed in 2004 and built right here at Rodriguez Bicycle Company way back in 2006. The first fit bike made so that all adjustments can be done with the rider on the bike. Just as we were about to build a sturdier version, I stumbled into a small Idaho shop and discovered that someone had already done that for us. It now resides in storage waiting to go into the Smithsonian ;-)
The copy of our fitting bike
The really good copy of our NEXT-fit™ fully adjustable fit bike. The functioning is identical, but the construction is a lot more beefy, and holds up better to everyday use. We liked it so much, we bought one for our shop. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.