An Introspective Interview with David Greenfield, President of Elite Bicycles
I kept my eyes shut as I felt my aero-bars shift slightly. David asked me several times: ‘Strawberry or marmalade?’ I answered ‘Marmalade’. Strange as it may have sounded, it made complete sense to me. It was a sweet finish to a delectable experience – and it took place at a boutique, custom-crafted bicycle shop.
Elite Bicycles is a leading boutique bike fitting company, based in Pennsylvania and now in Singapore. To call them a bicycle shop would be to diminish their value, and deny them their place in the universe of cyclists and bike aficionados. This is an established company that promotes branded customer experience (BCE) and a business philosophy that is unique as it is unusual.
My virgin bike fitting was an indelible experience; I was fitted by former-professional triathlete David Greenfield and one his business director (Elite Bicycles Asia), Daphne Wee. All in all, it took five hours and about half of that time was spent on checking my athletic history and diagnosing my fitness. Who would have imagined that the intensive analysis of my posture would yield valuable information that would lead to both a precise bike fit, as well as a rehabilitative exercise program for my physical anomalies and shortcomings? I left my session with a deeper awareness and respect for my body structure, kinesiology and the fitting process.
When David works with you, he demonstrates a profound sense of respect for you as a person. He will ask you: ‘May I have permission to touch you?’ His touch is professional (like a chiropractor) and reassuring when he tests your body for core stability, flexibility and strength of key muscles. He provides useful critique and, hopefully, you are listening because there is plenty of good stuff to be gleaned from his feedback. There is wisdom and care in his voice in this 39-years-young Master; he trusts that you find it intimating and not intimidating as other less skillful self-proclaimed experts are likely to do. So, you follow along, stand one leg (and it is the one that was sprained twenty years ago) and shut your eyes, and start wobbling like a Jenga tower on the brink of toppling. You recover in time to hear the words ‘visual’ and ‘proprioception’, and you experience a flashback of an acronym, vaguely sounding like PNF.
A bike-fitting session is serious business for both fitter and cyclist, thus it makes sense to combine the sensitive with the cognitive. Bike fitting is one part science, one part artistry, and one part feel. David and his Team are determined to solve the mystery of the perfect bike fit: fiddling to fit bicycle to the cyclist's future fitness. A notebook-installed-software inputs your data, as the fitter uses various low and high-tech gauges to measure your body dimensions, check anomalies and assess your strengths and weaknesses: This setup of measuring instruments, alone, costs about $30,000 – well exceeding the professional fitting fee and recommended orthotic inserts.
Rest assured, David’s team of fitters are hand-picked and trained by him; thus, they meet his exacting standards for quality work, as well as believe in giving their best work. Clients I spoke to shared with me that they are pleased with their fitting, and the degree of exactness, dedication and attention paid to their cycling goals. Testimonials like these travel far and away, reaching the ears of fickle-minded, highly negotiating, cycling enthusiasts and triathletes focused on their next race. Plus, when customers tend to drop by unannounced after their bike fitting, to sit around and shoot the breeze indicates that this is more than a retail business. There is a positive energy associated with the staff, the brand, its clients and its showroom cum workshop.
Elite is now partnered with F.I.S.T-certified bike fitters Daphne Wee and Adeline Khoo, for its new branch in Singapore. Situated at 3 Duxton Hill, Elite Bicycles Asia was officially opened in late-February. Its clientele included elite amateur cyclists, triathletes and leaders in the local cycling scene. Add to this team is experienced and trained Technical Supervisor Ho Zhong Xuan, who is known among local cyclists for his dedication to maintaining the iron-horse. This unique combination of values-centred service, care for the customer, and an almost obsessive thoroughness in their work, should ensure that Elite Bicycles have a stronger brand reputation in years to come. I wish them all the best!
The main body of the interview was conducted by Enrico Varella when David was in town to launch Elite Bicycles Asia.
Enrico Varella: What does it feel like to be recognized as a ‘guru’ or authority in your field of expertise?
David Greenfield: I feel a responsibility to help with the continued advancement, progression, and education of the art of bicycle positioning.
EV: What are your pet peeves?
DG: Non-supportive shoes, people who do not take responsibility for their actions, people who seek wealth over success, people who depend upon their local mechanic to clean their bike, b shops that lack compassion and empathy.
EV: What do you like about triathlons?
DG: It gives people a chance to achieve personal gratification and goal setting in 3 separate disciplines and as a whole. Triathlon can be a personal test of one’s self, or a competitive sport allowing one to gauge themselves agents their peers. Triathlon is what the individual makes it to be and (usually) all are accepted without judgment.
EV: How would you describe your profession?
DG: Fun, challenging, and highly rewarding.
EV: What do you think is the unique business proposition of Elite Bicycles?
DG: We treat all clients / athletes as members of our immediate, caring family. Never with judgment, just our desire to make a positive impact in the lives of the people we meet. Being a successful person is extremely important to me, but my personal definition of success may vary from the norm. Success to me is helping to make positive change for others, giving and receiving respect where it is due, being honorable, having a positive sense of self value, and knowing that you have put out a true effort to provide others with the best you can. I would like to be internationally recognized as a leader and a person who has made innovative advancements in their field. This, to me, is success.
EV: What are the lessons you learnt from running your business?
DG: Trust no one and expect nothing and you will never be disappointed.
EV: What have your impressions of the local/Asian triathlon community?
DG: Polite, attentive, eager to learn, and the sense that they have not yet eaten from the cycling tree of good and evil and thus do not know the potential benefits of a balanced and controllable machine.
EV: Your thoughts about the Singapore Ironman 70.3?
DG: A well planned and executed event in a beautiful venue with the appropriate level of athlete support and care to produce a world-class atmosphere.
EV: Who are the Big Names in bike fitting? What about Steve Hogg of Pedal Pushers of Sydney?
DG: Steve Hogg is a very nice and all around good guy, I appreciate the time and communications I have had with him and I salute his core ideals. I do believe that he has helped me to advance and reassure me of my beliefs as a fitter. Other fitters I learn from and respect include, but are not limited to, Paraic Mcglynn, Dan Empfield, Andy Pruitt, Paul Swift, Scott Peterson and John Cobb. There are many other people who have come in and out of my life and are an intricate part of my education and formative life. I have found that it is alternative methods of physical medicine, including physical therapy, applied Kinesiology, functional movement, and an understanding of pedorthics that has helped me to make the biggest gains in understanding the wonders and natural flow of the human animal. This education allows me to recognize and correct the athlete’s root issues, provide an element of pre-habilitation, and ensures a comprehensive approach to providing the athlete with a progressive ability for self-improvement, happiness, and life extension.
EV: Who were/are your mentors and teachers?
DG: Everyone, everyday.
EV: Who are your major influences in sports and business?
DG: In the business side of the cycling world, a few names that jump out are Dan Empfield, Les Welsh, and Steve Harad. In the sports world, I would have to say Usain Bolt, Chad Ochocinco, Michael Phelps. In the pure world of business it would be Allen Morelli, who taught me that to flourish one needs to be the “pig” in a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. The chicken and cow only lose a part of themselves, while the pig is all in with his life.
EV: What would a bike fitting involve?
DG: Time, effort, care, and a truly heartfelt and dedicated attempt to help and teach people how to improve their standard of living in sport and beyond.
EV: How would you describe your unique brand of service?
DG: We try to create a sense of good karma by having an open ear and listening to what we see and hear from our clients. We operate with no judgments or preconceived notions about the athletes we work with. We show respect and appreciation for those who invest their time and money with us. Most importantly, we try to live our lives and conduct our business with a sense of purpose, principles, and honor.
EV: What are some of your favorite sayings? You have many.
DG: You are a beautiful snowflake. Go get em’ tiger. Great!
EV: How did you arrive at your unique, comprehensive, process of bike fitting? The process can take up to four hours.
DG: An unquenchable thirst for continuing education on a broad plain, and an aspiration to use ALL progressive information, tools, and learned skill sets available to ensure we have thoroughly and meticulously used all recourses available to enhance the standard of living for those who we work with.
EV: Old school and new school? What is your approach?
DG: There are benefits and weaknesses in both. It is important to discern what the positive and beneficial characteristics offered by both, and use what will help our athletes prosper.
EV: You like some things ‘organic’. What is your take on ‘organic’ approaches to bike fitting?
DG: It is the compliment to following the natural flow of the animal as a being and a machine.
EV: What do you miss about being a professional athlete?
DG: Being able to justify sleeping in for 10 hours to allow my body to grow stronger and recover. Egotistically, I would have to say being the current national champion in a major sport is one of the best feelings ever. However, I would like to say, I currently live my life with the same effort, passion, and competitive attitude – only now the event is Elite Bicycles.
Photos: Elite Bicycles