|At the T-Mobile team camp in Tucson, Arizona, I got an opportunity to visit with Scott Montgomery of Cannondale.|
Scott has had the unique experience of being around bike building and design most of his life; growing up and learning, and later helping develop the business, at the side of his father and founder of Cannondale bikes, Joe Montgomery. An experienced and able rider of single track and road, Scott is also familiar with bike design, testing and pro team sponsorship.
The interview started as we rode together and continued later over breakfast on the last day of the camp.
DP: Scott, Cannondale has always had an excellent reputation for the bikes it builds. Could you explain to me the philosophy that drives the design at Cannondale?
Scott M: Simply put, we are always striving to build the best bikes in the world, in every market, from high-performance road to sport road, CX racing, freeride and triathlon.
DP: What is the design evolution for a Cannondale bike?
Scott: The first step is always engineering. I often joke that if my father realized the building was on fire, and he knew he could only save one department, it would be R&D! With over 20 years of experience designing and improving the bicycle, we never stop finding ways to make it lighter, faster, and more comfortable.
The next step is taking those ideas and creating a bike in our factory in Bedford, Pennsylvania. That is essential since my times our designs require special parts that require very high quality production. When we walk down to the factory, we can often work together to find further improvements from our production staff.
The third key step is testing and we are told by the competitors and parts vendors that we do more of this than any other company in the bicycle industry. We have a fully staffed experimental stress analysis lab. In these tests, all aspects of the bike, fork and components and production methods are tested, such as stress, fatigue, weld integrity, chemical reaction of paints, anodizing, and bottom bracket deflection. It is important to test each and every new bicycle so that we can insure they are not only strong but safe for the teams and ultimately for the consumer.
Then finally, we go racing. We sponsor some 100 professional athletes all over the world. They push the product to the extremes, and they ultimately tell us where to go next to improve the product. In this way, the cycle of improvement never ends. Sometimes I have a hard time buying a new Cannondale for myself because in my mind, I am always looking to the new next years models which I know will get faster.
DP: Ok, Scott, how do you test bottom bracket deflection and power transfer on a bike?
Scott: We have a test machine which we call the Otto. It was developed with a very technical group of engineers in Germany. It basically puts a frame on varying angles, for example 5 degrees, 10 degrees, or 15 degrees, and puts a weight on the pedal. Then it measures the deflection in the bottom bracket, or should we say sway or how far from dead center it moves while the force is being applied. This is extremely important since you can make a frame lighter and lighter, but if it basically becomes a flexi much machine, it will be light but not provide good handling, or that explosive power when you climb out of the saddle to sprint. We are the only company that measures both weight and bottom bracket deflection as important criteria for designing a faster bike.
DP: So is that the end of the design evolution?
Scott: Yes and no. We have all we know so far included in our 2003 line of bicycles that we are producing today. But most of my time currently is being invested in our 2004 product line. And there, we are well on our way to starting the engineering, creating, testing, and racing cycle all over again for the coming year.
DP: So that is the end then, right?
Scott: Actually, the end is when we die. Until then, it never ends, and I hope others keep the process going beyond our lifetime. (Laughing)
DP: So this is an integral part of your sponsorship of pro teams like
Saeco, 7up, T-mobile, and Wheelworks. Did I miss any other teams that you sponsor?
Scott: Yes but let's leave it at that. Suffice it to say, we will keep finding smart individuals to help us learn and improve. These are our current lineup of top flite road cycling teams.
DP: I understand that not only is the CAAD7 available in 12 sizes, so a rider can find a bike that closely fits him, but that you are offering a "custom fit" program this year so a rider can have a CAAD7 custom built to his body measurements. When does the program begin? Who will measure the rider? Are any of the Pro teams you support having their bikes built this way?
Scott: We think fit is probably the most overlooked aspect to a fast and comfortable bicycle experience. I cringe when I see someone, say during the Tour de Tucson, riding a compact frame that just does not fit. Our solution, as you correctly pointed out, is to offer 12 sizes to our retailers, which can very accurately fit the majority of the planet. But if you just want 100% perfect fit, than we will begin offering our CAAD7 and CAAD7 Hollowgram bikes in our OptimumFIT custom-sizing program in February of this year. You can visit Cannondale to see details on the program.
DP: I have to feel that all this is a bit more than business, Scott. I get the feeling from you and your staff I have met, that Cannondale has a real passion for the sport?
Scott: There are more in triathlon, mountain, cyclo-cross, and freeriding. But to get to your point, we love this sport and this business. I have been doing this for most of my life, and if you do not enjoy what you do, then you should probably find another profession. I feel very fortunate to be able to do something in life that is exciting, challenging and at the same time is very good for you. I feel very lucky to enjoy my work and to have the opportunity to work with such fine people as Mari Holden and Dede Barry. Life is good.
DP: In April, you were announced as the bike sponsor for the new T-Mobile women’s pro team. Personally, I'm pretty excited about T-Mobile and the growth of women’s racing in general. What do you think of the future for pro women’s racing in the USA/Europe, and the effect of a well-supported American team on the international scene?
Scott: Well, it is always great to work with fine people. The wonderful thing about T-Mobile and women's cycling is that there is a real synergy to the combination. I am married, and I feel better knowing my wife is cycling with her mobile phone then without it. If she has a mechanical, accident, or any problem she can call me quickly to get assistance. T-Mobile, in my opinion, is giving women the same freedom and sense of security that men have always had, and that is fantastic.
So that is the big picture, and I hope this will give children, like my 7-year-old daughter, the opportunity to cycle more since they will have the benefit of technology that is making life better. So, coming back to the team at hand, they want to win medals in Athens in 2004. That is the goal and reason for this team today. I think with the fine backing of T-Mobile, USA Cycling, the US Olympic committee and all the other outstanding cycling partners, they have every opportunity to excel.
DP: Speaking of teams, what is your expectation for Saeco this year? Any inside skinny you can relay to the readers?
Scott: Sure. First of all, the experience of last year was a very big challenge for our company. But we survived and we are very motivated for this year. I am 100% confident our team will be a factor at this year’s Giro, and I am 100% convinced Gilberto Simoni will be riding in the 2003 Tour de France. With the consolidation of teams after the 2002 season, we have the points needed to be selected.
DP: It was a disappointment last year when Simoni and Saeco were left out of the Tour de France to a lot of fans. I was happy to see that Simoni was exonerated, but he and the team made a fair showing the last part of the season. It must have been tough for you as the sponsor.
Scott: Yes, it was very difficult, and I felt very badly for Gilberto. Imagine going from winner of the Giro to coke head? I am sure he was embarrassed to go to church! So yes, we are happy for Gilberto and happy to be a factor in the upcoming 2003 season. We have a lot to prove this year and I do not want to make any predictions, but the team is out for revenge.
DP: 7up/ Nutrafig gets an upgrade to CAAD7 this year. The guys had a banner year this year with the criterium championship and SFGP victory. In fact, this year looks to be pretty exciting for the USA Pro circuit with some of the American riders who raced in Europe returning to race. I expect to see the green and silver jerseys in the mix. How does it look to you for 2003? Any chance they will ride any races in Europe this year?
Scott: For 2003, 7up is going to be very, very strong. After such a great showing in 2002, the team is feeling very good. Of course, they will all be riding CAAD7 so we hope that makes a difference. (smiles) The team will stay focused on North America. There is so much good racing here with the Pro Cycling Tour and the new Tour de Georgia. It is just going to be a great season of racing.
DP: You also have a development team with Cannondale/Wheelworks. Who
are going to be the ones to watch this year and in the future on the team?
Scott: The Wheelworks/Cannondale team was the top amateur team in the country in 2002. That was very special, and we are proud to be associated with such success. Two riders for the team are key engineers at Cannondale, Chris Peck and Curt Davis. The great thing about this team is that our engineers get a chance to test their own new ideas in a very competitive environment. So, when Chris Peck rides the new frame, and then Simoni rides the frame and comments to Chris on some aspect of it, Chris understands where he is coming from since he shares the real world experience. This is very cool and is one of the reasons our staff is so dialed into road cycling.
DP: So what will be your favorite event to watch or go to this year, Sea Otter, Giro, NORBA?
Scott: Oh, there are so many good events. We need to win the Tour de France, but we need some luck. As an American, we are proud of Lance, and he is good for the sport, so we will be patient.
DP: Anything you can tell us about 2004?
Scott: Lighter, faster, and more comfortable - stay tuned. It never ends. Thanks for your time and interest. I really enjoyed riding with you in Tucson. See you at Redlands and Sea Otter.
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