I LOVE this book. Having “been there / done that” - it speaks of truth like few books do.To Make Riders Faster by Anna Dopico, tells the amazing and inspiring story of how two young engineers, Phil White and Gerard Vroomen, against all odds, took their bike company, Cervélo, on a 16 year roller-coaster ride from a basement workshop in Montreal to the pinnacle of triathlon and road racing.
In about a dozen years - two guys who were not “bike experts” created the top bicycles for the world’s top riders! - winning the Tour De France and the Men and Women’s Ironman.
I sat down with Phil White, recently in Toronto. This is a guy who “gets” innovation. As we started to talk he said quite simply…
“Why would you waste your time commercializing a mediocre product.”
I love how Anna tells their story with authenticity. This is not a story that “rewrites history.” When they are preparing to introduce their P3 bike at the InterBike show in Las Vegas she tells the story of how in a vacant lot in Vegas they are painting their bike, using matt black barbecue paint from Home Depot. They used a roll of toilet paper for the bottom bracket and did a series of crazed work around to make the bike seem like it was “real.” As Anna writes, Phil slapped a “prototype” label to make it obvious that it was not a finished design. When visitors stopped to admire the bike, they told visitors to not touch it in case it fell apart.
To their relief, the P3 drew crowds of admirers, who not only liked the bike but also told them to keep the matte black finish.
The P3 quickly became the standard for triathlon bikes in the industry.
What I love about their story….
- They had focus, focus, focus… “TO MAKE RIDERS FASTER.”
- They embraced science - they were among the first to use Wind Tunnels to help them make their bike’s go faster. As Phil said to me “each piece of the frame was crafted to do a specific task.” Prior to Cervélo, bike frames were designed by “artists”
- They Stood against tradition. Their bikes looked different - this caused the “traditionalists” to reject them. (As Phil said “we sold zero” road bikes for years). Searching for a market they found that Triathletes who were more open to innovation. And then Time Trial riders who cared about only one thing SPEED. Eventually the “traditionalists” were won over when a visionary broke with tradition and supported Cervélo
- They Embraced Fail FAST Fail CHEAP: As Phil said “we had to just try things.” The reality was when they were starting out their was more “legend” then “truth” in the rules of bike design.
- They created a company culture with everyone all in Phil said, “The relentless pursuit of faster.” Soon they had the lightest bike, stiffest bike, most aerodynamic bike in the world!
In a world filled with “innovation preachers” who have never practiced - To Make Riders Faster is the REAL DEAL. It’s the honest and authentic story of how LEAP Innovations really happen. It should be required reading by every business and engineering student. No correct that - it should be read by every adult who dreams of doing something meaningful with their life!
Read To Make Riders Faster… then get up, get out and get going yourself!