Saturday, July 4, 2015

Allow Me to Introduce Myself - Meet Your Fitter

There are a lot of great bike fitters in the Indianapolis area, so why should you choose Vector Cycle Works over the others?

Bike fitting is a bit of an art with a lot of science behind it.  Most fitters have a pretty wide array of tools at our disposal, and knowing which ones to use when is key.  We ask a lot of questions, listen carefully, and guide you through the process with the goal of addressing your primary needs.  I firmly believe that bike fitting is not about the bike - it's all about you, the enthusiastic rider looking to get the most out of their cycling experience.  Tools, methods, and knowledge are a big part of the fit session, but a lot of what makes a good bike fit is the relationship between the rider and the fitter - how well we communicate, how comfortable we are with one another, etc.  For someone who is about to invest their time and money into this process, it might be nice to meet the person with whom they are going to spend a few hours.  So, in an effort to make you more comfortable, I thought it might be helpful to introduce myself.

I like long walks on the beach in the moonlight...  Oh wait, wrong introduction...

First off, my name is Travis Rassat.  I was born and raised in rural Minnesota, near a small town called Waverly.  I'm proud of my small-town heritage - I believe in honesty, integrity and trust, and apply those principles to Vector Cycle Works.  In the picture above, you can see my first bike - I've been riding since I was 6 years old - I got that bike for my birthday.  That bike went through a lot - wheelies, jumps, sand, gravel, mud, you name it - it was ridden often and hard.  I learned to fix stuff at an early age, mostly because I had to make sure things were working before Dad got home, like the time I tore down our lawnmower just to see how a small engine works.  But, that's another story...  I was always wrenching on my bike, adjusting the seat and handlebars, and even at an early age, tore it down, repainted it, and put it back together.  A few times.  Curiosity and an interest in all things mechanical is in my DNA.

I moved to Indiana in 2001, got married to my wife, Keena, in 2004, and have two daughters, Natalie and Mia.  My day job is in the computer industry, and I'm currently wrapping up my Bachelor's Degree at IUPUI, where I've been going part time since 2006.  This is actually my fifth go at college, having studied mechanical engineering, computer programming (got an Associate's Degree from St. Cloud Technical College in St. Cloud, MN in 1998), computer science, motorsports engineering, psychology, business, and music history over the last 23 years.  I guess you could say I just love learning (or have had a really hard time figuring out what I want to be when I grow up).  If I'm not on a bike, I love hiking, camping, and doing things outdoors, especially in places like Colorado, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota, and any of Indiana's state parks or other wooded areas.  Anybody who has been to visit Vector Cycle Works has seen my drum set sitting close to the shop in my house.  I've been playing music since I was in 4th grade, although I've forgotten how to actually read music, and only play by ear and feel.  I like it better that way - it's not so rigid.  That's really just a nice way of saying that I'm a pretty awful musician.

Like other fitters, bicycling is a big part of my life, although this is where my story might be a bit different than that of other fitters;  I've never raced at a high level, been on a national team, worked in a bike shop, or worked for a bike manufacturer.  I'm just a regular dad and husband who enjoys cycling as a hobby and balances it with the rest of life.  That's not to say I am not competitive - I got into mountain bike racing around 2003, racing in a few DINO events before an old back injury (herniated disc in my back in 1996) and the birth of my kids put me on the sidelines for a few years.  In that time, I gained a lot of weight and never really recovered from the back injury.

In late 2008, when my daughters wanted me to pick them up and throw them in the air and I couldn't because of pain, I was heartbroken.  I felt like a failure as a dad and had to do something to change myself.  I was way overweight and hurt all the time.  A friend at work approached me and asked if I wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Around that time, another coworker coerced me into doing a triathlon.  So, on New Year's Day 2009, I started a new journey to a healthier life - I was going to swim, bike, and run my way to the top of Kilimanjaro.  My first triathlon was the Carmel sprint in April 2009.  I think I was one of the last 5 finishes in that race, but I was hooked - within an hour of getting back home, I was signed up for my next triathlon.  After a few more races, I went all in and bought a triathlon bike in 2010 - a Quintana Roo Seduza.  I am still racing that same bike today, although it has been upgraded a few times.

Since then, I've continued to lose weight, train, race, challenge myself, and explore the limits of my body.  I'm now down about 55 pounds from my peak weight, and feel a lot better, overall.  We reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in August of 2010.  I've continued to race, and you can see my results at Athlinks.  I've had some successful races, and I've had some terrible ones.  I've got a lot of great memories and stories and have enjoyed every single one of them.

In 2013, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  Along with that comes Celiac Disease, as they are related autoimmune disorders.  That has been a challenge that took over 10 years to finally reach a diagnosis, and I still struggle with it.  I deal with a lot of muscular and skeletal pain, as well as nutrition challenges.  While Lupus is not fun, I see it as something I can leverage when fitting riders on their bikes - I understand what it's like to hurt.

I got an interest in bike fitting after having been professionally fit myself.  I found the process intriguing, and wanted to learn more.  After a lot of self-study and experimentation with myself and a few friends, I became BikeFit-certified and started fitting others professionally in early 2014.  I've continued on to BikeFit level 2 certification and have a plan for additional training and certifications in the coming years.  I'm currently pursuing my USAC Level 3 coaching certification.

Of course, I still make time for some racing.  I've recently done something I've wanted to do for a long time - going into off-road triathlon and participating in the XTERRA Eastern Region Championship in Richmond, Virginia.  I didn't do very well, but I had a blast.  There will be much more XTERRA racing in my future, as well as some more mountain bike racing, some road races and events, and hopefully some cyclocross and track racing in the upcoming years.  I'm also going to figure out the marathon at some point.  I am also an ambassador for the Toughman triathlon series, which continues to grow and provide racing options in what can be described as a pretty interesting triathlon market.

XTERRA and Toughman provide a lot of opportunities to support my personal racing goal; My focus has shifted in recent years to "racecations" - going to fun destinations where I get to race, and then can recover with my family for a few days doing something we all can enjoy.  My goal is to race in all 50 states and 10 other countries - whether it's a marathon, triathlon, mountain bike race, road race, cyclocross race, trail run - whatever it might be.  So far, I've only raced in 9 states, so I've got a long way to go.  That 6-year-old boy in the picture at the top still dreams of getting to the top step of a podium somewhere, somehow, but as I've spent more time fitting and coaching others, their success has become more important than mine.  I would be much more proud to put you on a podium somewhere, somehow.

Anyway, that's enough about me.  Hopefully, you've enjoyed hearing my story and feel like I'm somebody you'll trust with your fit.  But, I'm much more interested in hearing your story - whether you find your ride painful or are trying to find that extra little bit of speed to get a win at your next event, I am here to listen, understand, and support you in your goals.  No matter what your goals are, new rider or a long time racer, weekend warrior or pro, I hope you'll come visit me at Vector Cycle Works soon - I think we'll have a great time together!

Thank you!

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