Monday, December 28, 2020

Thank You.

It has been over 2 years since my last blog post.  A lot has been happening in that time - much of it good - but there certainly have been some challenges.  As some may know, I've struggled with health issues for years, and after a lot of thought and with some recent circumstances in the bike industry, have decided it is best to move on and will be shutting down Vector Cycle Works.  I'll try to explain the reasoning here.

Health Issues

The biggest problem has been my health, which has been a problem for a long time, as some might know.  I was diagnosed with Lupus in 2011, although it was over 10 years of unknowns that finally led to that.  The pain I've been dealing with has been massive for a long time, and was exacerbated by my bike accident in 2016.  At the beginning of this year, I was taking 8 Tylenol and 16 Ibuprofen a day, as well as 30mg of CBD oil, trying to overcome the pain.  I could barely make it through a bike fit.  It wasn't working.  It got to the point where suicide was getting to be the only way to end the pain, so I pursued treatment.  I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and started a new medicine.  This was good and bad - the medicine is great, and my pain is now almost all gone.  The side effects are a problem, though - I rarely go a day without at least one nap, and I'm often nauseous and dizzy.  It's hard to make it through a bike fit without being completely worn out.  But, I will take that - the pain being gone is truly remarkable.  We're still fine-tuning the medicine and overall treatment plan, but I'm hopeful.

My health issues are not just physical.  I've been very introspective, reflective, and depressed lately, and have struggled with who I am as a person and how I fit into this world.  I'm a clinically-diagnosed perfectionist and a shell-shocked ex-Marine, and have never had a bike fit (or much of anything else I've ever done) that I've been happy with.  That's my nature - I'm never happy with anything I do and, for lack of a better way to put it, it sucks.  While this is something that I can deal with and even use to my advantage, it's not exactly the best headspace to be in when it can affect other people.  Even when a rider is completely happy with their fit, I am still wondering what I could do better.  I've always been a little nervous about every bike fit - meeting a new person, helping them to be happy with their cycling experience, and ensuring they have a good experience in the studio.  1,000 riders later, that's a lot of emotional baggage that I've chosen to carry.  Success is never achievable for me.

Work

When I first started doing bike fits, I thought I might do 10 or 20 a year, with the intent that I just wanted to do nice things for people - helping people feel good about themselves by being able to enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bike.  I didn't think it would be a 300+ fit per year project, along with teaching bike fitting and writing for Slowtwitch.com.  Bike fitting became a second full-time job, but could never supplant my day job.  Due to my health and life balance, I just can't work 80-90 hours per week anymore.  I also can't do without health insurance.  I've tried to cut back over the last 3 years or so, but it just hasn't been possible.  I've had to turn a lot of people away because I simply can't keep up, and I've had a hard time keeping up with e-mails, text messages, and all of the people who have come into my life.  I feel like I've become a disappointment to many of you and I'm sorry.  I've had a lot of sleepless nights, trying to figure out a way to do it (it's a good problem to have, right?), but haven't been able to come up with a solution.  Unfortunately, I've probably waited too long to make adequate changes.  My life is completely out of balance, and the health issues continue to get worse.

To top it off, I have recently had a very interesting opportunity with my day job.  I have been put on a project involving the State's management of the COVID-19 vaccination.  It's fascinating to be a part of this, but the next 6 months will be a lot of overtime.

Changes in the Cycling Industry

Since the beginning, I've fought an uphill battle in the cycling and fit industry.  It's not easy to be an independent bike fitter.  There are certain companies and organizations that don't want people like me getting involved.  They claim it is to protect the traditional bike shop, but it's not that, at all - it's all about about getting their piece of the pie an protecting their bottom line.  I've railed against the high costs of cycling for many years - I firmly believe there is no reason for bikes to be as expensive as they are, other than fear of doing things differently.  I've wanted to find ways to help lower the cost of entry, although it conflicts with the cost of doing what I do, as a bike fitter.  That's a very strange place for me, from a moral and ethical perspective.  If I could, I would do all my bike fits for free, but that just can't work.

One of the cornerstones of my fit process - BikeFit - was recently sold to Quality Bicycle Products (QBP).  BikeFit was my first fit certification, I use their products in just about every single bike fit I do, and I have taught their level 1 and 2 certification courses to a bunch of fitters over the years.  It has been amazing to be a part of the BikeFit family, and my fit process wouldn't be what it is without BikeFit, along with what I've learned from Dan Empfield and others.  It has been an honor to work with and for some of these innovators in the industry, and my process is simply a distillation of what they've taught me.

Unfortunately, I had a horrible experience with QBP several years ago, and now I won't be able to get the BikeFit products I need without going through a bunch of hoops or starting my own bike shop.  I'm not playing their games.  I think the nicest thing I can say about them is that I don't see bike fitting as a "bike thing" - it's a "body thing."  A bicycle and bike parts are simply tools for riders and I'm here to focus on the rider as the center of the cycling experience, not the other way around.

Thank you, and goodbye.

It has been quite a ride, and I am very thankful for so much of what has happened over the 8 years that I've been bike fitting.  I've fit well over 1,000 people and had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most amazing people, and every one of you have brought something to my life that means a lot to me.  I've heard a lot of inspiring stories.  It hurts to say goodbye, but at the same time, I can look back on this period of my life and smile.  I think if I tried to drag it out another few years, that might ruin it for me, and I don't want that.  Now is the best time to move on.

What's next?  Well, I have a lot of things I want to do.  I will be keeping my equipment for a little while longer in order to finish up what I've started with some of you.  So, please call me if you need anything.  

I do have another business plan I'm working on, that is very, very different, but meant to be very, very flexible around my health needs.  If 2020 has taught me anything, there are a lot of people out there that need more basic things than a bike fit.  I need to contribute to society and am going to do more volunteering.  At the same time, 2020 has revealed some really ugly aspects of society that make me want to withdraw completely.  As I always say, I avoid talking about politics, religion, or Ford versus Chevy, and this year has made it difficult to not discuss those topics.  I loathe it all.  I've already deleted my social media accounts (except for YouTube), but there will be more.  I have zero time for racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ sentiments, or any of the other truly stupid conspiracy theories that have been going around lately.  I'm going to fight for what's right.

You may know that I play drums, guitar, bass, and have recorded some music in the past (although never made it very far with any music labels) and intend to get back into that, with a couple of different music projects I've been putting together but haven't had time to work on.  

I also enjoy woodworking, painting, 3D printing, and have recently picked up a CNC mill and some welding equipment.  I love to create art, and express myself through it, so that's where I plan to look for some happiness.

Let's not forget interacting with nature, too - we have two new energetic pups who love to take walks, and I realized how much I miss the simple pleasures of moving outside.  There are more mountains in the future, along with some camping, environmental advocacy, and travel, when the world allows for it to happen again.

Oh, and of course, I still like to ride a bike and a ride in the Rassat home country of Giez, France is definitely going to happen in the next couple of years.  Otherwise, you might see me on a group ride or other mass rider event around the world, but you'll most likely find me on Zwift on a (hopefully) several-times-a-week basis.

Thank you all, and good luck to all of you.  You have all meant so much to me, and I can't thank you enough for what you have brought to my life.  My only regret is that I worry that I was not able to return the favor.  

Goodbye, and love to all,

Travis

23 comments:

  1. You will be truly missed in this business my friend. I learned a great deal from you in past couple years. I thank you for that. You are welcome in my studio anytime, for any reason, for anything. Peace to you. Always.

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  2. Travis, THANK YOU for many years of amazing bikefits and friendship. Maybe now we wont have to kidnap you to get you on the Ronin team trips!

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  3. Thank you so much for all that you've done Travis.

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  4. Travis, Thanks for all you did over the years for everyone. You are truly an awesome bike fitter. And we wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors. Sounds like you have a great plan. Hopefully we'll see you in a group ride this year.

    Chris & Joe R

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  5. Travis,
    You are the best bike fitter I have met. Your knowledge, approach and experience are outstanding. I have also enjoyed our friendship and our discussions about all things bike and bike industry. Good luck as you move onward and upward!

    Brian B.

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  6. Travis,
    I can say you have enriched my life both on and off the bike. So you have achieved one of your goals. I will miss you and hope you find a better place. All the best for life and no pain!

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  7. Thank you Travis! You are an amazing influence on newbies and have certainly helped me develop. All the best to you and your family.

    Jim S

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  8. Good luck to you Travis! You sure helped me ride with less pain and I will never forget that! Thank you.

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  9. Travis, I can’t thank you enough for the fitting you did for me on my Sampson...it has made a tremendous difference for me. It must have been very difficult to make the decision you made and to share your thoughts and feelings in your blog post...kudos to you! Best of luck to you in the future! - Gene

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  10. Travis, I wish you the best in life. I understand the inability to function as in the past. Keep moving forward, enjoy your successes of the past and most of all don't give up.

    Gary S

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  11. Travis - you are the man. So thankful that we got acquainted at RICS and for all the advice and help you've given me over the years. You are a blessing to your community. Sorry for all the physical and mental anguish you've endured, but I hope your new regimen is turning over a new leaf. I hope to see you again sooner than later - thanks sir!

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  12. Hi Travis, i got to know you only for a short time at the Slowtwich course in ( 2015 0r 2016) and did a ride there together there. I can remember your wisdom, perfectionism, dedication. you were a inspiration. Recognize some of your struggles with the bike industry, sad to read your story. wish you all the best in health, business, life! Anno (The guy from the Netherlands)

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  13. Travis, thanks for teaching me how to bike fit! You will be missed! -Travis from Michigan.

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  14. Travis,
    Thank you for your hard work and wisdom! Your expertise and knowledge has opened more doors for me to reach my IM goals! I am truly grateful for this! All the best, and I can’t wait to see where life takes you!

    Conner Z

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  15. Travis,
    We thank you for years of comfortable bike fits & sharing your knowledge. We are happy you are finding your way; we pray health & happiness greets you each and every day.
    Your friends,
    Brian & Cheryl Patterson

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  16. Just saw this. Thank you so much for everything you have done for me over the years. I totally understand the reasons and I wish you the best health for yourself and your family. Hopefully I can get the opportunity to run into you at some point again!!

    Eric Hall

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  17. Travis, thanks for taking me in your fit program in 2019. Finishing Race Across the West was in no small part to the adjustments you made on my road bike. And your fidgeting with my old gravel bike landed the new one in my lap. O, new adventures await. I'm bummed you aren't on the scene anymore, but I also greatly respect your reasons. Cheers brother.

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  18. Hey Travis. I hope you've resolved these internal issues you've been dealing with. I had a pretty dark period between 2018 and 2020. Depression can be crippling and it can infect everything in your life. You have to remember that it's an ailment, no different than any other ailment that human beings are susceptible to. Counseling helped, but more than that, reading and deep, intensive introspection has been the most helpful. I started with Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now". The bottom line is that you need to find a way to accept that you deserve kindness from yourself. Understand that everyone around you is more than willing to give that to you, so why do you think you aren't worthy of it from yourself?

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  19. Travis - thank you for everything you’ve given me. You are the BEST most caring & skilled bike fitter I’ve ever worked with. Please lean into believing into the gifts & talents given to you.
    I’ll always be grateful for not just your skill but also your friendship. Good luck to you in all your new endeavors.
    Sharon C

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  20. Travis, Like Anno, I was at the same Slowtwitch session in 2016. I vowed to message you so many times but I allowed things in front of me to derail that. "Overwhelming demands" you already referenced! Best to you. You possess a soft power that seems all the more powerful for it. Bring it with you everywhere. Your style (and content) was an example to me.

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