Per­fect fit

Bike en­thu­si­ast com­bines ex­per­tise in art, cy­cling to cre­ate ideal ca­reer

Los Angeles Times - - JOBS - — Marco Buscaglia, Tri­bune Con­tent Agency

When Adam Ka­plan was grow­ing up in Pala­tine, Ill., he says he was more into skate­board­ing then cy­cling, but that changed when he went away to col­lege in Madi­son, Wis.

“I bought a bike to get around cam­pus and to ride the trails, and I just fell in love with it,” says Ka­plan, 41.

To­day, Ka­plan’s the co-owner and head bi­cy­cle fit tech­ni­cian at Get A Grip Cy­cles in Chicago. Ka­plan, who grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin in 1996 with a bach­e­lor of fine arts de­gree, says his ex­per­tise is in en­sur­ing cy­clists, whether they’re hard­core rac­ers or week­end-ride en­thu­si­asts, are rid­ing bi­cy­cles that truly fit their body type and form.

“You want peo­ple to be com­fort­able on their bikes. It’s the best way to truly en­joy the sport,” Ka­plan says. “What I do is ba­si­cally teach adults how to ride their bikes more ef­fi­ciently and more com­fort­ably. If they’re rid­ing in a way that min­i­mizes stress to their body and keeps them com­fort­able through­out their ride, they’re go­ing to fall in love with the sport and do it for a long, long time.”

Mix­ing science and art

Ka­plan’s goal— ad­just­ing an ex­ist­ing bike or cus­tom-or­der­ing a new one to per­fectly fit a spe­cific rider— is sim­ple, but his method to achieve it is any­thing but. Ka­plan spends much of his work­day in Get a Grip’s fit­ting area, which has sev­eral tools to as­sess the needs of each cy­clist.

He spends up to three hours in­ter­view­ing cus­tomers to learn their goals and habits, video­ing their move­ment on a sta­tion­ary bike, tak­ing ac­cu­rate mea­sure­ments of their bod­ies and more, all de­signed to ad­dress seven crit­i­cal el­e­ments to an ef­fec­tive, safe ride: com­fort, sta­bil­ity, bal­ance, power, breath­ing, nutri­tion and biome­chan­i­cal ef­fi­ciency.

“When you fit a per­son to a bike, ev­ery­thing af­fects ev­ery­thing else. Noth­ing is iso­lated. The place­ment of the foot af­fects the move­ment of the leg and ev­ery­thing else. Ev­ery­thing is con­nected,” Ka­plan says.

Still, the pre­cise mea­sure­ments and ex­act re­quire­ments are only part of the equa­tion. Ka­plan, who con­cen­trated on ab­stract paint­ing in school, still cre­ates art when he’s away from the bike shop, but he knows what he does at work re­quires just as much cre­ativ­ity as his per­sonal projects.

“I view the bike as sculp­tural, ki­netic sculp­ture, re­ally, And I con­sider this my stu­dio,” he says, ges­tur­ing to the space around him. “It’s all about the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the rider and the ma­chine, and I play a huge role in that. I’m the de­signer. I’m the artist.”

His cus­tomers would agree. Ka­plan’s goal, to cre­ate life­long re­la­tion­ships with Chicagoland cy­clists, is com­ing to fruition.

“We see cy­clists for years,” he says. “The ini­tial fit­ting is key and we can make ad­just­ments ev­ery year or as of­ten as we need to af­ter that. When some­one sees the value of a bike fit­ting, they want a long-term re­la­tion­ship.”

Pi­o­neer in his field

Af­ter build­ing his in­ter­est in bikes in school, Ka­plan knew he would make bik­ing more than a hobby. He moved to San Diego af­ter col­lege and be­gan selling bi­cy­cles off the floor at a bike shop. He moved over to road bikes and be­gan spend­ing time with cus­tomers to en­sure they were pur­chas­ing a bike that fit their body type, cy­cling plans and lifestyle. Ka­plan at­tended a bike-fit­ting con­fer­ence, spon­sored by bi­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer Serotta, and was cap­ti­vated by the at­ten­tion to de­tail.

“The best minds in the in­dus­try were there and it re­ally re­in­forced what I al­ready be­lieved and opened my eyes to even more,” says Ka­plan. “I took that knowl­edge back to my shop but (the own­ers) didn’t re­ally see the light. They weren’t nec­es­sar­ily in­ter­ested in hav­ing me spend that much time with one cus­tomer, so I con­tin­ued to pay for my own train­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.”

Even­tu­ally, Ka­plan headed back to Chicago, where Ben Serotta, the name­sake and founder of the bi­cy­cles he sold in Cal­i­for­nia, sug­gested he team up with Kevin Corsello, the owner of Get a Grip Cy­cles.

“He was very re­cep­tive to what I wanted to do and he wanted to of­fer those spe­cific ser­vices to his clients, so it was a great pair­ing,” Ka­plan says.

Since com­ing to the store, Ka­plan has honed his craft and sys­tem and is rec­og­nized as one of the top bike fit­ters in the coun­try. You’d think that would cre­ate an in­cred­i­bly ex­clu­sive client list of high­per­for­mance ath­letes and cy­cling celebri­ties, but that’s not where Ka­plan places his pri­or­i­ties.

“Sure, we have a lot of triathlon ath­letes and names you would rec­og­nize, and I do en­joy work­ing with them, but there’s noth­ing like get­ting a recre­ational rider to fall in love with some­thing that’s very im­por­tant to you,” says Ka­plan, who lives with his wife and two daugh­ters in Rogers Park.

“I’m a guy who rides his bike to work ev­ery day, leads group rides on week­ends and rides on trails or races when he gets the chance. To get peo­ple to love rid­ing their bikes, to make it part of their ev­ery­day life, that’s the best part of my job.”

“I view the bike as sculp­tural, ki­netic sculp­ture, re­ally. It’s all about the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the rider and the ma­chine, and I play a huge role in that.”

- Adam Ka­plan

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