Xtri Catches up with Kestrel's Steve Harad
With the start of the 2012 season underway we wanted to check in with Kestrel Brand Manager, Steve Harad, to gain some insight on his position and what Kestrel has in store for the 2012 season...
What's the #1 surprise you've come up against in building the Kestrel brand back from the ground up?
Actually a few things, first, it is how loyal Kestrel customers are. Kestrel has had its ups and downs over the years and many of the Kestrel loyalists have stuck with the brand. There are many customers who own more than one Kestrel and the support for our new bikes has been overwhelming. Sales have been off the charts since acquiring Kestrel Bicycles four years ago and as Kestrel goes into its 26th year of business, our sales are stronger than they have ever been.
Rebuilding the brand does have its challenges though; I don't want to make it sound that easy. Our competitors are much more savvy today than when Kestrel was started. I have to work much harder to put Kestrel Bicycles back on top than I think my predecessors had to. There are more brands on the market today and it does force me to up my game a bit.
What sets Kestrel apart from your competition?
I think it's our history. Not only is Kestrel Bicycles the first name in carbon fiber but also we really were the first to look at aerodynamics of the bike. We started working in the wind tunnel before others and have always designed our bikes based on tunnel information. We don't use the term aerodynamic loosely. All of our bikes are designed in the tunnel based on our unique protocols. They differ from our competitors and I think in the end, it shows up in our final product. We aren't interested in testing for the sake of testing, we really spend time proving out what we build.
We are also now owned by Advanced Sports International, which allows us to use resources that other companies don't have. We are part of a large group that has access to some of the top Engineers and Industrial Designers in the industry.
What gets priority from your camp: race results or aerodynamics. Do wind tunnel tests really make a tremendous difference at the top end of the bike spectrum? Doesn't proper fit relative to power output play a more significant aspect?
You can't win without a true aerodynamic bike AND rider. Both have to be working in unison. The most aerodynamic bike on the market with a rider who doesn't fit won't do well. FIT trumps aerodynamics of a bike which is why when we design our bikes, we use our athletes to test our geometry. Not only do we test aerodynamics of our bikes and riders, we back it up with Power Testing. Again, we've probably spent more time testing than most people are aware. I really think there needs to be better understanding on how all 3 work together. We are fortunate to work with the A2 Wind Tunnel where they can test all 3 together. If my athletes are aero but not putting out what we consider proper watts, we will adjust their fit until we are happy with the results. It really is a balance. We go so far as to work on their fit for IM distance races all the way to sprint distances. Most athletes should be adjusting their fit for the race at hand, not just keeping it set in one position.
What can we expect to see later in Kona this year, with respect to new TT designs (hidden compartment for Di2 battery)?
I'm not into gimmicks! We know the Kestrel 4000 performs! What we did this year was look at ways to put more rider power to the pedals. We were fortunate to have Dennis Menchov and Carlos Sastre from the Geox team racing the Kestrel 4000 along with our pro Triathletes. They all provided us with feedback that helped us make significant improvements.
Any new partnerships or pro athlete signings in 2012?
2012 is going to be an incredible year for us. We kept our current crew of professional athletes headlined by Andy Potts and we signed on with some really great teams. We added Nytro's Women's Team, Eleonore Rocks Team and my man Wattie Ink's team. We are also working with Team Long Brothers. If you haven't seen these brothers, you should visit their Facebook page. We are going to support them with some product from Kestrel and many of our pros are donating products.
What is your favorite part of working for Kestrel?
Well, I've been working in the bicycle industry for 30 years now. Yes, I'm old! I started at 14 when I was building beach cruisers for a local bike shop and then owned my own bicycle businesses. Working for Kestrel really is my ultimate job. Someone recently asked me if I could do any job what would it be. I told them I was doing it! Most people can't say that so I consider myself very fortunate. If I had to pick just one part, it would be seeing my athletes and customer's riding. It's great to go to wind tunnels, travel all over the world doing business but seeing someone smiling while riding a bike I designed, that's just awesome!