Happy New Year, Crazy Ass Fans!
Because I’m so excited I can hardly stand it, I’ll skip my normal witty banter and get straight to the point. I’d like to “announce” a new bike partnership with Dimond Bikes! For those of you who don’t know, Dimond is a 10-person startup in Des Moines, Iowa, founded by fellow pro-triathlete TJ Tollakson, that makes a ridiculously fast triathlon bike and other innovative products.
While I’m incredibly thankful for the support I’ve received from Specialized, and it’s with a heavy heart that I will no longer be working with my friends there, I am extremely excited to join a passionate and dedicated startup with a product and a team that I strongly believe in. It was a long and admittedly exhausting decision making process for my family, friends, and I, but it ended with a result that I’m ultimately very happy with. Read below for the full story and feel free to ask any questions you have! Thanks!
Two Guys with Similar Lives
I first met TJ two and half years ago. I’d had lots of people in the industry tell me that I had to meet this other pro triathlete engineer who started his own company. We happened to be on the same flight back from Kona, so I decided 6 hours stuck in the same place was as good a time as any to introduce myself.
He and his wife had just had a son, and Lauren and I were expecting Jude just a few months later. As he held Theo, I stood in the aisle of the plane and annoyed people as we talked for way too long about being entrepreneurs, professional triathletes, new fathers, and the merits of Excel spreadsheets and Android phones. He’d made a living in the sport a lot longer than I have, and spoke candidly and honestly about his experiences and what it took to be successful. I appreciated his advice, insight, and sincere style.
Absolutely loving it at Ironman World Champs bike check in with a special tribute to my favorite movie. Yo, Ashley! pic.twitter.com/Hv70EGgNbM
— TJ Tollakson (@tollakson) October 11, 2014
TJ and the Dimond Crew having some fun at bike check-in at Kona this year.
The Story of Rüster & Dimond
Since then, I started following his company more intensely. Their first product was the “Hen House” bike bag that TJ designed to meet airline standard luggage dimensions to keep you from getting charged outrageous bike baggage fees (up to $200 each way). It’s a super cool and smart product that works great and has a strong, loyal following.
But TJ’s story with bikes is unique. After his Specialized partnership ended in 2009, he became almost obsessed with designing his own bike to race on. After encouragement from his wife (similar story line here), he tinkered with old designs, notably the Zipp 2001, and became convinced he could update that design with current technology and create a bike that was faster and with a superior ride quality to any superbike. He eventually partnered with long time friend Dave Morse, a former Zipp engineer, to develop the final production Dimond bike.
The bike is inarguably fast in the wind tunnel, and on the racecourse, and has been proven by numerous pros and amateurs alike – both with speed (lots of fastest bike splits) and rave reviews of it’s handling, comfort, and quality.
Awesome Team & Awesome Bike
I followed the development and launch of the bike, both as an athlete, and as an entrepreneur. I admired TJ’s drive and confidence to branch out on his own, pave his own way, and see what he could build. I have empathy and respect for the type of sacrifice and dedication that takes, and the type of risk you take on doing so.
So in October, with my Specialized contract nearing it’s end and potential negotiations on the horizon, I reached out to TJ on a lark. I didn’t know what to expect, but he was excited to talk.
I rode the bike and loved it. It felt fast, which I expected based on what I’d heard about it. But most impressive (and exciting) was how stiff it felt climbing, how light it was, and to be honest, how “normal” it felt. Despite it’s radical design, it honestly rides like a normal TT bike. A very very fast TT bike.
With my interest piqued, I flew myself out to Des Moines to meet the team and visit their HQ. I left the visit genuinely excited and impressed. It reminded me of my old engineering startup days with energy, vision, and passion behind lots of long days and nights solving problems to create a product we all believed in.
Watch this video to get the vibe and hear the story behind Dimond.
But despite the awesome feelings and experience, it was still a tough decision. I had a solid offer from Specialized on the table, and let me tell you that I spent a LOT of time thinking about it. I created spreadsheets, plus and minus lists, etc. I solicited the advice of all my closest friends, family, and advisors in the sport. I’m sure I drove people nuts. I know I did, because Lauren told me so.
And I can’t complain, because either decision would have been good one. Both companies have good people that make great products for me to race on. But ultimately there was a passionate entrepreneur side of me that recognized something special was happening at Dimond. It’s the same thing I recognized when I became the first athlete to join Rob and Kurt at ROKA. Yes, the current bike is legit fast. But I also vetted TJ’s vision for the company and his team, and I believe they are capable of continuing to produce cutting edge products for years down the road. I love that the entire operation is in an understated warehouse in Des Moines, where each frame is hand built and crafted to perfection by a small team, and customer service is priority number one.
I want to sincerely thank all of the people past and present at Specialized for their support – Mallory, Mark, David, Bobby, Gavin, Chris Y., Aaron, Chris R., Eric, Dylan, and many others. My partnership with you guys was of tremendous value to me both personally and professionally. Thank you for the opportunity to be a Specialized athlete, it’s something I’ll be proud of forever.
And from here forward, I will say that I’m super psyched to see what the future holds for the team at Dimond. As an added bonus, my good friend, competitor, and one of the sharpest guys in the sport, Jordan Rapp, will be joining us next year as well! Like any entrepreneurial venture, there is a lot of risk, a lot of things that may go right or wrong, and a lot of hurdles to jump as we continue to build the company into what we all believe it can be. Regardless of what happens, I know it will be an awesome ride that I’m really stoked to be a part of.
If you guys have any comments or questions, feel free to comment below, tweet, facebook, or instagram me. Also be sure to follow the Dimond Twitter, Facebook Page, and Instagram for updates also. Thanks as always for listening guys!