Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

New Year, New Bike Partner – Dimond!

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!

My new ride for 2015 and beyond!

My new ride for 2015 and beyond!

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.

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.

The Armored Hen House Bike Bag that avoids airline travel fees.

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.

Decision Time

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 TwitterFacebook Page, and Instagram for updates also. Thanks as always for listening guys!


22 comments to New Year, New Bike Partner – Dimond!

  • AJ

    Will you be selling your Specialized bike?!?

  • Mark

    Sounds like you made the best decision you could. While it’s nice to feel “safe” with the company you were with, there is definately an excitement to join a newer company. Also with Tj

  • Mark

    Lost my self there.
    With you and Tj’s common goals and interests it makes great sense to me.
    So congrats and best of luck to you.
    Nice to see professionals take some risks and make their own name.

    • Jesse Thomas

      Thanks Mark. Yep, it was definitely a tough call, but I’m very happy with it. I owe a lot to TJ on helping me see his vision and believing in what the team can accomplish. Really excited to see how it goes.

  • Trevor Moon

    What a class act!! congrats and best of luck.

  • Jamie

    I have an Armored Hen House and I absolutely love it. I have sold other triathletes on it and will continue to do so because it is a great product that saves you a ton of money in the long run. Great bag(s) and the customer service is top notch. Congrats on the new ride and I am looking forward to seeing you race at Wildflower again this year. Best of luck to you.

    • Jesse Thomas

      Awesome! Yep. I can’t wait to get mine. Really stoked to try it out. Just as you say, I’ve only heard good things. Thanks for the congrats, and definitely see you at Wildflower.

  • Heather Scott

    If everyone always went with the “safe” choice there would be much less innovation! Way to set an example…calculated risks can reap big rewards! I applaud you for not going the “safe” route!
    Proud to know Ya!!⚡️⚡️

    • Jesse Thomas

      Thank you! Yep, gotta take a leap sometimes to do something big. We’ll see what happens. Regardless of the result, I know it will be a fun ride.

  • Nathan

    Triathletes and entrepreneurs are cut from the same cloth (or sheets of carbon fiber). Looks like a great move and what will be a positive for all involved. Great story and radical bike. 2015 is going to be a good year.

  • Brent Detta

    Hey Jesse,

    Congrats man! That’s super awesome – one question – is that your bike, or “almost” your bike – not the praying mantis position, but you may have undergone a position change as well.

    Either way – sick – really awesome to see where you went with this. Good luck in 2015!

    • Jesse Thomas

      That’s just a mockup with my wheels. My bike will be built in the next week or so, then I’m going to design one for racing on with a special paint job or something. We’ll see! Should be fun stuff!

  • UG

    Dear Jesse,

    Congrats! I hope it turns out wheely well for you. X0xx

  • Linus

    After reading the announcement earlier today, I’m getting convinced to get one because of you and Jordan. Hahah.. I’ve seen the bike, but never rode it. Looks simple, slick, and speedy. The best of luck to you!

  • Andy

    Sincerest congratulations! I and a few of my companions are highly considering the Dimond for their next bike. Hope you can get A2 or similar head-to-head aero testing data out soon!

  • D Floyd

    Probably get a Ducks natty paint job Jesse!! Yellow and green. Congrats

  • Tona

    Really happy for you man, I had the pleasure to look at the bike in Hy-vee a couple of years ago and I was impressed. However, it is still quite a bit far from a price that I can afford. Hopefully, they have an entry level frame in their thoughts!

  • “Essentially, we’re coming of nowhere…” spoke the video narrator. Sounds like he’s talking about you at Wildflower way back when.

    Love hearing about the integrated approach by Rüster/Dimond to design, sourcing, and even “lab” experimentation on the road and inside by the whole TEAM.

    Happy for your new direction and new sponsorship, which seems much more than that. And doubly thanks for sharing about your deliberation. Even a wannabe like me can apply that approach to other areas of life, beyond triathlon.

    Here’s to more #lifepoints in 2015.

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