Wind chill and 7-degree temperatures won’t stop Shawn Brooks.
He wasn’t really expecting this temperature, even on this mid-December day of 2006. The cold air is ripping down on him as he wades through the snow-sludge coating Pennock Pass. Despite such threatening factors, Brooks continues along with his bike-riding pack, a dozen working toward Poudre Canyon.
His Jamis cycle cuts through the snow well enough. He is tired and freezing, but his body has yet to succumb to frostbite or exhaustion. The real struggle, at this point, is taking place inside his head.
Brooks is in pain, and he’d like to hitch a ride back into town. But the rest of the group is egging him to continue what he agreed to, so he pushes on.
“I like to do what I say I’m going to do,” Brooks said.
This kind of trip requires heavy passion, of which Brooks is far from short. Fort Collins certainly feeds his hunger, so he says, with its bevy of trails and rapidly growing population of bicycle enthusiasts crowding the mountains and the streets.
So it made sense for him to move to the city and open his own custom bike shop, The Cycologist – seemingly fit for a bike enthusiast with a psychology degree.
Brooks started The Cycologist in 1998, offering customization and fitting from his home’s garage, a business founded off a $500 credit card loan. The early years were struggle packed, but word-of-mouth between clients helped fuel major growth. For the past two years, The Cycologist has been among the Top 100 Fastest Growing Businesses named by the Northern Colorado Business Report.
Today, the shop runs out of the side garage on Brooks’ home, where he lives with his wife, Jennifer, his 6 year-old son, Lennon, and 4 year-old daughter, Lily. Though he admits they’re a little young to join him and their mother on rides, Brooks is eager for them to get going.
“I started building (Lennon’s) bike before he was even born,” Brooks said.
Brooks’ store differs from most bike businesses. It’s mostly geared toward building custom bikes and retrofitting bikes, of the street and mountain variety. Following a very specific procedure, Brooks adjusts bikes to fit the needs and desires of his various clients to give them a comfortable ride.
The store is also a sponsor of CSU’s cycling team. Andy Clark, head coach, has been a client and a riding partner of Brooks’. He says his experiences with Brooks have been amazing, and that he’s served as a major motivator for the team.
“He’s a kind and generous person, just willing to help and teach,” Clark said.
While several bike stores in Fort Collins build custom bikes, no other fitting procedure is quite as thorough as The Cycologist’s. Brooks points out that most shops build custom bikes with parts that have been purchased months ahead of time. Parts decline in quality with each day it sits on a shelf. Immediately following a customer’s fitting, The Cycologist orders the parts, fresh from the production line when received.
The fitting process, necessary for custom building and retrofitting, isn’t just a simple adjustment.
“It’s an integration of physiology, anatomy, trigonometry, geometry,” Brooks said. “Essentially, it’s art and science working together.”
Brooks begins the process with a thorough interview of the client seeking a new ride. Through the interview, Brooks says he gets to know his client, and match the person with the product. Included in the survey are questions regarding a client’s lifestyle; knowledge of a person’s usual activities and medical history is critical for giving direction to the procedure.
Tape measures soon follow. Height, weight, and body proportions are recorded, useful to Brooks for creating a mathematical prediction as to what is needed. Using a modified version of the Pythagorean Theorem, Brooks imagines a triangle connecting the shoulder, hip, and knee. The angles of the lines that connect the separate points tell Brooks what’s needed to minimize a client’s pressure points.
Technology, when necessary, is another interesting component of this procedure. Laser guidance can determine the muscle movement of a worn knee, which will then be fitted with any necessary accommodations. Then there’s the “infinitely-adjustable” stationary bike, which Brooks uses to test out the earlier made mathematical measurements. Brooks is now free to experiment with the client, upping and lowering gear until a maximum level of comfort is achieved. Discussion on the specific parts desired, such as frames and brakes, follow.
Brooks orders the parts, constructs the bike using the measurements, and the client is invited back to the shop to test the finished product. It’s clear that getting to this point requires patience, as well as a large financial investment. A new custom-built bike generally runs at $4,400. Retrofitting, which usually requires purchasing of new parts, runs at $200 to $400 on average.
“It’s a long process, sometimes it’s going back and forth a little bit,” Brooks said. “We’re dealing with a lot of money here, and emotions run high.”
Such complexity comes through the earning of a number of certifications that Brooks has worked through over the years, including a level three certification in strength and conditioning from the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Approaching the tenth anniversary, Brooks says his shop will probably need a new location by the end of next year. He envisions a setting that’s more akin to a doctor’s office than an actual store. Because his shop arranges fittings by appointment, he doesn’t expect it’d be the kind of place that sells items off the walls.
“It’s not like someone’s going to drive along, see us, and want to buy a $6,000 dollar bike.” Brooks said.
Until then, The Cycologist can be found at 4041 Platte Drive in Fort Collins Colorado. Brooks and Scalva can be reached at 482-0822 for appointments or other questions.
Staff writer Erik Myers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.