TJ Tollakson is what you'd call a tinkerer. He likes to modify his equipment in unconventional ways, in an effort to find ever-greater levels of performance. The most obvious example of his work is the radical high-hands position he has been riding for several years. And it seems to be working. While you could call Tollakson a tinkerer, you can also call him an Ironman Champion, and one of the most capable cyclists in the sport. His recent results include wins at Ironman Lake Placid and 70.3 Eagleman. He'll attempt to repeat at Eagleman next month, and is targeting Ironman New York City in August.
And soon, the Iowa native's inventions will be available to a wider audience. Tollakson is developing his own bicycle, set for a limited release at the end of 2012. He was kind enough to sit down and chat with me about his personal gear experiments, as well as the future of his bike brand.
TriRig: Hey TJ, thanks for talking with us. Let's start with the story of your Dimond brand of bikes. I understand you've been developing a frame based loosely on the modified Zipp 2001 you've been riding for about a year. Where are you with development?
TJ Tollakson: A couple weeks ago, I was in Boulder, Colorado, visiting Eric Strauss' composites manufacturing shop called EBS. They will be producing the frames. Zipp engineers David Morse and Karl Hall came with me, as well as my intern Jordan Haffner. Morse actually used to work with EBS prior to going over to Zipp. We were going over some of the final details of the frame prior to the beginning of the production process.
TR: So does that mean the frame design is final at this point?
Tollakson: Yeah, we are more or less locked in. I'm sure there will be little things that come up during prototyping or manufacturing that require little changes here and there, but otherwise it's good to go.
TR: So of course, I have to ask what kind of brake mounts you are using for the bike.
Tollakson: I looked at a lot of different options, including things like the new TRP behing-the-fork brake, the two-post solution used on bikes like the Specialized Transition and Shiv, but ultimately went for a single-post, standard brake mount. Now I'm just looking at what kinds of brakes will be ideal for that mount. (Editor's note: we think the choice is quite obvious!)
TR: What does your production schedule look like at this point?
Tollakson: The hope is to have a soft launch of 10-15 bikes towards the end of this year. Hopefully I'll be riding one of those first bikes in Kona, and people will get to see exactly how cool the bike is. Then following Kona, production will ramp up. This won't be a huge production run; I'm shooting for a launch of approximately 100 bikes for the 2013 season. But I think that people will really appreciate not only how aero the design is, but also how comfortable it is.
TR: So on that note, let's switch gears a little bit and talk about your widely-recognized, rather unconventional bike position. Hit the jump for part 2 of the interview.