6 questions for Chad Lockart, Sr. Designer at Trek

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When I mentioned the Fisher Simple City bike a couple of weeks ago, I said that I would follow up with more information about the prototype. It took a while for me to get around to it, but I finally asked Chad Lockart, Sr. Industrial Designer at Trek, a few questions by email about the Simple City and about his job designing bikes at Trek in general. I hope that you all enjoy the short interview that resulted as much as I did. Thanks to Chad for playing along.

James: Can you tell us a little about your background and how long you have been working at Trek? Was it your intention to become a bicycle designer when you went to school for Industrial Design?

Chad: I have been at Trek for 5.7years. Prior to Trek I had interned at Sram, worked at HP and Insight Product Development and freelanced in the Chicago area. I have worked on consumer research, electronics, business, medical, POP, sporting goods, furniture products in either a staff or freelance design role.

I have always loved bicycles. I have always loved art and design. While I had some bicycle related design in my portfolio I did not intend to become a bicycle designer during school. Industrial Design is a very competitive and committed career path. Focusing too early on one product can really limit your future potential. Ultimately what I was looking for was an opportunity that would provide a range of skills and experiences plus the opportunity to make a contribution/change. Trek was the right place at the right time. Likewise, Trek has such a large product range, from kids to pro to components aftermarket and clothing that it was a good fit. As a designer it is a great opportunity to work on diverse product range for diverse user requirements.

James: Do you work on variety of products at Trek? I guess a better way to ask that question is, do all of the designers at Trek work on all different types of bikes, or is the design department somewhat separated into product categories (road bike designers, mountain bike designers, urban bike designers, accessory designers etc.)?

Chad: There is the opportunity to work a huge range of products at Trek. Many people don’t know that our team develops products for Trek as well as Gary Fisher, LeMond, Klein, Bontrager, Villiger, and Diamant. We do everything from tools to bikes, pumps, components, bags, helmets, shoes, trailers, and anything related to the bicycle. For a long time we fought being dedicated to specific brands but over time that just sort of happened mostly based on personal interest. Currently we are more focused on User category with at least one lead designer in charge of design tasks for a category. This still allows us the opportunity to work a wide range of products while developing intimate knowledge of our users and the micro cultures that exist within each category. Likewise if you get bored with an area there is always the opportunity to work on something outside of your normal category responsibilities. Other than that, how well you like and work with the specific product manager plays a role. We have a lot of PM’s and the longer you work at Trek the more you naturally gravitate towards certain PM’s.

You were one of the designers of the Fisher Simple City urban bike that was shown Eurobike, right? Nice work; can you tell me who else was involved in that project?

Chad: Gary Fisher of course! I was the lead ID resource on the Simple City. Our engineer for frame design was Sri Madhaven. Our component engineer is world famous Frankie. Pavement Product Manager is Chad Price and Graphic design is Eric Lynn. Everyone listed above did the bike. From a brainstorming level Chris Carlson (fisher mtb designer), Mike Hammond (beyond rock star ID), Aaron Mock (fisher product manager, Damon Rinard, Paul Andrews (ACG) and the rest of the ID team were involved. Plus Lupe, Jarod and Mark proto’d the samples you saw at the shows. Our proto team is the best there is or ever was!

James: From what I understand, the idea for the Simple City came directly from the man himself, Gary Fisher. How involved was he in the design process? What was it like working with him on a project?

Chad: The biggest influence on the design was Gary. Gary had been talking to ChadP about city/shopping bikes for a long time. He does all of his shopping by bike and wanted to develop a bike with great style and great utility. We met with Gary at his house and brainstormed the bike and talked about his view and use of utility bikes. Basically we sat around (he had a foot injury) and sketched and looked at his bikes and talked about what the bike wanted to be or needed to be. As a designer Gary is a visionary and his knowledge of the history of bicycle use is an asset to draw from. When we get in some functional, preproduction protos, we plan to get him on them and start the refinement process. Beyond that I cannot stress how wonderful Gary is but I can say that when he shows up in waterloo and sits behind you while you pump CAD it can be a bit intimidating (right Ned?).

James: Without giving away any Trek secrets, what do you think will be the biggest design trend in the bicycle industry going forward?

Chad: First a note about advocacy. Most people don’t know that Trek has been involved at a national level for a very long time. Our leadership has been involved in local and national politics fighting for cycling and developing programs that create safe environments for people to ride. That said, Advocacy is probably the most important thing the bicycle industry can do going forward. Whether that be safe routes, IMBA, BikesBelong or your local advocacy group. If you love bicycles, get involved! (and I am not talking about just doing a critical mass ride which in my opinion is bad for cycling but that is another topic altogether).

I think the biggest trend is many trends. Each category is refining into more and more sub categories. There are more usage cultures now than in the history of the bicycle industry. Meaning within MTB you have single speed culture, dirtjumping culture, XC culture, freeride culture, park culture and the list goes on and on. This is the same for each category. Understanding these niche areas will be key to success not the least of which is understanding that the bicycle lifestyle is a complete package. This means that to be successful you can’t just offer “a bike” or “a shoe” you have to offer the ability to access products, experiences and services that address bike culture as a whole while being the best within each product category. That will either be through a full range of products from one mfg’er or the ability to partner with suppliers who offer a missed niche and are the best at the niche. From a business standpoint there is more competition than ever. It is easier for anyone to go to Asia and get product, redecal it and sell it. Brand, great product and a great consumer experience will be key going forward as will a brands ability to actually develop products with distinction in house. Last but not least quality will play an increasing role. I highly recommend the books, LoveMarks and The Long Tail.

James: One last question; hypothetically speaking, would you be offended if someone were to post a picture of you in a costume (for the sake of discussion let’s just say a Mr. Incredible costume) on the internet for all to see? Seriously, it looks like you Trek ID people have a great time at work. What would you say is the best thing about working in the design department at Trek?

Chad: Our team is tight. Everyone here hangs out together. We are really a family…I know it sounds corny but it is true. We all really respect each other. This is rare when you are talking a department with 13 distinct personalities. Even more rare when you consider that we are just one department within in Trek that hangs out and feels the close-knit vibe. It is common for a lot of trek people, regardless of department, to spend a lot of time together outside of work having fun together. I don’t know if other industries have that sort of connection. Overall I get to work with a lot of really talented individuals with a very diverse set of experiences. It is nice to work at a place with passionate, fun people. You know you work someplace great when people who choose to leave, for whatever reason, cry or get teary-eyed.

And you can show any image of costumes that you want. I am not ashamed…Halloween ride is coming up too!

About the author / 

James Thomas

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11 Comments

  1. Damon Rinard September 18, 2007 at 3:01 pm -  Reply

    Chad you look Incredible in your costume!

  2. Anonymous September 18, 2007 at 9:40 pm -  Reply

    owcdwip
    Reasonable, but looks reads processed by PR prior to submitting

  3. chad lockart September 18, 2007 at 10:47 pm -  Reply

    anonymous I didn’t ask permission and we don’t have a PR dept that processes anything for blogs. I actually wrote it in one take a few nights ago. Sorry if I sound processed. All that and it is more than reasonable. It is the truth.

  4. Anonymous September 19, 2007 at 1:20 am -  Reply

    Glad to see one of the big names selling a bike made to be used for the real world a better place instead of the usual carbon “wunderbike”

  5. Anonymous September 19, 2007 at 10:24 am -  Reply

    Brilliant!

  6. Anonymous September 19, 2007 at 10:39 am -  Reply

    Wow, lots of people to independently reinvent the French Porteur bike. Those kids need to get out more. Here is a refined version of the GF prototype http://www.kogswell.com, nice color too.

    Scott G.

  7. James September 19, 2007 at 11:32 am -  Reply

    Anon #1, I sent those questions to Chad late last Friday and he sent back his answers over the weekend. Unless that huge Trek “blog PR editing department” works on Saturdays, I am pretty sure the answers came straight from Chad.

    Scott G., I like that Kogswell bike too. I also really like the Vanilla “Porteur” that you can see here on the Hampsten blog.

    As you pointed out in your comment, many smaller companies are making updated versions of classic French Porteur bikes. I don’t see what is wrong with a big company doing the same to bring those bikes to a wider marker. I can’t speak for Mr. Fisher or anyone at Trek, but I doubt that any of them feel like they “invented” the practical shopping bike. Bikes like these have been around a long and I am glad to see them on the market. The more choices for consumers the better, right?

  8. James September 19, 2007 at 11:45 am -  Reply

    Oops, bad link. Try this one

  9. bikesgonewild September 25, 2007 at 2:43 pm -  Reply

    …it’s quite a regular sight to see mr. fisher pedaling his beautiful old dutch townie up to the health food store to load up his panniers, here in our little town…
    …gary has always been a advocate of all forms of cycling…he just made his reputation w/ mtb’s…
    …mr. joe breeze is also a regular on the local roads & i’m surprised to not see more mention of his wonderful line of well thought out transportation bicycles…
    …both of these guys are the real deal regarding any kind of bike…

  10. Kyle October 6, 2007 at 12:49 am -  Reply

    It’s great to see the process behind Trek’s team. I find it a bit more informative then finished concept bikes. Thanks James for an inspiring blog.

    If anyone is interested in cargo type bikes I am currently exploring this issue in a semester long thesis project. My blog is
    http://carrybybike.blogspot.com/ I would love some insight!

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