Wednesday, November 03, 2010

KGS Bikes Takes on Frame Builder Passoni

KGS Bikes, a custom bicycle design studio owned by Kevin Saunders, has announced that they are going to be the exclusive custom U.S. bicycle dealer for Passoni of Italy.

Saunders said he conducted research among people who worked in the cycling business in Italy and found that Passoni was "the Italian equivalent of Parlee in the U.S.," though Passoni uses titanium in the manufacture of their frames, and Parlee uses Carbon.  "Passoni's quality and attention to detail are similar, and I feel confident at this level of bicycle that I am providing the best for the customer, " said Saunders.

KGS Bikes is now using Passoni, Parlee, Eriksen, Co-Motion and Zinn for their designed KGS bikes built to spec for premium customers. To make room for their new supplier, Saunders confirmed that the studio will no longer be specifying Formigli frames for their custom bicycles.

Two of KGS's most recent Passoni customers will be spending more than $25,000 each for their completed bike packages, and will use the bicycles to tour Italy. "The frame alone will be $10,000," said Saunders whose least expensive bike package rolls out the door for $7,000. Passoni's most expensive built bike was sold for 40,000 Euros (about $52,000) this year.

KGS Bikes specializes in the premium bicycle market, which attracts a very specific clientele. "The type of client who buys a $25 K bike has had success in life, is over 40 and would rather buy one bike and have it last 20 to 30 years rather than buy a new bike every few years," said Saunders.

Despite a world wide recession, many of the one percent of the world's wealthiest people have turned to bicycles as their new status toys, replacing the BMWs, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis of years past. A bicycle that costs more than most cars, but also establishes the rider as possessing a bike equivalent to a pro, takes status toys to a whole new level.

And then there's the Baby Boomer factor: "Once you get over 40, the value of your time while you are riding a bike exceeds the cost of the bike because your time is worth more," said Saunders.  It's no secret that Baby Boomers make more money than other segments of the population because they are in their prime income earning years, and make up a greater percentage of the total world count. As they reach retirement age, their knees also give out, making cycling the preferred sport over stress-related exercise like running.

Saunders invested heavily to expand his reach during the recession and expects to sell 50 fully built bicycles, and 150 Frame-Ups--which includes the frame built to spec, and all the other parts that make the bike a custom fit including the headset, stem, handlebars, brake levers, saddle and seat post-- in the next year.  

The clients picking up the new Passonis already have two Parlees at their home outside of the U.S., and will keep their Passonis at their U.S. home in Colorado.
Both Passoni and Parlee design bikes that will last 20 years when the rider is doing an average of 12,000 miles per year--for a total of 240,000 miles--a distance that most cyclists can only dream about. 

Although the two clients--let's call them Frank and Judy--won't be doing 12,000 miles this year on either bicycle, they are demanding customers with a chauffeur who drives behind them when they ride so that they won't be mugged while in motion (they live in a country where the wealthy are often kidnapped and held for ransom.)

"They get on these things and ride the wheels of of them," said Saunders using a southern expression that doesn't mean the wheels actually come off.

The Passoni's frame geometry is perfect for the couple, both of whom have relatively short arms lengths for their body height, said Saunders.  "Frank" was an active soccer athlete growing up and had a bad shoulder injury so he has to ride with a shorter reach because of his injury, he added. 

The Balance Point Positioning System (TM) that Saunders developed over 20 years he says will give the rider a perfect position on the bike.  He then draws the whole bike in Computer Assisted Design and sends it to the frame builder.  "And that's the difference, that's what people are paying for," he said.

Saunders started a business in aviation manufacturing where he designed a clip-in medical transport system that was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.  Partly because of this experience and his long term experience with bicycles, Saunders believes he is able to determine what is well made and what isn't when visiting a bicycle frame builder.

Frank and Judy also convinced another couple who they are riding with in Italy, to purchase the same bicycle packages from Saunders.

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