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Forum Hot Seat - Todd Seplavy, Director of Product at GT Bicycles

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12/11/2015 11:30 AM
Edited Date/Time: 12/11/2015 1:03 PM

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Today we're stoked to have long-time friend and MTB OG, Todd Seplavy in the forum hot seat. Todd is Director of Product at GT Bicycles, but has been involved with some of the biggest and best brands and gravity race teams of the last 15 years. He's an East Coast legend with a thick Long Island accent and he's ready to answer your questions. -gordo

Todd Seplavy's Bio

Racing Age: 40 (I turn the big Four-Oh next week…ugh)
Hometown: Rocky Point, Lawnguyland, Neu Yawk, East fuggin Coast
Job History:
- GT Director of Product – 2013 to present
- GT Senior Product Manager – 2009 to 2013
- Evil Bikes – 2008-2009
- Specialized Sports Marketing Manager MTB – 2008
- Iron Horse Marketing Manager/Brand Manager/Senior Product Manager/Customer Service Manager – 1998-2008

Social Media: @ska_todd (Twitter & Instagram)
Interests: Dad of two. Bikes. Ska, punk, & indie music. NY Mets.

I am the Director of Product for GT Bicycles. I have been with the brand since mid-2009, first as the Mountain Bike Product Manager and now overseeing the GT product management team (Patrick Kaye - hardtails, Cait Dooley - pavement, Ben Ward - BMX). In addition, I am directly responsible for the model lineup and spec of GT’s full suspension models.

Prior to GT I worked for a year helping Kevin Walsh get Evil Bikes off the ground. Before that I was with Specialized for a blip of time working on sports marketing. I got my big start in the industry working at Iron Horse where I held a variety of product and marketing roles for a decade.

Additionally, I have been involved over the years with the gravity racing scene; helping to form and manage several regional, domestic, and race teams. I also was on the USAC mountain bike board for a couple years where I was generally an advocate for the downhillers and a rabble-rouser.

When I’m not working in the bike biz I’m riding a lot of bikes. The past couple years I’ve drifted away from the DH thing a bit and have been spending more time at my local BMX track and on the road bike. Since I travel a ton for work (20+ weeks a year), I also spend most of my free time with my kids, Abbie and Connor, and my wife Anne Marie. Besides family and bikes, I do my best to see a lot of live music whenever possible; mostly of the ska, punk, and indie variety. Oh, and I’m a pretty, pretty huge fan of the New York Mets.



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Todd will be here to answer your questions from 1 to 3pm Pacific time (4 to 6pm EST) today, so fire away and he'll answer the gems.

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12/11/2015 12:00 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/11/2015 12:03 PM

i think the sensor carbon expert looks SICK!

why the 2x drivetrain spec on sensor and force lineups for 2016?

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12/11/2015 12:37 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/11/2015 12:38 PM

sspomer wrote:

i think the sensor carbon expert looks SICK!

why the 2x drivetrain spec on sensor and force lineups for 2016?

Ha, that was just my "if you could get any 1 thing for xmas" wish over in that thread; albeit, the Pro.

I read an article with an interview from a Pivot product manager about the effects of switching to a smaller single chain ring up front, and the impact of clutch derailleurs on suspension design. I found it very informative and interesting. He discusses exclusively dual link designs (which makes sense given Pivot bikes). I was curios about the same thing in general in regards to a single pivot design.

As mentioned here, some models of the Sensor/Force, are running a 2X crank set up, while the Carbon Pro is running a 32T.

Is the suspension optimized for a 32T set up, or rather the 2X models below it?
What affect would switching to something smaller, say a 28 or 30 (perhaps in conjuction with a 42 or 44T cassette ring) have on the suspension, if any?
Does GT optimize their suspension design/tune with the effects of clutch derailleurs in mind, as they've become essentially universal?

Thanks. I love my '10 Sensor, btw. If you were involved, nice job!

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12/11/2015 12:57 PM

check...check...is this thing on?

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12/11/2015 1:02 PM

What was the most fun time at GT bicycles

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12/11/2015 1:03 PM

sspomer wrote:

i think the sensor carbon expert looks SICK!

why the 2x drivetrain spec on sensor and force lineups for 2016?

The 2x spec is for two main reasons; price and range.

As a product manager I've tried my best to put better suspension, brakes, and cranks on bikes (aka the pricey bits) over the past few years rather than drivetrain. Drivetrain has become pretty personal (1x vs 2x, Shimano vs SRAM) and it does wear out or get trashed. So, in conclusion spec the bits that make you go faster up one notch and the semi-disposable stuff as best as possible.

Oh, and range...all of us aren't 160lb XC whippets and some of us can't climb real well and some people live in places with big ass mountains. So at mid range prices 2x can give you more range than 1x.

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12/11/2015 1:04 PM

Hey Todd!

Did you guys think you were making such a legendary bike when the Sunday was being developed at Iron Horse? What was the magic ingredient that gave that bike its cult status? And how would you go about trying to make the next one just like it today?

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12/11/2015 1:05 PM

ConnorS wrote:

What was the most fun time at GT bicycles

It was super cool in June 2013 when we were launching the new Sensor and Force bikes in Utah and Gee and Rach went and won Fort Bill on the Fury we launched that same weekend. Yeah, that was pretty neat. smile

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12/11/2015 1:11 PM

What's the model / specs of your ideal trail bike of today?

What's the best live show you've seen in the past few years?

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12/11/2015 1:13 PM

phobospwns wrote:

Ha, that was just my "if you could get any 1 thing for xmas" wish over in that thread; albeit, the Pro.

I read an article ...more

So on a few MY16 bikes we now spec the bike w/ a 2x but we throw a 1x NW ring in the box. This way you can run what you need to for your local trails or riding ability.

Our current gen bikes' kinematics were largely designed in the 2x/3x era. But we knew 1x was coming so our bikes do perform quite well w/ a 1x 32T (+/- 2T). TBH I wasn't expecting as many people wanting to then go down to even 28T.

Clutch RD's are pretty much stock spec these days on bikes > $1500. We had already been riding these when designing the current bikes. I think we will be looking into some effects a bit more in testing of next gen platforms and see if some of the miracle runs by Neko and Gwinny had something to them, or if it's just the latest fashionable thing for riders to think is fouling up their ride.

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12/11/2015 1:15 PM

Yes, this is a good one....

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12/11/2015 1:19 PM

Not being politically correct, what do you really think about the Dorel / Cannondale company stores with GT product inside?

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12/11/2015 1:19 PM

iceman2058 wrote:

Hey Todd!

Did you guys think you were making such a legendary bike when the Sunday was being developed at Iron Horse? What ...more

I dunno if that can be done again. That was really a right place, right time type of situation. It was combining the input of the hottest rider, with the genius of Weagle, and the owner of Iron Horse gave us enough budget to make a rad bike and go to race them at World Cups. I think the entire industry learned from the Sunday that if you take the input of your pro riders and the input of the fans and mash it up to make a bike you can potentially sell a grip of them.

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12/11/2015 1:21 PM

Rennie rode for Iron Horse for a year so; I dunno if those three have that type of ability to break shit smile

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12/11/2015 1:22 PM

People will buy bikes how they want to buy bikes. Bike shops aren't going away but neither is the internet.

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12/11/2015 1:25 PM

Horsenducky wrote:

Not being politically correct, what do you really think about the Dorel / Cannondale company stores with GT product inside?

I really don't have much of an opinion on it really. Not trying to duck the question, but I'm pretty removed from that side of the biz. I will say, when I travel the globe I've seen company owned and concept stores in virtually every market. They do allow for brands to test out products or gut check merchandising concepts before rolling them out to hundreds or thousands of retailers.

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12/11/2015 1:27 PM

What is the best thing about working in the bike industry, and whats the worst thing.

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12/11/2015 1:28 PM

Hey Todd,

Who decides which models are offered in different markets? Is it driven purely by dealer interest? I ask because it seems like there are always higher spec models (and some models altogether) that don't get offered in the US and it's a shame. Really digging the MY16 Sanction, it's a ripper!

Mark

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12/11/2015 1:30 PM

SkaTodd, moto-full face wearing jumpline destroyer, and fire road bomber extraordinaire: You taught me everything I know about channeling one's "Inner Side Kick" and helped me perfect my two-step Skank. My question(s) to you is THIS:
1) Carbon Fury DH? Rach was testing a blue one at Lourdes last year, no?

2) 650b wheels: Further segmenting an already small niche (DH) or something that will eventually catch on once people use up all of the 26" tires they currently own? =) In other words: 650b for DH - moar harm than good?

All Hail The Toasters

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12/11/2015 1:31 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/11/2015 1:35 PM

toddtoth wrote:

What's the model / specs of your ideal trail bike of today?

What's the best live show you've seen in the past few years?

My current personal trail bike is a Force Carbon w/ XTR 2x11, Fox Float X, Pike 160, 785 RaceFace bars, 50mm stem, and Reverb. I swap between XTR trail pedals and e13 flats depending on trails. I'm super picky about using 785 RF bars, TLD lockon grips and Silverado saddles. They're on pretty much every bike I ride. It's pretty plain jane overall.

Best live show...damned, they often tend to blend into one...Desaparecidos at Webster was REALLY good. Anytime I get to see the Slacker is great. I saw The Get Up Kids the past two nights and they were really sharp. My two favs though were probably seeing Texas Is The Reason play their final US show at Maxwells and bringing my son up to Boston to see the Dropkick Murphys on St Paddy's weekend.

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12/11/2015 1:35 PM

This is rad.

What are your Top 5 (or however many) Travel Tips for the "frequent fliers" or "globe trotters"?

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12/11/2015 1:37 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/11/2015 1:38 PM

Eisma wrote:

What is the best thing about working in the bike industry, and whats the worst thing.

Best thing - never having to ever buy another t-shirt ever again.
Worst thing - not being able to "just go for a ride" without thinking and analyzing in your head different parts on your bike and how to make the ride quality better.

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12/11/2015 1:41 PM

Dogboy wrote:

Hey Todd,

Who decides which models are offered in different markets? Is it driven purely by dealer interest? I ask because it ...more

This is usually decided by the direct market region or the distributor in the market. They weigh trends, pricepoints, currencies, sell thru, dealer needs, etc etc. It's hard sometimes explaining to folks why they can't get the exact bike they want in the country they live, but I then know as a VW/Audi guy that Yurp always gets the sweet wagons...

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12/11/2015 1:45 PM

do gearboxes have a future? ever? this thing seemed close, but missed it a bit. i want your business opinion, but personal opinion too (if they're different)

[LINK TO IMAGE]

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12/11/2015 1:45 PM

Chuck Norris wrote:

SkaTodd, moto-full face wearing jumpline destroyer, and fire road bomber extraordinaire: You taught me everything I know about ...more

1) Nope. There is no carbon version of the current gen Fury. Not even protos. We haven't made one. Rach's bikes last year were all aluminum.
2) The nichifying of the niche drives me bat shit crazy! But, the genie was already let out of the bottle and it aint going back in. I'd have personally preferred if DH stayed as 26", not because I'm a curmudgeon but because it was a whole lot of hassle for the brands, teams, sponsors, and average riders for a negligible gain in performance. I rode a 26" Fury for 2 weeks at WBP this past summer. To my utter surprise I had fun and smiled every run!

DLTBGYD

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12/11/2015 1:49 PM

the 2016 gt fury elite is only $2999 complete. what's the hardest part about getting the price that low while still having a DH bike that will really work?

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12/11/2015 1:52 PM

sideshow wrote:

This is rad.

What are your Top 5 (or however many) Travel Tips for the "frequent fliers" or "globe trotters"?

1. Alliances - pick one and stay with it. OneWorld, SkyTeam, Star Alliance. All have their ups and downs but it makes it way easier when you're flying with a bike, or not getting jammed in the last row middle seat.
2. Passport - make sure it's got enough pages in it and that it's got at least 6-months left.
3. Data plan - if you're going to be using the web or social media spending a bit upfront helps vs getting a whopper bill.
4. See cool things - Spend that extra day and check out a castle or go rent a bike or go to a museum. You never know when you'll get there again.
5. Eat and drink - Try lots of things. It's amazing the different cuisines out there. This is the best way to make friends and learn about cultures.

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12/11/2015 1:55 PM

Best Rennie/Aussie/Madcatz story- go.

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12/11/2015 1:57 PM

sspomer wrote:

do gearboxes have a future? ever? this thing seemed close, but missed it a bit. i want your business opinion, but personal ...more

This topic always comes up on the internetz! Gear boxes are fascinating until you start to deal with them. Currently they're still too heavy, don't have crisp engagement, and are pricey. This makes them hard to race and hard to sell. Until those hurdles can be overcome they'll remain a fridge product that we like to kick the tires on at Eurobike.

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12/11/2015 2:02 PM

sspomer wrote:

the 2016 gt fury elite is only $2999 complete. what's the hardest part about getting the price that low while still having a ...more

Making cheap DH bikes is like making a cheap helicopter - sure, you can do it but do you really want to get in it?

You spend a lot of time to squeeze down the price of each and every part, but in the end it's often for only a small improvement in cost. The best thing about the Fury Elite is that you get the same frame on it that you do on the World Cup. The same frame that Brook, Sam, Wyn, and Jackson will be piloting down WC tracks next season.

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