Feature Interview: Kieran Frend

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We talk to Kieran Frend who goes from the pro peloton at An Post and into the cycle industry at Cycle Division

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Feature Interview: Kieran Frend

Former bike rider at Sean Kelly’s AN Post Team, Kieran Frend is now the manager at Cycle Division and CERO Wheels (between Derby and Nottingham) using his experience to develop the Cero products and guide customers to the best equipment choices.

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A most valued supporter of VeloUK, Cycle Division is part of MotoDirect, which is a leading brand with RST clothing in the motorcycle sector. RST is in fact a huge brand that is seen world wide on motorcyclists and Cycle Division is looking to build up its own brands like Cero to a similar level in the world of cycling.

A new arrival at Cycle Division is former An Post pro rider Kieran Frend. I say new, he’s been there almost two months now and replaces another former bike rider in Gareth Hewitt who has moved on to Scott UK, one of Cycle Division’s suppliers.

Cycle Division is based on the first floor of the MotoDirect building a stones throw from the Designer Outlet just off the M1 and is staffed by people who race or have raced. As Kieran explained, if you add up all the years of riding experience between the likes of Chris Walker, Jonny Towers, Kieran and the other staff, there is a mega amount of it to guide customers to getting the right equipment for whatever their passion is whether it’s road racing, crits, climbing mountains and so on.

Kieran’s experience alone is like having your own personal professional bike rider to help you get the right bike or set of wheels for your needs. Kieran retired from racing only a few years ago still in his mid 20’s and from there went to work for one of the country’s biggest distributors, Madison. Now he’s at Cycle Division which is a long way from when he first started racing a bike over a decade ago.

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“Unfortunately or fortunately for experience I ended up in the junior category with the likes of Adam Blythe, Peter Kennaugh, Jonny McEvoy, Mark McNally, Alex Dowsett; a lot of guys who are now very successful pro bike riders!” he explained. “I started as a last year Under 16 with these guys who were already riding Elite crits which meant my first races were a bit of an education!”

Kieran came into bike riding through a former Tour de France rider, Adrian Timmis. “We were doing a bit of mountain biking when we stumbled into Adrian on Cannock Chase and he told me I should try bike racing at the local circuit.”

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2009 and the Lincoln GP

“The first bike race I ever went to watch was the cyclo cross championship at Sutton Park where Adrian won the vets race. Once I saw that, it snow balled from there and I was soon mixing with riders from the area like Dan Fleeman, Adrian, Dan Martin, Matt Higgins and others. It was a good strong chain gang where people looked after you”.

In 2007, Kieran was 7th in the well known and prestigious Junior Tour of Ireland and also well placed in Elite races. The following year, he was riding Prems as a first year senior with Gareth Hewitt helping to guide him along many years before he would replace Gareth at Cycle Division.

In 2009, he was the West Midlands Regional champion (repeated in 2012 and 2014) and also riding the first ever Tour Series. Then in 2011, he was off to France where, one of his results was 7th in the Boucles du Haut Var stage race as well as nine other top ten performances in French one day races.

But that year in France was an important one, gaining a lot of experience which is something you can only get doing the hard yards of a tough sport. In 2012, Kieran returned to Britain to ride for Phil Griffiths in Node 4 Giordana and had some great results in that as well including 2nd in the very competitive Irish race, the Shay Elliott Memorial and 5th overall in the Tour of the North. There were also four other wins in British Elite races.

But Kieran was getting itchy feet again and headed abroad in 2013. “I felt I needed more UCI races so I went to An Post in Belgium which many would say is a country that wouldn’t suit me but they do have a very varied calendar. The first race I did was the Tour of Algarve and I don’t think many conti teams are lucky enough to get starts like that so it was a great opportunity which I’m still very grateful for”.

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Kieran spent his time at AN Post riding UCI 1.1’s and higher on a regular basis and the experience in the peloton was two fold. On one hand, he was learning how teams rode to protect each other in stressful situations like when there is a cross wind or before key climbs. On the other hand, he was also learning about equipment, not just the bits on the bike he was riding but that used by other riders in other teams.

The racing he admits suited him more than that in the UK. Here, the races would start flat stick and there was little control where as in Europe, the races would start fast, a break would go, there would be some control and then the races would get faster and faster as they got closer to the finish.

“Races in Europe suited me where I was good at hanging on to a wheel so a race would get harder and harder, the group would get smaller and smaller, and I’d manage to hang in there. France suited me well when it was hilly and I regret not staying there another year as I was getting top 10s there in Elite races. This in races where some of the teams are running bigger budgets than teams here; a million euros a year for instance and I was racing with the likes of Romain Bardet week in, week out”.

The racing career though gave way to a career in the cycling industry in his mid 20s, but he admits he will race again in a similar way to former pros like Dan Fleeman do now. “I’ll continue to work but do selected races that I can manage around my schedule and family commitments”.

“I kind of feel I can go back to a good level in a few years once I have everything settled in work wise. I still miss it and the people involved. I still follow it and have enjoyed seeing some of my friends stepping up like Mark McNally doing what we knew he could do a long time ago. Dexter Gardias this year too in the UK. It’s great seeing riders confirm the talent we had seen in them.”

“Sam Bennett is another and now he’s one of the best guys in the world – Kurt Bogaerts really helped get the best out of him and even though I’d never be anywhere near as good as Sam I still picked up a lot being around guys like him over the years.”

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Kieran in the RideLondon Classic with Adam Yates just behind

When Kieran finished his racing, he went into public relations in the cycling industry, citing his desire to convey to the public the ins and outs of products in layman’s terms and get away from the smoke and mirrors.

“As a rider, you use a lot of different products but even if you aren’t using some, you would talk to riders who are so you get a good understanding of what products are good in the real world instead of concept products designed by someone who doesn’t ride a bike. So you can narrow down what is good and what isn’t it.”

His experience is now being made the most of at Cycle Division and with legends like Chris Walker there, he says he feels right at home. “They are huge on the motorbike side here and with that have a very professional etiquette and development process. They have transferred that to the Cycle Division side of things which I want to move forward with”.

“We’re not just a retailer but have our own brand of wheel as well which is what I focus a lot of my time on”.

That brand is Cero.

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“They are quality products and bring a lot of technical development to the market at a very competitive price point. High end benefits at real world prices. The reason they are cheaper is because we design and refine them ourselves and there is no middle man. There are riders far better than myself who have ridden them who have told us they are as good as the big brands to ride and I’d agree with them”.

The company though are not resting on the accolades(multiple test wins) the brand has had over the last few years. An example of that is the tubeless wheel they now have and wheels that take a disc (for brakes) or even carbon spokes. “We are refining them all the time” added Kieran.

“There is so much experience in this building, we can make adjustments to them really quickly. Like Chris will ride his bike with them and I’ll ride mine and we’ll get three or four different opinions from experienced bike riders before we decide to go with an improvement where as some companies will do their research and development in the factory but not give the product the real world testing and feedback we do”.

Kieran’s experience though isn’t just being utilised in developing the Cero brand of wheels. The general public can also make the most of it as well when they come into the showroom on the first floor of Euro House.

With brands such as Scott and Cannondale on the shop floor among others, the staff there can help customers choose the right one for their needs. “Bike fitting is not like buying a pair of jeans. You need to know how many hours a week the customer will be riding, do they spend all day in a car, do they ride aggressive, or just ride with friends once a week, do they ride on the flat, or the hills, and all that will impact on how we advise them and fit them to a bike.”

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“If a customer comes in and describes the type of riding they are doing and what their target events are, training for a hilly sportive for instance, we may advise them to go for a Scott Addict for example, a climbers bike that Chaves or Yates would use.”

“But if they are racing locally as a first, second or third cat, flat races for example, then we’d advise the Foil, an aero bike that Matt Hayman won with at Roubaix or Caleb Ewan wins sprints with. If a rider comes in and says I’m doing the Paris- Roubaix sportive, then there’s the Scott Solace. By knowing what they want the bike for, we can use our experience to guide them to the right choice.”

Customers can browse the products that the Cycle Division do online and then pop into the showroom and get expert advice from the guys on the shop floor. It is the best of both worlds and the bonus is having the likes of Kieran about a lot of the time to get advice based on a wealth of experience that few club riders can get racing here in the UK or riding sportives.

Thanks to Kieran for his help and we’ll have more from him soon.

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