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Interview with Ronnie Romance: Bikes, Biz, Bona Fide

In our sit-down with Ronnie Romance, a.k.a. Benedict, LaRon, we explore how this superstar of our cycling niche juggles running three companies while making time for daily rides. His unique blend of entrepreneurial flair and cycling passion sets him apart in our community. Dig in.

Interview with Ronnie Romance: Bikes, Biz, Bona Fide

At the age of 40, I found myself leading a life that many would consider enviable. Professionally, I was a design lead at one of the best global design agencies based in Tokyo. On a personal level, my life was equally fulfilling, with a loving and supportive wife and two amazing young kids. We were a family that valued global experiences, regularly traveling to teach our children the importance of being global citizens and embracing different cultures. This life was the result of 20 years of relentless hard work, and it had become the core of my identity, a fact that I was completely at ease with, or at least, that's what I believed.

About five to six years ago, I began to experience a deep sense of unhappiness that I couldn't seem to escape. In an attempt to turn it around, I made significant lifestyle changes: I quit drinking, became invested in consuming healthy, whole foods, and fundamentally altered my relationship to my work. Despite these, the sense of discontent continued. I found myself in a severe midlife crisis, questioning my authentic self and pondering where things might have gone awry. As a young man, mountain biking was my lifeblood. Even though I continued to ride as an adult, the essence of why I loved it had somehow slipped away.

This inward looking coincided with our departure from Japan, which marked a turning point in my life. I was determined to reset my life, with a renewed focus on biking, striving to reconnect with the person I had once been. This journey led me to Ronnie Romance of Ron's Bikes, Ultradynamico, and Nutmeg Needleworks. Ronnie's presence on cycling Instagram is unmistakable—a character impossible to overlook. Initially, Ronnie's bravado somewhat threw me off, but as I engaged more with his content, my perspective shifted completely. If you have happened to watch any of Ron’s videos, there’s no doubt you have witnessed his authenticity.

We all possess the power to create the lives we want. Ronnie's story served as an inspiration, a beacon guiding me towards a new path. Eager to understand more about his journey and successes, I reached out to him for a conversation, curious about how he managed to achieve his remarkable balance of professional and personal fulfillment.

Let's go...

Benedict? Poppi? Ronnie? LaRon? Or... UltraRomance?

Although my mother might not be thrilled with these variations, I'm comfortable being addressed by any of these names. My name-changing habit dates back to grade school and always felt natural to me. This practice might stem from my father and grandfather, who also chose their own names. As I've journeyed through life, my name has evolved organically. I don't expect people to keep track of these changes, so I typically respond to anything. But, for our conversation, feel free to call me Ronnie.

Who is Ronnie Romance?

First and foremost, I am a cyclist, deeply devoted to and an evangelist for the bicycle. Professionally, you could say I'm a designer and entrepreneur. On a more personal level, I'm an outdoor enthusiast and a metalhead, with a commitment to healthy eating and a generally sunny demeanor.

Despite my hippy-like appearance, I'm primarily into metal and genres closely related to it. My early musical tastes included death metal, Swedish melodic death metal, thrash metal, power metal, and fantasy metal. As I've grown, my preferences have shifted to black metal, doom metal, and atmospheric metal. Agalloch is my favorite band, and Ronnie James Dio is my top artist.

I identified an eating disorder early in my life, as I was intensely focused on gaining any advantage I could in cycling. Since the age of 12, my diet has consisted of a lot of healthy food, evolving over time. In high school, it was all about low-fat foods; now, it's primarily beans, oats, and olive oil. But I do make exceptions for good pizza.

How, when and where did you start riding?

My cycling journey started in Clinton, Connecticut, as I rode to school. Those rides home from school were the highlight of my day; they occupied my thoughts constantly while at school. It was in 1992 when mountain bikes became the rage, and I was instantly hooked. I remember picking up an issue of Mountain Bike Action from the local CVS, and that was a pivotal moment. My life has revolved around a passion for curated cycling since then. Interestingly, I still have that very issue of Mountain Bike Action, a memento of where it all began!

The first 'good' bike I owned was a '93 purple Diamond Back Topanga. I vividly remember customizing it with every affordable Supergo generic 3D purple ano part available—white Flite Ti, Tioga Psycho caramel-colored tires, a Controltech post, Salsa stem, Answer Hyperlite bars, and a sub-LX quality component group. I never upgraded those parts, but the process of curating that bike sparked my lifelong passion.

How does it feel to be crushed on by bike nerds globally—guys and girls alike?

I've always noticed a certain level of attraction from guys, and admittedly, I've leveraged that to my advantage throughout my life. The bike nerds, though, are my favorite people in the world, so, being considered a heartthrob by them is not only an honor but also something I deeply cherish.

Rons Bikes, Nutmeg Needleworks, and Ultradynamico. Are we missing anything?

Exotic dancer. Nothing more than those 4 though!

You must be a zen garden of multitasking. How on earth do you have time for it all?

I genuinely love making things, taking photos of them, and sharing them. Therefore, I put extra effort into managing and connecting the tasks across my businesses. Achieving this does require a significant amount of balance, and it's not always a seamless process. Despite this, I make sure to get out for a ride almost every day—I'd say about 5 out of 7 days a week. On the days when I'm not riding, I might go for a run or move logs around for firewood. These activities are my way of sorting through any mental tangles betwixt the ears.

You seem rooted in tradition. What do you make of the industry's push into electronic everything?

It’s certainly not for me… but we live in a world with so many choices now. The alt-cycling scene would never have the reach it has now, say 10-15 years ago when only the mainstream industry could have a pull or voice. But now, it’s anyone’s game. The hyper-complication of the bicycle has left a big hole, now being filled with an ever-growing list of really cool small brands. It’s an entirely different industry and ecosystem at this point. I'm not sure if we would have this much success if the big bike industry had kept making practical and good-looking things.

Of it all, what are you most proud of?

Earning a living and a fulfilling life by being creatively dedicated to the bicycle.

What prompted Ultradynamico and what’s the biggest challenge facing a smaller tire company?

Ultradynamico was born out of a shared passion between my business partner, who is also my long-time best friend and collaborator, and me. We first teamed up in Austin, TX, back in 2006 to co-found a cycling team, bonding over our mutual love for high-end bike rubber. Ultradynamico started with the simple goal of creating a specific tire that didn’t exist; we had no grand plans beyond that. Our thought was, even if no one else wanted these tires, at least we would be set for life. Fast forward to now, and we have over 30 specs—it's clear we're addicted to rubber.

...the niche market is experiencing a sort of renaissance, which is great for us.

Regarding the challenges of being a small company, I actually think it's more of an advantage, especially in 2023. We can operate efficiently with limited overhead and just a few employees. The bike industry is somewhat challenging for the larger, less specialized brands right now. Meanwhile, the niche market is experiencing a sort of renaissance, which is great for us.

What is 'perfection' to you?

I am anti-perfection. This is the primary reason I never delved into learning welding to make my own bikes. There's a place for perfection, but it's not with me. I'm more drawn to the concept of continuous improvement, always evolving and enhancing, without the pressure or expectation of reaching a final, perfect state.

In a world where bicycles rule over cars, what's the first law you'd enact?

My biggest issue with combustible engines is the noise, so in this world, that would be my primary focus as a dictator. If it makes a noise louder than a Campagnolo freehub, then you get relegated to a noise-canceling dungeon where you can use your leaf blower and Cummins diesel whenever you want. Cars have treated me okay on the road, and I don’t tend to escalate situations when they don’t — but the damn noise! The more that I think about it, though, I don’t think cars would exist if bicycles ruled. Why would you need a car if the world were built around bicycles and public transit? We can all dream, but it is only a dream.

Thanks, Ron! 🙇‍♂️

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