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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 8:55 pm | Fair 54º

 
 
 
 
DAVE LETTIERI

Dave Lettieri’s Fastrack Bicycles Draws World-Class Riders

After a successful cycling career, former pro shifts to gear and top-flight service with elite clientele

A $2 check from Dave Lettieri’s first-place finish at his hometown velodrome in Scranton, Pa., hangs in his Santa Barbara bike shop. The 1977 victory may have been a 13-year-old cyclist’s first win, but it was far from his last.

Dave Lettieri has enjoyed success on a global stage but feels right at home in his Fastrack Bicycles, a low-key shop in downtown Santa Barbara that is frequented by many of the best cyclists in town — and the world.
Dave Lettieri has enjoyed success on a global stage but feels right at home in his Fastrack Bicycles, a low-key shop in downtown Santa Barbara that is frequented by many of the best cyclists in town — and the world. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“My brother and I started when we were 12,” Lettieri said as he explained their endeavors to ride in the Velodrome Century Tour, a local 100-mile ride that they both knew was a bit ambitious. “As you go up the ladder and do better you keep doing it, and I did.”

A velodrome is an arena for track cycling. Most tracks feature steep banks that have two 180-degree circular bends where riders can reach up to 60 mph in their fixed-gear bicycles. Lettieri compared it to the difference between track and field and cross country; races will be lost by fractions of seconds rather than minutes.

Lettieri earned his first national title when he was 15, and he accumulated eight more.

“The cycling crowd is a small crowd, the same people go up the ladder,” he said.

After his national success, Lettieri moved to Los Angeles in hopes of making the 1984 Olympic team. Although things didn’t exactly go as planned, he found a home on the world championship team racing road bikes. He and Team Pursuit finished fifth in the 1985 championships. Then the squad took the gold medal at the 1987 Pan American Championships, a competition between the best riders in North and South America.

After a second tryout, Lettieri made the cut for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where his team placed ninth. One of his fondest memories was standing next to Carl Lewis and watching the spectacle of the opening ceremonies.

“A lot of cyclists don’t participate (in the ceremony) because you don’t want to stand on your legs because you’re in so specific shape,” Lettieri said. “It’s not everyday you get to march with all the top athletes. It was special standing next to Carl Lewis in the opening ceremony.”

Lettieri also visited the White House and met President Ronald Reagan.

“There was a little sticker that said ‘President,’ so I stood there and waited as people filled in,” he recalled. “Reagan stood right next to me as he gave his speech.”

Now 46, Lettieri has visited 15 countries through cycling. Pro races took him throughout Europe, but he eventually made it back to the United States to manage professional teams from 1992 to 1996.

After opening Fastrack Bicycles, a road bike shop that offers top gear at 118 W. Canon Perdido, and running the store solo in 1997, his friend, Lance Armstrong, asked him to take care of his bikes for the 2000 Tour de France, Armstrong’s second tour win.

“It was odd that they took a bike shop guy for the tour and somebody outside the team for the most important race,” Lettieri said. “Basically when Lance wanted anything, I took care of it.”

Lettieri worked on six bikes, but mainly tweaked two. On a professional level, Armstrong’s mindset was similar to his everyday personality — focused.

“He’s always focused, always looking ahead to his next task,” Lettieri said. “He trusted me to get it done. I am quick on the response and he knows he can call me.”

Lettieri dropped the bike off at the race and hoped the same one would get to the finish line.

“If he was on the same bike you knew it was good,” he said. “If something is going to happen, it’s in the first mile and you know it right away.”

Lettieri’s shop is filled with Olympic memorabilia and autographed jerseys, including signed Greg LeMond (the first American to win the Tour de France) jerseys, a picture of Lettieri racing behind the six-time tour victor, and pictures with Armstrong when he visited for Lettieri’s surprise birthday party at Aldo’s. Armstrong’s worn yellow jersey from 2000 hangs from the wall with a message to Letteiri.

Dave Lettieri, right, and Lance Armstrong have a tight bond cemented in frequent training rides like this one in Texas.
Dave Lettieri, right, and Lance Armstrong have a tight bond cemented in frequent training rides like this one in Texas. (Lettieri family photo)

“Thanks for dropping everything to spend three long weeks in France, Dave,” the jersey reads. “I can’t thank you enough. All my best, Lance.”

Lettieri and Armstrong maintain a close friendship, riding together whenever he’s in town. They used to train on rides through the Santa Ynez Valley and Solvang.

Armstrong recently stopped in at Fastrack for a book signing that had people camping out to meet the consecutive seven-time tour winner and cancer survivor.

“I asked him to do a book signing at the bike shop and people camped out at 2 p.m. for his 6 p.m. arrival,” Lettieri said. “He’s visited two shops, his shop in Austin and Fastrack.”

On the business side, Fastrack started with minimal brands, but has expanded to feature some of the top brands and top-of-the-line equipment.

“I’ve put my whole life into cycling and it’s worth it and paid off,” Lettieri said. “When you can make a living and live in Santa Barbara, it’s a good deal.”

Recently retired professional cyclist Aaron Olson was visiting the shop during Noozhawk’s talk with Lettieri. A pink signed T-Mobile Olson jersey hangs from the wall. He rides weekly with Lettieri and his crew.

“The first place we went to in Santa Barbara was Dave’s shop,” Olson said. “He was super-instrumental in us meeting most of the people we know in town.

“He and Luke (Johnston) do a really good job for road and high-end stuff.”

Johnston runs the store with Lettieri. He has worked there for nine years.

“I’m basically the shop’s mechanic ...” he said. “I love working for Dave. It’s nice knowing that when somebody tells you, ‘I already worked on this bike and couldn’t figure it out, I tried this and this,’ and I know there is no point even looking at it because I know he actually did it.”

Professional riders frequent the shop, but Fastrack caters to any type of rider.

“Dave remembers everybody,” Johnston said, which keeps customers coming back.

Aside from business, Lettieri keeps track of Armstrong’s whereabouts through his Twitter updates, he said. But when he visits, they pick up like they saw each other yesterday.

“People know Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Lance,” Lettieri said. “You don’t know that many other household names in sports.

“Guys are in and out of other sports, and the longevity is unparalleled in most sports.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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