Building wheels is an art. Different artists have different styles and influences and are in many ways products of the schools of art from which they've emerged. Wheelbuilder Kit Samples brings his unquestionable loc status, his many years in the saddle, countless laps, fatherhood, and a love for all things cycling to bear on the endeavor of building wheels. We sat down with Kit to find out more about his approach to work, life and cycling; what motivates him and generally to shoot the shit.
Q. What's your hometown?
A. Santa Cruz, Ca.
Do you have a nickname? If yes, how'd you get it? If not, make one up that suits your character.
I've been called many, many names. Kit is the only one that has stood the test of time.
How long have you been at Reserve?
Going on about two years now.
How long have you been riding?
30+ years now off and on.
How long have you been building wheels?
I didn't know much about wheels before working for Reserve/Santa Cruz. I was pretty intimidated by wheels. I could build you a bike, but no chance I could replace a broken spoke before working here.
How many wheels do you estimate you've built since you've been at Reserve?
Total about 17,000. Carbon, maybe 4,000 to 5,000.
What brought you to wheel building?
Covid/Home-Purchase/Family. I had been self-employed for darn near 20 years. Covid crushed the supply chain along with my income. My wife and I had also bought a home around the same time I started here.
Would you rather build a wheel by machine or by hand?
I'm a hand-build guy. It's three times the work but totally worth it.
Tell us something about wheel building that most people wouldn't know.
If you look through the valve hole you can see which hub model you're riding.
What kind of riding do you typically do? Mountain, Gravel or Road?
I own all of these. In order to keep them I ride them all at least once a week. My wife will ask me to sell one if it sits around for too long. I do enjoy gravel these days.
What's your favorite trail or favorite place to ride?
I prefer Aptos. In Nisene you can get anything you're looking for.
Garage-check. What are you currently riding? Which wheels? Who built them?
Bronson with Reserve HD 30, Stigmata with Reserve 34/37, Chameleon with Reserve HD 30, Cervelo R5 with Reserve 34/37...No e-bikes (assisted laps don't count). I hand-built the wheels on the Stig and the Chameleon. The wheelsets on the Bronson and R5 were machine-built by strangers.
What do you do when you're not building wheels?
I'm the only Dad in the Wheel Department. So, when I'm not working I'm running one of my two kids around. Otherwise I'm pedaling.
Beer, wine, cocktail or seltzer?
SRAM or Shimano?
Coffee, Tea or Red Bull?
Thick or thin grips?
Burrito, hamburger or pizza?
RockShox or Fox?
Seinfeld, Friends or Rick & Morty?
Big Bang Theory
i9 or DT Swiss?
Puppies or Kittens?
Describe your perfect day.
Early morning ride, home to a happy family. Some sort of family activity without cellphones. An hour or two by the pool and probably 9 holes of twilight golf followed by a burrito for dinner.
What's your special power?
Happy life, unhappy wife.