Keith Kimmel – The Fastest Thing on Two Wheels

Keith Kimmel’s wheel designs are giving the fastest cyclists in the world the edge to win in top-tier cycling competitions, including the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and the Olympics.

The road to cycling

After college excesses, “Fat Keith” (as he jokingly referred to himself) was dedicated to living a healthier lifestyle. With dedication, diet and exercise, he lost 100 pounds and continued to push himself, looking for bigger challenges. He wanted to do something he never thought he could do before, so he decided to compete in a triathlon. 

In preparation for the competition, he said, “I fell in love with cycling. Bikes are a great engineering marvel. As an engineer, I wanted my bike to be perfect. So I started tuning, building and designing bikes.”

Keith (University of Florida ’08) got the itch to do something different with his life before he turned 30, so he moved to Cali and gave himself three months to find his dream job. Just as he was about to throw in the towel and take an interview with Lockheed, he got a call from a bike design company. He got his dream job.

Reinventing the wheel

His new company, Specialized is known for producing the most aerodynamic bikes in the world. They tasked Keith with the simple task of “reinventing the wheel.”

Keith relied on his engineering background to design wheels that were particularly lightweight and aerodynamic. He used theories and materials commonly used in aerodynamics and designed the “fastest wheels in the world.”

The proof is in the peddling

Top cyclists from all over the world, even those riding for other manufacturers’ teams, have used Keith’s wheels in premier competitions. 

In 2021, his wheels were used by some of the best riders in the Tour de France who placed in the top positions in their time trials.

Jai Hindley, the first Australian to ever win a grand tour, the Giro d’Italia, used Keith’s wheels during his time trial this year. And even in early stages of the 2022 Tour de France, riders racing on his wheel set are winning.

Keith said, “it’s super rewarding to work on a product that has more of an impact on people’s lives. I love that pro athletes use my wheels to be the ‘best in the world.’”

Winning a trial of a different kind

In 2021, Keith got the sobering news that he had Lymphoma. He said, “chemo was difficult, but I was surrounded by people who were really struggling. It put things in perspective for me.” 

He did his best to spin it in a positive way. He brought positive energy to the nurses, techs and fellow patients, giving them a laugh, staying upbeat and wearing different, colorful fruit shirts for every treatment session.

He’s now one year clean and thankful, “I got lucky. I’m glad I was strong and healthy enough to get through it.”

Pilam and the blackball that didn’t take

Keith (third from left) with the Pilam crew at Brother Sean Baker’s Wedding

Keith has great memories of his time at Pilam. He was drawn in by the diversity of the chapter and the opportunity to contribute quickly. 

He remembered almost getting blackballed as a pledge over a minor squabble. But fortunately, the brothers saw his potential and voted against it. Keith proved them right. He was elected rex in 2005 as a sophomore and lived in the house with over 90 brothers until graduation. 

Sports were an essential part of the culture. Pilam always made the fraternity finals in intramurals. Keith was starting center for the Nose Bowl, one of the longest-running sports traditions in U of Florida and Pilam history.

He reveled in a golden era of Florida Gator sports when the football and basketball programs were serial champions. Fraternity row was close to the stadiums and Keith remembers a visit to the house from Coach Urban Meyer.

Keith is still in touch with his classmates, but is looking forward to reconnecting with many more now that he’s moving back to Florida.

Article written by Shawn Mahoney (Temple University, ’92)