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Ground Keeper Fenders: Adding soul to the boring black fender

Ground Keeper Fenders owner Keely Shannon with her “Donut Kill My Vibe” fender. Photos courtesy of Keely Shannon.[/caption]

By Todd Elsworth

When it comes to mountain bike fenders, graphic designer Keely Shannon’s attitude is, if you dream it, she can print it.

When Keely decided she wanted to start a company that designs graphics-driven fenders for mountain bikes, she first had to find someone to produce the fenders. After a laborious search for the right partners to meet her high standards, graphics-forward approach and low minimum order quantities, Keely decided she’d figure out how to do it herself.

“Finally, I just said, screw it ... it can’t be that hard,” she said. “Turns out it was a little trickier to figure out. It took about eight months from prototype to production.”

But the outcome – custom graphics printed on one of the most sustainable materials she could find, recycled polyethylene – was worth it.

The Galbraith trail map fender raised nearly $700 for the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition in two months.

Bellingham-based Ground Keeper Fenders launched in late 2017 and now offers about 20 different designs, available on its website and at local bike shops. That includes a Galbraith Mountain trail map fender that benefits the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition and a variety of other fun designs with such names as Staycation, Just Bead It, Ferngully, Cat Rip, Donut Kill my Vibe and more. Keely does full custom designs for $38 and stock designs cost $24.

The company is growing – that’s not surprising considering that it’s not Keely’s first experience in the mountain bike industry. She formerly headed up the women’s marketing initiative at Specialized Bikes in California. At the time, her husband, Tony Baumann, led retail development classes for the company.

Four years ago, Keely took the leap and left the corporate bike world to become a freelancer and found immediate success. Keely and Tony looked at a map to determine where to move next and narrowed it to three popular outdoor recreation destinations: Tahoe, Asheville and Bellingham.

Tony had visited Bellingham to test ride bikes on Galbraith years before and encouraged Keely to check it out for herself. “I came up to Bellingham in August 2015 and it was the most beautiful weekend I’ve ever seen,” she said. “I just fell in love and signed a lease while I was up here.”

Fast forward to 2017. Keely’s business was booming doing freelance contract work. Yet she felt that she wasn’t really working for herself but for her clients. Her entrepreneurial spirit wanted out.

Meanwhile, her husband was doing high-end custom paint jobs for mountain bike helmets and frames. Doing something that complemented his business, Made Rad by Tony, made sense.

Setting off on the road to giving the “boring black fender a soul,” as her website states, she realized two elements were important to her – offering custom graphics and being able to offer a minimum quantity of one. That’s tough to find, but Keely wouldn’t compromise.

“What’s the point if we can’t do cool things and be different?” she said.

Keely and Ground Keeper Fenders will be at the Recreation Northwest Expo on Saturday, February 23, at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As Executive Director of Recreation Northwest, Todd Elsworth promotes outdoor recreation and brings community together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. His decades of extensive event production, marketing and writing experience propel this passion. You might bump into him and his daughter Violet while they're biking, hiking, paddling or skiing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.