For the last few years I have assembled a ‘best of list’ for the preceding year. Various things, events, products used and notable/random happenings all get included when I sit and think on what the last 365 days brought to my life experience. This year, I will call the ‘year of the product’. So many things came across my path that were extremely inspiring and very often game changing for me. So now I will pass on to you my thoughts of the ‘best of’ (products, happenings and general randomness) from this past year: two thousand eleven.
Best Products of 2011 -
- The Mavic Fury – Performance, weight and pedal entry excellence.
One of the most randomly known aspects of the blog known to my readers has been my lust for the ‘white sex’ a.k.a. The Sidi Dragon. I’d used every iteration of this shoe since its inception but had some issues in later versions of the shoe. Thus I had to go on a search. While glaringly…um…yellow, the Mavic Fury has been quite game changing for me. Game changing purely in the sense that I had been able to eliminate ONE thing during my racing that was taking my head out of the game: slipped pedals. Ironic that a pair of shoes can do that. I bought them retail through Real Cyclist on a whim and a couple of friends recommendations about aspects of them I was looking for (lightweight and fantastic sole). After a complete season, the shoes have stood up very well to abuse but most dramatically (for me) was the ‘cleat well’. The sole and cleat well itself are world class. The rubber compound is softer than the Sidi’s replaceable sole but the well (e.g. the area where the cleat is mounted) is much wider to almost ‘automatically’ dive the shoe into the pedal and get it stuck ‘first shot’ upon remounts (very problematic for me with other shoes with a slipping phenomenon happening way too often). The shoes ship with extra toe spikes, cleat shields etc. and the value is well worth it. A more complete blog post comparing the 2011 to 2012 Fury product forthcoming in early 2012.
- Clement PDX – Likely the best ‘Colorado’ tire ever made.
Let me be clear: Clements are not Dugasts, Dugasts are not FMB’s, FMB’s are not Challenges and so on. Each have their own ‘special’ attribute and those attributes are best exposed when used in their best paired natural element. While Dugast has set the gold standard in hand-made and supremely supple rubber (and I’ve personally glued and used more than my wallet cares to admit of these incredible products the last few years) the abuse tires take in Colorado is crazy. Dirt, rocks, snow are all variables we face in our region. Our elements are not those faced in Belgium with its kind, loamy soil. So you have to trade…trade perhaps some suppleness for durability. It’s tubeless-style construction, the fact that when they are glued on they glue on incredibly straight and finally the crazy-good tread patterns are why we love these tires and were part of the team of people who helped test the earliest iterations of the Clement products. Disclosure: Clement is now a sponsor of the BCS Ambassadors team…but only after we had absolutely positively thrashed and approved these new products in our own testing.
- Oakley Rx – NO MORE CONTACTS! EVER!
I have been using Oakley’s for time ad infinitum. Yet always with out-of-box lenses, underneath which I had contacts glued to my eyeballs. Mud, wind and crap would always force me to rip them out mid race taking my head out of the game (like the shoe/pedal stuff above). This year I completely upgraded. Finally. Oakley Transition prescriptions lenses. The technology REALLY works and works well (picture above at Cross Vegas at Dusk. They literally go from completely clear to completely dark and fluctuate with the conditions. Don’t expect them to go from dark to light quickly (e.g. going into a dark tunnel from the sun) or vice versa but still truly incredible. The Jaw Bones I use them in I’ve come to love having used radars and M Frames for years before that. Some love their fit, others do not (but this story is about the lens!). Honestly, I haven’t even taken them out of the frames all year. Clean ‘em up with a little soapy water and blammo, good to go.
- Giro Proof Glove – My boney digits may have finally found ‘the one’
I have a certifiable bone yard of old gloves. I’ve tried and tossed probably 15 pairs of winter gloves…in the search for SOMETHING that will provide me warmth *and* give me dexterity. Most of the 20deg gloves are like boxing gloves. Big, fat things that do very little to help a crosser do what they need to do: shift and brake constantly which our sport demands. The Giro Proof was a welcome surprise this year. It ships with a thin liner glove that can be used separately on warmer days (50deg) and when the shell is put over the top, creates an awesome inner barrier which truly kept my hands warm. I used them at all the super cold snow races we had here on the Front Range (temps in the 20’s to 30’s) and thus far I am completely impressed. They’re coming with me to Madison.
- Strava – Game. On. Talk about deeper inspiration to drill it on your training ride.
Crack. Strava is crack. Addictive, impulsive and downright fun to use. I wrote a post about it and a year later I am still in love with the product. It’s now just instinctive to upload and play with the data in such a straight forward user interface. Full disclosure: Strava has become a great sponsor to the BCS Ambassador team…all due to our team mates geek-out slaying each other on our favorite ride segment.
- Secret Drink Mix - Really not so secret any more.
As a Boulderite, there’s only like a percentage or so of a degree of separation between us townfolk, and thus I was able to connect with Allen Lim and the folks working on his new ‘Secret Drink Mix’ when I’d heard about it. I’d literally gotten sick from some of the electrolyte mixes I’d used in the past…which amounted to ingesting so much sugar (even with their prescribed doses) it literally gave me rot-gut. Physically sick. Allen’s formula is based on some core scientific principals to provide the athlete’s body what it needs to stay hydraded and replace the essentials yet uses absolutely NOTHING but natural ingredients. No huge sugar spikes. It tastes very little like what the typical mix stuff tastes like. It’s ‘lighter’ in taste (some would say ‘watered down’) which is exactly right. The REAL ingredients are all in there within the H2O and not masked by heavy sugars and artificial flavoring. It’s the real deal.
- Mix1 – Chocolate and Vanilla
I have been a fan of pounding chocolate milk when my event is over. Yet another lesson taught to me by Pete Webber. Yet when Boulder’s own Mix1 started showing up grassroots-style at our races, we’d get samples and were hooked early on by their berry-flavored shakes. When they launched their Vanilla and Chocolate shakes, we were sold. We actively pursed this great company to support our BCS Ambassadors team and they graciously obliged and supply us with the liquid recovery treats we need to quickly flip it and get back to training again. They are now going national so you will be able to grab them at your local Whole Foods soon.
- K-Edge Double XL Cyclocross Chain Guide – The shit ain’t droppin’.
Dr. Pete Webber takes us through all you need to know in the YouTube video above. Absolutely bomber and while we never had issues with the prior generation K-Edge guides, the newer, cross-specific version is stiffer and more re-assuring. Zero mud build up for me on the days mother nature through at us this year.
- Mad Alchemy (Medium) – Heats as advertised and goes on like buttah.
My benchmark for embro to date has been the amazing products by our friends at Northwest Knee Warmers. I’ve used this extensively and absolutely love it. But while great things are often hard to get, I needed product that was easily accessible (I am going through 2-3 jars in a season) and yet had the same 'feel’ as NWKW. I picked up Mad Alchemy at Boulder Cycle Sport as they have a steady stream of the product given their increased production capabilities. The ‘feel’ was identical in heat to what I like (Medium) and it went on smoothly and deeply. To be honest, DZ Nuts High Heat gives a better more consistent heat for a longer period, yet Mad Alchemy applies WAY better. There is something about scooping from a jar versus squeezing from a tube methinks that screws with the ‘texture’.
Alas, the year was not ALL about cool products I’ve fallen in love with. I had plenty of great memories galvanized into my brain as well. Here are those…
Best Racing Experiences of 2011
- Best Race – Tie: USGP Fort Collins and Monarch High
20th. Is that awesome? No. I’d had plenty of other better placings this year with nearly as deep and talented fields (give or take about 5-7 additional guys)…but this course and venue has been my nemesis and is truly not what I am good at…at all…or so I thought. It is a power-guy course where I am honestly better suited to courses that force the rider to drive better and be more technically adept than the other guys. Races with lots of stop/go stop/go, cornering and off-bike work are what I am historically great at and where I thrive. But Fort Collins and a very similar course (albeit flatter) at Monarch High School showed that I can sustain some power on the straights like the crit guys do. I came back from a disastrous Day 1 at Fort Collins and laid it all out there. I liked that day very much regardless of my place. stayed smooth and felt in my bones it was a success for me.
- Best Image – Greg and Aiden – by Terri Irsik Smith
She did it. Terri really did it. This picture means SO MUCH to me as so much of my experience with ‘cross these days is not ‘me me me’. It’s ‘me and my boys’. It’s seeing the sport through my son’s eyes. This is incredibly special moment as Aiden came to congratulate me after a really hard but successful race at Xilinx. He’d just finished up the race before to an awesome finish against the bigger kids.
- The Boulder Cycle Sport Ambassadors Team – Completely cross-crazed evangelists
This was truly the first year where the BCS ‘Ambassadors’ got ORGANIZED and put it all out there. From countless clinics to video product tutorials to coaching juniors, the Ambassadors got around this year. Pete, Brandon, Allen, Kristin and I are so stoked to be associated with the team and the amazing sponsors
- The FasCat/BCS CX Camp with Jeremy Powers – Super PRO. Super detailed. Super fun.
Honored to have helped coach this camp this past summer with such a HUGE turnout from people all over this great nation of ours. Topped off with Jeremy Powers leading the charge and Frank Overton doling out the science, the camp was completely PRO in every sense. I absolutely would recommend it to ANY level racer who is looking to improve their game next year. We’ll have us some fun.
Complete (yet notable) Randomness of 2011
- My own “Service Course”! – Everything at arms reach. No excuses to work on and completely dial the equipment.
OK, this is complete nerdiness but there is logic behind it. When you get mentored by a guy like Pete Webber, you listen and listen hard. Pete surprised me with a ‘project’ when he sourced some old cabinets being torn down from another team mates project house. We went to the hardware store and $300 and 4 working days later had my dream workshop. Bikes hung in order, tools in reach, etc. But REALLY what this is is a testament to two things: 1) that a friend would take his own personal time to do this with me and 2) that it is ALL about preparation for cross. Eliminating variables like how your equipment performs is one HUGE hurdle for racing cyclists. And cross exacerbates this to the Nth degree. Preparing your equipment and keeping it maintained takes that all out of your race day. Having the equipment organized is a HUGE part…frankly it motivates you to take down the tools and WORK on your stiff to keep it dialed. Thank you Pete.
- Coaching Boulder Junior Cycling!
Probably the HIGHLIGHT of my year. I was so honored to be asked to come help work with these amazing kids. So much passion from kids ranging in age from 8-17. They are some FAST mo-fos too! They all have so much fun and are like sponges for info on racing, equipment and the pro scene in Europe. It’s so cool to see this (as I’ve said countless times this summer) cross becoming the ‘new little league'.
- Befriending Ben Berden
This was one of the most interesting things of my past year. I am such an outspoken advocate of clean racing, I was suspect when we’d found out that Ben would be in town and hanging with us to train for a few weeks. I was able to interview him in advance of his arrival which gave me an interesting sense about him. The doping was what it was. It was real and the penance was paid. We communed over dinners and tons of training rides and talked a bunch about a zillion things and the more I dug in, the more I could see a guy who is deeply passionate about racing his bike and attempting to change his life to pursue it…up to and including taking the US scene seriously enough to depart from his wife and two sons for months and months in this experiment. Really glad to now consider him a friend.
That’s a wrap.
2011 was a steeping stone year on so many levels in my life. Bike racing, company-building, family rearing…you name it. I’m hungry…so hungry for newness in 2012 and let the platform I hope I built in 2011 be strong enough to propel my family and I forward.
I also need to send out an apology: this blog of mine needs to be updated more…and I need to allow myself again to “write”…to write openly about the stuff that invades my mind as I’d done in the past and my blog for me was true and epic release. Again, hopefully a record that my sons can re-read someday and either roll heir eyes or hopefully learn more about their daddy. I admittedly retreated from this as I thought my words were even getting a bit too negative for myself. A bit too broken-record’ish and I needed to start some core reversals of how I need to think about myself and my life. More positive. More fresh. More inspiring.
Here’s to it. Here’s to you. Here’s to getting the hup on in life.
Cheers…and thank you sincerely for reading.