While I’m the team owner and manager of a one-man program, I’m fortunate enough to be part of an alliance of riders united by the RideBiker organization. RideBiker provides a unifying platform among riders, like me, that have elected for the privateer model over what, until now, has been viewed as the more traditional factory team model.

This past weekend was the first and perhaps only opportunity for us to all come together in Orange County, to work together around some of our shared goals. It was productive and energizing and fun. Want a peek behind the scenes of the whole experience?

(Of course you do….)

 

THURSDAY NIGHT

It’s dinner out with the whole team and staff, which is the first time we’ve all been in the same room. All? Well that’s eighteen riders, six staff, Scott Tedro and a few significant others.

First impressions – The energy is really good. There’s lots of positivity, sharing of ideas, talking about goals. Casual.

It’s good for everyone to meet Scott Tedro as most of the riders haven’t had that chance. He's a pretty magnetic and often polarizing figure. It was great to catch up with directors and friends Adam Pulford and Colt McElwaine, and be introduced to a host of athletes I didn't previously know.

I think everyone left dinner feeling as if they had indulged. It was heavy, delicious, food. And a lot of it. The carrot cake I didn't order, but ate a lot of, was incredible.

I am helpless when desert is put in front of me.

 

FRIDAY

Friday starts with a ride.  

It’s awesome to get out on bikes in the sun and shake out the legs. In pretty standard fashion, it turned into a bit of a hammer fest at times, but I think everyone had a really good time. No injuries or mechanicals, so we rode hard the whole morning. It was just awesome to be out.

Everyone got a bit crispy under the SoCal sun. For a lot of the group, it was their first day out on their new bikes. Not for me. I’ve been on my Focus Raven for 6 weeks now.  While the bike isn’t new, I remain completely impressed at how well it rides.

The Raven is probably the best hardtail I’ve ever ridden. It’s surgical in the way it handles. It’s light, climbs well and is a confident descender. And now that I’ve gotten all my Shimano components put on it, I extra satisfied. It incredible how well the new XTR rides, and now all that’s missing my Fox suspension.

It’s been a year off both Shimano and Fox, and I’m remembering why I have such great memories riding both. It’s definitely a happy reunion and a reminder of the benefits of running my own program – working with who I want, riding what I want. I feel incredibly lucky to have signed up Focus, Shimano and Fox this year.

We spent the afternoon in meetings where we talk about how to share the RideBiker Alliance (RBA) story and the best way to share our stories, too- and, of course, most importantly, how to tie our sponsors into the storyline. It’s clear that the ultimate goal is to build a community out of RBA - one that can sustain the sponsorship programs on its own.

These meetings offered an an opportunity for everyone to ask questions and learn about themes that tie everyone’s programs together. Even for someone been around the block, having done these sorts of meetings over and over again during the years, I definitely learned a few things, and it’s always good to have an opportunity to check in with my own goal setting.

Dinner that night was causal. It’s usually causal in cycling. We ate Neapolitan pizza near the hotel.

Back in our room that night, Sam Schultz (the other veteran of the Sho-Air organization) and I had a long talk about the prospects of the RBA project. I think we were both a bit skeptical coming into the season (as I think most of the industry currently is), but hoped we would be able to make an impact. Something had changed for us in the last 48 hours, and we both were aware the path that was in front of us all was more exciting than we had originally acknowledged.

This thing, RBA, is totally nebulous, but done with conviction, could be the best thing to happen to the mountain bike community (and for that matter, maybe the entirety of cycling) in my lifetime to date. We both believe that this program has capacity to unite instead of divide. If it becomes as inclusive as we hope that it will, the prospects for success and growth are huge. Of course, the prospects for RBA are tied to the story we help write for organization, and the cycling community’s willingness to embraces a nebulous idea with a funny name.

I’m well aware that Scott Tedro is a figure that draws out a lot of emotion for people within the industry, everyone has a strong opinion of him and the projects he’s associated with. You either love him or hate him, and that could be an additional hurdle for RBA. Yet this weekend has inspired the belief that this project has the potential to finally instigate the change Tedro’s always been seeking in the industry, namely for it to support, instead of cannibalize itself, and could simultaneously do immense good for innumerable athletes and riders. I hope to be a part of making this movement successful because what we are doing right now isn't working for most people.

 

SATURDAY

Photo day.

For most people this was their first time doing this sort of shot. Not for me. That meant I ended up being the one who helped frame many of the shots with the photographer. It’s always one of those days that is a bit crazy, starting off fun and lighthearted, but as the sun gets higher in the sky, people get tired, thirsty, hungry and dirty, and everything slowly starts to unravel.

By the end of it, no one is very productive. Some people want to just go ride, others want to climb into the shade or go home. For me, running my own program this season, it felt really important to take advantage of this opportunity that doesn't come directly out of my budget. So all the people who were ghosting and dragging their feet, it was in some indirect way, money out of my pocket. By the end of it we were all pretty crispy. Sunburns for everyone!

We still had a bit of time until the sun set and we’d be called inside to dinner, so a group of us decided to ride back to the hotel, hitting some trail on the way home. We found the spicy stuff, and part of the way down a loose, rocky, technical bit of trail, I lost traction on my front wheel and went down. I shredded a new pair of shorts and lost some skin, but it felt kinda good to get that first good crash of the season out of the way.

I dusted myself off, and sent it the rest of the way down the trail. For the first time ever, in hundreds of crashes, I burnt myself on a disc rotor. I guess the pro road peloton’s fears aren’t completely unfounded.

We spent the evening at Colt McElwaine’s house. Everyone was sharing stories, laughing and cooking s’mores around a big fire pit. It was just an awesome way to close out a long and slightly stressful day.

 

SUNDAY

We did a long ride in Laguna hills, under sunny skies. It was just another awesome day out there, and good to actually get some riding in today. Although SoCal riding is hardly my favorite kind of riding, it’s hard to complain about 75 and sunny.

The trails were hard packed, with just a bit of sand on top of blown out bumpy and rutted trails. Steep climbs, poison oak and hikers everywhere made for plenty of obstacles. Those of us riding near the front of the group all came close to dying at least once, but no risk, no reward, right? Some people barely hung on through the length of the ride, but for me, it was an awesome way to cap off a rest week spent in the sun.