A (Tarmac S-Works SL3) gets diverted

20 09 2010

Andy Schleck hurries toward Avoriaz - Specialized v Specialized

The massive ballroom was relatively empty as the conference centre staff reset for the lunch buffet. On large movie screens is stage 8 of le Tour de France streaming live and Lyno and I have snuck in during our demo of Specialized 2011 road range. As he said, “what would a road ride be without a coffee stop?”. Low and behold we had company, very exclusive company. Mike Sinyard and his team are glued to their seats. We’re talking the guys who designed the very bikes that current star’s Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador are racing on and the characters that get their autographs. As the decimated peloton headed under the red kite Schleck fired an acceleration that only Sammy Sanchez could follow and the atmosphere in the ballroom turns electric. On the finish Schleck’s Specialized Tarmac has a last final surge to take victory and the noise in the ballroom almost lifts the ceiling. “Hey Lyno how about we go ride one of them, they look alright eh?”…

Tarmac S-Works SL3 now in Outside Sports Team colours...

To help set the scene here, we had already spent an hour that morning rolling on the new SL3 Roubaix, and I’d already declared that I needed a new bike (see testing above); to replace another bike I also love. So our ride was to be an easy cruise. We heard that a few ‘miles’ down the highway out of the Keystone village was a scenic, gentle rolling road that sided a beautiful Colorado Rockies lake. Sounded like the perfect destination, so once sized up and bike underneath a-rolling we went. Meter’s later I was on a racing bike. I mean earlier I was on a racing bike – the same as the one that in the previous three April’s have one the Queen of the Classics. But now I was on a racing bike, like one that just won a mountain stage of the Tour! Across the gravel car park, everything was felt – as one. This machine moves together like nothing else I’d ever thrown a leg over; back wheel rolls over a rock you feel it at the handlebars, front wheel rolls over a crack it gets translated through the pedals; you know what this bike is doing underneath you, at all times – and I was still only doing 10k/hr…

"Looks great, you go first"

OK lets hit the road, oh yeah that’s better. Americans do build a good road. Damn this bike is stiff. Hey look a pedestrian crossing. Man this is lightning fast. I’m not a big boy so my sprint is never going to rip a bottom bracket free, but then neither could Cancellara when he twisted the throttle up the Muur or when Vinokourov flattened Roche aux Faucons. This bike has ridiculous credentials and it’s easy to see why. Accelerating on it gives you the same ‘oh my god’ reactions of joy you get when your right foot hits the floor in a Porsche 911. I swear my arms were sore from holding on as the g-forces wanted to pitch me off the back. Then after (momentarily) satisfying my new addiction we wandered the streets searching for the lakeside trail, but alas we found better, and none of you will be able to guess what happened next…

Ever heard the term “Cycling is the new Golf”. I have, it’s funny, really. But the fact is Golf is the new Cycling, you with me? Lyno was…

OK, so here’s where I add the disclaimer that we were lost. We had come to a dead-end. You know, the kind where you turn around and re-set your Garmin. However this colder-sac had a secret door to an escape route, and I suggested that we do the back 9. Don’t worry if you don’t get it; neither did Lyno. You see, (good) Golf Courses in the U.S of A have smooth bitumen cart paths that link up the entire course. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to fulfil a recent dream. So off to the 10th!

Anyone seen the highway?

Like a scene of manufactured splendor, this elevated Par 3 was our starting point. immediately into a twisty technical single track for roadies, joining onto the 11th tee and on and on. Flowing corners, sharp power climbs, open chicanes brushing close with flowering gardens, winding through manicured forest, this yellow brick road had it all. I swear probably the most entertaining ‘road’ I’ve ever, well, ever. Of course there was the bike still beneath me; oh yeah, that light weight human-powered rocket. While it’s only fault was that smashing the big dog full gas was such thrill I was getting smashed in the process, don’t apply if you like your easy spin – this bike will trick you into just one more sprint. Cornering (trust me we tested the cornering on the Keystone GC) was as solid and sure planted as they come; point and shoot.

Who wouda thunk it?

Suddenly we were coming up on the 17th green, one final climb up to the 18th and we were outta there. Talk about saving the best for last. Getting to the final hole was a 15%(+), 8 switchback climb, Lyno was loving it. One last hole. I teed off first and the shot landed right on a yard marker painted onto the path. 150 – that means sprint right? So off I go, head down flat-out for the line (where ever that was). A quick glance up and I see an electric Golf Cart coming straight for me – ah crap… I lock up the Dura-Ace stoppers, bike sliding side ways and just before impact I let go of the brakes, regain traction and steer around the mammoth in my way (they were in the wrong), arm glancing the windscreen… Oooh that got heart beating. Lyno caught up (still laughing) imagining the story I’d have to come up with if I took this S-Works back to the Demo tent in 2…

I can't show you his face, and his name has been changed to protect his family

On return it was hard to hide our giddy good times. While some had stories of climbing the epic highway pass up to 12,000″ in the other direction, we had just done our test in a mini Ardennes, landscaped to the max. I’ve still got a Roubaix on order, but that’s because I’m now mostly winning vet’s trophies (that’s right 35 baby!). If I still had the absolute desire to be on the fastest road bike in the world, it’d be pretty hard to argue against this golf cart beating weapon of the star’s.

Putting the Tarmc through it's paces - at least the bike coped fine...

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It came and it went

1 08 2010

Yes I did once report on a test ride (check it out in the Testing menu up top) that if you wanted to see the one and only brand new Specialized mountain bike model the “Camber” in New Zealand you had to come and see me. Well a few of you did, only it sadly and excitedly it has gone from my possesion and I think to a better more deserving home.

The good news is that it is still in Wanaka, so for the next 4 weeks the only place in Aotearoa to see one is still here, keep a keen eye out for the rider with a grin from ear to ear.

It's the Camber Elite and it's the last time I saw it, one sweet bike

On a funny side note, as I was building it up 5 days before this photograph was taken I noticed the date of manufacturer sticker on the underside of the top tube. It was stamped 18/6/10, this photo was taken only 30 days later, now that’s a coup for it’s new home!





Keystone; a welcome.

18 07 2010

Friday…

“Is anybody sitting here?”

I look up from my scrambled eggs to discover that Sam Hill wants to join me for breakfast. “Ah, umm, no Sam go for it it’s all yours”. It’s my first morning in Keystone, Colorado; the Tour de France is playing live on movie screens and I’m chatting freely with one of the World’s fastest downhill mountain bikers – it’s a good start.

Sam Hill with his all new Demo 8

I’ve got a morning full of product launch presentations showcasing the Specialized bicycle range for the upcoming 2011 season, including one that Sam will feature as he shows off his new racing bike. Of course he has been using it the entire World Cup campaign so far, but soon it’ll be available to the public as well.

Breakfast leaves my belly full and head a little giddy, but I’ll soon grow used to both sensations as the weekend gets longer and my experiences sweeter. Walking down the hall past never seen before helmets, shoes and saddles I spot my first mountain bike hero and the World’s first Champion; Ned Overend. I introduced myself and as a fan paid my respects but had to keep moving to be on time for the latest in Street bikes. Ned assured me that he’d catch up with me later. And on it went. After a Body Geometry presentation showcasing the latest design, development and philosophy in Gloves, Saddles and Shoes; I sacrificed my morning coffee break for 20 minutes one-on-one with Andy Pruit (arguably the number one guru when it comes to scientific and holistic bike fitting, with the numbers and names to back it up). For kicks our first of many conversations including finding out where he has positioned cleats for current road racing stars Cancellara, Contador and the Schleck brothers. To him the Schleck boys are like sons and even though we’d never met he didn’t want me to miss a beat when it came to insuring I have the right tools for my own customers.

A Professor, a fellow Central Otagoian, a dude that pens deals with Bjarne Riis and a well photographed Stunt man

Lunch came around in a flash and that full belly from breakfast was generously topped up with some sweet cakes and anticipation of an afternoon test riding some of the most technically advanced mountain bikes still unavailable to the rest of the world. A chance meeting with Matt Hunter would shape the afternoon further. I showed him the latest ‘Bike’ magazine Photo Annual of which he is on the cover and still yet to have seen. His excitement was genuine and a buzz for me to share. After a few signatures he asked if he could join me for some riding at the demo area, and I said as long as we didn’t have to jump off any cliffs I’d be keen.

A Gondola carried us up to 12,000 ft and with the seat (unusually for me) lowered on a brand new Carbon fibre S-Works Stumpjumper FSR, I was itching for a blast down some of the sweetest single track totalling over 30 minutes and a vertical kilometre. Matt insisted I go first, which was at once a thrill and yet nerve racking to make sure I went fast yet smooth enough to not to put to put him to sleep. Red-Pointing a new trail full gas on a foreign bike is a buzz in itself. Yet on a $12K machine and the world’s best behind it’s a new level again – I can barely remember the run, but I can thankfully remember the thrill. Halfway down I insisted he take the lead and for a brief few moments I witnessed a rider appear in slow motion in front of me yet pulling away as I tried to keep my own comfort zone intact. Wall rides taken beyond horizontal, a small rock turned in a 4 ft high pancake flat “bunny hop”, thanks for the lessons Matt, humbling indeed.

Mr. Overend and a whole lot of Carbon Fibre love

Naturally it didn’t take very long before it was time to race of for dinner. After a frenetic day of action and knowledge Lyno and I were a little late for the restaurant booking, however I’d been saved a seat opposite Mr. Ned Overend and off-road triathlon world’s #1; Conrad Stoltz. Just to listen to their conversation would have been enough, but to be included with sincere interest was something else.

It seemed it didn’t matter where I looked, what I did; it was a day of pure Alchemy. I walked back to the hotel by myself to reflect on it all. Breakfast with Sam seemed like a week earlier, and for all I know it could have been hailing golf balls on the walk back but I wouldn’t have noticed. On the bike I chase that one sweet ‘in the zone’ experience. Yet here was an entire day spent hitting the ball in the middle shot after shot – extraordinarily grateful to all.