Rethinking Objectives

So I and a motley band of journalists spent three days riding with Giro staffers and a few other special guests. Normally, when I attend an event of this sort, a company states what their objective is, what it is they want us to write about. As I mentioned in my previous post, all I was certain of at the outset was that we’d ride for three days while wearing Giro New Road apparel. By the end, I was certain of only slightly more.

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I can say that I’m certain my colleagues who work as journalists and editors are a terrific bunch. But that was no revelation. I can also say that I’m certain that every ride I’ve done in Santa Cruz has been a 16 on a 10 scale. It seems that I should also say that where cycling is concerned, I seem to be a joiner, though certainty isn’t something I can claim. IMG_7644

If the only clothing in cycling were the earth tones and trim (but not tight) cuts of apparel like Giro’s New Road, I’d know no better. It probably wouldn’t occur to me to invent the skinsuit. But I was comfortable enough in this stuff that I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing comfort. My experience mountain biking in this last summer taught me that in hot weather this can be a bit much, but for Santa Cruz in April, I had as much reason to complain about this as I do a hug from my kids. IMG_7648

Our second day of riding included some dirt climbs and descents; they were long enough and adventurous enough that both the bike and the clothing disappeared beneath me. Those points in a ride where I’m focused on my line, my effort, my traction, are when I want to focus on the riding itself, not my interface between the road and me. The more the equipment disappears, the better it is. IMG_7650

In addition to Giro brand manager Eric Richter, creative director Eric Horton and apparel manager Nathan Mack, our guides were fire chief Jake Hess, Black Cat Bicycles builder Todd Ingermanson (that’s his bike above) and luthier Jeff Traugott. Hess is the found of the SteelWül cycling club, which is a focal point for those who like to take road bikes on less roady roads. He can make the claim that those mountains, those roads are his office because that’s his territory as a firefighter. Hess and Traugott are legendary in the local community for their knowledge of the dirt roads through the mountains. I could ride with those guys every weekend and never tire of it.
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Traugott is known for his guitars, instruments that run $26,000. I got to hear one played briefly and all I can say is that he may not be charging enough for them. I’ll circle back on him in another post soon. IMG_7661

As I mentioned, we had a couple of special guests along. One of them was former mountain bike and cyclocross badass Shari Kain, perhaps best known as an Olympian and Ritchey team member. She and her family recently relocated to Scott’s Valley, just down the street from Easton-Bell Sports. She’s still ultra-fit; she and her husband are coaching triathletes. With her stellar form and sunny disposition, she was a fun addition to the group. You may recognize the guy at the right in the photo above. David Zabriskie was in the area and as a former Giro athlete, stopped by their offices. When he saw us assembled, he asked what was up and before any of us knew what was afoot, he was in a kit and pulling his bike out of his car.
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The roads for our second day of riding ranged between tiny residential roads that reminded me of Topanga or parts of Marin County to dirt roads through redwood forest that I’ve only otherwise seen in Sonoma County. Without our guides, we’d have been lost in the first hour. Google Earth wouldn’t have helped as we were in places so remote, only a sat phone would have saved your ass. IMG_7669

Above, Zabriskie with Traugott. As pissed as I am about doping, I’m unable to summon any ire for this guy. I’m far more concerned with those who run the system, guys like Steve Johnson, the CEO of USA Cycling, who claims Zabriskie never went to him with information about doping. It wouldn’t be so surprising for Johnson to claim he never heard from Zabriskie, but he also claims never to have heard from Juliet Macur of the New York Times when she inquired about Zabriskie contacting him. It’s a point documented in her book “Cycling of Lies.” IMG_7686

Most of us rode BMC Gran Fondos with 28mm Continental tires, but Horton elected to stick with his Cervelo R5 and 25s.
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The riding was so beautiful, the company so engaging (and funny) that even though I was tired when we hit the finish, had we not arrived at a predetermined stop, I’d have gladly kept riding. Believe me, I’ve cut rides short because either a bicycle or my kit was making me uncomfortable.

In talking with people about the Giro New Road line, I often hear a concern that there’s an expectation that dedicated roadies will show up on their group rides wearing this stuff. In talking with people from Giro, it’s clear that they don’t want to twist arms. They wear plenty of stretchy clothing themselves. What’s clear to me is that the folks at Giro would have introduced this clothing line without the “New Road” monicker and everyone would have assumed it was a mountain bike line. By calling it “New Road,” they made people pause and think for a moment. I take it as a suggestion; I know when I’m most likely to use this stuff, but one day soon, I plan to show up for our Friday coffee ride in this instead of my normal kit. I mean, if I’m only going to ride easy and then sit at a coffee shop for 45 minutes chatting with friends, then why not?

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14 comments

  1. Michael

    Jeff knows the roads, dirt and paved, and he brings people together to have fun on his rides. Riding with him is a privilege.

  2. MCH

    After years of seeing riders in bright lycra, the Giro photos just seem odd. The bland colors are so outside of my reality, that seeing a pack of riders wearing the stuff just doesn’t seem right. This isn’t meant as a criticism of the product or the riders who wear it. Rather an observation of how different it is.

  3. Gustavo Cinci

    am sure Giro makes good products and they mind their quality. But what i see here is the equivalent of finance-cube dwellers in all their drab glory: beige, grey and lame variations of blue. Please, Giro – you guys can do a lot better than that. wanna sell clothes and make sure you’re visible during the commute? well, then offer colors that make sense. I commute on cycling clothes, and i make a point to have them be in clear colors. the offerings from Giro, tho expectedly of good quality, are of awful design and devoid of any aesthetical concerns. If i wanna commute in drab clothing, then i can go to old navy or the gap and spend 1/5th of what Giro charges and look exactly the same. what is next? Giro charging $200 for pleated khakis with an extra pocket? come on guys.

  4. blacksocks

    @Gustavo – Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. They really are helpful.

    Regarding our color and styling choices: We listen to feedback from riders all over the world and with different backgrounds, interests and styles…and you’re not alone in your comments. But one theme we’ve heard over and over is that ride apparel shouldn’t compromise your personal style – it should be a complement to it. The fact is, many riders don’t feel 100% at ease with conventional approaches to riding gear. Many don’t want to wear Lycra as an outer layer, or garments that are aggressively cut, colored or styled for riding. They’re looking for something different – and that might mean clothes that don’t feel so synthetic, or clothes that don’t appear “bright” or “sporty” when they get to their destination. Some want clothes that move naturally, look timeless and allow them to keep going, seamlessly, when the ride ends. They rely on outer layers, lights and accessories like their helmet to be the brighter part of their ride attire if safety is a primary concern. So for now, we recognize that color is subjective and easy to change. We recognize that some riders will want more overt styling or technical detail, instead of things being hidden or as we say “under the hood”. And fortunately, for those customers, there are many options that address those desires in the market already – including pieces in our New Road line (We offer a strong “glowing red” in outer layers, women’s jerseys, and our accessory line to complement the more basic blacks and natural tones. And there will be more brights to come in future seasons).

    Looking ahead: Cycling is one of a few things in life that gives everyone a chance to enjoy their own ride, and ride style, with few rules or limitations. What we want to create with New Road is clothing that enhances that feeling of freedom, and gets more people to feel comfortable on a bike – regardless of their ability, style or destination. I hope you’ll agree that we’re on the right track.

    Thanks again, and enjoy the ride.
    -Eric Richter @ Giro

    1. Gustavo Cinci

      Hi Eric, thanks for the thorough and thoughtful response. You understood my comment was not out of spite or trolling, and it inspires respect on the readers. keep up the good work. but i’ll still buy colorful stuff.

      all the best,

      G

  5. Les.B.

    blacksocks:
    Well I think Giro hit the spot with this line, a product line whose time has well come. As long as the cyclists are happy, I say.

    Except, being the avid roadie, safety is important to me, and I commonly see casual cyclists doing cringe-worthy things, like the adolescent girl that crossed directly in front of my car so that I had to kick in the ABS; the geezer guy crossing a busy Santa Monica Blvd intersection at a 45 degree angle; a mom with her ~5 year old on a one-person bike, neither with helmets. And as a pedestrian, almost hit by a bike at night with no lights and when I remarked “no light” the rider yelled angry epithets for the next half block.

    I think some of the casual riders are unaware of just how dangerous even casual riding can be, and how one second can change a lifetime. And of course a manufacturer’s responsibility goes only so far, you can’t be out there holding peoples’ hands. But maybe something like a viz-colored net vest that would fit easily over shirts, as a part of the line. At least then the hipsters or whoever will come off like one of us bike nerds only while actually riding. And having that as a part of the line would put forward a subtle message to pay some attention to safety.

    Not that I’m any expert in marketing or even cycling necessarily, but something like that would seem like a good idea to me, considering that sometimes people can be stupider than chickens.

  6. randomactsofcycling

    Bravo Giro! As Padraig stated in his closing comments: this is the perfect gear for those that take their coffee more seriously than their pace lining. I don’t want to look like a wannabe Pantani when I am just cruising the neighbourhood or commuting.
    The way to be visible on the bike is in how you ride it,not in what you wear.

  7. BMG

    I think the new Giro line is terrific. I use my more race-oriented clothing (Gore, Rapha, etc) for my longer weekend rides and my New Road for commuting to work in the Wash DC area (25 miles each way). I have purchased a few pairs of New Road shirts (short- and long-sleeve) and two pairs of shorts and base layers. The product is extremely well made and thoughtfully designed. I wanted something that I was more comfortable in walking into my office after my ride into work but NOT at the expense of the functional benefits of road biking clothes. (How many of you have showed up to work after your ride in and are immediately asked to sit in on a unplanned meeting/brainstorming session? Awkward, to me at least, sitting there in my kit.) I throw a high visibility vest on top of my New Road gear and, along with my lights, I am more visible than most people I encounter along the way commuting in their work clothes.

    p.s. Gore – please hurry up and restock that ‘Burn’t Red’ color vest.

  8. Patrick O'Brien

    Eric: thanks for listening and commenting. It is another example of how RKP is different from the bulk of cycling web sites. We have a great community here, in my opinion.
    Your designs are innovative, especially when it comes to pockets and clothing that doesn’t draw goofy looks when you go to have breakfast at the end of a ride. But (you knew this was coming) please give us a choice of bright colors if our riding environment demands them.
    The biggest thing on a bike is the rider. When a rider wears brightly colored and reflective clothing, they dramatically increase their chances of being seen by drivers from all directions. Lights, except at night, are an adjunct to bright and reflective clothing. As a rider takes off layers of clothing during a ride the layer underneath should be as bright as the one coming off. Again, in my opinion, today’s distracted drivers demand we do everything to be visible. If I were ever to have the bad luck to be in an accident with a vehicle when riding, I would love to go to court wearing my riding clothes and ask why the driver said they couldn’t see me.
    Thanks for listening.

  9. Bikelink

    My initial reaction at this point is like MCH’s…wow just looks ‘different’…I’m sure there’s a niche for it…not sure if/when I’d wear it but makes me think about it.

    In terms of the “dark/neutral colors make it more dangerous” … reminds me of the helmet issue. Yes helmets make us safer and for group and/or fast riding absolutely crucial. But…there is some evidence that helmets turn people away from cycling in general, and that while safer it probably shouldn’t be a deal killer. Perhaps these clothes will transition people into the idea of riding clothes and riding in general…that would be a good thing. I remember my first rides 20 years ago…I wore running shorts over my lycra shorts :-)

    1. Eric Richter

      @Patrick O’Brien @BMG
      Noted, thanks!

      @Bikelink
      You’re not alone…it seems rare that a new or recreational cyclist steps into Lycra comfortably at first. Some get over that sense of unease and even embrace the look, while others never do. Part of what makes cycling uniquely personal.

      One personal observation i can share. Visibility is important, but so is the impression you make on drivers. I can say that aside from a honk as i rode in a group of 20 riders on a small back road during this trip, I have not endured an “unpleasant” encounter while riding in these clothes for almost 2 years. No drivers cursing at me. No reckless swerves or “Hey, Lance” type of comments (which I have occasionally faced on some roads around here). Not sure why that is, but worth noting and something I’m tracking…

  10. Full Monte

    Let’s be honest. Unless we’ve earned a pro build, lean, sinewy with big beefy quads, most of us don’t cut a dashing figure in traditional lycra roadie kit. I, for one, look in the mirror and see the MAMIL stereotype — a middle-aged guy, daily desk driver with a fondness for microbrews, carrying far too much me around to look like a dedicated roadie in any sense. In some of my older kit (from skinnier days) I look like a stuffed sausage. Shame on me, I know. I promise to do better.

    But in the meantime, until that glorious day I find my form of 25 years ago, this Giro kit is now on my shopping list. Looser, more casual, comfortable, less flashy. I get how traditional roadie lycra kit is designed specifically for the style of riding for which it was created. However, as a rider, the new Giro kit looks like it was designed specifically for me, and guys like me. I’m sure a lot of research and thought went into serving this demo, and from my standpoint, it shows. Nicely done.

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