A few weeks passed...I told Jesse I needed to ask ahead of time for time off at work so I wanted to follow up and see if there was a chance they actually decided to choose me as one of the people to go. Jesse wrote back and told me to PACK MY BAGS! I was floored. I thought what a great experience this is going to be.
In the last year, Specialized has really moved forward in a positive way as far as community support. When the new rep Jesse came on board, he reached out to me immediately. In the last few months, another community person came on board Ben, and he reached out and met with me as well. 3 Specialized people even came to the Hansen Dam community meeting to support our mountain bike community. It was a great start.
So I got my airline tickets, hotel info and ground transportation info emailed to me. I was too leave on a Wednesday night. Then have 2 days of SBCU training including 1 day of road riding and 1 day of mountain bike riding.
Wednesday night I flew into San Jose. When I landed a driver was waiting for me. He took me to the hotel in Morgan Hill that was just a few minutes away from Specialized. I had a huge bag of swag waiting for me from Specialized with a kit, tools, a sweatshirt and other goodies. I also got my itinerary which I had been dying to get. It was JAM PACKED! Every moment of 2 days was accounted for. I was way stoked and feeling like a queen!
Everyone was already there, but it was after 10pm, so I went right to my room, unpacked and went right to sleep to make sure I was fresh for the morning,
Thursday: I walk over to breakfast in the hotel and everyone was already there talking and laughing. You could see the excitement and anticipation in everyone's faces and hear it in their voices. This was a group of 13 people that were chosen from all over the country. Mostly roadies, but some did mountain bike as well.
At 9am, the 2 Specialized shuttles appeared with the most happy and friendly drivers. Seth and Tony. Little did we know they would be our instructors, guides and amazing fellow riders for the next few days.
When we got to Specialized, we signed in and of course all started wondering around in the museum of bikes. You heard camera's and phones taking pictures nonstop. We were gathered up and brought into the classroom to get our adventure going.
So our 1st project was to get to know each other. So we were to ask each other a few questions and tell others about someone at our table. Once we did that, we moved on to a tour of Specialized starting with the museum. Each bike had a story. Every story fascinating. My favorite was how Mike started Specialized and how they copied his exact office in the museum. Mike, yes...the head honcho and founder of Specialized came down and chatted with us and answered our questions.
Then it was time to go upstairs into the design/concept area. THIS was rad!
We were greeted by THE designer at Specialized. Again, each concept bike had a story. My favorite bike was the smart phone powered bike. So very cool and innovative!
Now time for some more touring and suspension education. I can't recall which came 1st, so I will talk about the garment lab.
Who knew sewing jerseys could be interesting??? Well it was! From the drawing process to how the colors were printed onto the garments was fascinating. We had a question/answer and comment period as well. I had been sent a bib from Specialized a few months ago and though I was very grateful, however I was surprised how low the front scoop was. No women wants the scoop that low. So I emailed them explaining this and the reasons why. Low and behold they listened and raised the scoop for the women's bibs. No one had ever complained or let them know it was a problem. I was floored. They are listening to their community! THIS is what we want. For the bike companies not only to work more closely with their shops, but to be available to their community as well.
YES! Specialized makes helmets too! This is where we got a lot of answers on today's helmets and helmet safety. Why chin straps are NOT safe, MIPS does their own testing, why Specialized doesn't put a GO PRO mount on their helmets and more. This segment was super informative and helpful.
We then went to the FEED ZONE for some awesome lunch and then back to the classroom to hear more about Road bike technology and bike fit. They brought in a doctor that is used by Specialized for shoes, saddles and more. The research is very extensive that they have done on fit and even put fitters through a very rigorous exam in order to get certified by Specialized.
Now it was time for a ROAD RIDE! We went into the CAGE (an enormous area of bikes to choose from) and we got to pick our bikes out. Since I don't road ride much and own a very heavy, entry level road bike, I wanted to ride a nice bike that was light and had great brakes and good components for a smooth, not so tiring ride. Seth helped me and decided a RUBY was the best bike for me. He was spot on. However the sizing was very different than the Cannondale I ride which is a 54" frame. On the Specialized I couldn't even reach the handle bars. So I was put on a 51 which fit me much better.
My Garmin did not come on so I couldn't log the ride. But I am guessing we did about 25 miles or so. There were some POWER house hammer heads, very experienced road riders and racers on the ride, but we kept regrouping and Derek was nice enough to stay in the back with a few of us. Then we split up into a faster and slower group. I went with the slower group and Tony and Derek lead and swept the ride. I had a blast and even got to see MC Hammer's old house which is now a winery.
What a great experience this was so far and it was just getting started! I'm sure I will forget some things since it was so jammed packed, but will try and review everything I can here!
We then turned our bikes in (loved loved loved the Ruby), and showered in their enormous locker rooms and got ready for dinner. Seth and Tony drove us all to a wonderful Italian restaurant in Los Gatos (I think that was the town) for some chow, vino and great conversations. Seth had picked out a fine menu for us and we had a few bottles of awesome vino as well.
I was thrilled because I got to let him know what a problem our community had of getting demo bikes. Not just women's bikes, but ANY demo bikes! Now I understand more how the program works with the shops.
After a wonderful evening, they bussed us back to the hotel. We were all looking forward to day 2. I was super stoked because it was mountain bike day and we were going to ride the famous FLOW trail in demo forest!
Day 2! Donuts and Bagel day! Specialized sure seems like a great place to work! All the staff seemed like they loved their jobs and they were so very knowledgable! Everyone was approachable, hung with us and most important listened to us!
We went into class briefly. Since there were mostly roadies in the group, they decided that a morning PUMP track session was in order to get the riders used to the dirt. I knew this would be a struggle for me since it's still difficult to stand up on my bike for any length of time since I had reconstructive knee surgery, but was still stoked to give it a go. I have ridden a pump track a handful of times. THIS time we were on dirt jump bikes. This was my 1st time on a dirt jump bike and O my are they tiny!
Everyone picked it up after a few laps and did a great job. A few turned out to be complete rippers too! It was so awesome watching everyone become kids again on bikes.
Now it's time....what I've been waiting for! DEMO FOREST TIME! I wasn't sure what bike I was getting. The day before I discussed with Seth that I wanted a bigger travel bike, but that wasn't too heavy. More like a trail or a light Enduro bike. He was going to try and get me the new Rhyme. The women's version of the new Stumpy.
Well, I walked into the cage and one of the guys walked up to me and said how lucky I was to be able to ride this bike. Yup...I was assigned the Specialized Rhyme women’s trail bike! Very stoked and feeling confident now that I was in my element. The dirt! Whoo hoo!
On the van ride up, I really got to talk to Tony about our lack of certified mechanics in the shops too. It is a huge problem. Everyone seemed to have complaints on the mechanics in the shops. Why are they not better trained? Why are they not riding our bikes and checking them before they leave the shop? Why is the staff not trained to deal with customers on a professional level? Why do they have such a hard time selling to women? I could go on and on and on with the complaints I hear from our club. It was important that Specialized here's these things from their community. The shops need to take responsibility and send their mechanics to be certified. They will get more business when customers know they have great mechanics that are certified. Just like demo bikes. Want to sell more bikes? Invest in some demo bikes so customers can 1st try them! It’s a no brainer!
So here we go. Seth, Tony and Derek took us and our bikes in the shuttles all the way to Santa Cruz to ride this famous trail. The FLOW trail has not been open but a few months and it is already famous.
They set our bikes up very quickly (YEAH AUTO SAG!) and we split up into 2 groups. 1 group was to do the entire loop and the other was to get more of a skills clinic with Seth and do parts of the FLOW trail. I was all in for the full loop with our rider leaders Tony and Derek. We also had other members of Specialized that joined us, mostly product people and Amy from the women's mountain bike product side.
Well, we started up a long climb of a fire road....sigh....however, I am just so grateful to pedal, be outside and to be part of this amazing experience I didn't care. Most of these riders were super strong roadies, which meant they were also super fast on the fire road climbs. It gave me time to get used to the Rhyme too. This bike was very light for a trail bike, so it felt a bit squirrely to me. I'm used to a much heavier bike. Just some getting used too.
We finally hit a few single tracks that were mostly flowey with some climbing too. I found I was able to unweight the bike much easier due to its lightness. Finally we come to the FLOW trail. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was 4 miles of flowey single track sounded like a dream to me!
We gave each other plenty of room. I went in the back since the group was large and I wanted tons of room. The trail was absolutely magnificent. The trail builders were brilliant. The entire trail was full of super fast flowey single track, TONS of fun berms, some features, tons of whoops and groomed to perfection. WHAT an amazing experience!
I got to the end and saw everyone smiling and chatting a mile a minute. Then I was told 2 bad things.... One....we had a big climb out....sigh...but I really didn't care, was just so content with everything....two ...one of our comrades Aaron took a very bad fall and landed on his back. He was not doing well from what we heard.
We started the climb out and passed Aaron lying on the fire road with Seth sitting down and as positive as ever, just asking us all how our ride was with a huge smile while we rode by. The fire trucks and ambulance was on the way.
We all got back to the vans and waited for the ambulance to come down with Aaron and of course waited for Seth. Derek had packed all sorts of drinks for us in huge coolers and snacks so we indulged while we were waiting.
One of the product guys that joined the ride asked me about the bike. I was brutally honest and told him that the bike was awesome except the handle bars had to go. The vibration was huge on the long descent and I had to stop a few times and shake my hands out. He really listened to what I had to say.
So the ambulance, fire truck and Seth all finally came down so now we could all leave to go back to Specialized for a BBQ and pump track session. This was our final get together with everyone. We also got to get an update on Aaron. He fractured a vertebrae in his back, so not good, but could have been much, much worse.
We called it a night and went back to our hotels to pack up. We all met for breakfast the next morning and reminisced over the last few days. Then the drivers showed up to take us back to the airport. Our time with Specialized was up. I was sad to leave.
I went into this venture with not the greatest of likeliness for Specialized. However it was slowly changing with a few events that occurred in the previous months. I came out of this adventure wanting to WORK at Specialized! (Yes you bet I applied for a few positions! I have TONS to offer Specialized in the future of the women's mountain bike products, outreach and advocacy!) . The joy the staff had, the generosity they showed, caring and all the amazing perks the staff got were just incredible. I was so impressed with how knowledgeable Seth, Tony and Derek were as well. These guys know their products inside and out and represented Specialized in a 1st rate manner at all times. They all did an outstanding job. I felt so welcomed, was treated with kindness, respect and generosity at all times. They absolutely rocked!
Thank you to all at Specialized that were involved. An enormous shout out to Seth, Tony and Derek who were absolute pleasures and a wealth of knowledge to us all. Thank you for your patience, your kindness and generosity. All did an outstanding job. Well done! Thank you to the other 12 amazing riders who joined in. Thank you to Jesse Ellis at Specialized who nominated me.