When you’ve been to as many bike shows/launches/free feeds as I have, it can be a little bit difficult to get motivated to go to yet another one. Dragging myself out of bed at 8am is hard enough, so a 5am alarm is met with a disdain that has me questioning the whole turgid miasma of existence, the whys and fucking whys of this ridiculous thing we do called work. Add in that I have to then do another of my least favourite activities––flying––it’s no surprise I’m questioning whether I’m in the right galaxy. I should’ve been an alien, I surmise… this planet isn’t a good fit for me.
An hour later, first coffee down, everything seems right with the world. The first flight in the history of Jetstar has left on time, I have an empty seat beside me, and I get some more shuteye. This ain’t such a bad job, getting flown around the country to check out bikes. And after last year’s Specialized event held at the same venue, I know it should be a good day hanging out with good people. Most of the S-crew I’ve known for a long time, even working with some at a former bike gig. They like, maybe even love, what they do, and they know how to make an espresso. Three long blacks down, tolerance levels rising.
To be honest, these events aren’t really about new bikes, even if they are. They are networking opportunities, gossip groups, rumour mills, and filled with idle chit-chat. All about bikes, yes. But talking about bikes can be tedious for even the most bike-life-dedicated folk, which most here are. I always try to engage people in talk of “other things”, and that gives a way better gauge of the kind of outfit you are dealing with. The Specialized crew are some of the easiest to interact with, and it’s the reason I’ll keep attending their events. They are true GCs. It doesn’t matter if they pay me, if they give me cool bikes to ride, or ply me with coffee and beer; none of that matters if you cringe any time they come near you armed with a barrage of head angles and vertical compliance. I’ll happily listen to that shit if I respect the people behind the hype. Because that’s what the cycling industry has become unfortunately, a hype machine based on numbers, those to do with the bikes and those to do with the dollars.
That’s probably why the bikes that appealed to me most were the ones that kept it simple, the ones that I’ve been riding more over the last year, since I first spotted the Sequioa at the corresponding show, and have ridden extensively over the last summer. A bike that will take you pretty much anywhere, doesn’t need gobs of suspension and exotic materials, just some straight steel tubes and a sense of adventure. Add in the bling of limited edition paint and a homage to its originator, and the Merz edition Sequoia had me returning to take closer looks all day.
All that carbon and travel and aero is great, and the new Enduro and Tarmac look fantastic and sound greater when given the spiel. Longer, lower, slacker, you know the deal. Bikes ride great these days, and I’m uncertain as to how to make them better. That’s why I’m not a bike designer, engineer or marketer. We just take their word for it, and ride. What I do know is that bikes are also getting more popular and more mainstream, meaning that not just ‘cyclists’ or ‘rider’s or god forbid those rad mountain bike ‘shredders’ are buying new bikes. ‘Normal’ folk (admit it, cyclists aren’t normal) are discovering and rediscovering pedal power due to one added ingredient: electricity. Yes, the E-bike is the fastest growing sector in the cycling landscape, and despite the rabid protestations of the self-styled purist (who has probably only been riding five years) they are here to stay, and may even be the saviour of the industry.
The same self-styled hardcore riders who bemoan that the trails will be destroyed and old ladies pass them going uphill are also the very same who have never ridden the bikes, and who have little understanding how they work. A fairly typical human trait, bag the shit out of something without trying it first. The same assholes who will belittle vegetarians or gluten-free people, and then eat all their food after they’ve finished chowing down on the plentiful meaty/gluteny options. After they’ve actually tried an E-bike (or a dairy-free risotto) they realize that maybe they were wrong after all and the world won’t end, in fact it may just be saved. Specialized are going all-in on the electrics and this is a good thing, despite what meat-munching-mountain-biking-matey will vehemently argue until facts get the better of him. The smiles on the faces of everyone who zipped around the vineyard roads on the Vada and Como are testament to the value of adding a bit of assist to the pedals. Yes, you still have to pedal, numbnuts. No, it’s not a motorcycle, for the hundredth time. Yes, it is fun, just like riding a bike actually.
The bike that may just sway the naysayers and fence-sitters is the Turbo Kenevo, a 180mm travel beast with Ohlins suspension that I will admit is as close to a moto as a bicycle can get. Along with the Turbo Levo, this bike had more than a few keen admirers asking the kind of tech questions they never thought they’d be asking. Having ridden a Levo in the Redwoods at Crankworx time, I can attest that they are a ton of fun and are not going to ruin mountain biking as we know it. With the R & D being put in, Specialized (along with a lot of other major brands) have recognised that the future is now, and it’s only going to get techier. More bums on seats is good for them, and good for us.
The food and beer depleted, bikes packed away and conversations shortened by shuttles, the only thing left to do was get home. Wellington rejected us though with gale force winds that kept us off the tarmac and back to Auckland for an extra 24, or worse. At least ten hours of it was spent with some GCs who ultimately are just like us, and whose job is peddling fun for everyone, powered or not.