This past weekend I took a whirlwind trip…to Arkansas. I made the trek to compete in the final round of the Epic Ride Series, which also happened to be the largest mountain bike payout ever in North America. Oh, did I mention I missed the other three races due to pneumonia, bronchitis, or the NICA National Conference (two of those were awful, one was fantastic)?! This made the event even more special to me and to top it off I got to spend the weekend with Emma, who was about to complete the entire series! Being an Epic Rides Coin Carrying Badass is a really big deal (the prize you get for finishing the series). I keep mine by my bed and am damn proud of it!

Fun Friday- Fat Tire Crit

I arrived to the South majorly lacking sleep. After a 1 a.m. flight on Friday out of Ontario Airport in California, I landed in Bentonville, Arkansas at 8 a.m. I drank a coffee, put my Pivot Mach 429SL bike together (I also added some slick honey to my KS Suspension seat dropper), and headed to the Pro Rider meeting with Emma, Nic, and Fischer, my Yorkie (he attends many races, including the Whiskey 50). A few hours later, I found myself fumbling at the start of the Fat Tire Crit and missing a pedal for the first 30 seconds. It was embarrassing, but also not surprising after such a long venture to arrive! I found some good wheels to draft and put in some hard efforts in the Crit. Later in the race, I ended up cheering on Emma as she killed it and covered attack after attack with the top women in the race! Excited about our efforts, we cooled down together and went back to our house to cook a delicious Pesto pasta dinner. We caught up in person and went to bed at a decent hour before we turned into pumpkins.

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Emma and I were stoked to be racing together in Arkansas!

Saturday- A Day to Hang Out at the Venue

After 12 hours of sleep, I awoke feeling much more refreshed. Emma had been up for hours and had a very productive morning. I ate a good breakfast, savored a mug of coffee from Backporch Coffee Roasters (thank you, Emma!), and got ready to go. As soon as we got to the venue we took off our Kenda Flintridge tires and swapped them for the 2.2 Honeybadgers with the KSCT casing. We rode the beginning and end of the 50 mile course and even met up with Jenn Jackson for a bit. Emma knew her from the other Epic Rides. She also met some of her crew at the Quebec Single Track Experience! At the end, we couldn’t help but stop a few times at the awesome features to ride them, film them, and snap a few pictures! Once we finished our ride, Emma and I made sure to hang around the venue to chat with locals, cheer the amateurs finishing, and soak in the vibe. Epic Rides does such an awesome job with the atmosphere, which is one of the reasons that Emma and I keep coming back for more!

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Emma snapped this shot of me playing on one of the many features on the All-American trail, which leaves straight from Bentonville’s downtown!

Sunday- 50 Miles of Backcountry Mayhem

On Sunday we woke up at 6 a.m.…. or to be more accurate, we woke up at 4 a.m. our time. Pre-race breakfast included coffee, bagels (gluten-free and gluten-ous), and eggs. We headed to the venue at 7 a.m. so that Nic could begin warming up first. Emma and I warmed up together on the empty, peaceful bike path. This is one of the coolest parts about having teammates at races! Our easy spin was similar and then we did efforts on our own. It is relaxing to wake up the legs together before splitting off to do what is best for ourselves. These rituals have become more and more a part of my routine and I hope they continue for a long time. There is something to be said about warming up with a teammate who has big goals yet remains cool and collected!

The race was epic! After a nice start, attacks started to happen on the dirt road. For the first time ever, I was able to remain with the lead group until the single track. From my point of view, Emma was nicely settled into the middle of the pack and was at a relaxed pace. When I am in races with her I often look at her to see her positioning and place in the pack. I am constantly learning! Once we reached the single track the race split up. I went at a hard but realistic pace. The course required a lot of pedaling which means it also required being mentally “on it” at all times. Sometime into the single track it began to thunder…and then pour…and then pour…and then dump! As the rain lightened I entered a new part of the singletrack that was amazing! I looked around and saw the leaves were a beautiful mix of green, yellow, orange, and red. At one point, I remember thinking, “Holy Crap!!!! This is the coolest thing ever!!!”

I finished with a clean race and a huge smile on my face. I was 22nd and had a race that I was satisfied with! Even better is that Emma finished with a 12th place finish in a sprint finish. We celebrated with Onyx Café lattes and pizza! There is nothing better than having two stoked teammates because they raced their hardest, took chances, and most importantly, enjoyed the ride. As we each finished a pizza on our own, I looked around and realized that as much a racing is about results, it is so much more than that. It is the experiences, knowing that you gave it your all, having flawless equipment, and sharing the stoke with others!

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After a stellar race, Emma celebrated with a latte and a Honey Lavender macaroon!

Believe it or not, cycling shoes are designed specific to the type of riding a rider does. For example, a road rider will spend long days in the saddle spinning a high cadence. An exact fit to control the foot is needed for efficiency. When mountain biking, a rider will maneuver over obstacles with varying angles of pressure on the pedals and occasionally need to hike up a slope. The cycling shoe will need more room in the toe box but a secure heel not to pull out of the shoe, plus a grippy sole with a tiny amount of flex.

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While we are a cross country mountain bike team, our riders cross-train and compete in a multitude of cycling disciplines. Emma refuses to get on a trainer in winter and gets out on her fat bike most winter days. Jen races UCI cyclocross as a Pro as well as the mountain bike. Nikki makes sure to take advantage of the sunny days in SoCal on weekends by participating in Gran Fondos during base season. It is a good thing we teamed up with Lake Cycling this season to meet all our team members cycling demands!  Here are some of the shoes we love this season:

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MX180 Enduro is at home on the bike and hiking through the bush.

Our custom XC race shoe, the MX332 is not just eye catching, but also a high performance mtb race shoe. It features a more snug fit than training shoes to maximize efficiency. One of the unique features that Lake offers is the ability to tweak your shoe even more to your needs with their mouldable heel cup. For riders like Jen, who have a narrower heel, the ability to further adjust the fit so that it does not slip is a huge win! I mean, who doesn’t love to cook their shoe in the oven?!

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Our custom MX332 Is function and fashion.

Our mtb training shoe, the MX241 Endurance, will be worn for long hours, walked in while scouting and working lines, lounged in trailside while recharging on GU Waffles, and standing around the trailhead with friends gushing about the ride. This shoe is a little more roomie in the toe box for trail maneuvers and is a bit more snug in the heel so the heel does not rise when hiking back up the trail.

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Our training shoe, the MX241 Endurance is comfortable for any post-ride celebration.

When coaching skill clinics, we find ourselves running around a lot, getting on and off the bike repeatedly, and still needing to perform (perfectly) bike skills. For this, the MX180 Enduro shoe is a great choice. It is a more flexible shoe that you actually want to stand around in. The tread heavy sole gives confident grip when standing on rocks while spotting a rider in a technical section. The “high tops” protect our ankles from rogue shrubbery when dragging logs to practice jumps over. And, it is still a performance shoe for riding where we can wheelie and track stand as well as sprint off a start line in.

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Nikki’s Enduro shoes are at home in the bike park and the bike classroom coaching NICA coaches to coach.

We ride year-round.  Even though Nikkis lives in SoCal, her home is in the mountains of Idyllwild at 5,400 ft and she often finds herself riding in colder temperatures on weekdays when she finishes workouts at dusk (and they even get snow). On the mountain bike, fat bike, or even the road, a winter riding boot is a game changer!  Warm, dry feet are a must if you want to enjoy riding in the elements.

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Emma is all smiles with toasty toes in her MXZ303 Winter Boots, racing in -22 temps at Frosty’s Fat Bike Festival.

Running through sand, grinding in mud, and going fast is what Jen loves about cyclocross.  The MX237 Supercross has the properties of a mtb shoe, but also is drilled and tapped for 4 cleats so that banana peel turf is no match for her as she tackles calf burning run-ups.

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The mud at Jingle Cross World Cup may have been to slick to ride, but Jen’s Supercross shoes with cleats had no problem finding traction.

Do you need six pairs of cycling shoes? No. Need is a strong word but finding a cycling shoe that meets a riders cycling demands will make the ride not just more fun but also more safe and enable a rider to do the cycling things they want to do. If Imalga Marco was a cyclist, her closet would have had 3009 pairs of shoes; the extra nine would be Lake Cycling shoes.

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