Fact: I have never done a stage race.

Fact: I have never ridden in PA.

Fact: This is going to be awesome!!

As I get ready to leave (literally, like in less than 8 hours) for the Translyvania Epic MTB Stage race I am filled with excitement and a little bit of nerves, but most importantly I am 100% confident that my Pivot Mach 4 is dialed and ready to tackle whatever PA throws at us. Here is a more in-depth breakdown of my bike build for this week:

THE CHASSIS

Pivot Mach 4 – size small with 115 mm of travel in the rear

Fox 32 Float Stepcast – 100 mm travel

ROLLING BITS

Spēd Precision Sparth XC 27.5 – These wheels are lightweight, bomb-proof, and incredibly responsive; all things that I will be needing this week!

Kenda Tire Honey Badger XC Pro – The terrain is basically binary. You have crazy gnarly rock climbs, descents, flats and then more tame double track/ gravel connector trails. The Honey Badger don’t give a *insert appropriate noun* and will give me both traction in the tech and minimal rolling resistance on the smooth!

Orange Seal Regular Tubeless Tire Sealant – I am going to be tired. I am going to hit things. Probably sharp pointy rock things. BUT Orange Seal has my back and luckily I won’t have to worry about flats and can focus on riding.

DRIVETRAIN

Shimano XTR Di2 – Not only is it smooth but also I love the little *bzz bzz* noise when I shift.

Shimano XT 32t Chain Ring – Easy spinning on the climbs but a big enough gear not to spin out on the flats.

Shimano XTR 11 spd 11-40 Cassette – Lightweight. Great range. enough said.

Wend Waxworks – I just discovered waxing my chain this year and consider me converted! Wend Wax is super portable and easy to put on — plus you can also opt for putting pretty colors on your chain’s side plates. Here, I did a mix of orange and red to make my chain pop!

SIT, STAND, SHRED

Smanie GP 137 Carbon Saddle – I prefer a narrower saddle on my mountain bike and love the shape of the GP for cross country (and CX) riding.

KS Suspension Lev Ci Carbon Dropper Post – 125 mm of drop and 100% necessary for taking my riding to the next level. The slight increase in weight far outweighs my awkward rigid descending without it.

125 mm of drop and 100% necessary for taking my riding to the next level.

Signing up for the Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) in November left me with butterflies in my stomach. It is by far the longest race I will have done, not only in miles but also time on my saddle. For those who aren’t familiar with this epic event, the BWR is a ~136 mile multi-surface event in North San Diego County. The route is created to be torturous with nearly 12,000 feet of climbing. There are approximately 46 dusty, dirt-filled miles with the rest of the course on paved roads that oftentimes have strong headwinds. It is being held on Cinco de Mayo so heat could be a factor as well though so far the forecast is looking ideal! I chose this event because it is something new. I imagine I will learn a lot about myself as a cyclist, competitor, and person as I am out there in an all day effort. Needless to say, I love challenges that scare me so bring it on BWR!

A huge thanks to Paul of Velofix San Diego North for helping get my steed race ready!

General Bike-Set Up:

The first puzzle piece for preparing for the BWR was figuring out my bike set-up. For my bike, I will be racing my trusty Pivot Vault. This bike has already had plenty of dirt adventures before signing up for the BWR because it is the bike I use to race local cyclocross and also…well, I just love dirt and have a hard time staying off of it! For the first few pre-rides I had a Shimano 50/34 crankset and an Ultegra 11/30 cassette. While this works well on the flats I found I was running out of gears rather early on the hideous climbs that BWR’s race director, MMX, has so graciously placed throughout the course. After riding 80 miles with Adam Mills of Source Endurance as well as talking with Phil Tinsman over a Lost Abbey Ale, I decided to order a long cage derailleur and swap the cassette for an 11-34. While this won’t stop my legs from screaming up Double Peak, I am sure it will make me smile going up Black Canyon! Velofix San Diego North has helped me get all of the new gear swapped out as well as a pre-race tune-up. If anything comes up before the race, even in the minutes leading up, Paul and Adam will be the folks that save my ride!

Now let’s talk about the very “delicate” area of such a long race- the saddle and positioning on the bike. I have a saddle that is SO comfortable on my bike fit thanks to Abe at Incycle. He uses the Retul System so my fit is dialed. I have the Specialized Mimic Saddle in a 155mm width. In my opinion, a bike fit is pretty much mandatory for such a long event in order to not only be efficient, but also comfortable. In addition to the saddle, to keep that area comfortable I have a chamois that is great for long extravaganzas in my KS Kenda Women’s Hyperthreads Pro kit. It is a women’s specific chamois so it is made to fit women in a comfortable way by not being as wide in the saddle area. I also use Pedal Power chamois cream!

I love my Pivot Vault! It is the perfect race machine for the BWR.

So, the nitty gritty of my bike…

The Breakdown:

Bike: Pivot Vault

Tires: Kenda Valkyrie Pro 28c’s with 60/65psi. These are slicks and they have worked just fine in the sand!

Sealant: Orange Seal Sealant, 4oz per tire

Brakes: Shimano Ultegra Disc Brakes

Bar Tape: Red ESI RCT Tape

Drivetrain: Shimano Ultegra 50/34 crankset with an 11/34 cassette

Chain: Shimano XTR chain with Wend Waxworks Pink, Blue, and Orange

Saddle: Specialized Women’s Mimic

Pedals: Crankbrothers Eggbeaters

Team Camp was in sunny Southern California in February. We each live in places with “real winter” and were stoked to ride sweet single track (not snow packed trails, ice roads and trainers) and working on our tans was pretty appealing. However, Mother Nature had other plans for us.  Our week in SoCal was during week three of torrential rains, mud slides, floods and even a day of snow at sea level. We are mountain bikers so we are not afraid to ride in the elements, and fortunately Hyperthreads has made our kit and accessories to tackle any conditions. Here is a little video showing our apparel strategy for chilly ride starts, sweaty climbs, rainy descents, and those moments when the sun does poke out of the clouds.

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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Whether you like to ride your road bike along winding country roads, grind your singlespeed up the sides of veritable earthen skyscrapers, or push and challenge yourself up, down and around the wild mountain paths of your home state (my favorite), you will probably need a chain on your bike. Preferably a very strong, very light, versatile, low-maintenance and reliable one.

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Having a reliable, strong and light chain makes it much easier to seek out adventures without worry.

Chains are something that cyclists tend to only notice when things aren’t working so well. For example: when we break them or forget to lube them before a long ride- then we REALLY pay attention to them. This season, the KS-Kenda women have teamed up with KMC Chain to run what we consider to be the best racing chain on the market. KMC began their journey in 1977 under the guidance of founder Charles Wu. More than 30 years later, their motto is still “If it isn’t good enough for us, it isn’t good enough for you.” And they mean it. KMC builds chains exclusively and is constantly striving to improve their products and designs. We love working with them and we are benefiting daily from their dedication to constant growth and product improvement!

For the 2018 season, the KS-Kenda women are running the X11- SL Titanium Nitride Chain. You probably know it as the beautiful GOLD bling that adorns each and every one of our Pivot steeds, but let us tell you- there’s a lot more to these chains than just a pretty face. They get the job done well, not to mention in style.

 

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Many hours of thoughtful design and research go into making a KMC chain.

Out of the box, the X-11 SL Ti-Ni weighs in at 243 Grams, comes with 116 links, which has proven to be plenty of length for our Shimano XTR 1×11 Drivetrains and the various combinations of front chainrings and cassettes that we each use.

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Win Allen of Win’s Wheels, getting our KMC Chains clean, fast and ready to go for race day.

The plates composing each link are made with a special steel alloy that reduces chain stretch, thereby extending chain life. The outer level of these plates are also specially designed to shift smoother and more quietly with an “X” shaped pattern called “X-Bridge”. As an added bonus, this shape aids the chain in shedding mud for those crazy conditions that tend to be a favorite of Cyclocross enthusiasts (of note: Cross is coming! Make sure your chain is ready).

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Emma Maaranen putting in the miles at the Epic Rides Grand Junction Off-Road this summer

 

In the case of our Titanium Nitride-coated chains, friction is further reduced with this special coating- also cutting down on the amount of maintenance necessary for keeping our chains running as smooth as the first day you put it on. KMC even uses a proprietary treatment of the chain’s pins called Extreme Stretch-Proof Treatment (X-SP) which makes them much less susceptible to the wear and stretch caused by mud and sand entering into the moving parts of the chain over time.

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The best equipment makes the best adventures possible. We love our KMC Chains!

To date, we have run these chains in variable conditions across the US! Between the 4 of us, there are bone-dry deserts, sand, mud and muck, rocks, dusty and gritty long climbs, short punchy, humid climbs; long road miles, cyclocross training, sprint work and park laps that compose our training and racing. Not one of us has broken a chain in any of these settings. Personally, I have been through half as many chains this season as I have in race seasons-past. So the verdict sits: the KMC SL series is light, strong, quiet and seriously hard to kill.

Tech Tips: Care and Maintenance of you KMC

Be sure to check out this LINK to the KMC Website where they have created some wonderful educational and DIY tutorials.

Let’s talk pedals for a moment, shall we?

Pedals are critical for powering your bike and easy to forget about as long as they are working correctly. For the 2018 race season, the KS-Kenda Women have opted to use the HT Components M1 for our XC race pedal. There are many reasons why we are excited to run these pedals. For one, the M1 weighs in at 298 grams per pair while the Shimano XTR pedals weighs in around 305 grams. Another perk we like is that they are available for a very reasonable price tag of $129.00 MSRP. Also, for those who like to customize their bikes they come in 11 different colors! Overall, the M1 is the all-around favorite for us.

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The highlight of this tiny and mighty pedal is its adjustability. HT Components use a proprietary cleat set up, which is very similar to the entry and exit of Shimano pedals. The M1 comes in the box with two different cleat float options, X1 and X1-F. The X1 cleat is a 4-degree set-up while the X1-F is the 8-degree (more float) option. Pedal float allows your foot to move freely in the pedal stroke rather than locking you down tight to the pedal. If you are wanting to learn more about your float preference, try them both out! I personally love the 4 degree and find that it also allows me to very quickly and decisively “get out” of the pedals when I want to which is something that I know many riders, especially if you are new to clipless pedals, fear being unable to do.

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In addition to float, another noteworthy mention is the massive range of tension adjustability on the M1. Out of the box, the pedals are set in the middle of the tension range. I really like this setting and came back to it after playing with both ends of the spectrum. We recommend these to anyone because of their versatility and price point. Working with new riders, I am stoked to know about HT pedals as they are user-friendly beginner-friendly without sacrificing top-level performance.

Quick How-To for those of you wanting to swap out your new HT pedals:

  • 3mm Hex Wrench
  • 4mm Hex Wrench
  • 8mm Hex Wrench
  • Grease

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1. Pick out the cleats you want to try: remember, the X1 has less float (4 degrees) than the X1-F (8 degrees).  If you are new to cycling, start with the X1-F and see how you like it. If you already run clipless, use a sharpie and draw around the outside of your cleats so you have a place to start from. If you have a bike fitter you like to use, book a short appointment to set the cleats with some help. You’ll use the 4mm hex wrench to install the cleats. Remember to make sure they are tight and check them after every ride since loose cleats make it really, really hard to get out of pedals!

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2. Take your shiny, beautiful new pedals out of the box and brush the threads at the very end of the pedal with some grease. This keeps them from getting stuck in your cranks or from stripping your cranks when you take them off for any reason.

3. Using the 8mm hex wrench, thread the pedal into the crank by twisting it in the direction you would pedal. Of note, the pedals are directional so you should be able to see the HT logo sitting upright on each pedal, aka——> ( HT ) Left Crank – Right Crank (HT).  Don’t crank them on too tight but make sure they are snug.

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4. Use the 3mm hex wrench to set your tension. You will need to do this twice per pedal because they are 2 sided. Start at the lowest setting if you’ve never tried clipless pedals before, and be sure to test them out in the grass or leaning up against a wall for a few rounds first. If you have some clipless experience, try the middle setting and see what you think. They are super easy to adjust on the fly or with changing conditions.

5. Have a great ride!

We hope this pedal piece helps inspire you to test your skills working on your own bike, instills you with some confidence to try something new (clipless pedals), and maybe even helped you find that perfect color of pedals to match your totally sweet custom ride. It’s all about enjoying the journey out there. Thanks for taking a few minutes to gear gossip with the KS Kenda women!

Meet our Bike Fettish

Do you know Bike Fettish? We do! This small company knows great products and is backed by cyclists across the US who are shredding on gear they believe in. Jen has even driven to Georgia from Ohio to sample the dirt with the Bike Fettish Crew. Jake and Hector, the owners of Bike Fettish, identify emerging European bike component companies that are relatively unknown in the US market. Bike Fettish then becomes the distributor of the product in the US market. Lucky KS-Kenda Women get to play bikes with the fruits of their labor.

Bikefettish
Hector and Jake of Bike Fettish hanging with the team at Sea Otter

 

 

Do you have a Bike Fettish? If not, here are some bright shiny things to make your list:

Joe’s No Flats – Innovation from Israel. Joe’s produce environmentally friendly tire sealant and bike cleaning products that work as well as their toxic counterparts. The degreaser is so potent Jen did not believe the eco claims so she took a sample to her biochemistry lab at OSU to verify. Her “independent testing” certifies that its earth friendly! Fairlee has given the sealant a fair bit of field testing on sharp rocks and it has sealed gashes and sidewall rubs with no problem. Joe’s No Flats also makes a small portable tire pump designed to seat tubeless tires. This is a must-have for a cyclist who may want to change tires when an air compressor is not available.

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Innovative bike cleaning in a hotel shower with Joe’s Bio-Degreaser

HT pedals – Easy to clip into by just stamping your foot on the pedal. We are training and racing on the M1T (titanium); they come in a rainbow of colors so we were able to match our bikes or add a little flare with an accent color. Also, they add a miniscule 232g to our bikes which for reference, is 50g less than the leading clipless pedal on the market. Emma has even braved the elements and trail tested pedals in snowball flightworthy snow and soul sucking mud without issues; which is more than her bike companions on those rides could boast.

HT Components
No trouble getting clipped in on HT M1 pedals

Smanie Saddles – What would a saddle designed by a pro mountain biker/ biomedical engineer be like? AMAZING! Our own Jen Malik worked with Smanie to develop our team’s saddle to ensure ergonomics and performance. The saddles come in bike-matching colors and are rated saddle sore free from our team (lucky for Jen or she would get an earful from the team, and lucky for Fairlee or she would be nursing our wounds). While the N.Spire saddle is marketed at an enduro saddle we have found that the narrow nose and comfort play nicely in the cross country world where days consist of long rides and increasingly technical terrain.

Smanie Saddles
N.Spire saddle is so matchy-matchy!

Novatec Wheels – Make our team go round! We are racing and training on Flowtrail 29” and 27.5” wheels. When Jen put these on her race whip (Pivot Mach 429SL) she marveled at the quick response and light feel the wheels gave. What more could you ask for? Novatec wheels for road, gravel, cx and enduro? Yeah, they make those too!

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Nikki excited to train hard on her Novatec wheels

“When I went down to visit them in GA it wasn’t like going to a corporate business, but it was a small inclusive office with ping pong, long boards, and open offices of people talking and hanging out. Basically, like going over to somebody’s house to hang out ha but work was being done.” – Jen Malik

 

Bikefettish Ride
Bike Fettish crew is thumbs up after a muddy shop ride

Ok, I am going to be totally honest:

1. I’ve never had a helmet with MIPS technology before this season.
2. I was pretty misinformed about the valuable purpose of this technology.

So what the heck IS a MIPS helmet anyways?

MIPS, or the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, was developed in Sweden with the intention of reducing rotational motion of the skull in bike crash scenarios by “absorbing and re-directing rotational energies and forces transferred to the brain from angled impacts to the head”. Essentially, when a MIPS helmet is “crashed” with an angled impact, which is pretty much every mountain bike crash ever, the low friction “MIPS” layer allows the helmet to slide relative to your skull. This sliding motion serves to reduce the force of impact on your actual brain tissue. More information regarding the technology can be found on Lazer’s website.

MIPS vs No MIPS

Helmet test

This is very important and can literally mean the difference between severe brain damage or suffering mild concussion symptoms that are treatable. My teammate Jen Malik likes to refer to her MIPS helmets as her “MAY I PLEASE SURVIVE” devices while my other teammate Emma Maaranen literally WILL NOT ride a bike of any kind without a MIPS helmet. For Emma, wearing a MIPS helmet literally saved her life while bike commuting in Utah 8 years ago. She was struck from behind (while obeying all traffic laws and riding within a protected bike lane!) by an intoxicated and altered driver already being pursued by the police. According to police footage, her bike was dragged under the front of the sport utility vehicle while she was thrown into the air “like a piece of toast.” Luckily for her, she had purchased a MIPS helmet 2-3 months prior; they were just hitting the market around that time.  Her trauma doctor told her “If you hadn’t been wearing that helmet, you probably wouldn’t be here.” As it was, she still suffered severe concussion symptoms and injuries related to the crash but lived to tell the tale (and shred on)!

Although developed over the last 2 decades, MIPS technology is still a relatively new addition to the list of available safety features for high-end bicycle helmets. It has gained a great deal of popularity in all facets of cycling (road, mountain and cross) over the last few years. For me, however, it seemed like just another extra “bell and whistle” that unnecessarily increased the cost of a helmet. This was largely due to the fact that I had once been wrongly informed by someone that MIPS stood for “Multiple Impact Protection System.” My understanding had been that MIPS was a more durable, probably heavier, and reusable-after-crashes type of helmet; you know, like for crazy Enduro people who crash a lot pre-riding (j/k Enduro fam- we luv u!) or a motorcycle DOT helmet!

Of note: ALL helmets should be always inspected for signs of impact after every crash, and replaced after major crashes or according to the manufacturer’s guidelines; usually 5-6 years, but check the inside of your helmet to be sure- it will generally be printed on a sticker.

Inside helmet

I finally discovered the error of my misunderstanding while discussing helmet choices with my KS Kenda teammates who were genuinely confused as to why I was voting for the pretty colored non-MIPS helmet. So after a sheepish explanation of my version of the MIPS acronym and some good-hearted laughter, we opted as a team to be safer bike racers and select our team helmets from Lazer’s amazing line-up of MIPS offerings.

MIPS Lazer Helmet

Lazer has been working with MIPS for almost as long as it has been available to the market. As our race helmets, we opted to race the Blade helmet. We loved the Blade for its extremely light weight (lighter than some MIPS helmets on the market that cost twice as much!) and $130.00 price point. This helmet is a bargain for all of the technology bundled into it and Lazer nailed the fit and comfort! Our other selections for training include the Z1, Bullet and Revolution. The Z1 and Bullet are primarily for road and CX training and the Revolution is for DH and Enduro. Each of these helmets is also offered in MIPS. To learn more about Lazer’s awesome offerings, check out the link here!

After spending so many years in school trying to educate our noggins, MIPS really was the right decision for protecting a very important investment that we’ve each chosen to make!
-Fairlee Frey