Sunday, August 14, 2016

Adventures of the First Lady: Trek World 2017

This year for trade show goodness we decided to attend Trek World as it was scheduled the week after Nordic Fest. As disappointing as it was to miss SaddleDrive, it proved to be a good move on our part to be open. Weather was fair and rentals were plenty.

We do not take closures lightly and it's difficult for us to make the decision to go to a trade show or special event and lock our doors. We know full well that even with all of the social media blasting we attempt, it doesn't reach everyone and people show up disappointed. We want to extend a thank you to those who are wonderfully supportive and understanding of our closures- knowing that it's not just for personal reasons- but also for benefit of community involvement and/or knowledge.

Anyways...back to the adventure part!

I haven't been to Madison in years. The last time I was there was to meet some online friends that were involved with a betta fish forum I was a moderator on. That trip was done with MapQuest directions printed on note cards and a cellphone that probably didn't flip open. It was also before roundabouts were in place on the way. Thinking 2015/16. Yup. Long time.

We had packed up our bags the night before and I rushed to get all my chores done prior to going. Dishes, trash, litter boxes scooped/cleaned, and vacuuming were all on the list. Eventually, it was time to hit the road!

The trip up was relatively boring. Jamming to the radio and looking at the scenery; having the vague feeling I actually remembered what the drive to Madison looked like. My goals for the show were simple. Have fun, ride bikes, and meet Gary Fisher...and drink beer. What can I say? I enjoy a good beer and hoped to have a flavor I either never have or rarely get.

We eventually got into the city and made our way to the hotel- it was huge. We checked in and then had to make our way across to a second building where we would be staying at. I was so happy with the roller bag I purchased, it gave my shoulder a slight break from additional weight.

We dropped off our first set of luggage and made our way back to the truck to get the last of it. Timing wise we got to Madison with enough time to spare for unpacking and then heading to the show to check in- the original plan was to stop at a liquor store to amp up my personal beer supply and go to a bakery so I could get a legit baked good. Didn't happen.

We got checked in and signed our release forms for the Demo on Tuesday and got in line for our first seminar. We attended 2 seminars before we joined the entire group of Trek World attendees on the walk to the Overture Center for John Burke's Keynote speech. Before we had started our walk, we had been sitting and looking at the bike book that was given to us with our registration. Travis said "There's Gary!" I looked up and yup. Mr. Fisher was walking right towards us...my face lit up and Travis said I blushed. I said hi...and COMPLETELY chickened out. Nope. No photo, no nothing. Josie!? Why?!

The speech was good. My favorite part was a donation to NICA- a group that encourages young people to participate in mountain biking making it an all-inclusive sport for anyone to join.

After the speech was over, it was a walk back to the hotel for supper. I found it so amusing that a mass of bike people essentially took over the street by walking right in the middle of it! We went downstairs before plating food to check out the show. I had Spotted Cow beer for the first time. I deduced between that and the other choice, it would probably be the better one. I can't say I'd go to Wisconsin and buy a 6 pack, tho. Sorry! I'll drink the IPAs instead!

Downstairs...wow! SO many bikes and things to see! And Gary! He had a group of people he was chatting with and I'm much too nice to butt into a conversation for a photo. So after waiting to see if there would be an opening, we opted to go upstairs for food.

We talked with someone who knew a few people Travis knew that work for Trek. I sat and people watched, thinking to myself that I grabbed way too much food to eat. Either way, that cupcake was going to get eaten no matter what.

Then down to the show again, this time to look at Electra products and I found myself an IPA that was being served in that room. After having Spotted Cow and forgetting the flavor of this IPA I had probably a year ago, I found it remarkably bitter. Damn.

Back to the Trek show- I found Gary, but again, too nice to butt in. We waited and finally had a moment where we could chime in! This would be my first time meeting someone I could consider a "true" celebrity. I felt so silly and awkward, thank goodness I had consumed some beer! It was a great little moment that I'll feel giddy about for quite some time.

After looking around more and taking photos, we decided that we should make our way back to the hotel. This time we were lucky enough to catch a shuttle back, which saved us time from walking. I was tired and my contacts felt glued to my eyeballs. I was most excited to get into my pajamas and crawl into bed. I hoped I would sleep better this time than my last trip away from home, because Tuesday was our Demo day and I wanted to ride "all the bikes."

Morning came way too quickly for my liking. We got up extra early so we would have time to ready our ride gear for later and hit up breakfast before the seminar we planned to attend. I was most excited about the chocolate-filled croissant. After the seminar we had time to walk back to the hotel and change into our clothes. As luck would have it, we miraculously were able to hitch a ride on a shuttle back to the hotel.

There was worry we would have a sloppy and wet demo with the rain in the forecast. When I had looked at the weather on my phone it seemed very minimal. After getting on the bus that would take us to Waterloo where the demo was being held, it started to rain. Not light rain, but rain that made it almost impossible to see out the windows. Then it stopped. Then it started again. We all seemed to groan at the same time.

Once arriving at Waterloo at the Trek headquarters, it appeared to be that the weather had evaded that location. Especially after we hit the trails- beautiful and dry!

Bikes that Travis test rode:
Carbon Stache 9.8
Top Fuel 9.8 SL
Procaliber 9.7

Bikes I test rode:
Fuel EX Women's 9.8
Procaliber 9.7
Top Fuel Women's 9.8 SL

I rode the Fuel EX 9.8 to satisfy my curiosity as it replaces the Carbon Lush 650b that I have. More suspension along with different geometry. When getting set up for the bike I met Stephanie Jones, a super rad woman who was fun to chat with. I was recommended to try a 14" for frame size due to my height. Most times than not I'm on a 15" or 15.5" I have a short torso but long arms and legs, I figured it would be worth a shot in seeing how it fit.

Frame size made for easy point and shoot front handling. Very controlled, but I also felt like I drowned the bike.

The increased amount of suspension for the bike was nice over rocks/roots, but far more than I would need in Decorah.

The bike was fun to ride, I feel the geometry changes are a good thing- I don't think I would need an extra long stem to make the bike more "Decorah friendly" for climbing and overall the handling was great. I didn't feel extra squirrely or twitchy. (It took a season for me to feel comfortable on the Lush with handling.)

Would I buy this bike?
Probably not.
Would I ride it again?
Sure.
Size feel-
It wasn't bad. It made for okay handling for downhill sections, but I felt crowded overall.

Procaliber 9.7 was next the next bike for me to try as I have a carbon hardtail 29'er: Trek Cali Carbon SLX.

I wanted to try the geometry of this bike along with seeing how it felt to be on 650b without suspension. Also, I wanted to check out the Isospeed Decoupler to see if it was "worth it"
Size- 15.5"

It was AMAZING!

I felt like I was able to easily accelerate and catch up to Travis on flat terrain, even tho I was on smaller wheels than he was. The bike felt nimble and quick; so much more playful than my stable 29" wheel Cali. I felt super confident on this bike when it came to where I was riding, I didn't feel as phased over climbs- it was light (and definitely NOT the lightest Procaliber in the lineup!)

I felt like the Isospeed Decoupler did assist with taking the edge off. I still felt bumps, but it wasn't as jarring as it would be without it- so a plus! It made rougher areas more tolerable and less "willy nilly" when it came down to it.

I rode almost perfectly on low-tread tires, something that I hadn't felt I could successfully do yet I was able to do so easily. Now, if only I had a better concept on how to properly launch off of small rocks, etc.

Would I buy this bike?
Yup. Actually we put in a Project One order for a Procaliber 9.8!

Would I ride it again?
A thousand times yes!

Size feel- I felt the 15.5 to be truly comfortable. When comparing my comfort to this bike vs. my Cali as the Cali has a sloped top tube, I felt the Procaliber to be a-okay in terms of fit. The reach was excellent and the body position was comfortable.
It was also a little more aggressive than I have my other bikes set up as, so it was great to experiment and see how it handled. I think it was an overall 10 out of 10 in terms of awesomeness.

The last bike for myself was the Top Fuel Women's 9.8 SL this also came with 650b wheels and would be the racy, full-suspension bike that is the cousin to the Procaliber. With 100 mm travel for the front vs. 120 for the Lush, I was curious of my thoughts on this bike as I haven't really ridden anything else like it before.

I couldn't stop comparing it to the Procaliber!

I felt like it was heavier- along with having ridden for a few hours already my legs were starting to get tired. I decided to ride with both of the suspensions fully on as well to get a sense of plushness. Overall, I'm used to a more "forgiving" full suspension bike, so being on one that was lighter, more nimble, and less "cushy" was a change for sure.

Overall, fit and geometry felt great and comfortable, but I was still having after-effects of riding the Procaliber weighing my head. If I were to discontinue my current full suspension bike- I feel this would be the ticket.

Would I buy this bike?
Maybe. Someday.

Would I ride it again?
Yes. After conversing with Stephanie, I felt a bit better about my mixed feelings over the Top Fuel. She said it seems to be a fine line over which people prefer when comparing the Procaliber to the Top Fuel. Apparently, I must be in the phase where I'm feeling the need for a more rigid bike. Once I experienced lightweight speed, I felt I couldn't go back.

Size feel-
Again with the geometry, I felt it was very adequate and comfortable for reach and stand over. It was surprising to not feel the need for a sloped top tube! Overall the size felt very comfortable for me with my 5'2" frame, but it may not be the case for everyone depending on proportions.

Now, we'll hear Travis' take on the bikes he rode!

On the Carbon Stache 9.8-
Carbon Stache didn't feel as light as I had hoped, but I'm really glad to see that we have an option now for that light-weight plus bike we've all been wanting. People should really consider trying plus bikes! They are super fun and you can roll over things more. They are the perfect style of tire for the off-road scene.

*Josie did not ride a Stache, sadly, because the stand over height was too close for comfort. She'll stick with 27.5+/650b+

On the Top Fuel 9.8-
It was surprising to see/feel how efficient full suspension systems can be these days. If I didn't know it was there and couldn't feel it working I wouldn't have known it was full suspension at all! It was light, fast, and handled like a hardtail.

On the Procalbier 9.7- 

So great to be back on lightweight carbon 29'er hardtail! It was really fun and it felt like a rocket ship!

After 3+ hours of riding, I was most definitely ready to call it quits. I had chugged down some cider before we hit the road. Once we were back at the hotel, I can't tell you enough how happy I was to have a hot shower. I ate some crappy chocolate doughnuts that were left from my CAMBA trip to tide me over for beer tasting at the rooftop event and supper.

We made our way back and found beer that I really enjoyed drinking. I was super pleased and memorized the location of a favorite so I could have one post-supper. After scoping out the bikes one more time, we made our way back to our hotel- but the night wasn't over, yet!

At the demo, I met Patrick, my friend Kelsey's boyfriend. Small world, especially since I totally forgot he worked for Trek. The interaction was pretty hilarious. I heard a quiet "Josie?" I'm all "Yeah! Hi!" Looking down at my hand, I saw my badge was totally not facing in a direction so the nice fellow could see my name. Bewilderment set in....and then he said "I'm Kelsey's boyfriend" and the world became my oyster.

Totally forgetting Kelsey lived in Madison, we chatted via the wonderment of the internet and made plans to meet up. Travis and I prepped ourselves for a late evening outing by which I took a short nap. Kelsey and Patrick met us at our hotel and we went to a neat bar called the Old Fashioned. The bartender really knew how to socialize, plus he could do some fun, flair-style bartending. He gave me an excellent recommendation on an IPA and I found that Kelsey was like a best friend that simply lived too damn far away. I was so happy to have been able to meet her in person, finally!

Wednesday morning came, again, way too early. Especially with an early morning bedtime! We got up early enough to move all of our stuff to the truck so we could walk back from the Trek World festivities and hit the road after we had our Trek store tour. A couple special stops before we completely headed out of town: Colectivo Coffee, Ian's Pizza, and Revolution Cycles. I'm going to leave out the part where I had a beautiful dessert bar in a white paper bag that I accidentally left in the hotel rest room. So much disappointment...but Travis found some Fantasy Factory IPA at a gas station in Verona...that helped.

All in all, the Trek World adventure was great but we were both happy to be home. It was a great experience and as a bonus, I met three rad women who love the #bikelife as much as I do!

For more photos from the Trek World adventure, click here!

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