Rally Cycling’s a new name on the U.S. pro cycling circuit, but this team and its key riders have a long rich history of collaborating with SRAM on product development. Rally (which previously raced under the name of title sponsors Optum and Kelly Benefits) enters the season as the top ranked UCI Continental Team in the United States.
Jesse Anthony is one of Rally’s veteran riders and SRAM-product testers. He’s been on SRAM since turning pro in 2006. In fact, as a neo pro he was a test rider for SRAM’s Force groupset before it was released to the public. To offer insight into how athletes help us develop product, we asked Jesse to pen some of his experiences testing SRAM gear over the past decade.
The first SRAM product I tested was the original SRAM Force groupset in 2006 with KodakGallery/Sierra Nevada. We raced and trained on pre-production Force groups throughout the road season. I really enjoyed being a part of the product development process. We gave a lot of feedback and had in-depth conversations with the engineers at SRAM. I worked at a bike shop for seven years when I was a teenager, so I've always been interested in how bikes work. Being able to test products, give feedback and see the changes being made was really interesting to me.
I again tested some of the SRAM RED groups during the 2007 cyclocross season when I was riding for Jamis. It was impressive to see the improvements that SRAM was making. One thing that always stuck out to me was how the engineers at SRAM made the changes that we asked for. We asked for a smaller grip circumference on the DoubleTap™ shifters, and they made the grips smaller. We asked for shorter throw on the DoubleTap levers, and they created ZeroLoss™ technology. I know it wasn't easy, but they always came up with the changes we asked for.
I also helped test and develop the Avid Shorty Ultimate CX brake in the Fall of 2009. Once again I was very interested to see the difference in performance made by small tweaks in the product.
The last test I did with SRAM was during the USA Pro Challenge in 2014 when I rode the eTap wireless groupset. That was an incredible experience to realize the progress of SRAM road components from a somewhat rudimentary pre-production Force group in 2006 to a seamless electronic groupset that was wireless and worked flawlessly through eight days of some of the hardest racing in the US.