My 1x: Opening Minds
Pamela and Jon Robichaud (early adopters/investors of sports hydration and nutrition company, Skratch Labs with Dr. Allen Lim) attended our most recent stop in the SRAM Open the Road Tour at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California. The tour gives consumers the opportunity to ride SRAM 1x bikes on a 40-60 mile ride over a variety of terrains and road surfaces. Here, Pamela shares her ride experience.
Apparently The Sea Otter Classic is about bike racing, but not for me. I don’t race bikes. I don’t want to race bikes – I just want to ride bikes. In fact, I don’t particularly care about bike racing. Is that wrong? With the exception of a few friends I have who happen to be professional cyclists because I live in Boulder, after all, and it comes with the territory, I really don’t care much about race results. I care that my friends survived the race unscathed and that they are enjoying themselves, but that’s about it. For me, Sea Otter is about a big community hang out and hug and it feels good to be here.
Pamela Robichaud. Photo © Wil Matthews Photo.
A few years ago I didn’t really know what Sea Otter was. Jon started coming to this event with the Skratch Labs crew. Jon has since stepped away from his day-to-day life at Skratch Labs (but we will always be founding partners, bleeding pixels as fans of the brand for life) so attending Sea Otter 2016 has been for the love of the game, so to speak. It was our choice and for our enjoyment. This year’s Sea Otter was about a delightful obligation to ride the SRAM Open The Road ride with some friends. And that route was a game changer for this rider.
Before we went on the ride, my friend Jen Agan − the ride experience coordinator with the SRAM Open The Road Tour − told me that upon our return from the ride, she wanted people to think about what their “1x and/or Open The Road experience was.” Um… ok. I literally didn’t understand what she meant. We are going to ride bikes; let’s just ride bikes, doubt I’ll have anything profound to say. While I still do not have anything succinctly profound to say, after that ride I am truthfully left with feelings of confidence, adventure, and curiosity about where my “adventure bike,” a Specialized Diverge with a SRAM 1x drivetrain, can take me.
My husband, Jon Robichaud, hitting the single track of Monterey on his Force 1 drivetrain equipped Specialized Diverge. Photo © Wil Matthews Photo.
I’ve said it before, and I mean it, I don’t like mountain biking. I like road and gravel, but technical single track is not my jam. When we started out on this ride and I heard we were heading for 10 miles of single track, I panicked. Luckily, Jon pre rode/scouted the course with SRAM’s Chris Zigmont and Sea Otter Founder Rick Sutton a few days before, so he helped manage my expectations. He kept saying it’s not rutted out and it’s not technical, it’s fun. I didn’t believe him. Single track has never been fun for me, someone with some balance issues at baseline. I was fairly apprehensive about the ride in general, as I’ve spent the first part of our life on the road battling a pretty good cold. However, it turns out, that 30 miles of heavy breathing on terrain just outside my comfort zone was just what the doctor ordered.
The course took us around the backside of Laguna Seca and through Fort Ord on gravel and single track. IT. WAS. AWESOME. I was fairly scared on a few narrow spots with soft sand, but Chris Zigmont, road brand director for SRAM, reminded me to keep pedaling and said that I was “riding the sand like a Belgian.” I conquered some uncomfy terrain with my SRAM Force 1 42-tooth chainring and wide range 10-42 cassette and remained rubber side down all day.That's me enjoying single track for the first time ever. Photo © Wil Matthews Photo.
There were a lot of friends on this ride, but I happily took my spot at the back to hang with Jon and Nate, the assigned sweeps, and my friend Liz. Liz is living in Monterey with a former colleague of mine from Boulder. Liz rides… she’s an Iron(wo)man, she’s fit, and she’s strong. So I invited her to ride a demo bike and give SRAM 1x a whirl. I warned her before the ride that Jon said, “it’s fun, but it’s going to be some work with soft sand and single track.” Pretty sure she missed everything having to do with the word dirt and focused on the invite for a road ride. This girl crushed the ride that was 100 percent outside her comfort zone on every level. She doesn’t wear high-end gear, she isn’t handed components (which is why the opportunity to demo the 1x drivetrain was exciting), she doesn’t wear tall socks, in fact she doesn’t wear socks. Remember, she’s a triathlete. No cap, no arm warmers, no fancy luggage bag that fits all the fancy gear. Nope, this girl rolls up with a reusable grocery bag to house her wears and a desire to consume all the pastries pre-ride. Good on ya’, Liz.
Me enjoying one of many laughs with Liz (at right). Photo © Wil Matthews Photo.
But rather than recoil in the face of a bunch of people who certainly look like they know what they are doing, forget about the part where she had no idea who Meredith Miller and Jeremy Powers are, Liz’s personality was loud and present. She was funny, confident and more than capable of riding that alternating terrain that was anything but road. She was skidding and hopping, all the while cracking jokes with Zigmont, Rick, and photographer Wil Matthews. I would not have traded all the fitness and agility in the world to ride at the front of that pack because I would have missed the pure joy that was Liz Tree opening the road.
Photo © Wil Matthews Photo.
So back to Jen’s question of what does “open the road” mean to me? It means open your mind to anyone who wants to explore anywhere on anything wearing whatever works and if all of that just happens to be on two wheels with rocking components that compliment an ever changing terrain with ease, well that’s the cherry on top. Although the terrain was just on the edge of my comfort zone, the 1x drivetrain allowed me to focus more on riding and less on the details. While riding through the often steep trails and roads, the ease of use of one shifter, versus two, allowed for quick and trouble-free adjustments. On 2x drivetrains I’ve certainly been known to drop a chain here and there due to overshifting, but the 1x system has, thankfully, taken that out of the equation and lets me simply have fun riding with friends.