Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Along with the Rock Cobbler at the beginning of the month I rode the Tour of Sufferlandria. I had to dial back some of the intensity to give at least a semblance of readiness for the Cobbler as the Tour ended the day before. With February being a short month it was going to be a push to hit the 1000 mile mark but with a cheeky double I was able to keep the monthly average at the 1000 miles. With that said the mileage totals are not the be all and end all of the riding and I am being sure to not let it impact the actual training.
I started the revised TrainerRoad Sweet Spot HV Plan and that is certainly making the mileage accumulation easy, especially when I add in an extended warm up or cool down. One thing that I specifically noticed was that the Cobbler was the only ride outside of the month which reinforces my commitment to using TrainerRoad and the trainer as the most effective training method. With the Pro season underway there is plenty to keep me occupied on the viewing front thanks to cycling.tv
I did fall off the wagon on the strength training so I need to refocus my efforts as it barely takes any time and does make a difference!
So onwards to March with Redlands Strada Rosso.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Congratulations you’re a Brand Ambassador!
This is always a good email opening line. I have been fortunate enough to have received this several times a year for the last several years!
This is an updated post of one I wrote a couple of years ago. Since then Social Media has continued to grow and change. I have kept up with some of it but some of it has passed me by, I have almost given up trying to figure out SnapChat! The core principle of using Ambassadors is to promote a company’s products or philosophy. It does, however, still remain much more of an art than a science. It is an ever developing field that some companies do very well in and others less so. Having been an Ambassador for different companies of varying sizes my experiences have differed greatly. It’s a tricky and sometimes unbalanced equation that needs constant attention to avoid going stale. So, while I am no marketeer but I do feel, that through my experiences, I have a pretty good understanding of the basics and principles that should be considered. This experience is as both an Ambassador and the role that entails and also the expectations that you could have or should from the company’s Ambassador Program. It should be a two way street and the expectations should be very clear. With that said this post only looks at the Ambassadorial responsibilities side of the equation. It’s also a pretty opinionated post based on the things I think are correct. It is in no way meant to be a definitive guide but more of a Stuart’s Brand Ambassadorship 101! So with that overly long preamble said let’s move on…
The Product. I personally still believe that this a fundamental basic for being an Ambassador is that you use the Product. In my mind being an Ambassador is a step up from essentially being a Power User. That said it this 100% determined by the brand. Some brands may be looking for net new users who have a large online or in real life presence and influence. Using the product manifests itself in many different ways and the subtleties of messaging come much more into play.
· Given that a picture is worth 1000 words and the nature of Instagram photography plays a huge role. It’s easy to plonk X product in the middle of the photo and say “this thing is great”! To a point this works but it is pretty blunt. The art comes in when you don’t actually have the product in the photo or it is not the main point of focus. It is much more of a lifestyle statement. You don’t have to be David Bailey or Annie Leibowitz but you do need to know some basics. There are plenty of online tutorials about stylizing your photographs and the rule of thirds etc. Spend a little time understanding these things and your photography will improve and along with it your traction.
· Understand the differences between a Reviewer vs. Ambassador. As a Reviewer you need to be impartial and factual. I have written over 100 reviews of products either sent to me or purchased by me (it’s about 50/50). When something works for me I say that and when it doesn’t I say that too. With that said there is often the complaint that reviews are far too often positive. This is a fair point and some of that is driven by the fact that;
· I typically research something before I buy it. I have a need, researched some options and made a choice on the final item. I do have a limited budget (really I do) and this is not a full time gig. Buying random stuff to try and never use again is a waste of my resources; time and money.
· Secondly there are things that I do not use and as a result will not review, these to fall into the camp of “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck! You may have noticed I am not much into ducks so I pass! So this skews the body of reviews on a whole to the more positive side.
· You are typically reviewing something new to you or new to the market. This is kind of obvious but sometimes the obvious things are missed!
· Avoid Brand Conflicts. Again pretty obvious but worth stating. You can’t (usually) be an Ambassador for competing products. Clif vs. PowerBar is an obvious example. You can of course review both products as a Reviewer.
So in summary there is a big difference from being a Reviewer and a BA. As an Ambassador you are expected to (depending on the Brand’s criteria) evangelize their products both online and in real life. If you actually use it this is easy, much less so if you have no idea about it! Using it really means using it, documenting it and then telling everyone what you did!
Social Medial. Social Media, love it or hate it is here to stay. These are some specific tips;
· From a practical standpoint try to have the same User Name across all accounts, “QUADRATHON” is a throwback to a Nike+ challenge that started in 2006. You can read more here about it. I use the same name across all of my accounts, Google it, I have 3 of the top 5 search results. Having different names across all your accounts is confusing! This can be a pain if you have already set things up with different names but it is worth checking to see if the actual name is available across all social platforms
· Blogging. Back in the day when I started blogging Facebook, Twitter and Instagram didn’t exist! I carried a real camera and had a phone that was just that…a phone! Bloggers left comments on each other’s post and you had a blogroll of likeminded people. Ten years on Blogging is pretty old school but they do serve a good purpose for long form writing.
· Twitter and Instagram. Unlock your accounts, nobody is not going to see anything if your account is locked. But it’s what people use so it’s time to be a bit less private! Make sure you profile is up to date. Add a link to your blog etc. get a nice Profile Pic, all basic but important stuff!
· Facebook. Personally this is locked for Friends only, and I am sure they get sick of my recipes and tire reviews but I am constantly adding new friends! It’s personal preference if you want to “friend” all the other Ambassadors. I am a little selective.
· Facebook Groups is a great way to link up with other BAs, share ideas, collaborate and so on but for every post you post to the group make sure you posted it outside the group too. There is no point in preaching to the converted! It’s also a great channel to communicate with the Company. Several companies that I am a BA for have been using Facebook Live to essentially have online staff meetings where they discuss all manner of things. Super interactive and actually hearing and seeing a person makes it a much more of a conversation.
· SnapChat…like I said I am lost with this!
· Hashtaging. Find out what hashtags you need to use and then use them. Once you start most Phone Apps remember them so that makes things easier! If you can’t remember them create a note on your phone and then just copy and paste into your posts. I use a great App called Often Type that allows me to create Hashtag “buckets” and with a simple tap I can drop them into a post. Find out the accounts of your Product, follow them and tag them when you post Most Brands make this a must but you should be doing that at every opportunity. Some platform allow you set up alerts so you don’t miss a post, this is especially useful when Facebook is using some weird algorithm to catalog and prioritize posts. Again, as with most things in life, there is some common sense needed. Going overboard is simply that! Less is often more and several key hashtags will garner more love that a list as long as your arm.
· Overall you have to be comfortable using it and you need to have a presence. By presence I mean a following. You need to be what is considered an influencer this means having the ability to some sway or be able to persuade peoples choices based on your evangelism!
So there you go some thoughts, if you were selected this year as an Ambassador congratulations, if not you have 9 months to consider the above points. Getting an Ambassadorship is just the beginning! That initial giddiness of receiving the Congratulations email is just the start of the journey. The next 10 or so months are yours to fill with tweets, tags and posts, putting miles on shoes, sweating into clothes, scoffing kitchen creations. You have every weekend to fill with long runs rides or swims and at the end you get tell everyone about it!
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The dust has settled the acceptance (and rejection) letters opened and this is my Ambassador line up for 2017. I am fortunate enough to have many to continue their support from both 2016 and 2015. I hope it’s testament to their belief in me as much as it is to my belief in the products I represent! So in no particular order;
Headsweats; I love their products, I initially joined their team as a runner and I have used them exclusively for all my triathlons. Now I wear them under my helmet. They keep the sun off my head and the sweat out my eyes! Use Quadrathon25 at checkout for 25% off your order.
3T Cycling; 3T make some of the sexist and technologically advanced products in the cycling world. I have ridden with their components since 2010 and make a point of changing out any OEM or third party parts on any of my bikes for 3T parts.
Pactimo; in my opinion this is the best cycling clothing on the planet. I wore their Pro Ascent kit for every training and race last year. Including my Everesting ride where I wore the same bibs and jersey for over 24 hours with chamois cream and without issue! This is my third year with Pactimo. Use BA15STU for 30% off your first order.
SkratchLabs; this is the third year of working with Skratch. I have switched over to exclusively using their hydration products. Additionally I now fuel pretty much 100% by real food and portables. I’ll be going back to regularly posting recipes so stay tuned.
Thread+Spoke; if you ever see me in a Tshirt it’s a Thread+Spoke one! They make the best cycling casual wear. Limited runs of of the coolest niche designer cycling focused Tshirts. Use Race20 for 20% off of order $45 or more.
So that’s it, now on with the year!
Monday, February 13, 2017
Thursday, February 2, 2017
Often tire choice is a bit like choosing a golf club. You look at the pictures, read the reviews and in the end kinda go with the one that captures your eye and wins your heart. For the gravel rides last year and more recently for CX Racing I have used, with good success, Clement tires; specifically, their X’Plor MSO and MXP tires respectively.
Going into the camp I knew that there would be a more riding on the road compared to some of the other gravel races I ridden from last year (Dirty Kanza200, Rock Cobbler, and RSR) and as such I had three wheelsets shod with Clement tires. My first choice was going to be the USH wheelset. Self-described as the tire for mixed conditions. I was looking for a tire that would provide minimal rolling resistance on the road but that also had some bite when it came to riding in the dirt these seemed like a good choice. I had on standby the trusty MSO which did me proud at DK and Stan’s Grail wheelset with Tubeless MXP which I had been using for CX racing. I am new to tubeless and was a bit wary of them, having an issue could result in me being covered in sealant and left on the side of the road. So my plan was to try the USH wheelset on day one and then, based on my experience, decide what to use for the following two days.
The tires were mounted on my standard Shimano CX-31 disc wheelset. Not the lightest or sexist wheelset in the world they have handled everything I have thrown at them. The tires are clinchers and inside I had Bontrager Self Sealing tubes. Nothing fancy but solid. Front and rear was inflated to 75psi. This would be plenty hard for the off road section but a crap shoot when it came to the road. I was carrying my trusty Lezyne pump so if I needed a little more air I was self sufficient. I choose the 120tpi version vs. the 60tpi for better cornering and a smoother ride.
The first ride out contained only a minimal amount of dirt and the road climb up Double Peak. The tires provided plenty of grip on the dirt climbs and I was able to stand up without the nerve and back wrenching rear tire slip that can happen. They rolled easily over the small rocky section of trails that were wet. The only place where they really slipped was in a sharp descent down a greasy grassy bank. No surprises there as this is not the targeted surface. On the road they rolled comfortable and didn’t have the rumble that you would associate with a CX or more heavily treaded tire. Both up and down Double Peak was not a problem as was bumping up and down the required curbs and steps transitioning from the road to sidewalk and parking lot etc.
Photo; Danny Munson
The second day we had more road and instead of dirt we spent a lot of time on fire road. California has actually had a winter this year and as such there has been a fair amount of erosion from the rain. The fire roads have a mix of wash out, sand, ruts and hard pack. I rolled over all of these both up and down Black Canyon without any problem. As a group we had a few punctures during the three days but nothing crazy. The USH tires bit nicely into the corners descending and while I wasn’t letting rip too hard I was comfortable that they were not going to wash out on me. On the roll back to town I almost hit 40mph, a testament to the chevron pattern in the center of the tire that lets it roll fast on the road.
The final day I needed to top up the air pressure back to 75psi and there was a bit of slime spit. The surfaces were a bit of everything; some good old fashioned gravel, a nice big water splash; the perfect place to pinch flat, which I didn’t. Again fast road sections where I tucked in and almost hit 42mph, more mud, rutted double track and sand. Basically these tires handled everything I threw at them.
So in summary after 3 days and over 180 miles on mixed surfaces of all types these tires performed flawlessly. Conditions will change some in the coming months as things dry out but based on this experience I see no reason not to run them on race day. The security off road is worth the loss of any speed you may have when riding a pure road tire. The extra width gives a comfortable ride in all conditions and the added grip is always nice.
I’ll actually be using these at Rock Cobbler later this month too so if there are any major dramas I can report back on my experience.
I purchased these tires from Amazon for around $55 each, you can find them online at multiple retailers.
This Product was purchased by me. See previous gear reviews in the Reviews tab above. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org