Gravel Biking: Why OPEN Cycle? A king-like experience from a nobody.
The big move
As soon as I got an agreement with my office to work from home, I decided to move out of the big city (#Montreal). My aim was to move to the region of the beautiful Canadian #Rockies. But the place we wanted to live to see the snow capped mountains was too expensive at that time. Hence we moved to a very beautiful village called #Magog not very far away from the city to pursue my love with the nature - to hike in the national parks that can be accessed by walking from the house and do #roadbiking in the rolling hills nearby. #gravelbiking was never in my mind although I had heard about this sport.
Kananaskis region of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Three sisters in view
The Magog village bike path and the view from the Magog village to the #Memphremagog Lake. This lake freezes over in winter and there is a yearly ~30 km Fat bike race that happens on top it.
My introduction to gravel roads was by accident, a route that I did not research enough before starting to ride my road bike with a steep trenching that I had to walk down with my bike.
During one of my exploratory bike rides in the region on my road bike, I started a very long and beautiful climb. I did not notice that the paved road under me disappeared until I pedalled a while into the steep climb. Anyway, I decided to climb all the way up. Coming down proved to be a disaster. Most of the distance I had to walk down on loose gravel as my tires were too thin (23) meant for road, I was slipping at downhill speeds and brakes were not helping. I later realized that I was in a gravel biking haven of the region. Multiple gravel races and gravel events happen here.
The steepness is not very apparent in the picture. But it was a long & scary descent.
Coffee chat: My theoretical introduction to Gravel Biking
Incidentally, after one of those regular road ride, we riders went for a espresso shot coincidentally in a gravel bike shop! Strange that I did not notice the presence of gravel biking in the region until that time! Obviously we all were discussing gravel bikes and gravel biking. We were also Vroomen and White (Cervelo bikes) fans. One of the fellow riders mentioned that Gerard Vroomen and Andy Kessler left Cervelo and started a new bike brand called OPEN cycles and that they are concentrating on gravel bikes.
An expresso with friends enlightened me about the fun in gravel biking
The little cervelo club (R2, R3 and R5 for those who want to know); from one of those casual rides
The research and the surprise
Needless to say, that evening I did a big research on OPEN cycles, reviews, comments, etc. I also read every word in the website www.opencycle.com and became an immediate fan. This was the first time I understood the fineprint. I was so impressed that I send a small mail to Gerard Vroomen the same night. I expected nothing back even though it was mentioned that they would reply.
Communicating directly with Gerard Vroomen and Andy Kessler was a dream come true.
The next day morning I was totally surprised that Gerard Vroomen had replied to my mail!!! He replied to a nobody. He didn't have to, but he did anyway. He even copied my mail to Andy Kessler!!! I responded telling them that I would one day like to go for their annual fondue ride. The reply to this mail stunned me. I was told that I don't need to wait for the fondue ride and that I could just let them know if I was in the area and I could ride with them!!! Now I knew that the cloud number 9 exists, because I was there. Now I just needed to make a chance to go to Europe.
Here comes the chance
The end of 2019, my work had asked me to go to Germany to get trained on a new technology. For those who don't know, I am an IT engineer by profession. I was not sure about this trip at the time they asked me as I had recently changed my citizenship to become a Canadian. I had some issues with the government getting my name correct and hence, my passport was on hold.
By chance I had an opportunity to go to Germany for work. I had technical difficulties, but in the end I made it work.
Now I had a new reason to go to Europe and could not let this chance slip. My desire to ride the OPEN bike was so much that I applied for an emergency passport and got it in a span of two days, in fact the day before I had to leave to Germany. As soon as my trip was confirmed, I let Gerard and Andy know that I was coming to Basel. I was still not sure if they would meet me or if at all there is a possibility to ride. But, Basel was a sure destination and hence I took couple of days off and planned a short trip for the weekend. I packed my skiing gear along with the biking gear as plan B and I set off to Frankfurt!
Meeting Andy Kessler: My first gravel ride on a proper gravel bike.
During my stay in Germany, the meeting with Andy was confirmed for the 7th February post noon. After my official business was done and dusted, I started off to Basel from Aglasterhausen in Germany on the morning of 7th.
Never was I so excited for anything else or I do not remember, just one thing in my mind, completely focussed - meeting Andy Kessler.
I reached Basel by noon. It seemed that it took me more time to find a parking spot in Basel than the entire ride from Germany. Andy Kessler came out and greeted me with a warm smile at the office of OPEN cycle in Basel. That moment cannot be described. I can say that for me, it was close to a child meeting his super hero! Andy then showed me the bike that I would be riding with him. It was an OPEN Winding Detours (WI.DE) bright orange, my favorite color.
I already fell in love with this machine!
At this moment I realized that I had forgotten my pedals in Canada. The pedals on the bike would not fit my shoes. And guess what, I had also forgotten my water bottle in the plane ride to Germany. So, Andy gave not only the bike, but also his shoes, his water bottle, his Garmin 830, few gel shots and energy bars!!! What?! Yes! I took a picture with Andy and my heart was still beating at double its speed.
We did a good 50 km+ on the gravel roads near Basel (Garmin, being Garmin, only recorded 36). We crossed over to France and then to Germany and rode towards Efringen-Kirchen. What a machine. For me a big myth was busted - you need thinner tires for lesser resistance for more speed. This bike was so comfortable that I think the gains on comfort overshadows the loss in speed, or even the additional comfort makes you ride faster. I know this is a proven theory, but that day it was proven to me. I spent a leisurely 2.5 hours on the bike riding along the beautiful German countryside with Andy.
I still could not wrap my mind around the fact that I was riding a bike with a CEO of OPEN cycle, ex CEO of BMC and ex sales director of Cervelo!!! I have worked 17 years with my current company and never met my CEO even once.
Andy is so down-to-earth, I felt like I was riding with a biking buddy. And that wasn't it. Andy gave me that $9000 bike for the next day to explore by myself, including the water bottle, the shoes, more energy bars, gels and the Garmin 830 full of route maps to explore the area (story for my next blog)! Andy even invited me to come back again when I am in the area!!! I was asking myself all the time, would I do this to somebody that I don't know? I wouldn't. I felt like a king!
Now the million dollar question, Why OPEN cycles
It's quite obvious by now for you readers that hands down, I am a humongous fan of OPEN cycles. There is a reason behind it. Looking back from my first interaction with Gerard Vroomen to the ride with Andy Kessler, I saw and felt two people who are extremely passionate about what they do, viz: putting that big smile on our faces. Needless to say, if you put your heart completely into something the end product will definitely be awesome. The riders of OPEN cycle know it is. If they treat a nobody like me like the way I experienced, like a king, how would you be treated once you are in the OPEN cycle family. If you have seen the website (www.opencycle.com), you know this business model is different.
I would call this business model a heart-to-heart business model, the one that anyone will fall in love with.
I am already in love with this concept and that beautiful orange bike. You don't need to take my word for it, you can see what pictures my site (www.allseasoncyclist.com) is filled with. All this time, not even once did Gerard or Andy tell me to get an OPEN bike! On the contrary they gave me everything that I needed to put a smile on my face. Those two days in Basel are arguably the best two days in my life.
You will definitely have a million reasons to love OPEN cycle, add two more Gerard Vroomen and Andy Kessler. Thank you Gerard and Andy for brightening up one man's life. You didn't have to, but yet, you did. You got a lifelong fan of OPEN Cycle. You have won my heart OPEN Cycle!
OPEN Cycle WI.DE will be my bike of choice for my 600 km, 10500m high altitude Gravel ride in the Himalayas in 2021 and when I scout the area to bring a UCI level gravel biking event like #TheRift, #DirtyReiver, #DirtyKanza, etc. unique, due to its high altitude, in India. More of this coming in the next blogs