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- Riding for good -

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Following their victory last year, Team SV/dZi Foundation has once again brought home the victory for both the riders and the people of Nepal!

Here at Studio Velo we love everything cycling. When we get an opportunity to mix our favorite past time with a noble and worthy charity, we jump at the chance! That is exactly what we did when we were asked to take part in The Trois Etapes, a grueling, three-day pro-am cycling event in the French Pyrenees. Competing against 13 other charity teams from around the world, the SV/dZi Foundation came out on top!

From everyone who witnessed the team during months of training, fundraising, travel and finally the race itself, we want to thank all of our supporters and congratulate the riders on both Studio Velo / dZi Foundation teams. Their hard work often gets overlooked or passed off as a vacation as they spend a week riding the French Pyrenees. However, we know this is not the case and we could not be more proud of them and all of their amazing accomplishments!! Congrats again!

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The team consisted of two Studio Velo partners, four cycling buddies, the Trois Etapes youngest rider ever (he's 17!) and one pro-rider. You can read all about their journey to victory and more in our blog below!
"After 3 challenging days in the French Pyrenees, climbing over 20,000 feet and riding more than 200 miles, the 2014 Studio Velo /dZi Foundation team locks ups their second consecutive Trois Etapes, the largest pro-am race in the world and one of the most important charity events on the calendar for many non-profits..."
To read more, click here.

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The dZi Foundation partners with underserved communities in remote regions of the Himalayas to build sustainable, locally-driven programs that improve quality of life through advancing education and health while reducing poverty. Considering we raised over $250,000 last year this is definitely something we wish to continue participating in!

For more photos and video from the race you can visit us online here.

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September 19-22


The Trois Etapes marks the end of our European travel for the year but not all SV:Travel trips. While Italy, Spain and France provide some of the world's greatest cycling routes we would be remiss not to take advantage of California-based destinations. This Fall we are heading back to the Eastern Sierras of California and only have a few spots left!

Still energized and feeling motivated to keep the riding up, we have decided to extend our Endless Ascent Challenge. Some of you might have joined us on our Thursday Night Endless Ascent rides to help dZi Foundation board member Bill Keller reach his goal of 1,000,000 ft of climbing this year. If you are looking to stay motivated or just want to set a goal and challenge yourself to reach it, then join us in the Eastern Sierras this September!

Enjoy world-class riding with full SAG support, ride guides and some real tasty food!

To sign up or learn more about our trips click here.



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Official: Team Studio Velo/dZi Foundation wins the 2014 Trois Etapes Tour (France)

After 3 challenging days in the French Pyrenees, climbing over 20,000 feet and riding more than 200 miles, the 2014 Studio Velo/dZi Foundation team locks ups their second consecutive Trois Etapes, the largest pro-am race in the world and one of the most important charity events on the calendar for many non-profits.   



“A great performance from the dZi Foundation Black team on the Col du Tourmalet during Stage 3, as described by Michele Smyth of Cosaveli, “meant that the team (the US dZi Foundation Team) took an emphatic victory in the Trois Etapes Tour 2014.”



The Studio Velo/dZi Foundation  finished the fourth GC section of the event in 1:06:56, “leading by quite a margin”  over the competition, as described by the race organizers.  Hollybank Trust and Opportunity International, who also put in an incredible performance, retained top podium positions for the race. 



Michele continued her summary of the event by noting “the all-women’s team, riding for World Bicycle Relief, delivered outstanding results in all three Stages with 4x World Ironman Champion, Christie Wellington, and Specialized-Lululemon’s rider, Evelyn Stevens.” 



The final day’s race ended with an incredibly fast and technical descent town the north side of the Tourmalet, lead gracefully by our pro, Ian Field, the 3x and reigning UK National Cyclocross Champion. “It was great to have Ian back in the race,” say one of the dZi team riders, “after illness caused him to  miss Stage 1.”  Ian, whose depth and experience in cycling at all levels,  brought confidence to the team on the final day and consequently road tempo into a firm headwind all the way back to Lourdes, helping the team successfully survive the final kilometers of the day.  Once safely back in Lourdes, the final awards ceremony over a robust launch concluded the amazing weekend.  



Team Studio Velo / dZi Foundation takes Stage 1 of the 2014 Trois Etapes

As recapped by the race organizers of Cosaveli, it was an amazing day for Team SV / dZi Foundation here at the 2014 Trois Etapes, the global pro-am race in France.  We couldn't be more pleased with the result. 

“A strong team performance in hot conditions saw the dZi Foundation Black Team take the lead after today’s Stage 1 of the Trois Etapes Tour.

The day started with a closed road roll out and police escort from Lourdes. The early neutral section hugged the river through some of the most stunning scenery in the Pyrenees. The first test came on the Col des Borderes, a short leg stretcher before a fast descent down into Arrens Marsous and the start of GC1 over the top of the Col du Soulor. Points were awarded for the seventh rider over the line.

The weather proved to be one of the biggest challenges with temperatures reaching the low thirties; making good team work, a solid strategy and hydration all important factors. The teams then dropped down to Eschartes to start second timed section, the Col des Spandelles. The top four riders’ average times were taken for this section.

It was the dZi Foundation Black team who took an early lead in Stage 1. The charity has enjoyed continued success at the Trois Etapes, winning the Trois Etapes Giro event earlier in the year. As far as team stage racing goes, it’s early days and there’s still plenty to play for. Tomorrow's Stage 2 also features the Col du Soulor, from the reverse direction. (Note, it was dZi Europe, a team established here in Europe that won the Trois Etapes Giro this spring, not the current team). 

This is the fourth Edition of the Trois Etapes. The events give riders the chance to truly experience team cycling, with the full support that a pro would have in a Grand Tour.”

We are so incredibly proud of the event’s youngest rider, Studio Velo client and friend, Eli Kranfuss, who rode the best ride of the day and is becoming quickly our absentee pro. 



SV:Travels rolling from Barolo to France

The 2014 Italy Cycling Adventure finished this past Saturday, culminating 7 days of incredible rides, typical Piemontese meals and Barolo & Alba wines from the world-class Langhe region. Some might say it was all too much:  too much wine, too many meals, and too many kilometers.  Others might say it was the perfect combination of all three.   The consensus, however, can be seen in the tired faces, the radiant smiles and the shared hugs demonstrated at departure time from our home base of Castello Rosso.  


Once everyone made it safely on their way, it was time for staff to rest, recharge and prepare for the week ahead.  Some of us head back to Studio Velo; others head off to race in the Trios Etapes, the pro-am annual race to support our partner non-profit, the dZi Foundation. The transition is tough, actually. The body knows nothing but early mornings and late nights; too much wine and large calorie-rich meals; too little sleep and long days on the bike and lots of “on” time. To get a sense of what it’s like to be a guide on these trips is to see what one does post-trip.


The first order of the day is to toast a safe, fun and adventurous trip.  Staff heads out for a long, casual lunch in the countryside where the wine flows and the course seem never-ending.  This is exactly what we did on Saturday afternoon.  By 4pm, the Dolcetto d’ Alba wine bottles were empty and belly full one last time before more strict measures for race preparation set in.  Off to a long siesta, the team catches up on some long-overdue rest.  By early evening the ‘batteries’ are recharged and the next feeding is lined up.


The following day usually begets a big ride, but this year the Italian Riviera called. Another full rest was in order. The am train ride gave us more time to catch up on some reading, rest and email.  45 Euros later and we were sitting on beach chairs at the foot of the Mediterranean.  Life is good.


By the following day, the “three musketeers,” as we were called, sought out a new cycling adventure in its own right.  130+ kilometers and nearly 7k’ later, we had discovered another incredible loop. Starting near Fossano in the center of the Saluzzo Valley, we headed towards the high Langhe region.  Right, left, straight, right, left, left, right. We literally turned any way we desired.  Small roads, farm roads, gravel roads. It was a true adventure. By the time we hit the high point in the Langhe, it was lunchtime. 


We decided to head toward the coast, to a town we had passed on the train the day before, and began a long, 15-minute descent to Ceva. A town far from its industrial height, Ceva sits in the Alpi Maritimi mountain range between Cuneo and the Liguria coast and was void of people and activity. Fortunately we found one restaurant open and proceeded to our daily gluttonous ritual: 3-course meal and lots of bread.


Following lunch, we proceeded to return to our starting destination, two hours away.   It was a jolly good ride back to Fossano. A few hard pulls, a few small climbs and one exciting town-sprint finish.  We rolled into Fossano at 5pm, stopped by the local Gelato stand and indulged in milk shakes made with my favorite Straccatella.  Glorious amounts of milk, gelato and of course some Osmo recovery mix at the end. It was the perfect end to the perfect day on the bike.




Part 2: Pivot -- Into to the Desert

The Place:

The first thing I noticed about Arizona was that it really is a desert.  It’s not just hot or dry or sandy; it is 100% full on Yosemite Sam, The Three Amigos, standing on the surface of Mars, desert.  Coming from temperate green, redwood grove, coastal northern California, this was a stark contrast.  The heat is dry and heavy, and the wind feels like a sauna door is being opened in your face.  I remember asking Brien, our Pivot sales rep, before getting on the plane: "if there was anything I should bring that I might not normally ride with?", and he said, “a hydration pack, the bigger the better."  And man he wasn’t kidding.

The Pivot building is in Tempe, a section of the greater Phoenix Area.  A large unmarked warehouse style development where from the outside might as well have been a cardboard factory.  A few very off road capable vehicles parked out front with trailer hitch bike racks is your only clue as to what’s going on inside. As you walk in the front door you are greeted by a small “showroom” displaying a few of the new Pivot bikes, highlighted by the Phoenix Carbon 27.5 downhill bike. 

In general this is a very reserved, low-key facility, which is surprising because some of the brightest and most active minds in the industry are churning away thinking of how they can create a better mountain bike.

The main shop portion of the facility is loaded with machinery.  They have all sorts of CNC machines and testing machines, forging equipment, and a 3-D printer for making test parts.  The facility is top notch and it alone is worth a special visit.  All of the employees are friendly and welcoming, even excited to see us on the walk through.

The Rides:

Because of the heat we started our first ride just before sundown.  It was still nearly 100 degrees, but there was a mild breeze that made the environment quite pleasant.  In a photograph the trail conditions might seem pretty unforgiving.  The dirt looks loose and deep, there is no shade, there are no roots or ferns or shrubs.  The conditions are just about as different from home as physically possible.  Different however, doesn’t always mean bad, and I was pleasantly surprised at how fun this desert was to ride.  First and foremost, the trails had really good traction.  The kind of dirt they have there has a very frictioney (made up word) feel to it, like they put carbon paste on all the rocks and pebbles.  I took Chris’ advise and did not change the air pressure in the Ardent race tires that were on my demo Mach 6.  Although it seemed a little high to me at first, it actually worked out well.

On the first ride we did in the evening, the trail was undulating all the way through with one 5-minute exception right at the end.  There were no long climbs or descents, and you could pedal throughout almost everything.  This ride was perfect for a trail bike demo.  There were plenty of semi technical lines as well as some pretty smooth lines.  I’ll say it again, traction was really good, so much so in fact I got a little over confident a couple times and almost crashed.  On all of the bouldering sections you could really carve into the rocks and force things to happen.  A number of times I went into a section much faster than I would on a similar section around here or in Tahoe, just because the tires hooked up so well.  One other interesting detail I immediately noticed about these trails, was how, unlike in Marin County, you could sometimes really see way up the trail because there are no trees or bushes.  This made things even faster and more predictable.  Before I knew it I was having an absolute blast, and completely forgot about the bike or why I was even there. 

That’s when you know you are shredding, you just forget everything else around you. 

The next morning we did our second ride.  This time I rode a Firebird 275.  The ride was completely different this time around.  Instead of a rolling trail, we rode uphill for about 1.5 hours, stopping occasionally to take in the view and get a quick explanation from the guides (Brien and Chris).  Again, traction was great, and today there were even more boulders to climb over.  There were lots of cool little rock/boulder shoots.  We have a lot of very technical climbing around here as well, so I felt pretty comfortable with everything.  I could see getting really into riding the same sections over and over, trying to beat a time or run a cleaner line.  At the top of the climb we turned around, just an out and back today, but the downhill was a whole different ballgame.  Keep in mind I am on a 7 inch travel bike, dropper post, and sitting on the wheel of a guy who has probably rode this section of trail more than anyone.  All I did was follow his line and the bike was spectacular.    

The Bikes:

The Mach 6 is like a really pedally downhill bike.  I may have just invented a new bike genre there but I don’t care, that’s how it rides for me.  I think it is a fantastic bike for almost every kind of riding out there.  On that first day you could open it up and really flirt with disaster while feeling in total control.  Cornering over bumps is probably the best part about this bike.  Even though there were no roots there, I could really see this being a fantastic root handling bike.  It felt like more travel than 6 inches on the downhill, and it pedaled uphill quite well.  Out of the saddle uphill burts were very, very effective.  Technical climbing was no problem.  It felt as heavy as it is, but the anti squat properties of the DW design counter balance the weight nicely.  We have so much steep long climbing around here, I have become pretty “weight aware” on a mountain bike.  That’s not to say I’m a weight weenie; I just know when I’m riding a 30 lb bike vs something more 1 hour steep climb friendly.  I would not call it the perfect all around Marin bike, but that is just because of how much steep fire road climbing we have to do in order to reach any trail that is going to push this bike.  I can think of a few trails I would LOVE to get this thing on, but when I picture doing the climbs up to it over and over, I prefer my 429c with its more all-mountain build. 

The Firebird 275 bike that I rode was the most perfect bike I could imagine for the trail I rode it on.  I would not prefer any other bike.  It is very similar to the Mach 6 overall, but its just a little bit more bike.  More bike on the uphill and more bike on the downhill.  We were climbing at a very mellow pace today, so the bike was just fine, but if the pace dialed up, I would have been at a disadvantage over the 6.  The Mach 6 being carbon helped as well.  The stiffness to weight on carbon really shines on an all mountain application.  The way I see it, if I hit something hard enough to crack a carbon Pivot, then I am probably putting a catastrophic dent into a metal bike. 

Either way, the Firebird was impressive and super fun.  I want to get one now.  I think it would be the most perfect bike for the Tahoe area.  This bike could handle the downhill experience at Northstar and then go rip a Rim Trail run.  You could take it up to Downieville and do a loop as well.  It really is a fantastic blend of traits.  I think there are very few other bikes out there that could sit in this spot.  In some ways I think this is a better bike than the Mach 6.  I really feel like if I want a bike that can handle a technical, rocky, unadulterated downhill run, with jumps and drops, this is the bike.  It can still get up the climbs effectively, similar to the Mach 6, but then on the descent I can really open it up.  Geometry wise, the Firebird has a lower BB, shorter wheelbase, and longer chainstay length.  When you combine these attributes with a little more travel and a 36 fork, it makes for a uniquely handling bike   These are very personal preferences.  To be honest I really want all the bikes.  But when faced with a bike to compliment my current 429c, I think the Firebird would be a little better. 

All in all I was blown away by what Pivot is doing down in Arizona.  It is almost like they have their own little bike manufacturing and testing mecca.  All of the staff were welcoming and accommodating as well.  I look forward to the opportunity to reciprocate the experience and show the Arizona guys some good Marin trail riding!