My trip to California!

I made it to the airport!

My trip to California started with wondering if I was even going to make it out there. The snowstorm towards the end of January caused my flight out of Dulles to be canceled, leaving us scrambling to find a flight out of anywhere.

Thankfully, we did! And at 2:30pm, EST, I was on a plane headed to California (well, this specific plane was headed to other flights, that would eventually get me to CA, but that's not the important part of this story).

I arrived in Morgan Hill, CA in the dark, so I had no clue what the place looked like until the first morning of class. From the hotel, Specialized provided us with a shuttle to HQ each day. That first day, I got to see a magnificent sunrise over the mountains surrounding the town, and was blown away by the beauty. 2 weeks of rain, prior to my visit, had done good things for the area... it was SO green!

We had our class in the main building of Specialized. There are a few buildings, all next to each other, that have different functions for the company, including their very own wind tunnel for aero testing.

Our first day started off with a tour. The instructors took us through the small museum that showcases a timeline, if you will, of Specialized... What the business started as, where it has gone, and how it got to what we know it as today. There are some really cool bikes in that museum, including the first ever Stumpjumper mountain bike! Specialized Bicycles has a unique start-up story, and I could delve into that here, but I'll refrain since it will make this post extra long. :)

After the tour, it was time for the classic "Lunch Ride". Everyday at Specialized, lunch time is all about getting out for a ride. The whole place basically shuts down and heads out for a road ride. How awesome is that?! The Friday lunch ride is called the "world championships". That's the lunch ride where everyone goes crazy all out, as fast as possible. The winner gets a sweet world championship themed Lunch Ride jersey!

Our ride was so much fun, very warm, and beautiful! We did about an hour total, and got to ride whichever road bike we desired. I picked out an S-Works Amira - a gorgeous bike with the "chameleon" pain job, and cotton walled S-works Turbo tires (the fastest tires in the world). This bike rolled so smooth and fast, I wish we could have stayed out on the road longer. It was like the bike was asking for more miles of pavement.

At the top of a hill just outside Morgan Hill

After the ride, and feeding our hungry bellies, we headed into the classroom and talked flat repair, hubs, wheels, tires, and how to true a wheel. Our group was only 8 women with 3 instructors, so it was a nice environment to be able to ask a ton of questions.

The first day flew by. We were headed back to the hotel before I knew it, and once we got there, I was ready for bed. It was the most lecture oriented day of the class and my brain was ready to rest.

The second day went over the skill I was most excited to learn - brake bleeds. Brake bleeds can become necessary for any bike with a hydraulic brake system. This is mostly seen on mountain bikes, but is becoming more common on cyclocross and road bikes. Hydraulic brakes are definitely worth the extra money for those of you that are wondering, even for the road! They are much more efficient and powerful, especially when it comes to conditions that are wet and/or muddy. Hydraulic brakes use fluid (not just any fluid, there are specific ones depending on brake brand), instead of a cable, to actuate the pistons that move the brake pads. This creates a smoother transition from light braking to hard braking than you would get from a cable brake.

I am in love with hydraulic brakes because of their efficiency, and was extra excited to learn how to do a brake bleed because it is a common thing seen in bike repair that I have not learned yet. Brake bleeds usually occur when air bubbles have gotten into the brake hose. They keep the brake from operating properly and feel "gummy" when you pull on the brake lever. Let me tell you, after learning how to do the brake bleed, it was SO rewarding to pull on the brake lever and feel that the smoothness of a properly working brake. No air bubbles!

Our ride during the lunch hour on this day included getting to play on the pump track! Oh my gosh, this thing was so much fun! The goal of the pump track is to head into it with speed and not lose that speed as you go over all the fun jumps, rollers, sharp turns, and such. The catch is that you're not supposed to pedal while you're in the pump track. The more skilled riders can pop wheelies and jump pretty high, and still not lose speed! I was a happy camper when I made it around 3 times without having to pedal. It was quite the workout! Riding the pump track involves a lot of body movement similar to swinging kettlebell squats. You use your body to keep the momentum of the bike going. 

We loved the pump track so much that when we were finished going over drivetrains in the afternoon, we got to go back out before dinner. My quads were so sore the next morning, haha!

The last day was the day I was looking forward to the most. Not because it was the last day (that part made me very sad, actually), but because this was the day we would get to go mountain biking! I had my eyes set on a Specialized Enduro Expert 29 since day 1, and now I was going to get to ride it!! It was so exciting and overwhelming, I was jittery the entirety of the van ride to the mountains. This is a BIG travel bike, especially for a 29er. I was curious to see how it would pedal on the climbs, especially the steeper stuff. All I can say is: WOW, WOW, WOW! I thought it would feel heavier with the big travel and the big wheels, but that was not the case at all. The geometry of the rear triangle made for a snappy pedaling, very responsive bike. And then, on the downhill?! I got so ambitious on the downhill because of this bike, that I tried to chase some of the faster Specialized guys down the mountain. I didn't catch them and maybe got a little too rowdy, but I definitely felt invincible on that bike at speeds I had never been comfortable with before.

Add in the fact that we were in an absolutely beautiful area with the Pacific Ocean just over the hill, and you get a girl that doesn't want the ride to ever end.  

The top of the climb. What a gorgeous view!

The Pacific Ocean is just over that hill.

Sadly, though, the trip had to come to an end. After a magnificent 3 days of warm weather, learning from awesome instructors, making new friends, and getting to see some pretty great spots in California, it was time to head home.

Friday was a day of traveling that started at 5:30am (pst) and ended at 11:30pm (est). It was a long day, but had no hiccups, so I'll just let you know that I arrived safely home, excited to share and use the information I had learned in the Women's Technical Retail Class.

I've already led one women's maintenance class using the techniques I learned out there, and it was a great time! I'm looking forward to the next few classes in the near future! Check out the Rocktown Event Calendar if you're interested. :)

This trip was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I want to thank everyone that helped me win the scholarship that got me out there! Your support and enthusiasm means so much and I couldn't have done it without you! 

More pictures from my trip are below!

Kelly PaduchComment