Podcast: Aaron Kerson of PNW Components & MTB influence in Gravel

podcast pnw components

Our partner in podcasting, The Gravel Ride Podcast, speaks this week with PNW Components Co-Founder, Aaron Kerson. We dive into the growing influence of MTB technology and philosophy within the gravel market and the benefits. Wider handlebars and dropper posts are making their way onto more and more gravel bikes. What do you think?

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Automatic Transcription by The Gravel Ride (please excuse all errors)

00:00:00 – 00:05:10

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This week on the podcast were welcoming Aaron cursing from pin W components after spending time at specialized bicycles and Marin. Bikes Aaron and his wife. Emily decided there was an opportunity to create a components company originally focused on the mountain bike market. But over the last few years, they’ve started to develop products specifically for the gravel cyclist I was excited to learn more about errands background as cyclist, and really keen to dig into the mountain bike influence of the products that they’re pushing forward on the gravel side. So with all that said, let’s dive right into my interview with Aaron Aaron Welcome to the show. Thank you man appreciate it. Yeah. I’m excited to talk to you I always like to give the listener a little bit of an idea about your writing background because we all come to drop bar gravel bike riding from a different perspective. So how’d you get started riding and what? What are your favorite disciplines? Yeah you know I. got started actually through DX racing when I was scotch like I. Guess it started when I was about eight at the NAPA. Valley be an extract, which is I will the original ones is no longer there but yeah it was into that is had somebody’s that got into it. I was awful a Chubby Chubby kid who is you know like the idea biking but I had such bad asthma couldn’t really make it work very well but just kind of stuck with it, and then eventually a a friend’s brother left there twenty, four inch wheeled. Specials raw copper at my house just for I don’t know. Forgot. It never came picked it up for for a few months and I started writing around in dots when things totally changed like having the ability to have gears. Get up and over hills just I think just opened this whole window of like freedom to be able to get out and kind of do your own thing, and that’s really what hooked me in. So yeah, I got I got started on the mountain bike side of things, and then eventually that led into downhill racing. And Gosden then got into dual slalom, which was a combination of BMX in mountain on the downhill side of things. That was really my sweet spot for a long time. So Yeah. was racing the what was called the Norba circuit at the time. So it was traveling around. Doing down in, slalom racing. Got Some sponsorships work my wake up to like semi pro level again, never of superstrong athlete but I had the skills I could kinda cobbled together a run. Here and there. So yeah, got started not way and then. Now I’m doing more just trail and gravel. So it said it’s been kind of the full progression over the years. But yeah, I got quite a quite a bit of Viking under my belt these days Nice I love those stories that similar starting off and be Max, and although I will say they being in the Napa area you’ve got great dirt I know the be maxine was big back in the day up there, and then the mountain biking trails are surprisingly good in Napa.

00:05:12 – 00:10:02

So I guess yeah. I take completely can admitted that one puts. So that was that was really big. So we have been Napa Valley World Cup a UCI will. Eventually, was the UCI GRUNDIG World Cup was actually in Napa so that was when I was like. Gosh I don’t know twelve thirteen, fourteen years old. We added a few years in a row. And that completely. Like my dad volunteered has course marshals in you know was like watching Tinker Juarez raised back in the day. Cool to see so that Kinda hooked me on at the time that was the only type bike racing really that there was was cross country. So that’s technically how I got started as I. I did that and I remember I the last year was in Napa I signed up to race. I lap in like. Again Chubby kid with asthma like just way overexerted myself, I. And my body cramped up and so on the they have this big downhill where everyone would watch and I just fully cramped like arms legs, everything cramps I fell and tumble down the hill and I. I’m a buddy of mine was filming documents. I have I have some footage of that I should pull out Sunday but the other writings give me and it’s super rocky really steep ton of punchy climbs. It gets really sandy in dusty in the summer and then. That led me to writing a Tahoe. That’s where I would always race the downhill staff and so I mean it’s just like sand. So that was a really really. Just. Kind of as a side note like now living in in the Seattle area completely opposite train in it took me a good season up here to kind of recalibrate on like what it’s like actually having grip in corners had to come into a corner in. Like whoa okay that was way too slow like I think I can carry more speed and now go back to Tahoe just totally a fish out of water. So it’s it’s been an interesting transition. Going back and forth. That’s what’s always fascinated me about writing in different places whether it’s mountain road or gravel is just the different terrain that gets front of you in the different techniques required to successfully navigate it. Oh it’s totally different. I mean, yeah. It know with the more loose stuff i. mean you’re your, there’s a lot more. described. As you know kind of pinching the seat just to keep the keep some semblance of normality when you’re on the bike justin like, okay we’ll off his lungs. I’m pinching the seat if even if the bike is all over the place at least, this is my like center anchor point for the bike in the front end can kinda wobble around or whatever, and then up here it’s completely opposite. It’s just really creepy with the exception of wet routes. Obviously. Squirrelly. But. Just when the dirt good in in moist I mean it’s so tacky. So it’s a it’s a very different style Yeah, and then on the gravel side too it’s like. For me at least I really love the train that we have up here because you can cover a lot of ground. Your lungs are clear. You don’t have to worry about. DASS. Especially, you’re in a group which is really really nice. So it’s again. Yeah. Just just a different experience in a grew up with. Yeah. Absolutely and I think for the listener now often get asked about gravel bike up or just riding techniques and it’s so dependent on where you are and I was like to describe it as you’re sort of putting skills in the bank like the first time you ride through sand, you’re not going to know what the Hell to do, but you will the second time and you’ll eventually get technique the more you’re on it and the the best most well rounded riders have just put all these experiences in the bank so that when they come across a rock garden or sand or some other type of situation mud, they’re just kind of know how the Bikes GonNa feel underneath them and they can adapt from their home writing environment to this you know the positioning and the skills required to navigate whatever’s in front of them. Totally agree man absolutely agree. Yeah. In in with Bike set-up to it’s cure, we’ll get to it but yet it’s kind of cool seeing how folks. because. It’s just it’s. Converging both sides, right. Let’s people coming from road into grab seen people coming from mountain more towards road. I’m it’s kind of this really cool intersection. So then seeing people’s Bike set-up between the you know it’s very clear typically like where what side of the spectrum that coming from into grabble on which is really exciting to see too. Yeah absolutely, and I’m super keen to get your perspective but I’d love to hear about kind of your journey. So you you were racing mountain bikes you’re in love with bikes, and then you found your way into the bike industry. Do you WanNa talk about how that experience eventually led you to founding peon w? Absolutely and so yeah, I was working in shops Gosh through high school, and then through college on summer break search by I. Really. Got Lucky I mean not quite honestly just one of my best friends and Writing Buddies his his dad owned a bike shop, and so that was an easy in but I had worked at a few shops before that.

00:10:02 – 00:15:35

But that was really like where I was. Able to take on more responsibility and you know he trust meet at you know I was doing mechanic work in a little bit of sales but that was really cool. So I was Kind of at a point in life whereas during to think about what what did I want to do you know Post College And I got to speak with a lot of the sales reps We carry track and specialize were are to bike brands as well as Santa Cruz. So it was a really cool shop. So got to chat with them and understand more about the industry, and of course, the reality of what it’s really like was absolutely different than these little kind of tidbits getting through a sales rep, right? Because I’m like translating things that they’re saying into my own little like idealistic. Mindset of it’s like this magical thing. So Yeah, anyway. So workshop the I did that for a total of about an years and mainly was doing it to pay for you know getting employed discounts on on bike stuff in paying for my racing really was yet. Obviously was living at home and didn’t have those types of expenses quite yet. So it was all about racing but Yes, once I got into college I, went to school called Sierra Nevada College Tahoe in the big draw, there was which is fantastic, and then also they had a While they had interest in starting a bicycle race team So I came in and was able to start it and it was the president of of the race team and it really was mainly me on the team, but they’re able to to fund racing and and help promote the school through through that way. Continue to that. But then I at the same time, I also really was starting to see that like okay probably you know. The reality of me becoming a professional cyclist definitely, not happening and then. I think it’s time I focus more on my studies and trying to figure out how to get a job. So I really for whatever reason and it just the timing. Like my junior year of college it just totally Click I. Got I. Love studying on his boring this as this may sound I love studying business I really got into. All my classes and was able to land an internship with angel. Investment, group called the Sierra Angel. So Angel Investing being you know investment in in early stage companies Learned a lot about that side of things and was able to actually jog out out of college at a startup there. So did that this is unrelated to buy expert with the reason I’m bringing it up is basically knows employee number six at the start up our product was a residential scale windmill or wind turbine so we could actually produce energy for your home. Really cool product but. Unfortunately We had some infighting with our board. So our to our investors got into a pissing match with each other they both colder money out at the same time in the company went bankrupt so. I. was out on my own trying to figure out what to do and just through kind of networking of just buddies I had in the bike industry or just writing buddies on I was able to. Get my resume to specialized. And it just happened to be. A Devon young used to make bike videos and yet done work for this one guy at specialize in just happened to be that that person out of the five hundred employees there was the one hiring for this role. So just total random lack of high school friends knew this person. in so is able to get an interview and went through the process and was able to land a job as a product specialized. So kind of this weird transition house of things but that was my first intro into truly into you know the the development side of of the bike industry. That was very cool. That must have felt like a dream job dream opportunity for you. I remember it was funny my manager Deacon, at the time where the guy who was ultimately making the decision I. Think he thought he communicated that I got the job but I still was under the impression I was waiting to hear back. So I finally I hit him up I was like man I’m sorry just for my own sanity you know like what’s the deal is Oh oh yeah you know you’re totally in yeah. No you can start you know in two weeks. I remember I was in the car and I just I. Yelled success. So so happy that is the silica a dream come true to the developing these bikes that I grew up riding and selling at the bike shop news. Really incredible feeling. So yet jumped in there and threw me right into the fiery was within three weeks of being there I was on a plane going to Taiwan to go. just happened at that time of year was right when we’re finalizing SPEC decisions for bikes you know coming to the following model year and that was absolutely eye opening was touring factories. You’re on the ground floor understanding how the bikes are assembled, and then you’re you’re meeting with the sub suppliers who make all the little components gone the bikes, and then you’re you know I was more witnessing at the time but you know watching my my team negotiate pricing with Gosh over one hundred vendors it was just a total grind imagine what must have been eye opening just how far in advance These decisions are being made you kind of think about it on the consumer side of things that Oh, the new model year dropped, but some product manager had had to make decisions on trends and colors and SPEC in six to twelve months in advance of that moment in the shop.

00:15:36 – 00:20:10

Yeah. No, that’s true in after do it for a few seasons for me at least a it kind of took the magic out of it because you have your friends like Hain and what do you think about the new twenty twenty one bike and I’d like who you really should wait till twenty, twenty three. Time out. It’s just like man I think. So that’s two years old like I was working on that two years ago. and. So you’re kind of. You’re in this. Weird. This weird space and like even signed a a check to my to my landlord with like. Two years ahead on the date. You know like I wrote like you don’t this would have been. A real like twenty, thirteen, twenty eleven. You know something something like that because you really are living in this weird time space thing that’s going on is absent part was weird. Yeah. That that definitely I don’t to be quite honest. I don’t totally miss that part of things like it’s exciting working on new stuff but on the aftermarket side like doing now it’s nice being a little more connected with like what’s happening. Right now. I. Think at least for me and then you had another experience with a a medium sized by company after specializes is that right? Yeah. Yes it is specialized. Yeah. So is there and quite honestly I completely burned myself out on that place is really impressive with what they do It’s a very fast paced environment I mean you’re you’re you’re just cranking I gave it everything I had and I burned out. So I left in then I ended up at Marin bikes I’m in in a product management role but being a small company, you’re doing both product development and product management so. That the differentiator, there is like. Cleaning what the model families are. The product families are coming up with new concepts for all new bikes and then also working on the marketing side of things like who is the customer? How do we speak to them working with the marketing team to come up with? What imagery should be using? How do we make? What does the copywriting process in? How should that be an crafted for each to these families and videos and all of that? So that was really cool. and then through some unfortunate stroke of luck we. ENDED UP, having to Seattle through basically family business. So wasn’t able to travel anymore and I had to leave Marin. ’cause you know Gosh traveling thirty to forty percent of the year. Amelie internationally. So that was super disruptive with with what was going on up here. So we emily and I a uprooted ourselves from California came up here to be to be with her family. So that leads us to team. W. So. I was working at Amazon like. Totally out of my wheelhouse, but they were hiring aggressively in some product management experience, which was somewhat relevant to what I was working on there. And very quickly. Found that sure like really really cool experience just to see how a company like that does things and learned how to. Sell products online effectively and connect with customers, and do you know product as a software development user testing, all of this exciting stuff. But it’s not the bike industry man it was I really miss that aspect in I also found that. I was used to being of thrown in the fire and being like all right. You’RE GONNA have to be like somewhat good a lot of skills in a place like Amazon at least the role I was in you needed to be really good at one thing and like. Don’t get involved with other stuff and for me that you know being very entrepreneurial like that just drove me crazy. Bigger scope wanted the more responsibility coming out me. So on that that was a struggle. So Emily, Ni-, kind of like you know what? I were we were really wanting to create something and have kind of this destruction given the family dynamic that was going on with with her dad being sick. And a distraction for me from doing stuff that wasn’t super passionate about. So we started thinking like you know what’s missing in the bike industry and what how can we help this like it’s You know we have enough industry experience in also direct experiences. A customer will where we frustrated and it’s like. Well, customer service is a major concern as at the time it leaves a lot of brands kind of like. Wow you broke it while to bed or like, Oh, you’re having an issue. Well, we can’t get back to you for another week or like just no response at all this crazy stuff. So we knew that could be improved We also knew that pricing was way high just based on the pricing that I saw at the factory level you know everyone’s using the same factories I knew at other brands were paying staff and anti-black like wow.

00:20:10 – 00:25:05

So it started this in now I have to pay this at the retail service young cash register. That’s insane. In D-. Start thinking about like white will why is a big part of it is? Just. The Way businesses restructured the very high overhead costs. They had these really fancy offices. Or just high headcount or they’re spending a ton of money sponsoring. You know, World Cup race teams, millions of dollars going into that which guess what you as a customer you’re paying for that through the sale of product and that may not be something that everyone is interested in. and the other side of it too is just. You know if you sell through distributors, you have to mark up your product lot because the distributor also needs their margin So you’re kind of arbitrarily pumping up the price. And a lot of life felt didn’t really benefit the customer like what if you don’t care about Tour de France if you don’t care about. The distributor that’s offering the product and you just want a really cool quality product that you feel good about. and then from emily standpoint being marketing and branding graphic design group Guru that she is she’s like well. There seems to be opportunity where we can create a brand. That is focused around. You know has a high end look to it, but then it surprises customers in terms of the the ability and the reliability of the product. So. Those are kind of all the things that came together and we. Got Started. You know we’re living in a hotel at the time accident. We didn’t have a place to live up here quite yet and. I remember calling wannabes factories that I used to work with on that. I actually developed a dropper post with with them when I was at specialized and hit him up, gave him give him an idea of what our ideas and he’s like. No no way I’m working with you. Way Too small You’re crazy. So I just. I was like, no, no, no. No, you don’t understand. So I just I kept I kept on it four weeks. Just, like like really we need to do this man I’m telling you this is the future we can make this happen I know. Over small, but just trust me on this one. So finally he came around, gave us a chance which really changed everything so that that was our first opportunity to to start developing product with them and selling it. And Yeah I think. I. Think that was a pretty pivotal moment and it’s also what I’ve had to do continuously just really tenacious and staying on things. ended. It enough working out in that in the long run. So it’s Yeah. It’s been an interesting for sure. Amazing. Was At first product launched. Did you launch with a single mountain bike dropper post single mom by backdrop riposte in in nowadays like there’s no way would even sell like it was just way off the back You know things have changed rapidly since then but yeah, we came in with one product one diameter one travel. and you know. That that’s that’s what we needed to get our start, and then we got really aggressive or I got really aggressive at the time with trying to develop and push with with other product offerings But yeah, I, mean droppers were are staples for the first like three years that we’re that we’re getting going and I feel like it was a category as a mountain biker that the kind of your rock shocks and your other brands it was super expensive to get that product, but it was becoming very clear from writers in forums that having A. Dropper. Post was game changing for bike performance I. I can imagine there was a lot of people looking at the product and then asking themselves who is pm w components and can I trust them? Yeah and that was the that was the number. One thing that we knew we had to like once we got started I was like, all right. Well, we have to gain trust and have to do it very quickly. So like what’s important customer? So we started thinking about it’s like well, US touting how awesome we are is basically is as good as as. Basically, useless right like that shouldn’t have any weight. So we need to get validation. So like okay, what we need to leverage customer reviews totally unbiased random customer coming in buying a product, we need to really encourage them to give us a review have to be honest about it like we can’t do this weird slimy stuff where it’s like, Hey, we’ll give you a thirty dollar Gift Card if you leave us a review if. You’re leading the witness not fair So it was like you know, how do we encourage people to leave reviews? That was a big one? We then need to leverage these reviews in terms of. Getting them out there in front of other people. So they understand like Oh. Okay. Well, this person has experience in. Wow. Wow. There’s hundreds of people had a good experience interesting. I never heard of these guys but seems like other people are interested but still there’s that other piece of trust.

00:25:07 – 00:30:09

To instill sedan, it was like well, we need to get out the big media outlets obviously, very important for that. So, you know I had connections through my days Ranan specialized with different editors at you know pink by single tracks vital all these different Publications so we got long-term reviews through them. And then kind of tying it all together is like will where people looking for product and where are they trying to educate themselves and learn and it’s like, okay while social media, obviously as a big a big piece of this in it’s growing Think back four or five years ago like that. That’s still relatively untapped in the bike industry. people are looking on youtube and they’re look Google. So we need to be an all of those places and we need to be there in a really helpful way. We can’t just be loud and proud. It’s gotta be very helpful in tasteful in how we’re doing it and that’s that was all emily. On making that happen. So that’s how we looked at the more traditional way of doing things at least that time was your shops get the word out there which we then transitioned to at a later point. So we have a very strong ID. IBD Network, which is awesome to see grow. but at the time it was yeah, again, we wanted to be. In, front of customers where they’re searching for product. As. Opposed to you know paying for like print ads in magazines or again sponsoring race teams because to me that’s very biased like having a pro riders. Awesome. They think the stuff that they’re being paid to riders. I think customers are much smarter than that and they know that that’s too biased opinion. That was the auto at the time. It’s fun talking to you as someone who came across Pin w4 a mountain bike post probably six seven years ago I. Want to say at this point and gone through that same journey from the other side, which was kind of okay. Being a little bit and Craig credulous that you could have a solid product at the price point that you offer at then digging into the reviews and saying well, what the Heck I’m going to give it a try and then been. Away by the product and the experience I’ve still got that original post on one of my mountain bikes crank today So it’s cool that you shared the Amazon part of the equation because I think it really rounded out how you thought about the company having the bike industry experience. But then also that Amazon experience in how you know you’ve gotta be right out there with the customer online and see the products got to be solid and the experience on the site has to be solid. Yeah. No in all. Speaking about Amazon you was really interesting is you’ll be launched on Amazon right off the Bat I knew. Again, there is a huge bias at the time against Amazon from the bike in his was like it’s crap it’s like Walmart. And I was like, okay, fair enough. But guess what like I’ve seen the data? There’s a lot of people on there So you can see what you want about it like I’m GonNa view this as like a blue ocean opportunity it’s like you can hate on it but again, that’s what people are doing a lot of their shopping and whatever your views on Amazon and their their impact on society. Again is where people are doing a lot of things in. So they’re they’re buying may be. A cellphone charger and a dropper posting. It’s like this weird mix of stuff. It’s your one stop shop. So we need to be on there and we need to merchandise properly we need to play the game with how Amazon wants to played ensure enough to see was since we were new. Gosh about seventy percent of our sales at in the beginning Ron Amazon thirty percent between your website and other retail outlets. In what was going on I? Think people didn’t trust US yet. So they would go on Amazon. They knew that if the product sucked Amazon would give them a full refund and if they bought from our website. Like maybe that wasn’t true you know. and. Since then now that we’ve we’ve built trust and we were we were more established. Now complete opposite is happening on Amazon’s a a relatively small piece of our total sales channel these days and it’s it’s primarily through a website, which is beautiful thing we want direct contact with our customers. That’s the best way of doing it because then we can. Interact with them. You know like if we have a new product announcement, we can email people are If they have an issue, they can contact us directly I mean that’s the best way as opposed to going through. Customer Service on Amazon or retailer. So anyway, it’s just a it’s been interesting shift kind of seeing how that has changed and it all comes down to. Trust in gaining REPUTA- ability through other people telling other people how good we are. Where we can continue to geek out on the e commerce side of things because you know it’s a passion point of mine as well. But I want to get into the gravel product line that you have and talk to me about sort of when you started to see the trend of drought gravel when you started writing it yourself and coming from a mountain bike background what Were you seeing in the market that created opportunity for you guys.

00:30:10 – 00:35:01

You know it was it. It really came from Internally, I mean our our team We have some really really really avid gravel writers on the team and I love them because they are to me least a kind of. motor vehicle in tune. The Car Benny Way it’s you know it really is. It’s IT’S A. Road bike with mountain bike inspiration in terms of a little bit more lax Te’o Tad slacker. Head, to angle more of a relaxed fit in for me having a broken my back before it’s. A bad back like being on like being on a tarmac. For instance, for me is really uncomfortable and then also having the ability to have you know the larger tires that absorb bumps more I mean even cruise around town I just prefer it I love them. So anyway, it started internally obviously the market. For Gravel has grown tremendously we don’t sell bike so that doesn’t directly impact us, but just the fact that people are fixing up. Either buying a dedicated gravel bike or they’re buying, you know some other type of bike in kind of building it out to be more gravel inspired. That was sort of what started to happen and we finally got a toe in the water our first technically. Gravel focused product would be that we have a line of twenty seven to diameter choppers, seat posts, and we we we brought in very early on. And it’s a mix of you know folks on like let’s say a steel hard tail mountain bike or people starting outfit. Seven hundred C bike. and so we started to see this evolution in in what was cool as customers would send us photos of what they were doing and it was like Okay. So you have like A. A road bike You’re able to squeeze a little bit fatter Tyre in their very cool and now you WanNa drop her post on it. Because maybe you’re doing like a local cyclocross series. That’s kind of how it started for. US was kind of like what would be like you know like the Golden Gate, Park series that was going on. We had a lot of folks doing that, and so we had externally routed cable routed dropper posts in twenty seven to that’s really what started to lead us into the gravel world, and then we came out with a dropper remote that could fit on a drop bar. the first rendition that we had mounted right next to the stem, and now we have one that actually mountain in drops themselves. Okay. Are you accessing that? I had a I had a listener asking me about this the other day about external gravel dropper posts and they weren’t they were running a two by drive trains that they weren’t going to be able to integrate it with their left shift lever. How how are you accessing it? Are you in the drops and then kind of reaching your thumb up to hit that lever? Yes so Yeah. So drop our lever is if you’re down on the drops I’m you can access it with some you can’t access it. We’ve had some people do some interesting stuff they actually flip it upside down in actually mounted on the outside of the Bar, and then that way you can tap it with your fingers whether you’re on in your hoods or down in the drops I’m so that was cool was something I hadn’t even considered, but that was again. Customer feedback kind of let us in in a much better direction. It’s interesting in and a lot of my listeners I imagined at this point are dropper curious because I talk about dropper posts all the time and how much I love them for for gravel riding the cool thing and I experienced this on my mountain bike with your product in running an external. Routed dropper post is quite easy to swap out. So if you’re one of those listeners kind of on the fence or maybe you don’t have internal routing capabilities, don’t hesitate to try something with an external routing because it it can be pretty cleanly mounted the in terms of the cable to your top Tube and you can test it out and if you’re going on a road tour or something where you don’t feel like you need. It’s really easy to pop it off swap your original back on. That’s exactly what I do. That’s funny. Bring that up because there’s times around like all right. I’m just going to go on a road ride and there’s no point in having a dropper because I’m not doing much elevation gain so I’ll take it off because it’s just you know it’s added weight and what’s the point and what I do is actually so BMX brands like freestyle BMX bikes, they had these really cool Velcro straps in their soft on one side that side that goes on the frame. So it doesn’t scratch the paint and then they’re made to just grab cables because a lot of BMX bikes you know most people run break lists but if you if you WANNA run breaks. There’s usually not cable mounts for him. So these drops. Really Cool. So I ordered them through dance comp dance competition is a big online retailer for BMX parts and so I use those in that that holds the cable under the frame, and then when I want to take it off unstrap Lem in pull the cable offsets.

00:35:01 – 00:40:24

Super Easy. Interesting, no zip ties or anything after the I like that because I’ve always done the zip tie thing and that would really save me a step. Your also, you know the zip ties us things rattle and you get some grid narrow. They can really Scott your pain which not everyone cares about that. But when it comes time for resale, you know have someone pointing out it’s like, wow, I don’t know man this thing’s pretty beat up. It’s limbless thing. Yeah. Exactly. I think my first gravel bike I just absolutely destroyed because I didn’t put any thought into how hard everything was going to bang around when I was writing it the way I did all my Riding. On the like Tam on that. Some of those virus immune sister rattled fast. So yeah, the bike it’s really really rattled out. Exactly Early on in the conversation, we kinda talking about gravel drawing from lots of different sides of the sport and you certainly have a lot of road athletes who are familiar with drop bar riding coming over to gravel typically omitting mimicking their same cockpit setup. So you know an average male might choose a forty four. Centimeter bar you came out with the coast handlebar and you’ve kind of blown that out your minimum sizes, the forty eight centimeter, and then you’ve got five to one. Fifty two centimeter as well. Can you talk about the design of the coasts bar and why you think wider bars have a place in gravel? Yes. Yes. No, that’s that’s a great point. So yeah, after drop as we transition. So the bar is the the first like dedicated product on that we did for for gravel. So cool thing about the coast is what we did is we went with a shallower drop shallower reach and then and then widened the bar. So coming from the mountain bike side of things it was always. DESCRIBE IT I. Mean Getting on like I would run like a forty two or forty four bar and when I was out of the saddle peddling like just felt twitchy and for me as I guess, that’s just how a job as whatever. But the more we got to thinking about it you know on a mountain bike, we’re running like seven, seven, hundred, eighty millimeters even eat hundred ten like writing law. Some people prefer the larger bar but know if you’re writing downhill or something governor much wider bar. And the biggest benefit is stability because when you have your, you know if you’re thinking about like. You’re looking down on the stemmed from the top view and kind of turning your bars that it’s a much larger circumference and therefore when you’re when your hands are really wide. more movement to have the wheel pivot down the centerline. If that makes sense like if you’re really really close to the Stan like on fifty, the bars can be really twitchy but the wider you are, it’s more stable. So that’s the biggest benefit for gravel, and now that we’re taking these things off off road, you want more stability because that front end once it starts to chatter around that’s. In my opinion at least it’s pretty sketchy. It can be scary because if you hit a bump weird you body weights a little bit off and you can’t correct it or if you over correct like you’re going to over the bars whether you’re on a fire odors single tracker whatever you’re writing so. That was the opinion came from as well. Let’s take a little inspiration from the mountain bike side make these bars wider. But to do that, you don’t WanNa suber you know deep drop or a ton of reach on the bar itself. So you Kinda WanNa, you WanNa make that a little bit more neutral. And then with that to keep your reach numbers in in line. So imagine if you take your arms and you go wider, you’re going to be leaning in more so you’re actually. Effectively, becoming more stretched out and see want counteract that by. Reducing your stem links. So our general realism, and of course, you know this is very much. You know torso and wingspan dependent. But our general estate is for every twenty millimetres wider that you go with your bar width you’re gonNA WANNA. Short your stem by ten millimeters. So it’s kind of a rough kind of napkin calculation so Yep. So anyway went when you’re going up to forty eight or even fifty two that’s that’s definitely something to keep in mind just so you’re not getting way too stretched out. It’s great getting the mountain bike influence more into gravel I think and we’re seeing more and more. I certainly recall my first exposure to a wider bar was generally from more from the bike packing side of the world were you know having additional bar space? Gave you as you said, additional stability and give you more room to pack stuff on your handlebar. But as I’ve ridden the coast bar and Rydin, the four hundred and eighty millimeter version all the things that you said, have rung true. I’ve really feel like I can pull the wheel over obstacles better when I’m on the hoods being out wider and I definitely get that feeling that I have on the mountain bike in terms of my ability to throw things around and then combining with the shallower drop it gave me a little bit more confidence making that movement from the top to the bottom of the bar in chunkier situations, which was super comforting and the combination of the two with the dropper post I feel like I can sit very well in the pocket with the width and the shallowness of the coast bar that makes it super confidence.

00:40:24 – 00:45:08

Inspiring. Totally man I mean I’m thinking of a situation. Now, there’s a sloop that we do just road loop from the House and. It’s a section where you’re bombing downhill you’re cruising thirty, five, forty miles an hour coming down, and it has this big swooping left hand corner that then knows goes back uphill and there’s some chatter in that corner and so when I’m trying to transition from being in the drops, backup to the hoods and turning, it’s terrifying when there’s a really long when I have like a more traditional road bar but with these bars being more shallow like I, it’s just a such a quick little transition with my hand and its way. Less of a scary high-drama. event. So Yeah. That really was it and the the other part is we added quite a bit of flair to the bar as well and that that also helps with just kind of General Comfort when cruising. But also on that hand transition backup to the leads in a little bit more intense situations it really does help yet have to say like the for me, you know many of the listeners may have seen bikes like this. When you have flare, you start to see the break goods kind of point inwards and upwards, and I always sort of had a I don’t really like that and I will say like the twenty degree. Degree flares is kind of. The most I think I would wanna see just aesthetically still have that little bit of Rhody and me that that has a vision of how the handlebar should look. No I totally agree man I’m I’m definitely more of a purist in that standpoint to like road bikes are beautiful when they’re well-executed and you don’t WanNa deviate too far from that I have seen those some brands of made. Dedicated clamp that will actually a dedicated Or really. That actually has some some angle to it so that it actually will counteract what you’re talking about but with our bar, we don’t need that and that’s when you’re really getting like that really extreme. Yeah like A. At the COW Chipper Bar, for instance, again, quite a bit player. That’s where that starts really come into play is quite interesting. I’ve been thinking more about how I’m configuring my bike as personalization I was previously using the word upgrades and I actually think it’s a misnomer because I think a lot about what you’re doing with your gravel bike is just making it right for the terrain. You ride the most and I fully acknowledged like where my setup has gone. It is definitely gone more towards the aggressive road setup and much farther away from the kissing cousin a road bike that I started out with when I began my growl riding journey. No you’re you’re spot on I yet saying Saint Upgrade I mean I think that’s just something we’ve all you know like you buy something new you assume because it’s going to be quote unquote better but like Yeah, it’s just different. Justice getting you’re just you’re really kind of recalibrating your bike for what you’re using it for now with gravel happening so fast there’s a lot of that man. I mean it’s Kinda like is perpetual journey of like okay. Well, now, what about tires? Okay. We’ll how handlebars cable what about my saddle you know like there’s all these things that are adopting really fast. Out of this, yet almost like a whack a mole type of game where you’re like. Yet trying to trying to keep up with the trend in the in the newest stuff here. Yeah. It’s actually pretty easy to go nuts if you sign up for an event in a different part of the country to kind of agonize if your home bike set-up particularly tires are appropriate for wherever you’re heading. I agree on present I’m constantly Consular fees struggling with what tire is optimal for what I’m doing and there’s not a tunnel I mean there’s a lot options, but there’s the really aren’t actually in in comparison to like. Ruined or mountain bike There’s a lot of little iterations between and I’m in terms of. Casing Tread Design weights as well. But yeah, with gravel that’s pretty quickly moving and also just with frame compatibility like. You not frames can ride a super wide tire for instance An interesting thing. Yeah. I definitely see that as a trend in something we’re tracking on the podcast for sure just the. Frame designs, accommodating wider tires because I think it does end up ultimately giving you a super wide range for that bike. So you know put some thirty slicks on it and it can be a great road turing machine and then go out to like a seven, hundred, five, forty seven, and you’ve got this wicked offroad setup. No. Totally man. Yeah and you know the obvious. Challenge, there is maintaining hugh factor and all these things I mean, the the the engineers that are working on the frame again, really good at it.

00:45:08 – 00:47:34

The other one that I’m sure you’re tracking is internal cable routing capability for dropper posts on. That’s a very mixed bag. which also kind of forces a lot of folks into an externally routed dropper if that’s the direction they’re going, but we’re seeing more and more adoption it’s just more like if you’re buying a used bike there’s a whole generation that just don’t have internal routing yet, which again the end of the world, but it’s it’s something a lot of people want. Yeah. Becomes an ice and slick when you’ve got everything inside although I don’t relish the slotting the cable through the frame exercise, which sometimes can be very challenging. Sometimes awful. Terrible that’s Some some you know I guess it’s frame specific. But Man, I’ve had some like literally taken an hour to get the cable ranch this on my God. The summer getting good like some brand dedicated tube that actually channels at all the way up and that’s awesome. Thank Yep exactly. Well, Aaron thank you so much for the conversation. It was great to get the history of you as a writer and of PM W. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know you and testing some of these products which I’m enjoying a lot. Absolutely man I, really appreciate you avalon and If anyone else questions you know retail. I mean that’s what we have a very solid team here. We love chatting with folks so Yeah. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions right on thanks Erin. Awesome. Thank you. Big. Thanks to Aaron for sharing his story with us on the gravel ride podcast this week and big thanks to our sponsor Athletic Greens. We can’t continue to do what we do without these sponsors and the sponsorship that you guys have provided via by me a coffee DOT com. The gravel ride it’s been awesome hearing from. So many of you, and if you’re interested in giving us a shout ratings and reviews or critically important. So we super appreciate that and I read everything you put out there speaking of feedback. I, also wanted to highlight that we’ve created a new facebook forum. So if you search for the gravel ride podcast, you’ll see a group you can join where listeners are discussing some of the things we’re talking about on these episodes as well as the in the dirt episode. So I welcome you to join that group and look forward to hearing from you there. So that’s it for this week, until next time, here’s defining some dirt under your wheels.

The Gravel Ride Podcast


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