Lessons from the Felt bike launch

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Key to successful launch – free beer

It’s been awhile since I’ve gone to a product launch.

Early last week I flew out to my old stomping grounds of Southern California to visit the guys at Felt Bicycles. They were showcasing their 2014 line and attending it were about 30 journalists all there to check out the upcoming Felt bikes. My review of the Virtue mountain bike line was posted on DirtRag.com, but other than learning about what Felt has been up to (some damn cool stuff), I discovered a few things too.

UPDATE – The 2014 Felt AR

The road bike embargo was lifted and my review of the Felt 2014 AR is posted on Roadcycling.com. I’ve attached images of the new AR in the galley below. I believe that aero improvements are what we’ll see in future bike designs from all bike manufacturers. Getting a bike down to the 14.9 pound UCI limit is not a problem for bike companies and in fact they could safely reduce the weight even further if the UCI allowed. The next design frontier to improve is aerodynamics. That said, companies are hitting the ceiling with that as well. Frame drag has been reduced to that of a deep profile wheel. Like I mentioned in my RoadCycling.com review the cross section of the frame tubes, in some conditions, actually create lift. The problem is the rider.

During the Tour de France, and I’ve noticed it again in the US Pro Challenge, the riders in shorter road stages or ones that will end in a field sprint, are wearing skinsuits and aero helmets. There’s only so much aero that designers can do to a bike – the rider is the next object that needs to be improved. These improvements in the “soft goods” category of cycling will be purposely placed stitching and panels to reduce drag on the cycling kit (Castelli does this on with some of their clothing), to aero helmets that are slippery with improved cooling.

The Bachelorette is a popular show with the ladies
I don’t talk a lot to seatmates when I fly. However a very pregnant woman sat next to me and was discussing loudly with her friend the latest episode of The Bachelorette. I couldn’t help but laugh and they caught me chuckling. I explained I wasn’t laughing at them, but I found that show’s premise of finding “true love” on a reality show hilarious, as they did too.

I also learned how much a pregnant woman can eat. As we waited for the plane to taxi she devoured a pizza and a good sized slice of chocolate cake. I made it obvious to her by joking how lucky I was to be her seatmate because she had so much food. I thought she might offer me a slice or a bit of the cake. No dice. She plowed through it like a lioness chowing down on a gazelle.

My next Bachelorette incident was when I was waiting in line for coffee at the John Wayne Airport Starbucks. Again, a lady was telling her two companions that she had missed last night’s episode and was playfully lamenting how she didn’t know if Desiree had found true love.

I couldn’t resist butting into the conversation. Maybe it was the early morning hour or the lack of coffee at that moment, but I told her the Bachelorette was the NASCAR equivalent of human emotions – we watch it secretly hoping there’s going to be a crash. She agreed, but also said she just liked to watch it for the romantic outcomes. I told her she really didn’t – you watch it for the crashes. Then I got my grande Verona drip and wished them a good flight. I’m sure she thought I’m an arrogant asshole.

Product Launches
I like attending product launches because for the most part bike industry people are cool. We all like the same things (bikes) and there’s usually riding and drinking. That’s a good combo. The Felt launch, thankfully, stayed true to this plot.

After talking bikes there was an opportunity to ride. However, some journos had flights that day or were trying to beat the infamous 405 freeway traffic, so a portion split for the day. There was only a handful of writers left and the Felt guys pulled out a cooler of beer. Caps were popped and soon we were drinking free beer and bullshitting. Good times.

Speaking of free – I grabbed an extra sandwich thinking I’d eat it the following day on my flight home. I neglected to store it on ice and left it in my messenger bag. The next day at lunch time in the Houston airport (my only layover before the final push home to South Carolina) I reached into my bag and pulled out the sandwich. I contemplated not eating it because it was chicken and I hadn’t bothered refrigerating it. Fuck it – I ate it and didn’t have to buy a crappy nine dollar burrito to get me through the day. This was not really a learning experience but more a confirmation that I can eat anything with little to no effect to my health. The one exception – I always get sick when drinking Jägermeister. Always.

Helmet = conversation starter
I brought a helmet along on the trip in case we rode. Helmets are kinda a pain in the ass to travel with as their size sucks up room in the luggage. As this was a short trip and United charges $25 to check a bag, I brought the bare essentials and jammed them into a carry-on suitcase.

The helmet is too bulbous to pack inside the luggage so I used the chin strap to attach it to the handle. The TSA guys asked if I ride and what I was currently riding (the TSA guy at John Wayne rides a Moot). As I was waiting for my flight people would ask me about the helmet and why I had it. They knew it was for riding, but why travel with it? I explained why I was schlepping it around (going to/leaving a product launch) and my job is writing about product launches, which satisfied everyone’s curiosity.

Working out
I am going to blog more about this at a later time, but I need to workout to keep my back strong or I’m reduced to walking like Quasimodo. As a result I try and get in a core training session in the hotel gym. Some hotels have crappy facilities while others would make a franchise health club green with envy (I’m thinking of some of the hotels I stayed at for the USA Pro Challenge stage race in Colorado.).

I was on east coast time which meant I went to bed early and got up around 5AM, plenty of time to workout before the product launch. I have a copy of Tom Danielson’s core workout book which I use for exercises, in addition to some extras my trainer recommends. Forty-five minutes later I was dripping in sweat and starved.

I have learned, or more accurately accepted, I’m getting older and my job of sitting for long periods, combined with bike riding isn’t the best for my back. Like I mentioned above, I’m going to write a post about this later, but I need to strength train. After almost two years of core training I feel like I’m in some of the best overall fitness of my life. Not the best cycling fitness of my life, but quality of life fitness, which is more important to me. That’s not to say my cycling has taken a turn for the worse, as I feel the core/strength training has improved my power on the bike and smoothed out my pedal stroke. I won’t get into all the details now, but I recommend Tommy Danielson’s book “Core Advantage: Core Strength for Cycling’s Winning Edge” (and Sam at Greenville Fitness & Rehab if you are in the Greenville, SC area). Just don’t do what I did and wait until you are in a lot of pain. An ounce of prevention will go a long way to improve your quality of life.

It was a good trip and big props to the guys at Felt for showing us the 2014 goods. I can’t wait to throw a leg over the new rigs.


  1. Robb says:

    I fly with my helmet strapped to my carry-on bag as well. My favorite go-to responses are, “I am a REALLY safe traveler” or “Have you ever seen what happens when one of these things goes down? I want to be prepared!”

  2. Mark says:

    In March I traveled to Bend OR, and my helmet was busted in my duffle bag. I won’t do that again. It ended up cracked in a few different places. Then I started thinking, what was worse. My helmet being cracked? Or being that poor TSA person who touched my helmet and got close to those onion smelling helmet pads?
    That helmet needed to be replaced anyway.

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