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RBC Whistler Gran Fondo 2017

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

This year fondo would be a little different. The last one was conquering the course. Instead of the majority of the effort, stress, planning going into the ride & maximizing the overall effort, it would be directed elsewhere. Having seen how many people shopped around the expo, this was the new focus. How could I spread the Spandex Panda Collection to more people & enhance their riding experience?

Our first year with a pop-up store at the Velo Spoke Expo. Having seen the continued increase in riders to this event & how the 'expo' was set up the day before, having people shopping for those 'must-have's' for the next days big adventure, this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

To my pleasant surprise, people loved what they saw. The introduction of our knitted, Italian made merino clothing stood out from all the modernized, flashy designs & ‘stinky’ synthetic options that everyone was making.

Our collection is still in the growth stages, as I continue to look at the pieces necessary to complete the collection. The knitted après sweater & classic jersey along with our classic cap were the first pieces made. The next was our first round of the Primo Strato Short Sleeve. A base layer that could double as a social top. Seems like the 'must have' piece for any cyclist that loves to see the world & wants to travel light. Why bring a base layer you can only wear for your on-bike adventures?

The stressful one was the last minute arrivals of the NEW World Cup Polo's. I remember the scramble as the polo tops had just arrived in the country that week & the day before the expo, finally arrived in Vancouver.

Now what should my pop-up shop look like? Nick from VeloSpoke put me in a great spot & our goal for this was predominately exposure. This is the first time that we'd be on a larger display at an event with this many participants. Making sure our new 'square' system was working was key. I also had another 'special event' comic done up for this that was distributed around.

People stopped by, chatted, shared some stories, tried some pieces on & as the day went on there were some more pieces of the Spandex Panda Collection now riding around. It had been a little while but Spandex Panda himself actually made an appearance. Yup, he made a few laps, gave out a bunch of Hi-5's & add a little bit of FUN back into the cycling world. All in all, the first Velo Spoke Expo turned out to be a success. Now for a little pre-ride pasta & to get ready for a ride the next day.

The morning hours came as early as they did last year. The difference, a little sprinkle. This year there was a call for rain. The question was, how much and when would it start? This was the guessing game. One of the great features with merino is it's ability to bead off water. In light, drizzling conditions, you actually stay dry & the moisture doesn't soak in. As the rain intensifies, than water begins to leak through the material. The first 20km or so were fairly dry, not really much falling & then as we left the city of Vancouver that began to change. What did this mean ? Well I had the SPVC Classic Knitted jersey & the baselayer on.

What happens is once you get wet, you get wet. That's it. Even some of the fanciest, highest 'waterproof' tech designs & materials that exist keep water out..... for a while. Unless there's some kind of a collar sealed around your neck, the zippers has waterproof seams, the seams are all heat sealed than maybe you could keep out the water. Chances of you wearing that kind of a jacket are slim. Why? It doesn't breath. Once you put that on & zip it up, it's great for keep the rain out, but now you've created a little sauna. You body is still putting off heat & there's nowhere for it to go. So you start to sweat. Now instead of rain making you wet, it's the sweat you're producing which can't escape.

As the ride progressed, we all got wet. The rain did let up for about 30 min or so. Now this was the magical time when what you wore made all the difference. Everyone is wet & a bit cold. Check. But with the merino tops, because they're porous, the wind from us riding could now dry them out. This meant that our body temperature could actually warm back up & we could re-set. If you didn't have something like this you were in trouble. The moisture of your jersey would stay wet & your body would not be able to warm up. As you continue to ascend the Rocky Mountains, it also begins to get colder. Wet & cold is a bad combination at the best of times. Now add in to the equation that you're still in a group ride setting, the roads are wet & you don't have a change of clothes. Dangerous. Some people began to experience signs of hypothermia. When you can't hold onto your handlebars or worse, pull back on your brake levers to slow you down, now we've just increased the chances of crashing.

In these types of scenarios it's always best to leave room or look for an 'out'. Staying near the front of the group & taking more pulls keeps you warmer & also out of harms way. Once the rain started near the end of the ride, everything just amplified. Wet corners now became an increased hazard as both the surface became slippery as well as bike handling & braking capability of slightly hypothermic riders meshed. Crossing this finish line unscathed was one to be celebrated. After a warm shower that is.

The 120km had created more challenges than I'd come across the previous year & it was an ideal playground to test the environmental limitations of the merino clothing. One of the interesting things I learned that the part of my body that was covered in merino (the classic knitted jersey & matching shorts) although a bit wet, were not that cold. This in comparison to the arm armers I had worn which were not merino & the bare legs. The shower proved all of this and it made for actually a fairly relaxing post ride celebratory beer after.

Another adventure in the books. A successful first, larger scale pop-up shop & a fantastic environmental test conducted on the product line. The event was memorable & something that I look forward to growing on in the future.

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