Global Bike Launch: Specialized Stumpjumper and Rhyme FSR

Covering the global launch of a bike you’d dream to ride, by a company at the top of their game, is a cycling journalist’s dream. The mercury in the dream status meter blows right off the measuring chart when that launch is in a location that most riders choose for their holidays.

When Specialized Bicycle Components contacted me about covering a mystery new trail bike in Rotorua I read the email a few times to make sure it was real. While bike launches are one of the busy perks for in-house journalists, it’s highly unusual to invite a freelancer, particularly a female one. This speaks volumes about the priority Specialized place on making sure informed stories on their products are reaching a growing global audience of lady riders and readers.

The itinerary was split over two separate camps so journalists from top cycling publications around the globe would have a chance to get to know the series of products on offer and experience them on the wide variety of trails offered in this location.

I found the opportunity to get to know these other riding writers and Specialized staff as valuable as the opportunity to trial and report on the new 150mm women’s trail bike, the Rhyme, and associated new equipment: the Ambush helmet, Atlas knee pads and the women’s SWAT vest, a mesh undergarment with pockets to stow your riding goods.

The comical side of attending the launch as a freelancer is pitching articles to different publications prior to knowing what products you’ll be covering. A reputation for polished work on a wide range of subjects makes a big difference in this regard, as does an ability to go beyond the obvious to cater to different interests and audiences. The list below shows the variety of outputs from the trip.

Links to features and product reviews for BikeRadar (UK, USA and Australia)

Specialized Rhyme FSR Expert Carbon 650b – first ride review. (The first online, in-depth review on this bike for an English language audience.)

Women’s cycling products: what matters and why? (An industry overview on cycling products for women and the research that informs them. This article includes interviews with cycling industry staff from Specialized, Trek, Liv, and Yeti, and elite cyclists, Peta Mullens and Tiffany Cromwell.)

Specialized Women’s Mountain Liner Vest and Shorts with SWAT. (Review on cycling undergarments with secret storage compartments).

Links to features and pieces for SBS Cycling Central (Australia)

Inside insight: Specialized Destination Trail media camp. (Behind the scenes of the camp and reflections on working in cycling media today.)

Interview: Specialized Amira women’s road bike. (A chat with Specialized Global PR Manager, Katie Sue Gruener, about women’s road bikes and the research and feedback informing them.)

Out of my league…and so happy about it. (An opinion piece on a steep and muddy ride in Rotorua, after the camp concluded, and before product embargoes were lifted.)

Other articles

No pack? No Worries! (A short, newsy piece on the women’s Mountain Liner vest for Bike magazine, Australia.)

“Equipment, Innovation and the mountain biker’s taskscape.” In H. Thorpe & R. Olive (Eds.), Women in Action Sport Cultures: Identity, Politics, Experience and Pedagogy. (Forthcoming). Palgrave Macmillan. (Insights gained from this trip helped to inform an upcoming academic book chapter on the behavourial and social implications of cycling equipment designed for female riders.)


On the Topic of Flow

‘Flow State – On the Topic of Flow’ is a feature article I wrote on the psychological experience of Flow for the mountain bike magazine of the same name. It took the academic work I’ve been doing in this area and shared it with the community that’s been the subject of that research.

I like the way the story was laid out for print. As you turn from the opening page to the next, a rider appears on the trail ahead. For me, Stirling Lorence’s images immediately conjure up sensations of pumping the bike behind a smooth and skillful rider along a timeless section of trail. I love that mountain biking brings on experiences like this so frequently.

Flow state p1Flow state p2-3
The article talks about the characteristics common to these sought-after states and how they relate to optimal experiences on the trails. Examples of an absence of flow are discussed as a way of looking at how riders can change how they think about or approach the trails. This helps to make the euphoria of a flow-type state more likely to appear, leading to increased enjoyment and smoother, better riding as a result.

Academically speaking, this work opens the door to new ways of understanding embodied problem solving and filtering strategies – such as those riders use to stay in flow longer. It also helps us to better understand the techniques athletes use to perform as well as possible when things aren’t just ‘happening’, or simply don’t go to plan.

This research demonstrates the active and important role of thinking during such scenarios. The risky, variable and fast-paced environment of mountain bike races means participants discuss these phenomena in insightful and articulate ways.


PDF of full article in Flow Mountain Bike, Issue 2:

Bicknell – Flow state – Flow Mountain Bike – issue two

Weblink to an academic paper I wrote on this topic:

The Feel of Five Minutes