The Hotel at the Beginning of the World

Editor's Note: This is a big week for Stinner's Focus on Racing. On one side of the world, we have the Giro. Here in California, we have the Tour of California where the queen stage finishes on an iconic climb in Santa Barbara known as Gibraltar road. We see the racing and the beauty and the fanfare. But we don't see how these racers got there. Author Max Leonard takes us to an almost mystical training ground for many of the top pros. Meanwhile, later this week, we will focus on the nuts and bolts of racing.

On the Spanish island of Tenerife, in the Atlantic somewhere near Africa, rises the world’s third largest volcano, El Teide. And, at an altitude of 2,150m (7,000ft), stranded in the lava fields on the final slopes up to the 3,718m peak,  there’s a hotel. Lower down, the red-rocked scenery resembles the Arizona of the Grand Canyon. Up top, it tends towards the desolate, the extra-terrestrial. The hotel at the end of the world, you might say; or rather, at its beginning.

Teide’s last eruption was in 1909 (it is currently running behind schedule with its next), and so the land to the south west, which was formed as lava cooled from that eruption, is new rock, some of the newest rock on the planet. In that hotel, some of the world’s top cyclists – four WorldTour teams in all, and several loners – are staying. It has become the world’s premier venue for cyclists on altitude training camps.

They flock here because of the height, yes, but also for proximity to sea level.It is around 45 kilometres (28 miles) down to the sea, which means that it is an easy descent to good training roads: while sleeping high is good, too much time at elevation actually has a detraining effect. There is not enough oxygen to put in the big power efforts, and so muscles start to atrophy.

Why do it then? The main reason altitude training works – or at least, the main thing that cyclists currently use it to achieve – is to increase red cell mass. Sleeping and recovering in thin air stimulates the production of red blood cells, increasing the body’s oxygen-carrying capacity and therefore its ability both to perform and recover. There is also the important process of adaptation: start racing without spending any time at altitude and you lose 7% of your power for every 1,000 metres you climb. The big Tours are decided in the mountains, and the upcoming Giro features 10 passes over 2,000m – so contenders had better be ready. What is it riders actually do at an altitude camp? Nothing, pretty much.

For some teams, calisthenics together in the blue dawn; for others, early weights sessions; but mainly, the answer is nothing. Smash yourself on a ride, and then sit around on the hotel furniture and use the wireless (here, unusually, very good). Rent a movie on iTunes, perhaps, as you wait for your blood cells to multiply. Exactly how effective is altitude training? It’s difficult to say, since it affects every person differently and the most advanced experimenters – pro athletes and teams – rarely release their data.

Much of the beneficial effect can also be attributed to simply having nothing to do than focus on your riding and eating – doing what you’re told, in other words. It’s a mystic science that is oddly suited to this harsh, otherworldly desert. An act of faith that will only be repaid, weeks later, in the crucible of a Grand Tour ascent. 

Postscript: Enrico Gasparotto, the Wanty-Group Gobert rider, was one of the riders on Teide that week. The weekend after he descended he won the Amstel Gold Race for the second time.

Jennifer Hannon's Machines for Freedom

Machines for Freedom resides in a part of the cycling market that is grossly under-served: women's cycling clothing. Being a male dominated sport, most apparel has been driven by this market. And, one could say, naturally, "such is the market." Of course, the market will also stay stagnant until there is clothing that female cyclists could actually wear. Yet, as more women are join the sport, it seems only wise for big brands to start making clothing that women might like and wear.

But, there was something missing, still, a stitch in many women's sides, if you will. And, worse yet, if you were a woman not on a race team, the few kit options out there weren't exactly stylish. 

Meet a cyclist named Jennifer Hannon, who would go onto start Machines for Freedom a clothing company just for female cyclists. Jenn hadn't been riding all her life, only finding cycling in adulthood. Perhaps it took this outside perspective to see that the norm wasn't acceptable. There was no reason to merely accept the options available sacrificing so much style for a kit that felt but ok. 

Machines for Freedom has been seeing success in other ways besides selling apparel (and perhaps the most important way): creating a community of women around the brand who ride together.

Besides the name of her company, our brands have some latent commonalities that might be hard to express. We couldn't feel more proud having Jenn part of the Stinner community. Her new Stinner reflects her own style, doing what is classic a bit differently, taking something so simple and making small changes that alter so much.

We had a bit of a chat with Jenn about her cycling history, style, and what led her to taking a massive risk to start a company, though, a company that is direly needed. 

STINNER: How long have you been riding? What got you into it?

Jennifer Hannon: I have been riding for about 6 years. It all started when a friend coerced me to train with her for the Cool Breeze Century in Ventura and by our second weekend training ride I was hooked.  Riding quickly became part of my everyday routine, and when I found myself getting up at 5:30am just to squeeze in ride time before work I knew I had found my sport.  I have never been a morning person, and here I was getting up before the sun just to stick with my training plan. I barely recognized myself!

STINNER: What did you notice about clothing right away, or the bike market in general?

When I first started riding I remember buying clothes out of necessity.  I loved the sport, needed clothes to ride in, but wasn't all that enthused about what I could find.  I wasn't part of a race team or club so I didn't have a predetermined kit I was supposed to wear.  I had trouble finding kit that fit my sense of style so I ended up buying just enough clothes to get by.

What was the sort of "light bulb" moment that caused you to start a clothing company? What were you doing before and how did you put all your resources into that?

I started to think about kit while working with Steven Carre at Bike Effect on my bike fit.  I was having a lot of saddle discomfort so I worked with Steven over the course of several sessions to dial in my saddle selection and placement. We tried a few different saddles, made micro adjustments to my fit, and while all of these things improved comfort there was still room for improvement.  I was still having soreness and problems with saddle sores on long rides. Then Bike Effect got this rad piece of software that allows you to pressure map your saddle.  You essentially see where the pressure points are to determine if your saddle is in the right position or if there is pressure being applied in places you don't want it to be. Long story short, these pressure maps also helped us see how the chamois did not protect my seat bones. I tried on different shorts, with different chamois, and my seat bones always seemed to be skirting the edge of the pad.  It was this discovery process that got my wheels turning.  The idea was born out of desire for more comfortable kit, and evolved to explore questions of aesthetic, personal style, and vibe within the community.

What was your design philosophy going in, and how has it evolved? Or what has the focus been since starting the company?

When I started Machines For Freedom, I was really interested in exploring the intersection between femininity and athleticism. I was also interested in finding ways to make technical clothing feel feminine without relying on graphics and color, especially when it comes to basics like bibs. 

If you think of something like jeans, for example, it's pretty unlikely that you would ever be confused men’s and women’s. Though the pieces are the same color and fabric, there are key differences in fit and style which indicate which by type they are for. When it comes to cycling kits, however, my husband and I were constantly mixing up our kits because they looked so similar. If you create something designed for a woman's body, there's no reason it should find its way to the wrong side of the closet. 

What about Stinner attracted you? How does it relate to your style decisions? And how did you decide on the type of bike you wanted Stinner to build?

I have always loved Stinner's minimal aesthetic and sophisticated sense of color.  Really bright colors on bikes have always intimidated me.  For one, because I imagine having these bikes for years, decades even, and knowing how my tastes change over the years I tend to gravitate towards simplicity.  I also feel added pressure when riding a bright, flashy, bike.  Like, I better be fast!  I guess I like to keep by bike style pretty low-key, so I have always admired Stinner's paint schemes and color choices.  And I love the clean lines of a steel bike!  Feels classic.

 And when it came time to build the bike, I knew exactly the type of bike I wanted.  I already have a snappy carbon bike that I love, but that poor bike has been through the ringer on some pretty epic mixed terrain courses.  If I cracked the frame I would be heartbroken so I wanted a bike that was a little sturdier.  Going into the process I was a little nervous about steel.  I had never ridden steel before and I was worried about weight.  At 5'-11" I don't exactly have a petite climber’s frame, but I love to climb and didn't want to feel extra drag.  I have to say I am so impressed with the result.  I took the bike out for its first spin today and didn't feel weighed down at all.

How has the company evolved and where do you want it to go?

The company has evolved from a singular point of view, my own, to a blend of each person that is intimately involved with Machines For Freedom's growth.  Because we are small, there are no cogs in a big, well-oiled, machine.  Everyone's personality and creativity plays an integral part in creating the brand story.    I think that has been the most interesting part of the process.  It's no surprise that people often compare starting a business to raising a child.  You have dreams, aspirations, and goals.  You instill values and try your best to make decisions that send this young thing down the right path.  But no matter how hard you may try, you never have complete control.  This thing you have created starts to take on it's own momentum and it’s your job to guide it.  As for where I want it to go?  I want to see us continue to grow, play, experiment, push boundaries.  In general, keep having fun!

The Math PhD who nearly won the KOM Jersey at the Tour of California

Tour of California is special to Stinner, for obvious reasons. This year, and for the first time, a stage of the race finished atop Santa Barbara's iconic climb, Gibraltar Road. The local cycling community turned out in droves to experience the race on a mountain that seems to rise straight from the sea. It is this locality that is special. We were there with our friends to see some of the best in the world conquer our local measuring stick. And it was a great stage, a great experience, that brought everybody from the cycling community to the mountain road we love.

Bike racing, when it's in your hometown, is special.

Paul Mach was a PhD student at UC Davis, studying applied math. He was also racing professionally, at the time, for U.S. powerhouse, Bissell Pro Cycling. Two completely different worlds, two completely different callings. For one day, those two worlds merged. In 2010, Paul was racing the Tour of California for his Bissell Team. On the first day of the race, he made the day's breakaway and won enough points to be the leader of the King of the Mountain's jersey. The next stage started in Davis. Called to the line at the start, in the KOM jersey, in front of his family, friends, training partners, and academic adviser, he got to show what all those crazy training rides were about.

But by 2012, Paul was ready to move on. He became the director of Strava Labs working as an engineer before moving on to other exciting ventures. 

For this focus on racing, we chatted with Paul about what it's like to be a bike racer in the United States, what being a bike racer did for his life, and why he decided to move on. Most importantly, we talked about the community of the cycling world, how much bike racers truly love racing, and how racing shaped his identity.

Meet Paul Mach.

Stinner: So, how did you get your start in racing?
I went to UC Davis for grad school, I ran there for a few months [Paul ran varsity track as an undergrad] and realized flat farm roads were boring. There was a cycling community there, and I had some interest in riding a bike before that. I had ridden a little bit as an undergrad, but it was always like, “Hey, I like riding bikes,” but never like, “Hey I want to race bikes.”

UC Davis has a really strong collegiate team but grad school the first few years is pretty tough. As coursework went down, I had more flexible schedule to ride more. And each year I got a little more serious, a little more serious.

How did you justify racing to your academic advisors?
I did have a very flexible advisor, he was pretty open. And I did a pretty good job of generating progress, maybe not quite making as much progress as if I was working on it full time, but I think I picked the right advisor.

But once I got the climbing jersey at Tour of California, the next day started at UC Davis, and he was there, that was when he realized this wasn’t just something I did for fun . . . . well, it’s for fun, but it’s not just something that’s not going anywhere. That’s when he realized it’s kind of interesting. He’s from France, so he understood the concept of the climbing jersey. Once he saw me there, he got it. 

You were going to school still while racing on Bissell?
Yes. So that was good and bad. For the first few years, it kind of worked out. In Grad school, those years three and four, are just kind of like…you’re trying to figure stuff out, see where this going, when I was focused a lot on cycling. The flexibility was there not like years 5 and 6, where we need to have some sort of plan, so there was pressure from my advisor, from me. Not explicit pressure, but you can’t be 100% at both cycling and research. That’s definitely when my cycling performance went downhill. The stress of grad school catching up.

By 2012, when I was on Kenda Pro Cycling Team, it was less fun.  2010 was my best year. I had really good training partners, we were riding every week. By 2011, 2012, those people graduated, and moved on or were in the same situation, focused more on getting the degree done. It did become less fun at that point. And there was a choice to be made. Do I want to go to Europe? But that was never really something that I thought was worth it. Especially because I had so much going for me on the education front and I’m not going to give that up to get my teeth knocked in, in Europe. It just didn’t make sense.

When you were on Bissell, what did the other guys think?
I think it was different outlook. Bissell had better funding, so there were some guys who had been in the sport a long time, but to be honest, it really felt like high school or college. It’s like a four year thing. After four years of college you’re ready to move on. You thought it was theawesomest thing ever freshman year but after four years, I’ve been there done that. I’m ready to move on. I definitely felt that. A lot of the people who stayed are people who could be in college forever. I definitely started feeling that towards the end. Some of the maturity a little bit. Just from the jokes to the outlook, that five year plan. I’m married, I got think about a five year plan. They weren’t thinking that far ahead.

I was still cycling focused, I needed to show my value to the team and I was trying to do that. There were people on the team, on Bissell who were younger who had it, easy in a way. On Kenda, it was more scrappy. It didn’t have the funding, it was really good but guys had jobs, and for instance…Phil Gaimon was on the team running a clothing company at the time, everybody else was doing construction in the winter. Almost more like real life experience. They were willing to do whatever it took to race. I actually felt like more of a team there. I respected those guys a lot more, for the effort put into the sport.

So nobody really "got it."

On Bissell, nobody really got it or cared. There were a few times where I tried to mention an interesting tidbit, and it was like, almost laughed out, but on Kenda we had Roman Kilum. He’s a lawyer [he had graduated law school from a prestigious university and passed the BAR by this point] and he would always use his lawyer skills to argue with you. They were intelligent people and they respected it. They didn’t have money, but they were smart, particularly how to scrape the money they needed to be bike racers. 

What was the moment you were like I need to go move on? Or was it the team folding?
Kenda was my last year no matter what. My wife wa pregnant and I just knew in ten years do I want to be the guy with the PhD, working on cool stuff, or do I want to be the guy who almost kind of made it on the domestic team, and almost kind of made it in Europe. The best future for me , and I learned and developed a lot while racing, but the best future for me and my family was capitalizing on the education I got. I was fortunate in everything that happened to me, it’s lucky in some sense.

At the end of the day I saw the value in my PhD was higher to me. Do I want to be Dr. Mach, or do I want to be that guy was pro five years ago? I want to be Dr. Mach. 

Are you glad you did the bike racing thing still? Would you do it all over again?
Oh Absolutely! Yeah. Bike racing…you really build a community. Bike racing is unique in that you build a community. You train with guys all the time, you go to races, it’s a team sport. Like, how do you get to the races (especially when you’re new), what will you do about clothing, how do you figure out stuff…With the college experience too, you get to a race, a race weekend, the racing is just a small part of the stuff that goes on. That thing that goes on. When I raced track, it wasn’t quite the same camaraderie. I made a lot of friends through that.

What do you think, for most people…do you think they let it go too far?
Yeah, I think, there’s people that go through college and whatever and can make it work. And there’s people who go through that and can’t make it work, because they need to spend extra time in the books or they’re distracted by other parts of college life for better or worse. If you want to be a cyclist, you can fit in the time around your books, I firmly believe that. 

So it did provide…being able to strike a balance is easier said than done, and my position was easier than some other situations, but striking a balance, even academically, if you have this sport, it helps both sides of it. Until you go too crazy on one side.

Can you imagine just being a bike racer? 
I thought about that long and hard. Even as an undergrad when running track. What would it be like if I didn’t have to go to class? Could I just run and lay on the couch? All that stress…Almost for me being a student athlete, for ten years of my life I was a student athlete. I almost couldn’t separate it. What does it mean to lay on the couch? My brain couldn’t shutdown like that. Other teammates could. They’d go ride then watch Netflix all day long. The person who is satisfied doing that is different than somebody who I want to be. Whether that means having school of side hobbies. It doesn’t have to be a job, just something else.

Erik Joule: At Strava, I was fortunate enough to work alongside you. You were highly focused on your work, highly industrious. You inspired and led. Do you think your background in bike racing has influenced how you behave within an organization?

I never really thought about it that way. To be a bike racer, what you do, is you go out every day, you have to be motivated. To go out and ride hard the next day, you know you’re doing the similar ride you did last week, the similar training you did last year, you have to be disciplined, long term focused, develop long term perspective. At work, there’s this longer term perspective, let me put in the work now to make that better in later phases of that project. How do we lay a strong foundation. That points to cycling training, to base miles and building. I mean, it’s kind of like a chicken-egg problem. Did cycling teach you how to be self-disciplined and motivated? Or are you already that way and that draws you to cycling? Something makes, even that guy that rides his bike for four hours then does nothing but lay on the couch the rest of the day, something makes that person go and ride hard again the next day.

At work, there are things you want to push in three months and problems you want to solve in three years, or five years, or longer. I guess growing into solving or having those longer term problems, cycling may help with that. 

Epilogue: Whether you're a bike racer or not, cycling shapes our identities. Certainly, there is a time and place for our passions, and they can be formative. For racers, especially in the United States, it is a passion for cycling, more than anything else, that keeps them training and racing, even when the money isn't there. At the end of the day, all cyclists seem to have some underlying trait that pulls them together. And these traits show up in the workplace and in our hobbies. We owe Paul a thank you for providing some perspective on bike racing and being a cyclist in general. 

Bikes for Those Who Deserve Them: The Riviera Youth Bike Team

Despite different interests and backgrounds, out on the bike with our people, words flow and things just work. Disparate ideas suddenly fit together, as if puzzle pieces that just needed to be turned and flipped and oriented correctly. 

How lucky are we to have found this?

Now, imagine, you’re a kid or young teen. With no productive community that you can merely slide into, what are your options? You’ve been classified as “at risk,” but really you’re nervous or bullied or controlled by much bigger things that a kid can’t imagine fighting against, trapped in your head with nobody around. What if we could nudge these kids into the community of bikes? What if you could teach them about the satisfaction that comes from working on bikes? In fact, recent research has shown a relationship between cycling and improved outcomes for youth diagnosed with ADHD. But how do we immerse them into this thing in which we all so believe?

Meet Zack Bertges, founder of the Santa Barbara based Riviera Youth Bike Team (RYBT). Zack graduated from UCSB and started coaching triathletes, himself an ironman triathlete and cyclist.

Move to May 2014. Zack was happy with his coaching but a mysterious latent void crept into his life. On May 23, his fellow Gaucho & SB community was rocked when a shooter killed six people in Isla Vista, the little town near UCSB where much of the student body lives. Zack felt a sense of hopelessness and dread. After searching for answers, and hearing about the buildup to the events, Zack eventually discovered a potential to connect his skillset to something more important. He began examining mental health resources in effect. 

This is how RYBT came to be. Zack wanted to extend what he saw in his athletes to troubled or at-risk kids. Working with local organizations such as Child Abuse Listening Mediation (CALM), the Center for Alcohol Drug Abuse (CADA), the Franklin Youth Center, and local Boys and Girls clubs, he takes at risk kids from 10 to 13 years old (who often don’t know how to ride a bike, at first) and trains & coaches them to ride one California’s best cycling event, the  Santa Barbara 100. *  

Along the way, they learn how to ride in a group, about the fundamentals of training & community cycling, and how to work on their bikes.

After this interview was conducted, Zack was invited and accepted to the board of the Santa Barbara 100, in recognition for his commitment to youth cycling and collaborations amongst the Santa Barbara community.


Stinner: So, how does this all work?

 We’re currently offering three types of programs, and in-process of structuring to operate year-round. We have a “SB100 August program” that trains new riders to complete the 34 mile route at the SB100 in October, a “May Gibraltar Team” program that trains graduates of the SB100 team to climb Gibraltar, and we have a “March Fitness Prep” Program, that allows for kids to be automatically accepted into the August program, by attending various workouts in Santa Barbara from March-May.

 How do kids find you?

We start with CALM, which is a center for kids that are experiencing difficulties in life, or facing challenging family situations, and/or abused. They’re one of our major forwarder for kids, but we also have relationships with the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (CADA), Franklin Youth Center, Big Brother Big Sisters, and Boys & Girls Clubs. 

What RYBT is, is the next level of community building from awesome youth/non-profit centers to cycling. We have plenty of organizations that focus on kids & their mental well-being. On the cycling front we have such a strong community, from the local bicycle shops to groups like Echelon Santa Barbara who sponsors the team, and the Santa Barbara bike coalition, which is our fiscal sponsor.

And why the cycling community?
First, our cycling advantages in SB is awesome. We get to ride bikes year-round? From the beach to the mountains in 6 miles?? It’s amazing! Second, in the last three to four years, there has been a large amount of research produced on the benefits of cycling for kids, especially troubled or challenged kids. We’ve really been trying to take this research to the next level, and not just embrace it, but help move the ideas and potentials forward for everyone. The Specialized Foundation is doing the same, which has put a lot of money into researching kids with ADHD, and they’re helping to discover and produce the quantifiable advantages of kids riding bikes. Socially, the country is coming on-board, too- the NFL just donated 200 bikes to the local Denver area at the Superbowl, which is great, and we have organizations like Plus 3 Network that are moving dollars from corporations to charities for common fitness activities. The NFL has the capacity to do more, but it’s going to take groups like RYBT, Specialized, and local programs and coalitions to keep the momentum going.  And getting more corporations involved is part of that process.

Obviously, it’s a good cause, but what were some of the moments that led to finally just putting everything into this?

We all experience grief and hardship at different points in our lives, and I think I reached a new level of awareness a couple years ago. Events and frustration kept adding up. For instance, from when I was 4 until 9 years old, we lived in Newtown, Connecticut, near where the Sandy Hook shootings occurred in 2012. When Sandy Hook happened, in addition to the horrifying thoughts of what occurred, it rattled my family, and I because we remember, we’ve experience Newtown in it’s innocence, a place and time where my sister and I used to run-around freely. Then here in Santa Barbara we had the Isla Vista shooting in 2014, another place where I used to run-around, just a couple decades older. And in-between, I started realizing more about the fragility of life, coming to an age where I hear more about or witness friends or colleagues mishandling stress, hurting themselves, hurting others. And, I started wondering about how to address these mental health questions from a perspective that I might be able to help someone, sometime, with what I know. After enough events, enough heartache, my thoughts changed to action, planning, and some trial & error. I had to figure out what starts with kids mentally, at the youngest age that some random 29 year-old athlete, could access them, and try to inspire enough for assist them on their positive journey of life.  I wanted to teach them to manage life stresses, how to engage with athletes who may appear to be intimidating, and I wanted them to feel comfortable getting support in cycling or triathlons.

When Isla Vista happened I had a thought and decided to pair the adult triathlon team I started with Boys & Girls Clubs. We hosted monthly activities where our athletes helped the kids do something triathlon, or swim/bike/run related, while meeting some bad-ass & inspirational adults who were training for Ironman triathlons. It was an awesome experience. While I was doing this, I met Christine Bourgeois of the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. And then, last March Christine got a call from a local family foundation in town that has supported a similar bike program in Arizona for the past nine years, and we got connected.

So, that’s where it started.

Yeah, it was amazing timing. I had raced in three different countries for three different Ironman races, but I was my own coach, my own boss, and I wanted to be training for more reasons. I was just thinking, “man, I need to find something for a good cause, something that I can share my life with.” Being a young or old athlete can be pretty inspirational for younger audiences.

So, Christine called me one-day to introduce the potential of collaborating & building off of the Arizona program, and invited me to meet and hear more at Bici Centro (the local coalition bike shop) at an education committee meeting. When I heard more about the potential to work with bullied and/or challenged kids, and that this program needed someone to run with it…it struck a chord. I was bullied as a kid, too, got into a lot of fights when I was in that age range, and it was like, “holy shit, I can do this”, and I know what the kids are feeling. It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.

What’s the first day like for the kids?

 There’s a lot to it, but we tackle the program in a couple ways- a Tuesday gym class, Thursday spin class indoors, and then we do Saturday rides together. The gym and spin classes gets the kids moving, teaches them the pedaling motion. Then on Saturdays, for the first couple weeks, we start in parking lots where we do drills and skills with three additional coaches and myself; we are all certified instructors from the American League of Bicyclists. We use an ALB curriculum to teach the kids to behave on their bikes, to turn, brake and signal. With the community support, sponsorships, and fundraising efforts, we buy all the kids brand new bikes and helmets and the jerseys. They pay $50 to be part of the program, but we have scholarships for all the kids if they can’t afford it. We don’t let financial backgrounds stop kids from participating. Throughout the program, we fit helmets, bikes, jerseys, and shorts to the kids, and we teach them how to ride on various routes in the community.

The kids get this team feeling via the coaches, community and team sponsors, andan  education & camaraderie for the first three months, then they ride with other cyclists on their final day of the program, either at the Santa Barbara 100 in October, or the RYBT Gibraltar Challenge in May. One of the best parts is that they see the whole community, on a large-scale, many for the first time. They also get the post event atmosphere, watch hundreds of bikes ride together… it really is a pretty hard core immersion into cycling culture, and a ton of fun.  

The whole program and the final day is half about self-confidence and self-esteem building- they accomplish something they never thought they could do. The other half is about giving them the education and tools to be a responsible rider for their age. After the event they get five more Saturdays to ride and hear from guest speakers, everything from bike mechanics to Santa Barbara Police Department.

So they’re exposed to different elements of cycling in these Saturday sessions.

Yeah, for instance, at Hazard’s (a local bike shop), they build a bike out of the box with the staff, which come in early just for us. A separate time, the Santa Barbara Police Department bike cops came out and taught the kids what to do if their bike is stolen, and how to lock your bike with locks we bought for them…That was a really cool session, and a big success. I had no clue how that was going to work with the police department, but we gave the kids some real life advice and essential skills that resonated. And then, they went and rode for 2 hours.

Do you see kids come back to riding?

I get pictures from parents riding with their kids now. Even the parents are encouraged to show up on rides with the coaches. I’ll get pictures of parents with kids riding months afterwards and it’s awesome. We also use the parents to measure success of the program in real-time, and after. We also talk to the social workers of the kids (if they have one) to make sure there’s progress.


Are any of the kids taking cycling further?

Yeah, that was a big realization after our last program that we need to have the “next step” of a cycling program ready for the kids. That’s where our March program and Echelon Santa Barbara Cycling Club comes-in; I’ve been working with their board members for the past couple of months to create sort of this seamless route of cycling advancements, without pushing the kids too much into a straight racing culture. We do want them to know about the opportunities that are evolving, and they’re evolving fast, but the goal is to allow for resources conducive to a healthy bicycle culture.

And you’ve given up everything to do this, so to speak?

 Hah, I don’t consider I’ve given up anything…it is true that the coaches and I are operating as volunteers until we satisfy the annual organizational needs, and we do put a lot of time and energy into the program. But the reward and the service, and the awesome Santa Barbara support carries us. It’s tricky, though, too- it takes a fair amount of money and time to give the kids the experience that they get. But when you’re with the kids it’s all worth it. At the SB 100, when the kids crossed the finish line, people were crying, and I had cyclists approach me saying it was the highlight of their day. That was amazing to me! “Highlight of their day”, it was a selfless appreciation of seeing kids accomplish their goals, on bikes, from someone who just rode all of Santa Barbara…unbelievable. These are kids who are 10 years old who just rode 34 miles, and we were all so proud…we’ve gained memories for ourselves that mean more than the personal financial gain.

The Ultimate Goal?

We want to create access to this cycling culture, build their self-esteem, their feelings of self-worth, and give them an education that will create a lifetime of cycling memories and empowerment. You know, something else in these kids’ lives is so controlling, we want to create access to a culture to go further. We want to help create stories for kids who are happier who lose weight, or have more friends, or have something that makes the outdoors more enjoyable, and gratifying.

 But we also have small goals to impact the individual in whatever way we can. For instance, we had a kid from CALM in our last program, who was one of our most unique & challenging riders, as well as highly impatient. At my first meeting with CALM about this program, nine workers and child psychologists suggested that I take him into the program, and that he’d be a good, albeit challenging, fit to the program, and I said, “Game on”.

Week-to-week, there would be conflict, and throughout the program coaches and I would work with him to instill some trust, conversational values, and try to be a positive role model…He ended up being a great participant to the team, successfully rode the 34 mile route at the SB100, and we were all very proud of him.

I went back to CALM a couple months later to talk about our next program, and the Director had decided to call the rider to get a testimonial that she would read out-loud, at this meeting. And the short & sweet testimonial she read was,

“I had a lot of fun in the program and I learned how to raise my hand.”

That’s all he said! But all the counselors were like “WHAT?! He’s raising his hand?!” They were so shocked he was showing more signs of patience and social concerns, and it was awesome…I cracked up. And the staff was asking, “Zack, what did you do??” And I said, “Well, we gave him a bike and taught him how to ride”.

And that was as much a measure of success as it was of him completing the Santa Barbara 100 34 mile ride. We care about bikes and the ride, but we also care about what bikes and a community can do for emotional health & happiness. Hopefully the bikes can further assist to grades, behavior, and politeness for all of our riders down the road. But we work with kids who are going through so much…if raising your hand is a big step in the eyes of parents or child advocates, then I know we’re on the right track as a program for the Santa Barbara community.

Epilogue: That’s a lot of words but not nearly enough to describe what Zack is doing. These are issues of autonomy and social norms, of freedom and empowerment. To learn more or donate, head to Cycling can be more powerful than we imagine. If this isn’t a piece to fit under the Freedom Project…I don’t know what is. Communities are empowering.

Meet Black Sheep Founder John Polson

John Polson founded Black Sheep Cycling with a friend out of his garage. Now, it's grown to be one of the premiere kit brands for racers and club riders alike. It's not easy to find cycling kit that's both performance oriented, fitted for the young racer or your average weekend rider, and stylistic enough for those with tastes we might categorize as a bit more "out there."

Stinner is always attracted to other brands trying to change the cycling environment, altering outdated cultural infrastructure without upsetting some of the more inelastic traditions. Black Sheep's design philosophy and culture of creating a product that's performance oriented yet aesthetically pleasing without being a sponsored up race kit is something to which Stinner was immediately attracted. The growing relationship between Stinner and Black Sheep has led to some enormous undertakings including the new Black Sheep | Stinner Elite Cycling Team in order to create a stronger hub of cycling and bike racing culture.

But how does one go about starting a kit company? There are lots of major kit companies out there, entering the market is certainly audacious.

With that, meet John Polson. 

Stinner: First, what called you to bikes originally? What appeals to you about racing?

JP: I started racing bikes in my first year of my physiotherapy degree at university. From memory it was 2005. We were sitting in the pub one day, someone thought it would be a good laugh to ride a ridiculous distance, and the rest is history as they say. What I don’t freely admit is that I only raced bikes for a couple of years, before I was lured into triathlon. I ran track and cross-country in school, so it was only a natural progression. From 2008 to 2013 I competed professionally in both Olympic and Long Distance triathlons, in Australia and the US.

Anyone with an inclining for endurance sports are of similar mindset. We are attracted to the challenge, whether it is external achievements or internal improvements; we are somewhat self-absorbed; and most of us have an addictive personality. Now, deep into life with Black Sheep, I ride for the same reasons, just the proportions are a little different. I used to honestly believe that I was an all in, “only ride to race” type of person.

Nowadays, I still love to ride hard; you are hard pressed to get me to do anything hard and I am always the first one encouraging a stop at the coffee shop. It is a nice change.

Stinner: When did you start thinking about apparel and what was the sort of jumping off point to start Black Sheep?

JP: In my last couple of years as a professional triathlete, I started doing some part-time work in research and product development at a mass production sportswear manufacturer. I absolutely loved it. It was a job that required some knowledge of science, creativity, and experience as an athlete. There was never a day that I went into work that I dreaded or didn’t look forward to. Soon, I started to pull myself away from competition and expand my role within the business, eventually becoming their Designer. 

What I learnt in my experiences pre-Black Sheep was that in clothing the person in charge, whether it’s the owner or the creative director, needs to be involved end-to-end in some form, especially in sportswear. It’s not like selling a t-shirt.

These products are backed by some serious science and innovation, all of which is useless without it being marketed and sold in an equally innovative way.

Whether it was ignorance, arrogance, or a combination of both, I felt an overwhelming sensation that I could do it a lot better.

Stinner: What did early Black Sheep look like and how has it evolved?

JP: Black Sheep started off in my garage, just myself and a friend, Shane Barrie. Right from the start we were driven by two key areas; quality and community. It took me six months to develop our initial kit, and it took Shane just as long to build a really solid social media platform to the point where we were relevant enough for people to be wanting our products from day one. Season One was released in November 2014 and sold out in a couple of days. Season Two was released in February 2015 and sold out in 24 hours. From that point on we knew we were onto something pretty special. 

Today, Black Sheep is very different, internally and externally. We have had growing pains, like many brands that have come before. The stresses of rapid growth are huge and very unexpected but are ultimately a byproduct of our success. That is ultimately a huge positive.

Stinner: From a design perspective, where do you start, what general philosophy guides your aesthetic?

JP: It’s somewhat of a contradiction based on the designs I produce but I am actually a pretty simple guy.

My personality and my fashion sense are simple and understated. As a result, my design philosophy is actually governed by one simple mantra; restraint. The uniqueness of Black Sheep may be in the bold creations we produce. However, I genuinely believe what makes our designs so appealing are that we know when to stop.

It is easy to take artwork too far. One of my favorite artists, Anthony Lister, summarized it beautifully: “I can’t paint for anyone else. It’s all about having the courage to say this is finished. I have to be hard as fuck to fall in love with these things and let them go.” 

Whether I am designing artwork that is representational, abstract, or non-objective, I have an overriding notion of restraint. In order to do this I do a few things. I employ a distinct colour palette, I obsess over the authentic and interesting elements, and I reduce any supporting elements. Everything else will then hopefully fall into place.

Stinner: What does innovation mean to you in regards to cycling clothing?

JP:Anyone that has had the privilege to delve deep into textiles, and in particular performance textiles, would appreciate what an exciting industry it is. We are in the middle of a development boom for polymers, fibers and yarns. Whether is in the areas of sustainability, moisture management, aerodynamics and sun protection, the gains that are being made are incredible. These developments are being driven by the active wear and running markets. As a sport, cycling needs to grow up and look to these markets for inspiration. Not necessarily to be inspired by the technology that has been produced, but to be inspired to start doing our own innovation. It is something that definitely excites me in the position I am in.

Stinner: Can you remember how the idea for an Elite Team was conceived?

JP: It was something that was talked about late last year. From our perspective, we are a company founded by two guys who once competed at an elite level, so it was always appealing to support like-minded individuals.

However, rather than start a “professional team”, what resonated with us were the amount of people that compete at exceptionally high levels whilst maintaining full-time work and families. It says everything great about our sport; the accessibility it has, the work ethic it requires, and the community it breeds.

What we wanted to do was to start a team based on these attributes and drive a level of awareness about what is possible outside of a simple results-based focus. The team will mainly compete in the Victorian Road Series, where elite races are held at the same time as amateur level races, instantly creating a connection with the community.

Our association with Stinner was natural. Firstly, we are great friends, we love hanging out, and we love doing cool shit together. Secondly, our respective successes over the last year or so have meant that we are now able to focus on giving back to communities that have supported us so well. A team gives us a platform to do this, whether it is as a tool to show that things can be done differently or a vehicle to promote significant change and improvement, or anything in between. Both of us, Stinner and Black Sheep, realize that the sport is so much bigger than any one person or any one brand. If we are able to give back in some way, to leave the sport in a better or a more diverse place than we did before our existence, then we have done our job.

Epilogue: Cycling is a sport that's been around a long time, and, as John stated above, we're not so naive to think that there is going to be a perfect product. But with brands like Black Sheep, we hope we can encourage dialogue between brands and cyclists, that can be truly deliberative. Perhaps through an open approach to design and style, we can get a little closer to that construct known as "perfection."

The Black Sheep | Stinner Team Bikes: So What's the Deal?

Photography: Gabe Fox

Here at Stinner, we know that the perception of steel bikes is of luxury and opulence, non-performance oriented and old-fashioned. But we're here to tell you that's just not the case. And to prove it, we've partnered with Black Sheep Cycling to put these bikes under racers on the Australian elite racing circuit. Yes, there will be an Australian elite team racing on our steel bikes, the men of steel, Black Sheep | Stinner Racing. 

With the help of some of the top U.S. based companies in the cycling industry, these bikes received the exact same custom treatment as any other customer bike. Below, we discuss the technical specification, the builds, the state-of-the-art tubing, and the very special, highly intricate, paint process.

For the Black Sheep | Stinner Racing Team, the bikes had to meet the expectations of some of the most particular cyclists out there: elite level bike racers. We turned to True Temper’s S3 steel tubing to create a high quality, light, and responsive ride. Each bike went through the same considered build process, we wanted to make sure the riders had full trust in their equipment.

Fabrication: This is the first part of the build, and it starts with Stinner Fabricator Devin Jones. The bikes were built with True Temper’s high quality S3 Steel Tubing, meaning the bikes will be light and responsive. Using the information from rider fit data provided by Operations Lead Jeremy Platt, Devin cuts each tube to the specific lengths and miters them to fit and join at requested angles. Good miters ensure tube junctions are tight and precise. The angles and tubing specifications for each tube and junction have a massive influence on the ride quality. Any additional modifications to the tubing happens here as well. Each tube type, material, and thickness requires special treatment and an extreme level of precision.

Weld: Structure and strength come from the welds. Astute readers will see that welds rely on good miters. We use Tig welding because it is extremely strong as well as very clean looking. Stinner welder Carlos Velazquez comes from the aerospace industry, where his welds were holding airplanes together. Like Devin, Carlos is a true craftsmen. From fabrication, the bike starts looking like something of a bike. It goes into a jig that is set precisely to the desired angles. The mitered tubes are welded together (and adjusted as needed). Good fabrication, means better welds, and the weld process requires the utmost precision. Thus, the fabricator and welder really lean on each other to do their jobs. For those that have not seen tig welding before, it requires three limbs at any given time. It’s not easy. Each step in the process is QCed, and will not be deemed “done” until all aspects of the weld are guaranteed.


Paint: This is where a bit of creativity comes into play. Stinner painterJames Bellerue went to school for graphic design and has spent a lot of time in the bike industry, particularly at shops as a mechanic. James uses wet paint (as opposed to powder coating) and a three-stage paint process:

    • Priming
    • Base Coat (colors, symbols, patterns)
    • Clear Coat

The anthracite and pink Stinner|Black Sheep bikes’ topographic schemes were particularly intricate. We don’t use stickers, so everything must be masked by hand before another color can be laid down.

The bikes were painted entirely in anthracite, before being masked in order to apply the pink paint. The black topographic lines were one of the most intricate paint jobs we’ve done, and the masking for the artwork required a lot of care, skill, and patience. And some fortitude.The topography itself came from a vector pattern that was cut in masking vinyl to precisely match the digital artwork. Personalized paint jobs, designs, and symbols are never out of the question. As such, as a final touch, each bike has a logo that represents its riders (a hawk, a sloth, a peach, a kiwi, etc.)

Assembly: Operations Lead Jeremy Platt and Customer Experience Lead Mark Edwards will help with all componentry and bike specification questions. Both possess a deep knowledge of bike parts and compatibility issues from years of bike shop experience and hours of research. Once the bike is painted, it moves to assembly where Jeremy will complete the process.

The Stinner|Black Sheep bikes are equipped with SRAM’s wireless shifting group, SRAM  Red eTap, as well as cockpits and rims from ENVE, and headsets, bottom brackets, and hubs from Chris King. Each brand is at the top of the bike industry, known for innovation, quality, and performance. The bike build can take a while—from considering ideal housing length and routing to working with tight clearances—but the bike won’t be shipped until everything is working perfectly and also looking good. The builds are test ridden and checked multiple times.

We'll be keeping you up to date on the team's progress throughout the year. Let us know if you have any questions about the bikes by contacting Mark:

Is Racing a Form of Freedom: A Conversation with Emily Maye

Photo: Emily Maye

Photo: Emily Maye

It is not lost on us, here at Stinner, that the Freedom Project takes on a daunting name. We have internal debates about what elements of freedom belong. However, I think it is becoming clear, through the ongoing race narrative, that racing is a chance to lay it all out there, a form of expression.

One cannot talk or reside in the bike industry without identifying the source of so much cycling culture, innovative tech, and the settings for which we imagine many of our rides. Not often are we presented opportunities to choose who you will become as a person, as Alexis Ryanexplained on the Freedom Project last month, as she races through the great cobbled races. For the racers, it is identity shaping. They are choosing their own path, experiencing the bike in the way they choose. Racing is the reason the bike industry is where it is today.



We're out of cross season, but CX is a great example of a sport and cycling discipline that has turned into a more lifestyle oriented form of riding

Now the past month. . . Flanders and Roubaix. Rarely is more elaboration needed to evoke stirring emotion.

History, culture, jarring cobbles.

Situated in the arena where men in Europe went to battle during the great wars, the bleak country roads that traverse Northern France and Belgium are the playing field.

The cobbled races also lead to innovation in the bike industry. Bike brands often reveal new tech at these races, built to handle those jarring cobbles.

How much does it mean to the racers and their teams? In our last discussion with Emily Maye, we discussed her evolution as a photographer and path into race photography. But, as a race photographer, we wanted to know why racing was so special.

Ultimately, when we think of freedom, we think of “action,” doing things. It is something happening. That is not to say other forms of riding are not an expression of freedom. We are just hoping to show that racing is a form of freedom as well and brings value to a community.

There's something special about sinuous climbs in Le Tour. Photo: Emily Maye

There's something special about sinuous climbs in Le Tour. Photo: Emily Maye

What makes racing special? You photograph a lot, not just in cycling. What makes racing a step beyond everything else?

Emily: There’s something at stake. A few years ago, I photographed six different team camps. I was photographing training rides for so long. And then I remember being at Strade Bianche and waking up and being like somebody’s gonna fucking win something today. I’m so sick of training rides. Somebody’s gonna win something. That’s a really cool thing, and you don’t know who it’s gonna be, and they want it.

I think that one thing I’m fascinated with racing is why the favorites are favorites because I think that…I spoke to Jasper Stuyven about that. And he said the guy who wins the reason Fabian can be a favorite and win is because he’s physically taken his body in those crucial moment over the line so he believes it on a different level than somebody else who wants it. Him and his body know that he can do it. In that moment he can cross the line. I think it’s really interesting…that’s why it’s so important that pros get their first pro win. Otherwise it’s just like an ideal, not a physical manifestation that their body has learned yet. It’s really interesting to see how wins happen: You’re all in.

What teams did you start with?

Emily: I started with the Bontrager development team, which was an amazing time with that team because that entire group [of Bontrager development riders] are now in the pro peleton with bigger teams, so we kind of moved up together so it’s really nice when I see those guys out there on their pro teams. I worked with Axel’s team, and then I went to . . . I guess after that . . . I did the Rapha stuff with Team Sky when Rapha originally decided to sponsor Sky. I also worked with RadioShack Leopard Trek, so they put me in with them. My first day with that team Fabian won Flanders. And I had never been a part, been around for a win like that. It was my second time photographing Flanders. And it was incredible to be there when that happened. They told me that I wasn’t allowed on the bus, they didn’t know me, I was a little bit restricted. I was only allowed on the bus if they won. At one point we had to pull over on the side of the road to buy more Champagne. They asked me to come on and Stay and then he won Roubaix.

For each race the setting is different, which is perhaps more interesting than an artificial human setting?

Emily: One of the things that’s interesting . . . scenery plays such a huge portion of that. It’s not like I’m working in the arena where I’m in the same arena all year. I travel with the team six, seven months different weather, different elements, we have cars going the wrong way down the street. There’s no other sport that has that “lack of control” element to it. So that makes the days really interesting. So when you’re talking about riding, you’re talking about enjoying the beauty of nature and landscape and suffering on your own. And then racing you don’t notice any of that. You have to look right in front of you. I always think those are the two different narratives when you’re talking about cycling.

Oddly, the racers also notice everything in extreme detail related to the race.

Emily: You may look at it…like the last 10k everybody was following eachother but they feel the energy, like something was going on. Somebody was getting ready to do something, they can sense that. 

They might remember turns, a really crazy right or left.

It’s a heightened sense. A release of potential.

And that’s what I mean. They’re in the race portion of it. They have so much that they’re absorbing, the speed that they reach to something coming at you. I did my first race on a Moto at Lombardia in October. And you have to wait at the end of the peloton before they symbol you can pass on the moto, but because of that race being so narrow, there’s no point to pass. So then you’re like last rider in the peloton so long, it’s crazy to see how one little thing out of place everybody notices. They’re so aware. Just aware of everything in their whole vicinity.

Photo: Emily Maye

Photo: Emily Maye

How do you try to capture that?

Emily: You can’t, there are a lot of things you can’t. And that’s annoying. There are a lot of moments you can’t capture in that way. You miss a lot of things you see on the side of the road like an old man sitting in a strange way. On a stoop watching or whatever.

We did all these home visits for Trek, where I’d propose to them we’d go visit the riders in their hometowns where we’d do have their families make us food and feed us wine. Their grandmothers. But we went to Colombia as our first trip and that was the most frustrated I’ve ever been at not being able to stop every minute.

Thanks again to Emily Maye for stopping by and chatting with us. Check out her website for more of her photos. 




Editor's Note: Author Amanda Cattermole is a Sustainability and Chemical Management strategist and runs Cattermole Consulting. Beyond sustainability education, we thought it was important to begin an internal analysis of our own processes. Amanda has worked across all aspects of supply chain. For the past two decades, Amanda has worked in a directorial role at Levi's in research and development before founding her consulting firm, Cattermole Consulting. 

Photos: Matthew Christopher Miller

Sustainability is one of Stinner's core values. We are committed to building a brand and business anchored on a triple bottom line philosophy considering the social, environmental and financial impact of our enterprise.

Stinner Bikes builds high-quality bicycles in Southern California. Every Stinner bike is custom made and designed to deliver the simple freedom of a perfect ride. Stinner Bikes uses state of the art materials including steel and titanium for its bike frames. The company sources from local suppliers wherever possible and fully understands the technical performance attributes of the materials used in its bikes.

Thus, for the purposes of transparency and understanding the environmental impact of manufacturing processes used at Stinner, we have commissioned an environmental impact report and lifecycle assessment for the materials used in Stinner bikes. This is the educational portion of the report to provide background information on steel.


A brief history: Steel manufacturing has been a major part of U.S. industry since the Industrial Revolution. Understanding the steel industry’s history helps clarify how steel is used today and the industry’s attempts at greater efficiency at large (including minimizing environmental externalities). This is not meant to be an in depth report on steel’s history and usage but a starting point for further research and Stinner’s commissioned LCA.

In a period of less than 50 years, between the Civil War and the First World War, America was transformed from a rural republic to an urban nation. The frontier vanished and was replaced with factories and steel mills, transcontinental railroad lines, flourishing cities, and vast agricultural holdings. This can be traced back to the steel industry and the needs of the Civil War.

Andrew Carnegie was largely responsible for the great advances in steel production. He merged his holdings into a corporation that would embrace the majority of iron and steel properties in the nation. The United States Steel Corporation, formed in 1901, was the combination of independent industrial enterprises into federated or centralized companies.


Steel is an alloy composed of iron and primarily carbon, although, other elements may be present. It is known for its high tensile strength (stress that a material can handle while being pulled or stretched), which makes it a valuable material for the construction industry.

Stinner uses True Temper S3 tubing in its custom made steel bikes. S3 stands for super light, super strong, and super ride quality according to True Temper. Combining craftsmanship with the benefits of customization is best accomplished with steel. The S3 tubing unites the strength and performance of steel with the lightweight advantages of other materials. The S3 tubing used in bikes from Stinner is made from 4130 Chromoly steel sourced from the United States. Chromoly steel is made from iron, chromium and molybdenum, hence the name “chromoly steel.” There are different grades of chromoly steel, depending on the percentage by weight of the alloys. The Society of Automotive Engineers specifies the steel grades (SAE).

Chromoly steels have excellent strength to weight ratios. Chromoly Steel is stronger and harder than standard steel. Chromoly steels vary by alloy composition.


In 2014, the National Bicycle Dealers Association estimated the US market for bicycles at around 6 billion US dollars, or roughly 12.4 Million bikes. 99% of bikes sold in the US are made in Taiwan and China. Many cyclists upgrade or get a new bike on a regular basis, leading to bikes that are either unused or end up in a landfill.

Stinner makes 100% of its bikes in the United States. Stinner uses steel or titanium to make their frames. Both metals can be recycled so that when the bicycle eventually reaches the end of its lifespan, it can be repurposed, sold or recycled. In fact old steel can be endlessly recycled into new bikes.

Steel is 100% recyclable and is North America’s number one recycled material. Over 74 Million tons of steel have been recycled in North America in 2015. Scrap steel is an essential material in making new steel.

Recycling steel accounts for significant energy and raw material savings: The world steel association boasts that over 1400 KG of iron ore, 740 Kg of coal and 120 KG of limestone are saved for every ton of steel scrap made into new steel. This helps the environment and reduces production costs.

For comparison’s sake, carbon fiber is non-recyclable and often ends up in trash heaps.


Making steel is an energy intensive process. According to the North American steel industry, 1.17 tons of CO2 was emitted in 2012 for every ton of steel produced in the US. The majority of the energy is used to melt Iron. The steel industry is aggressively looking to reduce carbon emissions.

The energy to produce a ton of steel has been reduced by 60% in the last 50 years.

SAE GRADE % Chromium % Molybdenum % Carbon % Manganese % Phosphorous % Sulfur % Silicone
4130 0.80-1.10 0.15-0.25 0.28-0.33 0.40-0.60 0.035 0.040 0.15-0.35

This is due to the following initiatives:

  • A higher percentage of recycling.
  • Coal producing energy is being replaced by electric power and other greener power sources.
  • Implementation of management systems.
  • Advancements in manufacturing techniques such as capturing carbon dioxide.

These advancements have led to:

  • A 32% reduction in energy intensity and 37% reduction in greenhouse gas intensity since 1990.
  • Per unit water use in the steel industry is less than half of what it was 20 years ago and more than 95% of the water used is recycled within the plant.
  • Although the steel making process is already highly optimized a new project has been launched to take significant long term steps towards carbon free iron making which will have near zero CO2 emissions.

Concluding Remarks

Steel is certainly the right solution from an environmental and social point of view. However, steel gives a super strong and super light ride quality. It is the perfect triple bottom line material which combines performance, affordability and sustainability.However, no matter what material is used in your bike frame, we urge you to continue to consider bike commuting and mass transit as a primary form of transportation.


Chasing a Monument


Words: Ashley Gruber. Photos: Ashley and Jered Gruber.
If you ever get the chance to chase one of the Spring’s Monuments – whether it be Italy’s Milano-Sanremo, Flanders’s Ronde van Vlaanderen, France’s, scratch that, Flanders’s Paris-Roubaix, or Wallonia’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege – do yourself a favor: find a person who lives for that race, a person that looks forward to the next edition of the race the minute it ends each year. The opportunity to be taken behind the scenes and shown the race from the eyes of someone who dreams about that particular race will change how you look at that race forever.

Alessandro Federico is that man for Milano-Sanremo. He comes every year, and he does it because he loves it plain and simple. We met Ale for the first time ever at the start in Milano in 2011. It was a great moment to immediately recognize a person we had never met face to face. Just as it’s a great feeling to recognize them, it’s almost disconcerting to shake the hand of a friend for the first time ever, years after making their acquaintance and rapidly becoming friends through the internet and a shared love for cycling.There was no time for niceties though, and with the handshake, the chase began. We’d be in some sort of state of hurry for the next nearly seven hours, as we fought to stay a step ahead of the ever quickening race.

D4A_2115 (1).jpg

Fast forward five years - another bright morning in Milano - so much has changed, but this morning, everything is exactly as it was before. I get a text telling me what time Ale wants to leave and to meet him by the start line.

Just like five years ago, Ale takes the train in and out of Milan. Parking can be stressful. Why add to the stress? Unlike last time, Ale has my train ticket in his pocket.


The first spot he takes me to is a roundabout. It’s next to a McDonald’s, and it’s objectively an utterly ugly piece of suburban Milano. I was a little surprised to hear Ale say that it was one of his favorites. I couldn’t help but wonder why. There was nothing remarkable about it, at all.

Ale leans over, “This is one of the spots when you really feel the race.”

Sure enough, the race comes raging by - a break is only meters in front of a very active field. When the break goes, the monster will fall back to sleep for some hours, but for now, it’s awake and hungry.

“They are not satisfied with the selection of the break yet. They will continue fighting.”

Sometimes, I forget that I shouldn’t just be looking for a pretty postcard picture. Sometimes, there’s more to it than coastline and snow-capped mountains.

Now we are four. Two other friends and fellow photographers, Angelo and Francesco, have joined Ale on the adventure. He’s the calm and quiet ring leader of this assorted package of fun.

Next: Pontecurone - Ale has been coming to this town for years. The first time we came here, we stopped in a small bakery. Not today.

The announcer goes by - a break of 12 has 8 minutes. Enough time to shoot two spots.

Ale has a trick up his sleeve. He shoots the first spot in a sunny piazza with lots of fans, and after the break passes, he walks down the road and looks up to the balcony. He's been here before. He even sent the signora the photo from last time. She lets him come back to join her small squad on the balcony.

Ale tells me "I was in a good position, I hope I got something good." Angelo has advised him not to look at his photos until the end of the day, lest he get frustrated about missing a shot.

En route to Ovada : “Can we take selfies, Ashley?” Francesco asks, politely. “Because sometimes we do that, and we forgot to ask.”

I laugh. Of course!

The four of us arrive in Ovada, and we learn about the frana. There was a landslide along the coastal road: the Via Aurela. The race will be diverted on to the autostrada for 9km. The problem is that we won't have time once they pass Ovada to get back around them.

Che disastro! The autostrada is closed. Press stickers be damned. We wait. The Italians are in and out of the car a lot talking to the police. Another car is behind us with more photographers. They don't even have the benefit of Stampa stickers - theirs were stolen earlier in the day.

Eventually the police decide to open the gates to the autostrada and escort the traffic to the point of the road closure.

Traffic jam. We calculate that we are less than a kilometer from where they let the riders on - maybe just maaaaaybe we have a chance to see them entering the road, so we sprint down the road, cameras in tow. Ale stays in the car. The responsible adult. We were too late - we could just make out the tiny figures over hundreds of parked cars.

As we walk back, oddly happy and excited, people keep asking what the hell is going on, and why we look so happy. 

Che disastro!

Angelo is in the backseat: "Would you like a caramello?"

They speak in English to make me feel comfortable.

We shoot one other spot on the coast - in Spotorno. Ale curses in the heat of the chase, and then apologizes.

Bridge shot in Andora. We have to stay quite close to the car in order to get to our final spot in time - the only spot that really matters - the Poggio.

I mention in the few years since we’ve fledged away from the nest, we learned about a new-old road that would make our lives a much happier place - an easier approach to the all-important final climb of the day.

Ale is game to try something new. I'm a little nervous, as I had only driven it once before, a year ago, and someone had pointed it out to me on the map. I warn Ale that it's a pretty narrow, scary-steep road, but he seems unfazed. Anything better than walking up that God-awful other road - I swear it was 1km at 30%.

A few close encounters, but we made it. We nudge a few cars along at the top and find the last parking spot in the whole town. Ok, not true. Italians can ALWAYS find another parking spot, but that's what it felt like. After the stress of the day, I get a few high fives for the new route (I think that one is a game changer for Ale).

And we all set off to do our own thing. I don't see Ale again that day.

After it was over, I text Ale:

“THANK YOU, Ale!!!! It was so much fun with you guys today. :-) :-)”

The response I get back:

“Yes, we also enjoyed the day!”

I love how casual we can say goodbye. We won’t see Ale for months, but there will be another adventure, another race, and we’ll retrace our steps in a different year - so much the same, so much changing.

For us, it was a day that I’ll never forget. One man’s passion, one man’s lifelong quest to better chase the race of his dreams, gave us a glimpse into a race that deserves its spot amongst the sport’s greatest. It’s a race worthy of its legend.

We’ll be back. I can only hope we can return with Ale.

Thanks for everything, Ale!

Sustainability: An Introduction to the Stinner Commitment

Editor's Note: We'd like to introduce you to the beginnings of our exploration into the environmental impact of our build and manufacturing processes. Sustainability has always been a major part of the bike industry from a transportation perspective. But too few companies also look at the costs of the manufacturing. This is the intro to our continuing attempt to be as transparent as possible.

Photos: Matthew Christopher Miller

The story of Stinner is one of gradual evolution. A few decades ago, a young Aaron got his first bike and went on his first ride. That bike, and ride, fueled the evolution of one rider and person into something bigger. When Aaron made his first hand-built bike it was with the very modest goal of making a better fitting bike for one tall drink of water: himself. The short history of the company is an accumulation of small changes and ideas that began with that one bike.

This bike is great . . . and the next one will be better.

Now Stinner is a team of people, and riders, that all have their own story and evolution behind them that pushes Stinner to make the next move just little bigger than the last . . . 

Our newest project is perhaps our biggest and most daunting yet: sustainability. We’re going to be around for a good long time and we want to make our future, and our customers, as awesome as we can. It is a fraught path, especially for a small enterprise. It’s easy to play lip-service to the idea, but far more difficult to do anything about it. And so: small steps.

As we pursue new ideas in this evolution, you’ll see it in the products we offer and the way we do business. We want to make Stinner a company that we would want to buy stuff from, and strive to make it an even better place to work. It’s a multi-faceted project that will ultimately never be finished. And that’s kind of the point. Every process and product can always be better, however marginally. 

Even in the beginning Stinner was never, in the strictest sense, a one man show. There is, and was, a community of riders that embraced what Aaron started and allowed him to grow as a builder and business. That support continues today and forms the first pillar of our sustainability project: people. The people that make up our company, to our immediate community, all the way to the larger cycling collective, are all stakeholders in our success, as we are part of theirs.

The next part of our sustainability mission is to make sure that we’re around a good long time. A lifetime warranty on a frame doesn’t mean much if we’re gone in 10 years. To that end, we’ll continue to push ourselves to produce the kinds of bikes that people want to ride and provide an experience that makes our customers happy that they chose us. We figure if we take care of our customers in the best way possible, the sustainability of the business will follow. Simple as that. 

Lastly, and easily the most difficult aspect of sustainability, is our impact on the physical world around us. The places we love to go by bike, and even all the places we don’t, deserve respect. Are we ever going to take a ride at the molybdenum mine? Probably not. But can we try to make sure that the materials that we use have the smallest lifetime impact that they can on the environment? Absolutely. There are many projects that we have implemented, and will be implementing, to help lessen our impact on the world around us. You’ll hear about all of them, from paint to packaging and everything in between.

Before we can chart a path forward, we have to understand where we are now. To that end, we’ve undertaken a project to understand what it takes to create the products at the core of our business: bike frames. While we’ve been building out of steel and titanium all this time we did little to investigate the materials broader social, economic, and environmental impact. So, we commissioned an outside study on what it really takes to produce the raw materials we work with everyday. While we knew these simple metals make great bikes, it turns out they’re some of the best, most sustainable, options as well. From here we’re able to look at the next steps in our supply chain, and further into our own internal operations.

As we gain a greater understanding of our impact, and the ways that we’re working to change it, we’ll publish updates to the ‘Workshop’. Our goal is to make sustainability a concrete set of actions, not a high-minded concept that we just talk a lot about. Stay tuned for the next steps! 

On a Baking Hot August Day (As Poets Do)

[Editor's Note] James Fairbank is the head of central and brand marketing at Rapha, but he's a wanderer to his core. While living in London, presently, the countryside is his true home. This is a story of a day in the countryside, on a quest for what's calling him.

Daydreaming about riding still occupies me, but, back when I had the time to kill, I used to spend a lot more of that time rolling along trying to join things up: linking the things I’d read with the exhibitions I’d seen, to the conversations I’d had. Occasionally these disparate thoughts would coalesce and form as seeds in my mind. I used riding to help germinate those thoughts, and this is a story about one of them…

One baking hot August day I set off from London on a solo pilgrimage to the gloriously named Hampshire village of Steep, to pay homage to a man whose work has affected me profoundly.

The British poet Edward Thomas is often referenced these days – he had a view of Britain that seems to resonate with the 21st century, one similar to Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious and latterly J.L. Carr. Thomas was also deeply flawed, suffering from bouts of depression that sent him marching deep into the countryside to confront his darkness.

He left part of himself on the roads and lanes of pre-First World War England, but thanks to his eye for detail and deep sensitivity to the natural world, it is a world that still lives in his pages, a hundred years later. A world suspended, a vanished idyll that paradoxically seems to have been preserved by the war that also marked its end.

Edward Thomas’s story has a tragic ending, he was killed on the first day of the battle of Arras in 1917. As a mature, married man he could have easily avoided active service but chose to serve and die for his country, a decision that puzzled me. A seed was germinating.

That August day I set off to find his memorial.I was Garmin-less and used the Coyle method (named after my great friend and adventurer, Ultan Coyle) of following my nose for three hours. Grippy rolling roads, scents of a late-summer day and the words of Thomas’s friend Robert Frost accompanied me, and I spent much of the journey trying to work out if ‘The Road Not Taken’ is exhorting the reader to stick or twist:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”

I got lost, and then found, and it was England distilled that August afternoon. It was me. By the time I’d arrived at Steep I had a clearer idea of why Thomas signed up, the idyll he communicates is worth dying for. Not in a jingoistic, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ sense, but for all this Island’s subtleties and nuance.

Nationalism can be an ugly word that stands for ugly things, but this countryside bore me and this countryside will take me to dust, and, for that, I owe it a profound debt.

Broadly speaking we are a profoundly lucky generation. We get to daydream about riding bikes and have avoided becoming involved in any conflagration similar to those that twice almost immolated the world in the 20th Century. Those reminders
I never made it up to Thomas’s memorial: it’s perched in the middle of a field up a steep bank and I wanted to leave it unvisited so I’d have a reason to go back and think again.

This all happened years ago. Perhaps it’s time to head into Thomas’s beloved South Country and get lost again. In the meantime daydreaming remains a constant companion, regardless of the season. Whether it’s under the dull January skies that stare blankly back at themselves from the roadside puddles or by the dun grass of a March verge, rebounding slowly from a late snowfall, I can see the ghosts of previous rides alongside me or crossing my path. The ghost of Edward Thomas rolls alongside me too.

Riding Across the Country on a Citi Bike: Meet Jeffrey Tanenhaus

Photo: Matthew Miller

Photo: Matthew Miller

Jeff Tanenhaus decided to ride across the country on a Citi bike. Yes, he quit his oppressive desk job, grabbed a Citi bike and rode from New York to Santa Monica, California on a bike used in New York's bike sharing program. Jeff was part of the group that made this New York bike share happen, and he wanted to do something that showed just what human power is capable of. As a regular and daily bike commuter, the bike has been both a utility and a source of freedom for Jeff.

Stinner has been working to get involved in the sustainable transportation discourse that's ongoing in cities across the country. Part of the effort has included the development of the Stinner Commuter which now lives at The Wheelhouse in Los Angeles. More information will be coming out on that bike later this week!  

We'll call this the start of commuter week here at Stinner Bikes, so we had a little conversation with Jeff about just what made him do it. 

Stinner: When did you start dreaming up the idea of riding across the country on a Citi bike?

Jeff: As a founding member of NYC’s bike sharing program, I used Citi Bike to get all around town. The idea came on a Friday night bike commute after an infuriating week at work. Pedaling hard down the Hudson River Greenway, I looked across at the lights in New Jersey and wished I could ride across the water. Next thought: why stop at New Jersey—why not bike to California? And not on any bike, but the same Citi Bike that took me everywhere in NYC. The seed planted that evening grew to fruition 1.5 years later when I carried out my vision and called it Countri Bike. 

When did you decide to do it, and how did you put everything else on hold?

Jeff: Working as an event planner was making me miserable, and while I searched for other options, I kept thinking of the freedom I’d feel biking across the county. I quit my job and my apartment lease expired. I locked my stuff in storage and worked remotely on freelance projects, including my own travel app New York City Essential Guide. I was already living out of a backpack and crashing on couches, so the transition to biking with a trailer and Wi-Fi hotspot wasn’t difficult.

What's been your background in cycling up until this point?

Jeff: Not much! I had only cycled within New York City, mostly as a commuter. My first long ride was the 40-mile, car-free Five Boro Bike Tour in 2012. The next year I graduated to the full NYC Century Bike Tour, which is not a closed course. For these tours I used a road bike, which I bought used for $300 from a local bike shop. Once bike sharing came online mid-2013, my road bike got more use as a laundry drying rack. I used Citi Bike for everything—errands, commuting, meeting friends—until I took the ultimate plunge and pedaled cross-country.


What did you hope to accomplish with this ride?

Jeff: As I told Stephen Colbert when he invited me as a guest on The Late Show, I wanted to find a new reality for myself as well as see my country. I was tired of feeling unfulfilled working in a windowless office in Manhattan, having only the weekends to look forward to. I’ve been to more than 50 countries, but I haven’t traveled much domestically since I was a kid on family trips. I wanted to see the United States up close and thought a bicycle would be a great way to tour.

You have to have some funky stories from riding across the country. Any that really stick out that you'd love to tell for years to come? Or how has the reception been from people since you've ridden across the country?

Jeff: I was treated with kindness and curiosity wherever I went. The people I met were the most rewarding part of the journey and made the difficult days worthwhile. Dozens of hosts from the Jersey Shore to East Hollywood gave me food, shelter and inspirational conversation. Riding a Citi Bike made it easy to connect with bike share operators and bike advocates across the country and gain instant friends in unfamiliar cities.

People like to hear bad news, so the most told stories are of hardship. Getting snowed upon in northern Arizona. Camping with the wrong gear in Joshua Tree in December and waking up with ice cubes in my water bottle—inside my tent. Being assaulted on the roadside by an ax murderer in Oklahoma takes the prize for most gruesome encounter. I ended up in the hospital but have fully recovered and made a lot of supportive friends in the Tulsa area as a result.

How did you choose your route, did you try to avoid riding across the mountain ranges?

Jeff: Finding the flattest route is a priority when riding a 45-pound clunker with three gears. I paralleled coastlines and rivers and followed rail-to-trails from New York to St. Louis where I picked up the Katy Trail. That took me 225 miles to western Missouri where I picked up Route 66 in Joplin. I followed Route 66 through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before turning south in Kingman, AZ to seek warmer temperatures. (I got snowed in twice in AZ.) I dipped down towards I-10 that took me into the California desert, which was freezing at night. Due to time of year and topography, crossing the Rockies was never in the cards. Hills weren’t such a problem, but headwinds were brutal.

What do you think is great about cycling in general (I.e. does it inspire adventure/escape for you, utility, aesthetics, etc.)?

Jeff: Being on a bicycle feels liberating. I fell in love with self-propelled motion to get somewhere. In New York, bike commuting was therapy for me, yet was an individual pursuit. Pedaling across America was the first time I interacted with the bike community. I found wonderful hosts through the network I also made life-long friends, such as Val who started her own bike tours in Pittsburgh and Jessica and Mason to who I met camping in Joshua Tree National Park. There is an instant kinship among people on bicycles. No other activity has such a strong community yet low barrier to entry. I think I proved that by biking to California on a shared bike, and am so grateful for all the people who supported me from coast to coast.

Welcome to the Stinner Race Series: The Myth of the Classics

Photography by Camille McMillan

Photography by Camille McMillan

Prologue: So much of why we ride, the scenarios we imagine as we ride, and the very type of riding we glorify, is an ode to those special European races known as the Classics. Each race is a reflection of social history, the mystique of the Classics has shaped cycling's history. But even that mystique is a combination of community, culture, and history.

We will feature those people capturing the races on film, writing about them, and racing in them. First, Max Leonard provides us with an exploratory piece asking the question, "Why are the Classics classic?" 

Welcome to the Stinner Race Series.

"You’ve got one shot, it’s all or nothing: will it be the golden smile of glory, and your name in the history books, or the bitter ignominy of empty-handed defeat? This is racing about more than just power meters. It is about spirit, endeavour, heart." -- Max Leonard

So, the first salvoes of the season have been fired, racers are getting on with the business of winning and losing, the Tour Down Under and the Tour de San Luis have passed. But they’re mere skirmishes, right? And the upcoming Tours of Oman and Qatar – just legstretchers in the sun.

“It’s pretty mellow, you just kinda ride around and then you race up the final climb,” a WorldTour pro, who shall remain nameless, said to me about one of these far-flung opening races. “And then you come to Europe and you’ve got twisty, narrow roads. Up, down, left, right… and the weather can be OK or it can be really, really bad.”

He’s only confirming what everyone knows: that bike racing doesn’treally start until the Omloop het Nieuwsblad, the Belgian minor Classic, that comes around at the end of February. And behind it, quickly, the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and then a glut of legendary one-day races in the cold north of Europe: cycling’s Classics. 

The pro continued: “And there’s this slightly ambiguous, nebulous thing in the air, like what, how is a peloton nervous? If you’re in there, you can just feel it! You can’t really explain it, but it’s just there, this tension that you can cut with a knife.”

But why the tension and anticipation from riders and fans alike?

Traditionally, the Classics were the first important one-day races each season for the pros of Belgium, Holland and France, but many of these riders would have been coming from the tail end of another season, straight from the smoky, sweaty, beer-drenched velodromes of the six-day races or the frigid mud of cyclocross.

For the larger public, who had perhaps been following the stars’ exploits in the papers, it was the first chance to see them that year, to measure their form, see the aggression, feel the aura.

The Classics hark back to a more romantic and – it feels at least – a more authentic time, and connect us with history. That’s one thing the Classics all possess: connection –emotional as much as geographical – with their audience. Connection to the old heartlands of cycling, to where the passion is strongest, and to the roads – and cobbles –where legends have been made. Even now, the roadside support is as large and vociferous as the biggest days on any of the Grand Tours, and it is that as much as the riders that propel these races into the realm of myth. They’ve long been, and continue to be, the yardsticks by which we measure our champions, our years, our cycling lives by.

Each race is a history of champions: of good men and strong, sons of miners and labourers, butchers and soldiers; a history of the desperate and the wily, of cheating allies and honorable enemies; resistance fighters and sympathisers, the heathen and the righteous, profane and holy.

Men (and it is, unfortunately, almost always men) like ‘The Cannibal’ Eddy Merckx, who for years would win multiple races in succession, steamrollering the opposition. Men like Roger de Vlaeminck and the Riks Van Looy and Van Steenbergen – three flahutes (northern hardmen) par excellence. Or men like Firenzo Magni, the Italian rider who would later break his collarbone during the Giro d’Italia and, his left arm being useless, tie an inner tube to the handlebars and hold it in his mouth to keep the handlebars steering straight.. Look, even, at those who have dominated the Classics in more recent years – Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, Pete Van Petegem, the ‘Lion of Flanders’ Johann Museuww – and they have an air of old-style heroes. Hard and capable, bred to endure crosswinds, mud, fierce rain and jarring pavé, and to prevail.

Because in a Classic anything can happen. In the sound and fury of the race dreams can be made or fall apart in an instant. Form counts for a lot but mechanicals, unpredictable conditions, alliances and complots all can make the best-laid plans go awry. Teams that dominate Grand Tours with impressive displays of calculated efforts over three weeks find the brevity and the finality of a one-day race are less easy to control. And for some riders, some entire teams, this two-month period in the spring carries the burden of the whole season’s success. You’ve got one shot, it’s all or nothing: will it be the golden smile of glory, and your name in the history books, or the bitter ignominy of empty-handed defeat? This is racing about more than just power meters. It is about spirit, endeavour, heart.

Mostly, I think, we love the Classics because they are hard, hard races. Milano-Sanremo, the opening Monument – one of the five greatest Classics – at just a shade under 300km is the longest race in the calendar and only three years ago subjected its competitors to ice storms. Some call Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a 270-kilometre trawl through the dark, steep forests of the Ardennes, the most difficult race of their professional lives. The Amstel Gold is known as the ‘race of the 33 hills’ – which should say it all – while the cobbled climbs of Flanders and the cobbled hell of Roubaix need no explaining here.

We love the Classics because this is a hard sport, one that is at its best when it is pushing people – competitors, spectators, everyone – to their limits. And besides, what’s the point in doing something if it’s easy? 

Stinner Prototype: Jeremy Platt's 27.5+ MTB

Photography: Gabe Fox

Jeremy Platt is the Stinner operations lead and bike builder. Jeremy is a mountain biker before anything else. Here at Stinner, it's sometimes a little tortuous to be building so many dream bikes with no time to build our own. So, we made a bit of room to build something everybody here has been a bit curious about, but perhaps no more so than Jeremy. Introducing the 27.5+ (semi-fat) hard tail dreamed up by Jeremy Platt.

In his own words:

This is the Stinner Steel 27.5+ hardtail mountain bike. Made to hit any trail and leave the biggest smile on the face of any rider. I built it with a 160mm dual air Pike with a slack head tube angle to keep it aggressive and fun as well as 3” tires that are able to drop into PSI in the low teens. They won't budge when in contact with the ground. A low slung bottom bracket keeps it stable and confidence high on your favorite trails.

I love to ride, and throwing a leg over a mountain bike was the reason why I've made bikes the focus of my professional passion. I have had the full gamut of bikes, a DH race machine, the all-mountain slayer, the fun 29er, and a trail worthy fat bike. All of those were great bikes but each one had pluses and minuses.

One of the tried and true measures of a bike, though, is how much it makes you smile. That was why this bike came to be, to leave me grinning from ear to ear. So taking the ideas that made each bike smile worthy and making them work in a single platform, the Stinner semi-fat bike prototype was born, helping us remember why we ride: for the smile.

The reason this bike has Stinner written on the down tube is because it embodies our passion for dirt. We know how a bike should ride and respond and we put all the right features into this bike to make it do just that. Long, low, and ready to rip.
Using our expert fabrication skills and Stinner select tubing we are able to strike a perfect balance between keeping the steel frame bullet proof but retain a lively feel. When it came time to spec the parts for this bike, as we all know, it is highly personal.

The build is mine personally, but the final product should not deviate too far from this spec, because I truly believe these are the perfect parts for this bike. They are from brands that share the same values as Stinner, high quality and backed by passion for the bike. Race Face bars and cranks are a perfect selection for contact points. SixC stuff is as good as it gets.

The made in is USA Wolf tooth oval chain ring is the go to ring for any 1x set up. Keeping your traction is the name of the game, and Schwalbe Nobby Nic 3.0F/2.8R tires keep you firmly rooted in any condition. Made in USA White Industries CLD Boost hubs keep the wheels nice and anchored. An upgraded 48 point engagement in the CLD+ is a must for technical climbing.

Finally, a Dual Air 160mm Pike RCT3 takes care of the ups and especially the downs.

Spring Seasonal Colors

Photo: Gabe Fox

Photo: Gabe Fox

Winter has quickly ended in Santa Barbara, the hills and mountains are green and populated with bursts of wildflowers. The days are longer, the hillsides are in bloom. Spring is a time to go outside, a time to ride and race, and a time for vivid color.

Two of the Stinner Winter Colors will be retired: El Capitan Green and Naples Winter Grey. However, Rincon Blue will be sticking around—an iconic color for an iconic surf spot.

So what does Spring look like in Santa Barbara?

The Stinner Spring colors symbolize action, getting outside. The Santa Barbara Spring is about doing. Inspired by life in motion, Matt captured single elements of the constellation of activities that embody a Santa Barbara Spring.

From these moments, we drew motivation for our Spring colors. Each photo below represents one of the Spring colors to be unveiled.

Photos: Matthew Miller

Sunrise Lavender
The lengthening days mean earlier sunrises. The low light glints off wispy clouds, a red-lavender hue encapsulating the morning horizon, bouncing off the rocky Santa Ynez Mountains behind and profiling the Channel Islands in the distance. A sense of coming warmth greets early morning runners, cyclists, and surfers. Surfers on dawn patrol float in the lavender tinted swell, paddling into curling waves, a sense of flow before a day of work. It is in Spring this becomes tenable. People in Santa Barbara seek a striking beginning to their day, a reminder that there is a sunrise each morning.

Tar Sand Black
Off the coast of Santa Barbara, the Earth comes to life in the form of oil and tar seeping from below the ocean floor. Some of the largest oil seeps in the world are just off the coast of Santa Barbara, washing up as clumps of tar on the beach. In many places, the sand takes on a particularly dark color. The oil floating in the water, in the right light, appears as a rainbow of color. Bare feet in the cold, dark sand full of ocean life from epoch’s past is particularly Santa Barbara. Spring in Santa Barbara signals more time, for many, with their feet in the sand. This paint color has a unique sparkle in the sun.

Century Plant Green
The Century Plant, Agave Americana, litter local mountains and have become part of the image for Mission Santa Barbara. Though, not native to Santa Barbara, the drought resistant, hearty plants thrive in the temperate weather. The subtle green stands out against the brighter grasses and flowers as if to show the plant is old, wise, and in it for the long-haul. People have used the plants for making drinks such as mezcal and use the tough fibers for rope. The plant yields a natural sugar, agave, used in many Spring drinks. The Santa Barbara Spring means more ride time, and one cannot miss these old plants, indeed.

Seasonal colors:
Santa Barbara Seasonal colors will resonate all year, complementing or artfully contrasting with the colors of your ride.

After 90 days we’ll transfer into the next season’s colors. To see more of our inspiration for our Spring colors, check out our Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Alexis Ryan In Her Own Words: Choosing Who I will Become

Editor's note: Alexis Ryan is a Ventura, California native, and professional cyclist for Canyon//SRAM Racing. Alexis will be providing an alternative view, an inward looking approach to just what cycling and racing the Classics means to her throughout the Spring season.Her introduction framed a day in the life, her goals for writing, and an attempt to define herself as a writer. These won't be explicit race reports but will provide insights about culture and her own pursuits on and off the bike. 

Do Not Shy Away 

There are six of us sitting around a small table. Five have been team mates in the past. I am the newcomer. A faint memory crosses my mind, something to do with dessert, muscle glycogen, and strength. I add another spoonful of rice pudding to my plate.

The conversation has shifted. I listen as five warriors casually discuss battle. A brutal 125 kilometers loom on the horizon. Omloop het Nieuwsblad is the first Classics race of the season and will be my first race with Canyon//SRAM Racing. A question echoes in my mind: Have I sufficiently prepared for a full season in Europe? I believe so, but you can never be sure until it begins—and ends.

Standing on the stage—a stage that was set eleven years ago for the first women’s edition—I hear my name called over the loud speaker. Raising my hand, I give a faint wave. I shiver under the glare of camera lenses. Exiting right, a few fans ask for my autograph and a picture (without sunglasses) for their collection. The audacious ones ask for an article of clothing, to which I politely respond, “NO.” Most forget about me the instant I walk off stage.

The start is anticlimactic. After three and a half neutral kilometers, the green flag is dropped. Suddenly, the tension is palpable. A rider is consumed by nervous energy. Touch of wheels. Her body hits the ground with a thud and a sigh as the air escapes her lungs. A flash of remorse, then it is gone. This is a cut-throat sport. If you allow mishaps to disturb your conscience, your focus will dissipate and you become a passive participant.

The Côte de Trieu, steep but not cobbled, comes and goes. I am unaware of the shattered peloton behind me. The climb is a precursor. The Paterberg is less than five kilometers away. There will be a split, I can feel it. Like a broken record, my mind repeats, “Get to the front of the peloton. If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.” Simultaneous taps on the right and left shifters, my chain slides onto the small ring. My body is one step ahead of my mind. It knows we are entering the Paterberg. 

Sharp, off-camber right turn onto slick cobbles. Immediately, I am in the left-hand gutter. Fifteen riders power up the hill in front of me. I am too far back. Damn. I see a rider bobble—this is not good. Abort gutter mission. Chattering up the steep pitch, a rider turns, perpendicular to the road. I have to unclip, which is more mentally painful than anything else. It is nearly impossible to start again, but I manage. 
Legs screaming, lungs screaming, I crest the cobbled climb. There is a group of ten riders roughly twenty-five meters ahead. I am in no-man’s land.

This is the moment when I decide what kind of rider I will become. I have two options.

The first option is to ignore the searing pain that grips my body. Follow my instinct. Close the gap. This is the way of a Classics rider—a champion. Winning a Classic requires grit, honor, and panache. These characteristics are not innate. They are acquired on the narrow, filthy, battered roads of Belgium under atrocious weather conditions.

The second option is to ease off the pedal pressure and experience a short reprieve from the pain. The riders behind will catch. I will be swallowed by the peloton, along with any opportunity of greatness. This is the way of a coward, pack-fodder.

I was not raised to shy away from a challenge.

Sticking my nose to the stem, I fly down the descent. I make contact within twenty seconds. There is a lack of air. Several minutes pass before my ragged breathing phases into a vigorous rhythm. The magnitude of what I have accomplished scratches at my conscience. The thought is pushed aside when I feel the effects of my effort. Bile rises in my throat.

I swallow hard and taste acid.

This Too Shall Pass: Paris-Nice and the Race Home (to the Sun)

Riding here in northern Europe this weekend, the sun was out and the air was just smelling of spring. Daffodils that sprouted in the unnatural warmth of January barely survived winter’s revenge in February. But, finally, there are signs that this late freeze, too, shall pass.

Paris-Nice, which starts this weekend, is the race in the pro calendar that is the most resonant symbol of change. Though there have been small multi-day races across the south of France and Spain, Portugal and Italy, this is the first major stage race of the season in Europe, but there’s more to it – and more magic in it – than that.

Image of Paris Nice from the author Max Leonard. The race's connection to the Tour de France makes this race a little more than a Spring test of the stage racers. 

Image of Paris Nice from the author Max Leonard.

Image of Paris Nice from the author Max Leonard.

Over the course of a week, the raceheads from the dreary north of France to the luminous light and soft spring of the Côte d’Azur, enacting the changing seasons and promising, both to the peloton racing and cyclists everywhere watching, that the sweet days of summer will come again.

The so-called ‘Race to the Sun’ was set up in 1933, by a businessman wanting to publicise his two newspapers, Le Petit Journal in Paris and Le Petit Nice down on the coast. Conceived initially as a road-going version of the Six Day races that were popular in the velodromes of Europe and the United States, by the 1950s it had grown from an early-season training run to an important race in its own right.

By that time, many of the era’s top pros had started wintering on the French Riviera, taking advantage of the calm, bright weather, the cheap out-of-season accommodation and the endless quiet training roads in the mountainous back-country.

The fashion had started, perhaps, with the Cannes-born René Vietto, France’s first superstar climber, who as a pro in the ‘30s and ‘40s would invite his team-mates to stay with him, and endure his legendary 350km rides to Marseille and back, or over the Colle Saint Michel, Col d’Allos and Col de Vars to the mighty Col d’Izoard. Later, when Apo Lazarides, his protégé and right-hand man, retired, he set up a mini golf hotel in the sleepy seaside resort of Les Issambres. The first training camp destination was born, and soon the Côte d’Azur was a hive of professional off-season activity. Many small races sprung up in the surrounding area, to service these pros' needs, and by the time the Paris-Nice rolled round in March, many would travel up to the start and ride ‘home’.

That idea – of riding home – is as resonant as racing to the sun, and one that still holds meaning today. Nice and its surroundings are where many of the top international pros reside. And if you ride Paris-Nice’s famous Col d’Èze to La Turbie on any given day in the spring, you might perhaps see famous faces (Philippe Gilbert, Tejay van Garderen, Chris Froome and last year’s Paris-Nice winner Richie Porte, among many others, are locals) topping up their bidons at the village fountain. Froome, Geraint Thomas, Alberto Contador and Giro winner Fabio Aru are on the start list, but even for such champions the road home is never straightforward. This year’s Paris-Nice sees gravel roads introduced in Stage 1; a trip toChalet Reynard on the slopes of Mont Ventoux on Stage 5, and a visit to the Madone d’Utelle sanctuary high above Nice on Stage 6.

OMATA: A Modern Mechanical Design Approach

Photo: OMATA

Photo: OMATA

At its essence, simple design is a maximization of utility and a minimization of excess, the unneeded, and the superfluous. It is about finding the most efficient yet elegant solution, an Occam’s Razor approach to design. For those unfamiliar, Occam’s Razor is the principle that among competing scientific hypotheses, the simplest theories are best; they are most testable (of course, this is simplified). However, a theory has to explain something, so keeping it simple yet useful is a massive challenge.

In other words, there can be a simple design heuristic in complex design questions.

Simple design is not the removal of flare, it is an attempt to get that essence of a thing. 

Meet Julian Bleecker and Rhys Newman, former Nokia designers and founders of OMATA, a new brand of cycle-computers emphasizing elegance, utility, and minimal distraction. Confessedly, Julian and Rhys are Stinner owners. It has been a linking up of similar design philosophies, a merging of communities. OMATA’s speedometers utilize GPS for their analogue display, stripping the readout of information that is unneeded. What started as mere artistic doodling for Rhys in 2009 turned into an all or nothing pursuit by December 2014.

OMATA is an attempt to reduce the cognitive requirements for processing numeric information, and, instead, orient us toward the information most important in that moment: the wheels moving under us, the feel of the wind, the shared social experiences. Unfettered, freed of the entanglement of distracting, nebulous thought, we can be brought into the present. Humans have a need for certain information. Julian and Rhys want that information to be integrated into the experience of riding a bike, not a new definition of what riding is.

The following conversation starts with an article Rhys read written by a scientist studying human cognition, that there were certain values that resonated with people, including the ideal speed to travel on a bicycle being 18 MPH.

Photo: OMATA

Photo: OMATA

Danny: So you have all these ideas in cycling about what’s “proper” and also thinking about the cognitive scientist’s approach to people’s inherent propensity towards the pace at which we travel. And that seems to be part of the inspiration for OMATA, yeah?

Rhys: So, it started with that article on human cognition and I started thinking about certain “absolutes.” Flat tires come in threes…every time you pull up to a stop light, the second you put your foot down, it changes to green. You go for a ride and it has to be a headwind, always. I started doing these curious drawings, and when I read that 18mph thing, I started to draw these . . . these mechanical objects and bells. Something happened on a bicycle, something happened when you get to 18mph. Like a bell went off. In a very childish way, it wasn’t a design, just a drawing. 

Photo: OMATA

Photo: OMATA

Danny: How did Nokia play into the creation of OMATA?

Rhys: I just kept drawing, one of those side projects while Julian and I were at Nokia, part of the advanced design team. We were at Nokia when it went through tremendous success then a rapid decline. We were asked to consider the question, “If Nokia stood for something in the world, what would it stand for?” So we did a body of work, where we started to look at the way smart phones and cellular devices are designed, and essentially, these things are designed for your maximum attention. Essentially with all these apps and all the functionality, it is assuming all you’re doing is using the device. It got to a point where all you’re doing is walking off and bumping into things, driving off cliffs, sitting in restaurants paying attention to this rather than to your wife. So we did a small project which we called internally, “heads up.”

It was essentially that we could design things from a human cognition point of view, an interactive design. What happened if you designed something where your primary task was not interacting with the phone, but walking or being with someone, so these two things were running in parallel. Now I had this slight design [in the form of drawings] for an analogue speedometer that had something to do with 18mph.

But then long story short, we did a lot more work with Nokia, a lot more outdoor active devices, and Julian and I started to create almost like a design decision making sensibility within Nokia. We were asked to design a new camera, a sort of LTE connected camera.

Photo: OMATA

Photo: OMATA

Danny: So cameras started this, something that has an analogue to digital design path as well.

Rhys: If you look at the heritage of cameras, they’re beautiful objects. And you look at these things [showing a phone], they’re still beautiful, but it’s all beneath the glass like all the dials are gone, all the ways of interacting with the device. So we start with the terminology: “Modern Mechanical.” What’s a modern mechanical connected device? So this was all Nokia world. As this time was coming to an end, Julian and I were sitting next to each other and we started to get obsessed with modern mechanical things and I started showing the Julian the drawings. We built some amazing relationships in terms of engineering and R & D teams outside of Nokia, we could do very advanced GPS things but we still had no sensibilities to say when I’m on a bike I looked Garmin products and I looked at cycling computers and essentially they looked like a piece of plastic telecommunication on my handlebars. And the more I looked…I just don’t want any of that.

Photo: OMATA

Photo: OMATA

Danny: And bikes are kind of not . . . that, yeah?

Rhys: Every other choice I was making about my frame, or my components or my shoes, or my clothing, I was making a decision on emotional beauty and performance. That compromise. I wanted a very fast bike that had straight steel tubes. Very advanced but very beautiful.

Our time at Nokia came to an end, and we started talking about what this modern analogue GPS cycling computer could be and I had a strong point of view, that all that really matters about that product, is that you’re out there riding and all that really matters is the heads up thing. If you design a GPS computer for your bike it should only show the things that matter most and it definitely shouldn’t get in the way of your riding.

An IPhone on your handlebars, text messages while you’re riding…Why on Earth would I want an I Phone on my handlebars? It’s the antithesis of why I go riding. Let’s build a modern GPS analogue speedometer that shows just basics such as speed and distance and time. It was so clear and so compelling from a product for cycling point of view. For us it’s very much a statement on design and technology. Why do all connected devices have to be beneath the glass. It’s a strong belief about what products could be like in the future.

We looked at each other and said if we don’t make this somebody else will.

Danny: What was the jumping off point?

Julian: It feels like everything came to a boil, we got exquisitely drunk in San Francisco. We kind of looked each other and said “I’ll do it if you do it.” It wasn’t necessarily like it was an obvious startup thing to do, there was a sense of dread insofar as will this make sense to anyone?

Photo: OMATA

Photo: OMATA

Can we make this into a thriving business as opposed to a hobby? But this was…so many things depended on us. It was just force of will to make it happen. Aside from the tech, with what you guys are doing. There’s something very modern about the visual design the way [Stinner is] painting the frames. It’s very contemporary and modern. You’re not saying let’s do it the way they did it back in the day. You gotta resonate with your audience beyond steel frames. What’s modern and fresh?

Danny: You guys are designers but obviously there was lot of tech that went into this product.

Rhys: The engineering team we used is a young R&D company based out of Finland, comprised of ex-Nokia and engineers. Everybody you need to make a modern digital connected device and have the experience of doing it at the scale you’d expect of typical consumer electronics.

Danny: Where do you see the product going?

Rhys: What we’re trying to do…we started off with this very clear idea of a beautiful modern analogue speedometer, we’re looking for…we haven’t done anything like this before, for example in terms of looking for investors. What we’ve done is that on the inside is a very advanced GPS computer, Bluetooth, low energy. So the plan is launch a company that has a strong point of view that says what matters most. We can make this very advanced thing represented in a beautiful analogue way. We’re talking about the classics, speed, distance ascent, time. How fast am I going, how far have I climbed, how far do I have to go to get home and how long will it take? At the same time, we can eventually do a training version: Time, watts, heart rate for instance. What are the four things that matter to somebody that’s training? Pick the three or four bits of data that are relevant, and forget everything else. It’s capturing everything, you can have the data later, we just can choose not to display it.

Then one thing we can do is start to behave like a watch company. We can have fun with design and color, material. Fabian Cancellara is part of the team. We’ll end up doing a Spartacus edition for him.

You know, some people are asking what do you want to be when you grow up, and there’s no reason we couldn’t do trail running. We designed this product that can have many iterations.

Photo: OMATA

Photo: OMATA

Perhaps, in conclusion, in our age of information, it is becoming necessary to remind ourselves to pick our faces up off our stems and out of our digital devices. The human connection, extrinsic and intrinsic, will helps us all do a bit of true exploration. Again, we can return from rides satisfied about the experience. But you won't have lost any information.

Photo: OMATA

Photo: OMATA

Dustin Klein x Stinner Bikes

Photography: Gabe Fox

Making is a form of expression, a combination of function, utility, and aesthetic for public consumption, a comment on culture. Stinner Bikes and Dustin Klein have merged efforts to focus on geometric simplicity, creating bikes designed for performance with a nod towards art.

Motion and color and are intrinsic elements of cycling in which the former spills into the latter.

DKlein and Stinner Bikes, though they operate in different realms, use craft to act on the world they see, a form of freedom and expression. Art changes how we perceive what we do, it allows us to connect seemingly disparate spheres.

Announcing the Stinner Bikes and DKlein collaboration: For a limited time, Dustin Klein will be custom painting a small number of Stinner frames which will be pre-sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Each frame will be numbered and unique.

Dustin Klein: "Being a maker, I feel compelled to create. I focus this energy into an art practice working with intuition, rhythm, and pattern. The practice is a meditation that allows me to slow down and translate the experience of my emotions into a visual language."

The process to get in line is easy and starts with getting in touch HERE. Any of our models can be painted with a DKlein paint scheme. 


  • Road Steel: $4095
  • Gravel/CX Steel: $4395
  • Road Ti: $5295
  • Gravel/CX Ti: $5595
  • Mountain Steel: $3745
  • Mountain Ti: $4945

On Riding and Writing: Reflections from Professional Cyclist Alexis Ryan of CANYON//SRAM

As part of the Stinner focus on the Spring Classics, we wanted to understand what the Classics, what racing in Europe, means for the racers themselves. They are the ones surrounded by the community of fans, immersed in a sensory onslaught full of European tradition, pleasant and unpleasant.

Alexis Ryan is a young cyclist out of Ventura, California, a city just south of Santa Barbara. She is racing professionally for the CANYON//SRAMwomen's team out of Europe where she'll be spending much of the season. Alexis is one of the top young American cyclists and also one of the most cerebral and well read. With CANYON//SRAM, she'll be racing most of the major Classics and she's offered to write about her time abroad. Alexis will be providing an alternative view, an inward looking approach to just what cycling and racing the Classics means to her throughout the Spring season.These won't be explicit race reports but will provide insights about culture and her own pursuits on and off the bike.

With that, in her own words, meet Alexis Ryan, professional cyclist.

An Introduction

I wake up slowly, peacefully. There is no alarm. Alarms are for early race starts and airport runs. I stretch each limb and listen to the distinct whaling of fatigued muscles. I half-roll, half-fall out of bed and shuffle to the kitchen. Bleary-eyed, in need of revival, I assume my morning routine: boil water, weigh and hand-grind 25 grams of coffee beans—this morning it is Ethiopia Shakiso—brew 16 ounces in a Kalita Wave 185, and consume.

Planting myself in front of the computer, I write and rewrite this introduction. I am not having much success. I find writing about myself to be very difficult. All of my attempts have ended in tangents, mainly TMI-scenarios. Starting over, this is attempt number: I cannot count that high.

I was born and raised in the sleepy, beach-bum town of Ventura, California. I still live in Ventura, though during the racing season I am a transient guest. Cycling is a family affair in the Ryan-household. I learned to ride a bike soon after learning how to walk. At 21 years old, this will be my thirteenth year racing and fourth year as a professional. I ride for the Germany-based women’s world tour team, CANYON//SRAM Racing.

When Danny Katz asked me to contribute to the Freedom Project, I seized the opportunity. I am not a writer by trade, but my uncommon career choice gives me a perspective on life that is worth sharing. My contributions will not be race reports, because the objective is not to bore you to tears. What I want to accomplish with these writings is to share the reasons behind why I ride, what life is like on the road, the ins and outs of European racing. I will be racing a majority of the iconic spring classics, starring cobbles and bergs. Tour of California and Giro d’Italia are also present on my schedule. There will be plenty of opportunities for me to exercise the most neglected muscle in cycling: the brain. Hopefully, I am successful in my writing pursuits and you enjoy the content I produce. My first race of the season, and the topic of my first Freedom Project contribution, opens with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 27th.

Document saved. I look over my training schedule once more and close the computer. Motivation, check. Equipment, check. I am pedaling up the street with heavy legs. The wind is howling at thirty miles per hour. I will see no one on a bike for the next four hours, save my shadow.