First off let me say two things.
1) This post will be long. It will also be worth your while to read it.
2) These are sponsor products. We chose to align with them because they are the best at what they do. I will point out salient features as to why these products are market leaders.
These bikes are some of the lightest and most predictable bikes I have ever ridden. My team Scalpel and F29'er are 22.5 lbs each. Each bike does have Stan's wheels.
29'er: Very good in tight twisty singletrack. Very easy to get the front end off the ground and hop BIG stuff. Climbs like a mt. goat. These are the three biggest praises I can give this bike. After riding a different 29er last year. This feel is very different. It just rides better. The bike feels very nimble and rides that way.
Scalpel: This is my first time on a full suspension bike. The Scalpel is neat because it is a pivotless 100mm travel bike. This design will save almost a full pound over other full suspension designs.
Due to rear suspension, the bikes absolutely sticks to everything. There is no rear wheel slide out or bounce when climbing. Coming from a road background I prefer climbs where I can stand & attack. The Scalpel is great here. The bike is great in singletrack and rolls through rock gardens almost as well as the 29er. Big wheels are just better. Hard to fool physics. Anytime you point the Scalpel downhill, it flies. It steers where you point it and you can always be pedaling, instead of off the saddle. This bike is my preference for any race greater than two hours, or where there are big rocky sections.
Just buy them. This is probably the most inexpensive performance booster you can put on a bike. The grips help to relieve hand and wrist fatigue due to their ergonomic shape. This shape also allows a certain amount of leverage when pulling up when climbing. Ergon grips do have a model with bar ends attached for those who like bar ends.
Personal plug/story. I have had one carpal tunnel surgery. I should have my left hand done as well. One of my bikes has Ergon grips, the other is awaiting a second pair. When riding the bike without Ergon grips I get significant numbing and loss of grip strength in my left hand. When riding the bike with Ergon grips this is not an issue. The grip design and ergonomics alleviate any grip related problems.
HELMET: Rudy Project
Everyone needs a helmet. I have been racing for 21 seasons now. I was always a Giro person. That is until 4/5/2008. That was the day I first rode in my new Rudy Project helmet. The fit and feel will be different than anything you have ever worn. First the padding is like a web. There are no little pads that curl up or come undone. This design also keeps the helmet up ever so slightly higher. The benefit is to allow better airflow and moisture wicking. The tension device feels better than Giro as it feels like the helmet is coming down over your head like a cap, not a cinching front to back feel. This helmet is incredible, period.
GLASSES: Rudy Project
I used the Rydon frames for the first time at Greenbrier. These frames are so light and fit so well. There is an orangeish lens, which i used at Greenbrier and the standard dark lens. What makes these glasses so nice is that they can be custom-fit to your own noggin. The arms bend and flex. This way you can make them feel EXACTLY how they should feel on and around your ears. This also allows for a better position on your nose and eyes. Great specs.
H2O Packs: Deuter
I have not used this pack yet. My review will be in concept. What I like about this pack is that the pack sits off of your back slightly, this allows air to move between your back and the pack. This pack will PROMOTE cooling. That about the physics. Airflow over or under cool object creates a cooling effect. Air between an ice-filled pack and your back helps to cool. ie Bridge freezes before road surface. It is well documented that cooling vests increase performance by delaying fatigue. Yes, i am very excited to use this product.
Please speak with Ray or Kuhn about these. They can speak much more intelligently. From my reading the lumen's produced, burn time, batteries and design seem to be the absolute industry standard.
These shoes are sweet. If you have wide feet they are for you. The toe box is nice and ample. I absolutely can not wait until cross to roll these guys. I should finally make a season without cracking my big toenails halfway down. OUCH!
The fit is very comfortable. On the mountain shoe the ratchet design is small and works quite well. The ratchet position is adjustable. The soles are stiff with plenty of room for your cleats.
The road shoes are very stiff and extremely comfy. The sole has a rough material so your cleat will not slide. I am using a three strap shoe. I am coming from a strap and ratchet design, and have not noticed any downside.
HEART RATE MONITORS: SUUNTO
The sweet part about the Suunto for me is three-fold. There is a cyclometer feature in the watch so you can see all of your standard cycling functions on your HRM. It is downloadable, so your workout can be viewed to see exactly what the benefit was. Most importantly the monitor has a feature called EPOC. This feature works to assess just how hard the effort was that you put out. The feature seems similar to a TSB feature from CyclingPeaks. If you are serious about training and racing, you know that you need to asses form, fitness, and freshness to see where you stand. Until now CyclingPeaks was the only way to do this, and you need a Power-tap wheel to accomplish that end. Now Suunto has addressed this with their T6 HRM. This feature is sweet. Talk to Ry at a race about Suunto.
CADENCE: SHOP & COACHING
All of our sponsor products, minus bikes, can be seen and purchased at Cadence Cycling in Manayunk. This shop is one of the premier shops in the Mid-Atlantic area. it is THE premier training facility/organization in the Mid-Atlantic.
Coaching: I use a coach. I use a Cadence coach. My coach is Mike Kuhn. The reasons for hiring a coach are many. To get the most out of yourself you need to have an outside perspective to offer feedback. That point really is not arguable in life. You need someone to objectively give you feedback. Then as a person you need to apply that feedback. On a macro level, that is a coach.
A coach gives you years of experience to cull from. A coach will design programs that are specifically for you, based on your goals. A coach knows when to say more, and more importantly when to say that is enough.
Say what you will about coaching. No one NEEDS a coach. If you WANT to get the most out of yourself as an athlete, you will NEVER do that until you hire a coach.
So there are some reasons why VisitPA.com MTB team uses the products that we do. Hopefully this will encourage people to support these great companies. From a selfish standpoint, deep down we know these products are the best and give us an advantage just by having them. So if you chose not to use them that is alright, it just makes our racing a little easier.
Enjoy your season.