If like me, you’d always wondered what it was really like to attend a bike launch, I thought you might find it interesting to hear about how I found attending my first ever press camp.
Rose Bikes have now facilitated a number of firsts for this blog over the years: They were the first brand to lend me a bike to review, back at the end of 2010. They were the first brand to lend me a disc braked road bike for review in 2013 (http://girodilento.com/rose-xeon-dx-review/) and they’re the first brand to invite me to join them at a bike launch in 2014.
However, jet setting off to Austria to find out and ride bikes wasn’t something I’d done before so when I saw my friend Dave Arthur from Road.cc was also on the guest list, I gave him a quick call just to check the basics out. The basic advice was to pack plenty of riding gear (for wet & dry weather) and to remember to take your pedals. Because the weather forecast wasn’t looking great, I did pack quite a bit of wet weather riding gear – more than dry weather gear to be honest. Obviously I also packed my camera, notepad and laptop.
My logistics were to be at Heathrow Terminal 1 in time for a 0650 departure on July 24th. This meant a 0330 alarm call, which was a struggle as I’m not a morning person. I got to Heathrow just after 5am and found absolute carnage in the check-in area. Four different airlines were trying to get flights checked in and baggage processed but the baggage carousel had broken. So there were about 300 people in a queue and flights were being called one at a time. After not moving in the queue at all after 30 minutes, my flight to Munich was called. I put up my hand and someone took me to a special queue and finally got my bags checked in. Then a stressful wait in a queue for security and x-rays meant I finally got to the flight about 90 seconds before the other UK guys boarded the flight. Nice one Heathrow!
Flying Lufthansa meant typical German efficiency and the flight to Munich was very pleasant. We all had instructions to head to an airport transfer service for a shuttle bus for the hotel in Austria. We had a short 20 minute wait for a connecting flight from Stockholm to deliver 2 Swedish journalists and we were on our way to our destination. Rose split their press camp into two halves. We were the second group but in total there were around 70 journalists from about 15 countries who attended the event.
I think we’d only driven for about 5 minutes before I was being impressed again by the quality of German infrastructure – including segregated bike paths which I saw regularly out of my window in the minibus on the way to Austria.
Upon arrival at the venue, a very nice hotel in the beautiful region of Tyrol (http://www.tyrol.com/) we checked in. Dave and I were sharing a room, so we dropped our bags and popped down to check out where everything was. A quick lunch was followed by the product presentations, where the Rose guys talked about their new BikeTown Shop opening in the second half of the year in Munich (they already have 6,000sq m shop in their home town of Bocholt. http://www.rosebikes.com/content/about-rose/the-rose-stores/rose-biketown-bocholt). In the new shop customers will be able to see all of the bikes, configure them on an iPad next to the bike, choosing exactly what spec they want and to place their order. Rose offers a high level of customisation options on their bikes and they told us that their customers greatly value this. I would too.
At that point the product designers introduced their new models. First Mountain bikes, then Road. Notes were made, photos taken and questions asked. We were then invited to get changed and go riding.
The new disc braked road bikes were in big demand with the press, so I put my name on the new super light aluminium race bike (Xeon RS) instead. I put my pedals on, set my saddle height, grabbed a drink, switched my Garmin on and pedalled off into Austria! I had no real idea where I was going. What I thought was a fully charged Garmin switched off with a dead battery 30 seconds after I started. So I started recording my ride via Strava on my phone. One of the Rose guys had suggested, I turn right then the first major left and follow the road around towards the right. So I followed my nose for a while and was surprised how busy the roads were. Lots of Austrian traffic. Most drivers were very polite and careful around me on a bike though, which was appreciated. It only took about half an hour to realise that I didn’t really know where I was and couldn’t remember the name of my hotel or the village we were staying in. I’d found a nice little climb with a view of the mountains and I started trying to work my way back in a loop to the hotel. This worked ok until I reached a right turn into a tunnel that was motor traffic only. So I decided just to retrace my steps back to the hotel and made a mental note to research routes a bit more before setting off next time.
Because there were lots of bikes I wanted to ride – going out for 40kms like I had, didn’t seem like a great idea. So I made a plan to work out a 15-20km loop with some climbing for the next day.
Dinner was in the Hotel and very pleasant followed by beers in the hotel bar that evening. After a 3:30am start, I was fading a bit by midnight and I turned in at the point I felt that the next beer might be a game changer (if you know what I mean).
The next morning after breakfast, Dave said that he was going to spend the morning on mountain bikes (they had chairlifts to the top of the mountains and apparently some great trails) but asked if I fancied joining him for a road ride in the afternoon. It’s always good to ride with company, so that sounded good to me.
I worked out my short route and got out to test it on the new top of the range road frame the Xeon X-Lite (800gms for a 57cm frame). With a bit of exploring and wrong turn or too my loop included gravel, tarmac, flat roads, and climbs. It was perfect for what I wanted and also had some beautiful spots for taking photos.
A second lap of the new loop on the new 11 speed 105 Xeon RS got me to lunch. Having been too busy to ride a lot recently, I was finding the climbing pretty hard going and I was riding nowhere near the big mountains that surrounded us.
Dave Arthur had been eyeing up the biggest mountain around us – the Kitzbüheler Horn which rises to just on 2,000m. After lunch Dave and I picked out the bikes we wanted to try, then Dave asked about the Horn. Thomas from Rose told us that a couple of guys had ridden it yesterday and said it was the hardest ride they’d ever done.
Thomas also told us that it was the hardest climb in Austria. 7km at an average of 14.7% with kicks to 22%. I think that pretty much decided that it had to be done for Dave – I wasn’t feeling so keen. I’m going to write a separate post about this, so you’ll have to wait to read that. What I can say though is that that was the afternoon sorted out.
That evening we were all driven to restaurant high up in the mountains with fabulous views and authentic Tyrolian food and entertainment – including Yodelling! It was a beautiful spot – good food and the music was fun – even if the two musicians had a slightly unnerving habit of staring right at you as they sang.
Once we were back at the Hotel, I partook in another few beers in the bar before turning in – again not too many as I wanted to make sure I could get as much riding as I could on as many bikes as possible. For me, this was a rare opportunity to ride a lot of bikes in a range and I wasn’t going to risk it with long nights in the bar.
Saturday was the final day of the trip and our shuttle bus left for Munich Airport at 11.45am. I’d had breakfast by 9, so was torn between starting writing up the visit or getting one last ride in. One last ride won and I took out the completely new Xeon DX road disc bike for about 15km. I’m glad I did too – it was very nice.
A quick shower, packing and a few final technical questions for the bike designer followed by a coke and ice cream in the sunshine with my fellow UK travellers before we left for the airport.
The flight back to the UK was a pleasure – more Lufthansa efficiency & our UK group said our goodbyes at the baggage carousel of terminal one. Even the M25 was unusally kind to me with a quick trip home to Kent.
If you hadn’t already guessed, I had a fantastic trip. As a blogger who typically doesn’t get this level of access to bike brands it had been an absolute treat. The guys (and girls) at Rose had been very welcoming and professional, whilst also leaving you the space to get on with the riding you wanted to do – no hard sell on the brand or the bikes, which in fairness they didn’t need. The venue had been fantastic and so was Austria.
I know that for the seasoned journalists on the trip, it was more just a normal part of their job. Even in what many of us would call a dream job, the novelty does eventually wear off and it becomes just another part of your routine. For me though, it was a complete pleasure and I’m very grateful to Rose for inviting me.
One of my biggest challenges for this blog is getting new product to test, perhaps especially bikes, so the ability to ride 5 different bikes over 3 days (even for short rides) is enormously helpful. We were also very lucky with the weather and that helped make the trip more enjoyable and productive too. The forecast had been for lots of rain and there’s no question it would have been very different in that case. However for everyone, the sun meant more riding and that’s good for Rose too.
I hope that Rose’s lead will mean that I get an opportunity like this again – time will tell.
My thanks again, particularly to Fin who looks after Rose in the UK, for the invitation!
If you’d like to read my thoughts on the new Rose road bikes range for 2015, please click on this link: http://girodilento.com/rose-bikes-2015-four-new-road-models-first-ride-reviews/ or of course, visit Rose at: http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/
And thanks for reading….