Professions. I’ve wanted surprisingly few. As a youngster, I wanted to fly fighter pilots, a dream that was blown to bits at an air show by an Air Force recruiter driving around in a go-kart that looked like an F-16. Turns out, he explained, they’d never let me in a fighter plane if my vision wasn’t perfect (mine wasn’t). Either that, or he took one look at my nose, realized it was far to large to fit inside an oxygen mask, and decided to let me down easy.
My second choice? Aeronautical engineer. If I couldn’t fly fighters, I’d design them. After all, I already knew how to fold a mean paper airplane. But, as I would later learn, there’s a bit more math involved in making the real thing, which resulted in broken dream number two. Fortunately, I wasn’t too shabby with words, and many years, a college degree, and the loss of a bike shop job later, I found myself working for Racer X. And at the recent Fly Racing 2019 gear launch, I found myself reflecting on how lucky I was that my vision and math skills both sucked.
As cool as it is covering races and creating race-related content (and it is cool), events like the Fly Racing gear launch are where the real gold is. Most of my interaction with racers is at the races, which usually means I’m either asking questions in a press conference a rider just wants to be done with or having to ask a rider questions he doesn’t want to be asked. But the Fly Racing launch, referred to as Fly Racing Summer Camp, is different. It kicked off with dinner in downtown Boise in a relaxed environment, which provided the opportunity to interact with people, both media members and riders alike, in a totally different atmosphere. It was fun chatting with Zach Osborne about the intricacies of parenting and listening to Blake Baggett talk genuinely about his favorite colorways. Weston Peick also bumped into me and spilled my beer, but luckily for him, I let him off with just a warning. After a few presentations, drinks, and more delicious food than you could shake a sag tool at, it was time to hit the sack in anticipation of hitting the track at Owyhee Motorcycle Club (OMC) early the next morning.
I was glad I’d taken it relatively easy the night before because the morning alarm rang early. I threw on clothes, and before I knew it, I was in the back of a Ford Expedition listening to Steve Matthes complain at length to driver Jason Thomas about his unwillingness to drive more than ten minutes out of the way for Starbucks. The caffeine conniption mercifully ended when JT spotted a drive-thru coffee joint called The Mocha Moose.
A few minutes later we arrived at the track, where I saw two things that immediately made me want to start slapping high-fives with anyone within arm’s length. The first was Damon Bradshaw gearing up to pound laps, and the second was a brand-new set of Fly Racing gear, from helmet to boots, laid out for me. The boys from POD Active were also on hand getting everyone set up with K8 Carbon knee braces. Not only was I going to get to moto down with The Beast From the East in brand-new gear, but my knees would be safe and secure doing it. It was at this point that I again started to appreciate my feeble eyes and algebra allergy.
The riding itself was great, although a lack of riding in the last few years (I have young kids, cut me some slack) meant I couldn’t go more than a few laps at a time, and most of the guys were blowing by me like Alex Ray through clutches. Oh, and as far as motoing down with Bradshaw, does escaping to the outermost edges of the track every time I heard his screaming two-stroke coming up behind me count? It does to me!
As far as the gear goes, I found my Evolution DST gear to be extremely comfortable. It was lightweight, didn’t get caught on anything, seemed to flow air just fine, and not once did I find it even the least bit restrictive. That includes when I came into a left-hander pretty hot, slightly out of control, and missed the front brake, which nearly resulted in me sending myself into a wall (#LifeofHansel). Later, when I was checking out some of the technical specs of the gear, I learned that the DST in Evolution DST stands for Durable Stretch Technology, which basically means the gear is super stretchy and ultra-durable. I didn’t get a chance to give it the durability test, but in my book, it definitely passed the stretch test.
I found myself also feeling impressed with the FR5 Boots. I normally wear Tech-10s so the footwear bar is obviously set pretty high, but to me, these felt fine. They fit my foot well, didn’t pinch anywhere, didn’t create any blisters, and even though they were brand new, I didn’t miss a shift all day (that’s saying something for a guy who apparently can’t even locate the front brake lever consistently). They’re also under $300 ($269.95 for black), so they won’t completely blow your wallet out.
The only complaint I had on the morning was self-induced. I hadn’t crashed all day, but when I was pulling off the track after my final lap, I pushed the front end awkwardly, and the next thing you know, I was in the dirt right in front of everyone (#LifeofHansel). Thankfully people seemed to be distracted by the battle that was playing out between Bradshaw and Kris Keefer on the track and I didn’t get too much heat for the bonehead move. Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll get brought up in a few press boxes next year during supercross.
Next on the schedule was mountain biking at a ski resort called Bogus Basin. Of course, a new sport meant—you guessed—it more gear. After donning a Freestone helmet, Ripa Jersey, and Maverik riding shorts, I rode the chairlift up the mountain and carved my way down a few times on a very cool downhill trail with banked turn after banked turn. Then we hit the trail to start the roughly 20-mile ride back to town. We were lucky enough to have pro mountain biker Kyle Warner (@kylewarnermtb) with us, and it was pretty cool seeing how effortlessly he attacked the trail. In a couple sections I found myself requiring full focus just to maintain forward motion, only to look up and see a smiling Warner casually riding a wheelie. Over rough terrain. Downhill. At high speed. Later in the day, I saw him handle several creek crossings by riding over sticks that had to be skinnier than his tires. Had I had any aspirations of pro mountain biking, they would have died that afternoon.
As the ride went on, I found myself thankful they’d selected the gear they had for the ride. The back panel of the jersey is almost all mesh and the pants are lightweight and breathable, which made dealing with the triple-digit temperatures much easier. The XC 70 riding pack, complete with two-liter water bladder, helped lots too, although I still drained it long before the ride ended. When we got back into town, I stopped to get more water and rode off without the helmet. Fortunately, Michael Lindsay of Vital MX noticed my gaff before it was too late. I joked that the helmet was so well-vented and lightweight you couldn’t tell if it was on or off, but really, it was just another stupid #LifeofHansel move.
Afterward, everyone convened at a cool restaurant and bench raced about the day. The stories and laughs flowed like the margaritas and craft beer coming from the bar, and everyone was enjoying the afterglow of a well-planned and well-executed day on two wheels, courtesy of Fly Racing. Had someone given me the option to extend the trip another couple days, I would have taken it before they finished asking. Now the only hard part is going to be trying to deceive my coworkers at Racer X into thinking the trip was terrible. Hey, I want the spot to stay open so I can go again next year!