When I first started racing bikes about ten years ago, I was fascinated with the concept of free stuff. Everyone around me seemed obsessed with free sponsor stuff, to the point of missing the point. So many seemed ridiculously entitled: “I’ve been racing for two weeks now, but I haven’t gotten anything free yet… something must be wrong with the system.” I’ll never forget the first sponsor item I ever received, in my second year as a cyclist. It was a pair of eyewear, and was the only thing I was given for free that year. I won’t say what brand they were, but they looked absolutely terrible on me, and made me look like an insect. I may as well have been given an out of date mullet. Yet, I was so proud that I wore them for years, and owned the mullet look happily.
Over the years, as I earned more sponsor product, I was always really bothered by the continued sense of entitlement of so many athletes around me. It is a delicate subject, but I’ve always tried to maintain a sense of gratitude for the amazing products that we receive, and I no longer think of these things as ‘free stuff’, but as tools.
And now it’s that time of year when the products and bikes begin to roll in from the great people at Trek, and I continue to be humbled. On the one hand, I am giddy as a little kid at Christmas, and my heart speeds up every time I hear the UPS guy knock on the door. On the other hand, I feel a deep sense of duty to earn what is entrusted with me, so I open up the boxes with grave sobriety. And I am grateful to have access to the fastest tools ever built – luckily, the Top Fuel isn’t a mullet. It is the pinnacle of years and years of research, design, and engineering. The newest iteration continues to improve upon the past, with beautiful, yet subtle details.
It’s also that time of year to begin planning my assault on the racing scene. I’m going to have a full plate of grueling 100-mile MTB races. It will be my sixth season with Trek and I’m excited to get out and show off the newest Top Fuel.