Redshift Across the Country with Glenn Eck

Thursday, July 26, 2018 2:17 PM

Covering 10 States and 4,300 miles, the Trans Am Bike Race is a classic coast to coast race across the USA.  We got the opportunity to catch up with one of the racers from this epic event, Glenn Eck.  Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just like Redshift Sports, Glenn shared some details about himself, his bike, Redshift Gear and overall race experience.  

TABR_2018_At_the_finish_in_Yorktown_Virginia_photo_credit_Glenn_Eck_



Tell us about your day job.

I’ve worked in the horticulture industry my entire life, and have managed grounds and landscape for Temple University in Philadelphia, PA since 1997.

 

How long have you been cycling?

About 30 years.  My older brother Greg Eck had a lot of success in triathlons in the 1980’s.  His long training rides were what first opened my eyes to how much distance one could cover on a bicycle.  Then, I was very fortunate to have friends, Steven Schott and Barry Rauhauser, who entered the bike industry during the mountain bike boom of the late 1980’s.  Through them, I was able to afford good equipment on a 19 year old’s budget.  So, mountain biking was my gateway into cycling.  Road cycling came later, around 1999.

 

Was this your first Ultra Endurance Bike Race?  How did you first get interested in these types of events?

This was my first ultra endurance bike race.  It was a bit of a reach, but I had reason to be confident that I could complete the event with a modest result, but one that I’d be happy with.  I have a 36 mile minimum round-trip commute to work (sometimes I go longer).  I don’t ride 5 days a week, but often enough over the past 20 years that I’ve developed reasonable ability to do long-ish rides back to back.  I’ve never had the speed to be competitive in most racing situations, and never worked on developing it, but I have worked on learning how to ride longer comfortably.  I’m also a pretty capable bike mechanic and logistics person.  All of these traits together led me to first consider a long tour in 2010. I knew I wanted every day on tour to feel just like a road ride, so from the beginning I had no interest in a heavy touring rig.  I rode from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes on my Litespeed Tuscany ti, hotel to hotel with just my commuter bag, averaging 69 miles a day.  I enjoyed that so much that in winter 2012-13 I followed the Adventure Cycling Association’s (ACA) Southern Tier Route from San Diego to Jacksonville, FL .  I did that ride on the same equipment, averaging 92 miles per day.

I honestly don’t remember how I first heard about the Trans Am Bike Race (TABR), but I started following it online during the second or third edition, so it was 2015 or 2016.  I became a dedicated “dot watcher”, as fans are known, following the racers on Trackleaders online, and getting the play-by-play via Facebook.  Pretty much from the beginning I knew this was something I wanted to try.  The race borrows the ACA’s 40 year-old Trans Am touring route from Oregon to Virginia, which is the most popular way to ride across the country.  In my case, if I was going to cross the U.S. a second time on this longer, more northerly route, I was going to have to increase my daily mileage (and do some night riding) to fit it into my vacation time.  Given those realities, it made a lot of sense to join 114 people from 24 countries who were doing the same thing!  In the end, I averaged 123 miles per day over 33 days, 23 hours, and 51 minutes.  That was good enough for 49th place of 65 finishers.  49 of the 114 riders who started did not finish the race, which is about typical for this event.  For perspective, the race leaders were doing over twice my daily mileage and finished in sub-17 days!  But, there were plenty of riders around me in the slower ranks, particularly before so many abandoned the race.

 

Tell us about the Trans Am Bike Race?

The TABR is the creation of Nathan Jones, circa 2014.  Nathan had the brilliant idea of merging the Trans Am bicycle route (a pre-existing cycle touring route with 40 years of resources supporting it) with the same satellite race tracking technology used in the offroad Tour Divide.  The route covers 4165 miles from Astoria, OR to Yorktown, VA, with about 204,000 feet of climbing.  The main difference from RAAM (the long-running Race Across America), is that the cyclists must race entirely self-supported, carrying their own gear or purchasing what is needed along the way themselves.  So, the most common race rig is a road bike with bikepacking bags.  A few racers ride dedicated time-trial rigs (more on that later).

Trans_Am_Bike_Race_2018_start_line_photo_credit_Anthony_Dwyer_

 

How many hours of sleep did you get on average?

Probably about 6 hours a day, which is a ton for this event.  My off the bike time for sleep, eating, and other logistics was higher than those closest to me in the race, but then my riding speed was a bit faster as well.  It’s all about what works for the individual.  At the front of the field, very little off the bike time is the norm, and many of those riders dispense with the notion of a “day”, and go on a very flexible “ride til you drop” schedule.  I saw a lot of folks further back in the ranks scratch from the race after burning themselves out, not taking good care of saddle sores, etc.  Finishing was a top priority for me, so I listened to my body.  I developed some numbness in my right hand, and contracted a chest cold in the Rocky Mountains.  These things didn’t cost me much mileage overall, but I took care to listen to how I was feeling and rest accordingly.  Having completed this race, I know that trimming back rest time would be the area of focus for future events.  Still, I would encourage anyone contemplating the TABR to remember that this is grassroots racing and there is not even prize for first place!  Given that, since it’s most likely eating up all of your vacation time, you have a right to suffer, but also to enjoy the ride as much as you see fit!

 

Do you plan to do other Ultra Endurance Events?  If so, which ones and when?

I would encourage any reasonably capable cyclist to consider these events, even if they haven’t excelled in traditional racing.  There are opportunities in ultra racing to capitalize on diverse skills, such as mechanical ability.  Build yourself up a good bike in the first place, and know how to fix it!  Some riders this year lost entire days seeking out bike shops for relatively simple repairs they might have handled themselves.  There are a lot of variables besides speed to help produce a good result in the Trans Am.  Good planning, plus resilience when things go sideways, will give one an edge against a fast rider lacking those traits.  I feel that the biggest reward the Trans Am has to offer is an environment to really test one’s abilities.  In my case, I  gained fitness and felt stronger as the weeks  progressed, but I also know now that I can probably push longer in future events.  I plan to devote the next couple of years of vacation time to family!  But, given what I’ve learned, my investment in equipment, and my enjoyment of the Trans Am Bike Race, I do foresee tackling something similar again.

 

How did you train for such an event?  Would you do anything different?

Everything that’s happened to me on a bicycle since 1999 I blame on commuting!  I purposely chose to live about 15 miles as the crow flies from work, and it’s honestly been the 20 years of commuting that developed me as a cyclist.  There was never a plan to start touring or ride across the country multiple times.  I just sort of capitalized on the fitness and enjoyment that came from commuting, and taking long rambling exploratory routes home.  On the other hand, as a consequence of zero investment, I still don’t have any of the speed or skills useful in most race situations!  Turns out riding a lot at moderate speed makes you good at riding a lot at moderate speed.  Fortunately, now there are some cycling events where that has some application.  Still, I admire the riders that crushed my own result, so I’d be looking to trim my off the bike time in future events and see what happens.

 

Tell us about your rig and setup?  Bike, gear, nutrition etc.

I’ll start with nutrition.  Subway for sandwiches, gas stations and dollar stores for everything else is the norm.  I was fond of Chex Mix in one feed bag and Swedish Fish in the other, and Gatorade or Powerade in the bottles (I invented some pretty gross mixes).  I ate a lot of ice cream sandwiches once we left the Rockies and temperatures were in the 90’s instead of the 40’s!  Incidentally, Aquaphor healing ointment is a good stand-in for chamois lube, and you can buy it in drug stores along the way.  It’s easiest if you can learn to live on things you can find everywhere, at any hour, versus having specialty items shipped to post offices up the road.

I rebuilt a 2003 Litespeed Tuscany ti road frame with modern components for this event.  It is a bike I’ve had since new, and it was in need of an updated component selection anyway.  The Tuscany was Litespeed’s all-arounder road bike of that era, and has proven itself a capable load-bearer.  I erred on the side of reliability over ultimate light weight in my build.  Shimano Ultegra mechanical with 34-50 rings and 11-28 cassette suited me fine, though 30 or 32 were more popular big cogs, and I saw everything up to a 34x48 granny used.  Front hub was a Schmidt SON dynamo to keep GPS and etc charged over the long haul.  The bike was adorned with the typical bikepacking bags, in my case from Revelate designs. 

Road, time-trial, and cyclocross frames have all been used with great success in the TABR.  All can be configured for the balance of speed-to-comfort that the individual feels is best for them, which is the key. 

I had never used aerobars before, but knew they were absolutely essential for ultra endurance events.  Apart from aerodynamics, it’s the ability to constantly vary the riding position to fight fatigue that is so important.  It was while shopping for aerobars that I completely stumbled onto Redshift and the Switch Aero System.  As I tend to prioritize simplicity and reliability in my cycling gear, I am decidedly “anti-gadget”, but I could immediately see the benefits of the dual-position seatpost.  Who wants to sit on the nose of their saddle for hours, or be in a compromised seating position, while using clip-on aerobars?  Conversely, much of the Trans Am course (and my local terrain) does not favor a TT bike.  Since I also liked the idea of easily removable clip-ons for travel and giving the bike “multiple personalities”, I bought both the Redshift aerobars (in ski bend) and dual-position post, the Switch Aero System.  I really appreciate that these are offered in aluminum rather than just carbon, since I’m attaching bags (and atypical weight) to both bars and seatpost.  I also knew that aluminum would stand a better chance of remaining usable if a crash occurred.

I mounted the aerobars with the included maximum set of risers, for comfort akin to leaning over the back of a sofa on my forearms!  I’m pleased to say that they were rock solid throughout the 4000 miles, despite also supporting a drybag full of gear and two feed bags beneath.  The dual-position seatpost was an absolute game changer versus my earlier cross-country tours without one.  While there were a few dedicated TT rigs in this year’s TABR, to my knowledge I was the only rider with a bike with two completely different riding positions, and I used both liberally.  On the plains of eastern Colorado and Kansas, the seatpost never left TT mode, but everywhere else it was up to my whim and a quick tug upward.  Simple, effective, well-made, durable.  I found the execution of the Redshift post to be as good as the idea.

 

Would you add anything to your setup?

This is an easy one.   I would pack identically and keep my setup the same if I were to do the race again.  I paid attention to others’ rigs in previous editions of the race, and combined that with my own light touring experience in deciding what to include.  I’m happy to say I used nearly everything I took, barring some emergency items I thankfully didn’t need, but just as easily could have.

 

Tell us more about the bag you used with the dual position seatpost? Any issues with this?

After a few test rides with the Switch Aero system, I was totally sold on the value of the dual-position seatpost.  But, since I wanted to use a traditional bikepacking seatpack to carry the bulk of my equipment, I realized some creativity was in order.  These bags all attach to the seatpost, but are suspended from the saddle rails.  This presented a problem, as the saddle must be able to be pulled up and forward into the TT position.  Using a heavy “beam” style seatpost rack with a drybag on top was a clunky and unappealing solution,.  So I set about finding something light that could be run high on the seatpost to suspend the seatpack.  Fortunately, Moots makes a small titanium loop rack called the Tailgator.  Their accompanying bag was too small for my needs, but the Moots ti rack proved perfect for suspending my Revelate bikepacking bag beneath, and I was even able to strap a small bag on top, too.  So, the addition of a small, light ti rack adapted the Redshift post to use a standard bikepacking seatpack.  This will be a welcome solution for many who already have these bags for their mountain bikes, and want to use them with the dual-position seatpost on the road.

TABR_2018_Riding_through_central_Virginia_photo_credit_Glenn_Eck_

 

Favorite story/moment from the race?

Honestly, the whole experience is a very unique and special, particularly for an amateur racer in a race that has no prequalifiers for entry.  I shared the road with racers from 24 different countries.  An entire online community of fans have coalesced around the race’s public Facebook page.  There’s a guy on there, Ron Nelson, who does very thoughtful race commentary and ongoing analysis.  Another person, Anthony Shawley, gives daily weather reports for all areas of the course.  Then, there are the “dot watchers”, fans who watch the race on Trackleaders and chime in with individual encouragement, despite having never met the racers!  All the while, of course, your friends and family are doing the same.

 In a lot of the small towns the race passes through, it’s become a bit of an event.  I’d walk into a convenience store and the clerk would welcome me by name, having watched me come into town on the tracker.  Or someone would cheer me on from the porch of a farmhouse in the dark, at 11pm.  That kind of stuff was just nuts—and wonderful!

Finally, there are the “trail angels”, a growing cadre of super-fans who live near the route and make the effort to meet every racer on-course with encouragement—and sometimes gifts!  Mike and Wendy Davis in Ash Grove, MO had commemorative TABR coins made for us.  Paul Wells and his wife met me outside Berea, KY with a cold Gatorade and posted pictures to Facebook (so my family could see I was still alive)!  Gretchen Heller Thomas and David Elliot stash a cooler full of goodies atop the biggest climb in Virginia for us all to attack.  “Prince Purple” ambushed me at 11pm at a convenience store 100 miles from the finish.  And finally, John Sprock and Tom Alford meet each and every racer at the finish in Yorktown for weeks, with beer, watermelon, a Facebook livestream, and transportation if needed.  These folks, the Trans Am Bike Race community, make the event what it is, and they’ll be there next year doing the same.  I hope someone reading this will be out there to experience it all!

Many thanks to Redshift Sports for an innovative and well-built product that really contributed to my comfort and efficiency, and for the opportunity to talk about the experience here.

 

-Glenn Eck


| Posted in Product News

DC RAINMAKER'S IN-DEPTH REVIEW OF THE SWITCH AERO SYSTEM

Thursday, October 30, 2014 11:27 AM

A couple of months ago one of our favorite bloggers, Ray Maker (a.k.a, DC Rainmaker), posted an in-depth review of the Switch Aero System. We felt incredibly honored that he chose to review the Switch Aero System because he mainly focuses on triathlon and endurance sports related technology (think GPS watches, heart-rate monitors, and the like) and doesn't frequently review non-tech components. He had followed our Kickstarter campaign and decided that the products were interesting enough to warrant an in-depth look.

"Every once in a while an endurance sports product comes out that piques my interest, even if it’s not directly a sports technology item ... So why the interest here? Well, the Redshift Aero system essentially allows you to convert your road bike into a triathlon bike. That in and of itself isn’t unique – there are tons of products on the market that do that. What is unique though is that you can instantly do so (in a few seconds), and convert it back to a traditional road bike configuration in a few seconds as well."

For those of you who haven't visited his blog before: prepare yourself - his reviews are incredibly detailed and thorough. You can read the entire review by following the link below, and we've also quoted a few of our favorite lines from the review!

DC Rainmaker: Redshift Sports Aero System In-Depth Review

Photo courtesy of DC Rainmaker

Ray's take on the Quick-Release Aerobars, ...

"When it comes to the Redshift system, I personally find the aerobars the coolest component of the set. Mostly because of the engineering that clearly went into designing such a system that’s so easy to use, yet knowingly so complex to get designed right."
"So with that overview – how about stability? ... I’m pretty sure I could have actually sat on my aerobars and it would have stayed put. I was very happy there."
"Did bumps in the road cause any jostling of the aerobars? And was there any play in the armpad area? Again, a clear ‘no’. I took it up and down, and all around through the cobbled streets of Paris, including up and down the famed Champs-Élysées. No vibrations and no unexpected wonkiness."
"From the standpoint of the aerobars, they’re about as perfect of a clip-on aerobar as I can imagine. Super-easy to remove and put back on, but equally as easy to tweak the configuration if need be."

...the Dual-Position Seatpost, ...

"Installation of the completed seatpost onto your bike is pretty much silly simple. You take the tube, and stick it in the hole. Most adults should be familiar with such a procedure."
"The whole hinge feels almost magnetic in that it wants to lock/pull to one side or the other, there’s no middle ground... In my testing I found it almost perfect..."
If you can grab a water bottle, you can change the seatpost ... And remember, as long as you’re sitting on it, it can’t actually go anywhere."

... and the overall Switch Aero System 

"In general I’d suggest that if you’re just getting into the sport then a clip-on system is the best way to go. It allows you to take an existing road bike and make it a suitable triathlon bike for certain race lengths. A system like Redshift is at a premium over cheaper clip-on products. That premium is simply because it’s far more convenient to go back and forth between road and tri."
"Overall I’m really impressed with the Redshift system. It performs exactly as you’d anticipate and does so without any issues. The fit flexibility of the system is on par with most aerobar systems on the market, yet with the significant added benefit of being able to remove the aerobars on demand. Meanwhile, the seatpost is highly unique in the market and fills the gap for folks wanting to be able to maintain a better fit across both road and triathlon positions."

We can't thank Ray enough for the amazing review! If you're interested in triathlon, endurance sports, and specifically sports technology, his blog (DCRainmaker.com) is an encyclopedia of information about pretty much everything endurance sports and triathlon related. Remember, you can support his efforts (he doesn't get paid for his reviews) by purchasing products through the Amazon or Clever Training links on his site.

Tags:

| Posted in Product News

Our friends at 220 Triathlon featured the Switch Aero System in their November Issue in a special Gear News section and posted a First Look on their site.

Read More

Tags:

| Posted in Product News

REDSHIFT YOUR RIDE: CHRIS L.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 11:34 AM

Chris Langager from Boulder, CO decided that the quick-release functionality would be perfect for his upcoming month-long bikepacking trip through Idaho and along the Great Divide.

Read More
| Posted in Product News

REDSHIFT ON THE PODIUM: BRITANNY BALLARD

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 11:36 AM

A couple weeks back during the TriRock Philadelphia Tri Olympic Race, while Redshift's own Stephen Ahnert and Scott Poff were locked in an epic battle, Brittany Ballard was winning the female 25-29 age group in impressive fashion. This was Brittany's first race using the Switch Aero System, in fact, she only installed the system about a week before the race.

Brittany on the podium at the TriRock Philly Tri

Brittany, who is originally from Texas, teaches math and computers at the Franklin Learning Center High School in Philadelphia. We caught up with Brittany a couple days after the race and talked about her win, Redshift gear, and how she got into the sport.

Brittany at the pre-race expo showing off her Switch Aero System

RS: How did you get into triathlon?

BB: I actually did my first triathlon when I was in high school! I began running and swimming competitively and when I was 17 (over 10 years ago) I did my first race at the YMCA in Athens, TX. When I went to undergrad, I took a break from triathlon. I ran cross country one season at school (Trinity University in San Antonio, TX) and swam two seasons. I got back into it once I moved to Philadelphia five years ago.

RS: How many races have you done?

BB: Honestly, I have not kept track….It’s been several! But I stick with Olympics and Sprints, not long course.

RS: Why did you decide to get the Switch Aero System?

BB: I have a nice road bike that I purchased a couple of years ago. I love that bike and having been seeing my race times go down ever since I bought it; plus, I get a lot of use out of it, say, if I want to go on a bike ride with my fiance and a group of friends. That being said, at tri’s, I would see a lot of very expensive TT bikes zoom by me, and this would be very frustrating. Being a teacher, I love my job, but I don’t make the kind of money where I can just go spend several thousands of dollars on a bike. So I began researching how to convert a road bike into a TT bike. I read that not only do you need the aero bars, but you need a seat post that will push you forward. That’s when I came across the Redshift Switch Aero System! It seemed like the perfect setup for me because I could easily convert between a road bike and a tri bike. I read about it and researched it, but sat on it for a while and just continued pushing myself in training. A week before Philly Tri, I found out that Breakaway was carrying the Switch Aero System and that other people were having success with it. Since it was only a week before the race, I was very nervous about having it installed and trying to figure out how to handle the bike being in aero position. Coach Todd did not have any doubts about me being able to race in aero, so I went ahead and did it, and I’m very happy I did!!

RS: Tell us about your race experience

BB: I was a little nervous a few days leading up to the race. I got my bike with the aerobars installed on Thursday. I practiced riding in aero while I was at RPM on the indoor computrainer Thursday evening, and I also practiced on Friday by riding my bike to the expo. Finally, I did some easy spinning on West River Drive Saturday morning, and then I felt comfortable and confident about handling the bike in the aero position.

Because they do time trial starts (6 athletes start every 10 seconds or so) at the Philly Tri it is difficult to tell your position in the race among your division. You just have to give your best on each leg and then see where you end up in the results. My wave (F25-29 and Aquabike) was the next to last to start our race. Besides having to maneuver myself around a lot of swimmers who had started before me, I had a good swim. T1 went well for me too, although I still need practice getting my wetsuit off. When I grabbed my bike off the rack, I didn’t see any others in my section off the rack, so I knew I had a pretty good start to the race. I felt great on the bike portion! I rode in my aerobars as much as I possibly could--it was very comfortable and I could feel that it as making a difference. Still, I didn’t know exactly how fast I was going because my bike computer wasn’t working. So I just focused on passing as many people as I could and hoping that I wouldn’t get passed by very many others. I think only two people ended up passing me, neither were in my division. After dismounting and running into T2, I did not see any bikes in my section and was pretty sure I was 1st in my division. But you never know, someone can still finish several minutes behind you and have a faster time than you with those time trial starts. So I knew I needed to run hard! Unfortunately, my hamstrings and glutes were more sore than usual. I had anticipated that this might happen. I knew that the new forward position on the bike would work different muscles, and I had only been training with the new fit for a few days. But I know as I continue training with the new fit, my muscles will adapt! So, I just relied on my running background and focused on holding good form.

Nobody had passed me during my run, so I was hopeful that I at least placed in the top 3 of my age group. When I got my ticket with my results printed, the first thing I saw was a “1” next to division place. That made me very happy! So then I looked at my final time, and I had gotten my Olympic Distance PR by 15 minutes! Most of the improvement I had made was on my bike split, so I was very happy! This was a very memorable race for me as it is the last triathlon I have planned before I get married. To be able to win my AG and have such a huge PR made it that much more special! Thank you guys for designing such a cool product that helped me with my bike split!!

Approaching the finish line

RS: What other races do you plan to do this season?

BB: For triathlon, I am planning to do the North East Triathlon in late August, which is USAT Mid-Atlantic Regionl Club Championships, with the Breakaway Racing Team. I am also highly considering doing the Nation’s Tri in DC in early September. Both races are Olympic Distance. I also like to participate in local 5k’s and 10k’s throughout the year.

RS: Tell us a bit about your training

BB: For cycling and running, I train a lot with the Breakaway Racing Team (which is through the Breakaway Bikes shop in center city). I do a lot of their RPM classes in the evenings and go to track sessions with them on Wednesdays. Coach Todd has been really pushing me and helping me get stronger on the bike and run! Breakaway Racing Team has been a very fun and supportive group for me to be a part of! For swimming, I go to the YMCA. I usually do sets that are about 2000-3500 yards, about three sessions per week. I still incorporate a lot of things other than freestyle like butterfly, IM, drills, etc…. I think sometimes as triathletes we tend to focus so much on freestyle, but doing the other strokes makes you an overall well-rounded swimmer!

Congratulations to Brittany! We hope she has many more wins.

Brittany with some of her winning teammates from Breakaway

| Posted in Product News

1-5 of 8

Page:
  1. 1
  2. 2