The Knight Composites Blog has been on the to-do list for a good while now, and I’ve wanted to get it turned in as many times but have barely found the time to put an hour on the bike, never mind stare at my computer screen to edit down all of the amazing things that have happened over Knight’s short history. So, instead of waxing lyrical about the last two years, I figured it would be way more interesting to write just a little about the upcoming leg of our journey – and the timing couldn’t be more appropriate since I’m currently sitting on a train from Exeter in Devon, UK to London having spent the last four days bouncing around northern Europe visiting our distributors.
There’s something about business travel that reminds me of racing. That pursuit of a goal at breakneck speed whist trying to pace yourself in order that you might find some legs after the halfway point to crush the home stretch? I mean, frankly, I’m bloody exhausted because it’s hard to pack 20,000 miles of planes, trains and automobiles into four days, but this little journey is so synonymous with how Knight has evolved – at a screaming pace – that it would be odd to have it happen any other way. I’m staring out the window as I type – there are rolling green fields and hills flying by, and I’m sitting here with a stupid grin on my face thinking “God, I cannot wait for April so I can slam my new wheels into the mountain bike and ride through that stuff.”
Knight has had its foot on the gas since day one. On the very day that Jim, Kevin and I decided to start Knight Composites, it was pretty apparent there wouldn’t be too much down time. The bike industry moves with such wild momentum and there are some really crazy things happening as we all continue to try to innovate to make us faster, safer, stronger, lighter, smarter and all of the other adjectives to describe the very different aspects that are entwined into our mutual love of cycling. We’re all tech heads, addicts, nerds and grafters and we don’t get to ride anywhere near as much as we’d like to. So, we live vicariously through our customers and our athletes, watching and waiting for the next email, tweet, like or post to deliver the gratification of knowing we’ve done a good job. It’s a nice feeling to get up in the morning and find another person stoked to be riding something you’ve put the time and energy into to guarantee the euphoria of a really awesome ride, somewhere in the world.
So speaking of manic, the next few weeks sees Knight embarking on the next phase of our growth – and that takes us into the world of mountain biking. Being new to the market allows you to watch the trends and benchmarks of what our colleagues are doing in the industry and, honestly, allows you a head start to create something that is truly relevant. Relevance, to my partners and me, is a really, really big deal. We’re all of the mindset not to put a sticker on some me-too product and call it awesome because there is absolutely no point in launching something that is old school and not in keeping with the pace of the sport. So, to that end, Knight will launch four new wheelsets to the market at Sea Otter in Monterey. A 27.5” Plus, and 27.5” Enduro, a 29” Trail and a 29” Gravel. The latter is a bit of an odd one as this wheel is so versatile that it’s hard to pigeonhole it as just a wheel that can be used for riding gravel roads. It can accommodate a 33mm cross tire and be raced on, or a 2.1 mountain tire and be taken out on single track or a 42mm semi-slick and be used for fire and gravel roads, as the name suggests. Swap out the end caps on the hub, and you can use one wheel for most all on or off-road riding…and if you’re keen to pull out the panniers and head out on an expedition, well let’s just say you’re going to be very comfortable clocking miles and it’s not just because you really love the worn-in comfort of your Brooks saddle. Add to these offerings the cyclocross tubular and cyclocross disc, to bridge the gap between off-road and the tarmac, and you’ll soon see a pretty sweet collection of bike porn.
On the road side, we’ve already seeing success from our entry into the market with the 95mm, 65mm and 35mm clinchers, but we will launch the 35mm road tubular and 35mm road disc to satisfy the rider who still gets off on gluing rubber (that includes me) and the guy who wants to surround his rotors in superfast carbon goodness. Whatever floats your boat, we get to put the wind in your sails this season and we’re pretty bloody excited to do so. The ‘superfastwheels’ hashtag that we include in all of our social media is there for a reason, because it sums up very succinctly exactly what we’re about. You’ll see a few more spins on #SFW in the coming weeks that will really underline that. Exciting stuff, we promise.
It would be indecent of me to end this short blog without mentioning our athletes. Whilst you won’t see our wheels on the Champs-Elysees or climbing Mont Ventoux this year, you’ll hear about them being ridden by some pretty special people.The United States Military Endurance Sports team is a group of men and women who serve in the US military, the very same people who provide us with the blanket of security we sleep under here and from military bases worldwide. It’s an honor for us to support these people and we couldn’t be prouder to see the Knight logo on the uniforms they wear when on racing duty. We decided to sponsor the team and their 1,000+ members, not just because they represent the pinnacle of dedication to their sport and their country, or because their Paralympic team is going for it in Rio; but also because we felt they could give us some very technical feedback on our wheels. It’s not often you can send an email to an engineer or an aerodynamicist outside of the company and ask for a ride report that includes this kind of critique. We could not be better paired with such a loyal group, so “Go USMES!” We salute you!
Team Illuminate grew from the success of the Airgas-Safeway team, headed up by Chris Horner, in 2015. A team, like Knight, committed to bringing people together from all over the world to do some really cool stuff together. Whilst Knight retains Horner as a consulting partner in the company and wishes him well with his new team (Team Lupus), Team Illuminate are even further dedicated to bringing young riders the experience of international high level racing. The team has riders from Australia, New Zealand, North and South America and, having met five of them at the Tour of Taiwan a couple of weeks ago; I can say that this is a group of lads who have really gelled and are determined to make their mark in the racing world and we’re excited to support them. In fact, the first night meeting the guys at the team hotel saw my product manager, Scott, and I running around Taipei trying to find an oversized SRM mount in an effort to get Scott Sunderland access to his power meter on stage one. Finding out it doesn’t exist, four taxi rides and three bike shops later with a few “Ni hao’s”, “Xie-xie’s” and lots of hand signals, we solve the problem with a begged, borrowed and/or stolen 38cm 26.0 Deda bar, a 130mm Deda stem and the heralded SRM mount. Bottom line, we try to support our boys even when it’s not with our own products…and have a ton of fun with them in doing so.
Triathlon is something left to only the hardiest of souls – just my humble opinion as a gal who struggles to do anything reasonably well other than ride a bike. Okay, so the skate skiing is finally coming along, but I’m just not a multi-sport athlete. In truth, the scales suggest I’m not an athlete at all at the moment, but that’s a whole other story for another glass of wine and not the point of this paragraph. So let’s talk about Heather Jackson. I’m sure she’ll resent me for suggesting she’s pint sized because at 5’4”, she is the same height as the ‘average’ American woman. But that’s the only place HJ fits the median – in pro Ironman triathlon terms, she is anything but. As the first American woman across the line in 5th place at Kona last year…in her first world championship, no less…she is nothing short of amazing to us (but I will still refer to her as ‘The Pocket Rocket’). Her fellow Knight riders share similar triumphs in multiple IM winners (and fellow Bend-ite) Jesse Thomas, Ben Hoffman and Matt Russell, with one of the winningest faces in road race sprint finishes, Ivan Dominguez, switching out time trials for transitions. A monster team indeed, and we’re already dusting down the wall of fame ready for the checkered flag photos and what promises to be a great season for our athletes (hello again, Kona!).
Finally, the release of much anticipated off-road wheels would be worthless without a mountain bike team putting miles on our products, and the sponsorship of the UK-based Novus-OMX pro team is especially endearing to me as it provides a great platform for none other than my fellow Sheffield, UK home girl, Annie Last, who is chasing gold at Rio this year. Another pistol, Annie has had some down time during previous seasons thanks to sustaining an injury that kept her off the bike for too long, but she is racing hard and already has a win under her belt for 2016 early season. Like Illuminate, this team houses young upcoming riders from all over the world – Israel, South Africa, Germany and the UK– and from Cape Epic to Rio and all of the World Cup circuit races in between, we think you will see a lot of these guys and gals over the coming months. We wish them every success on their #RoadtoRio
Well, I can see the skyline of London looming ahead, so all of this leads me to bring my wittering-on to a close, so I’m reserving this last paragraph or two to underline who we are and what we believe in. I’m not going to throw out some evangelical crap about striving to be the best, even though that’s our ultimate intention; or write some marketing spiel to encourage you to jump off the couch and run to the nearest bike shop to buy yourself a set of very sexy Knight wheels…although that will guarantee some huge respect from our side. Despite the fact that we’re cooped up in Bend, Oregon in the far northwest corner of the United States or in our design studio in (bloody cold) Toronto, or in our F1-esque factory in Taichung; we speak the global language of cycling fluently and we’re bound and determined to be here for you. We’d like to think we’re the kind of folk you might like to have a beer with after work on a Friday night to catch up on the latest news or the upcoming club run on Sunday, and maybe you’ll ask us about what it is that we do and we’ll grin and refill your glass and tell you enough to be dangerous. We don’t have a four-story world headquarters and hundreds of employees – ours is on the edge of a golf course, by a trailhead, on the way up to the ski mountain (note, none of us play golf).
We have kids, significant others, we work too hard sometimes and probably stay up too late and drink too much coffee the next day (how many times does my coffee cup hit the microwave?). We feel older than we look (my humble opinion and not necessarily the views shared by the majority).
We forget to eat breakfast and we’d all like to ride (much) more, we enjoy a beer or three and then argue between us about US politicians and the price of fish. Like you, we regard cycling as an integral part of our lives, but it doesn’t define who we are. We just like to make cool, superfast stuff and take care of the people who see something in what we have to offer. It’s a bloody long way to the top, and we still have a hell of a lot of peaks and valleys to haul ass over yet…but its good living and we’re pretty happy to be riding this long and winding road together.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this first blog – hope your morning coffee or afternoon tea stayed warm in the process! See you on the roads and on the trails!