Factory Day without Factory Legs

Factory day without factory legs

By Brandon Castelli / brandon@hi-torque.com

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be a professional racer, traveling the world and riding a bike prepped by a personal mechanic who caters to my every need; the best equipment at my fingertips; and a matching kit to really tie in that factory look. Well, this month I had just that privilege; however, being a factory racer isn’t all that it seems. Sure, I had all the right tools—Pivot’s all-new Mach 4 SL complete with Fox Live suspension and an XTR 12-speed build kit. The bike was dialed, and along with my bike’s high-end trim was a personalized sticker bearing my name on the frame. Pivot was even kind enough to outfit me with a factory race kit. I eagerly lined up at the Grand Junction Off-Road race presented by Epic Rides, determined to prove I had what it took to be a professional racer. With a few dozen training rides under my belt and two days familiarizing myself with my new bike on Fruita, Colorado’s finest trails, I was ready for the gun to fire and the race to begin.

My Factory Experience

Epic Rides puts on some of the best events on the West Coast, including the Whiskey Off-Road and 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. However, the race I was lined up at was the Grand Junction Off-Road, which featured 40 miles of technical racing at a healthy elevation. It was going to be tough. The locals told me I had to hit the dirt early to avoid the inevitable bottleneck once the pavement turned to singletrack. I charged ahead, making passes early and positioning myself in the perfect situation to strike.

Once we hit the dirt, I was suddenly struck by the cruel reality that I’m not really a professional racer. As the day went on and the hours ticked away, I began to drift off, losing focus and quickly changing my mental state from race-ready to survival mode. The course took a turn for the worse when it headed up a fire-road climb that seemed to go on for hours. All of a sudden, I was buried deep in my granny gear, grinding up the mountain at a snail’s pace.

It wasn’t until I returned to single-track that I got my second wind. I dug deep and charged on, battling a cramp in each leg while repeating the motivational song that played in my headphones earlier that morning. As I began to smell the finish line, my legs gave me a little more juice and allowed me to continue to push on. I barreled down rock gardens at full speed with the hopes of salvaging my overall time. At one point, I questioned my sanity when I saw a life-sized chicken waving around a chainsaw. This couldn’t be true, I thought to myself, but stopping to confirm wasn’t an option. I came through the finish line absolutely destroyed with a time of just under five hours. I made my way over to the Pivot team tent where the real professionals were sitting. At that moment, I realized you can have a factory bike, a team mechanic and all the support in the world, but you can’t fake factory legs.

You can’t fake factory legs

Before I go any further, I should state that the bike I was riding—the all-new Mach 4 SL—is an absolute race weapon. It truly improved my results. Still, even though I had jumped aboard a bike with all the bells and whistles, I was far from competitive. This race taught me that you can’t fake fitness, no matter how factory my equipment was. I’d only be as good as the effort I put in. I can assure you that having the best of everything won’t magically make you a faster or better rider. Sure, it will help, but at the end of the day, you either earn results or suffer off the back. I may have learned this lesson the hard way, but I want to save MBA’s loyal readers from facing the same misfortune. The best way to improve is not to spend money on upgrades and top-of-the-line equipment. Sure, if you can afford those luxuries, they will help, but there’s no substitute for spending more time on your bike. So, with that in mind, go out to the garage, grab your bike and hammer it until the pedals fall off.

Follow me at brandon_castelli


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