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Outdoor Research Expands into MTB, Defending Speaker Guy & A Mailbag of Listener Rock Fights


Today on THE ROCK FIGHT Colin digs into the announcement that Outdoor Research is expanding into mountain bike apparel (00:38), how to deal with the folks who like to blare the bluetooth while biking and skiing (10:57) and lastly Colin opens up the mailbag and addresses some rock fights that have been picked by our listeners (16:44)!

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

COLIN (00:05):

Welcome to the Rock Fight where we speak our truth, slays sacred cows and sometimes agree to disagree. I'm Colin true. Today on the show I pick some rock fights with a recent outdoor industry headline. I do the unthinkable when I defend the much maligned outdoor speaker guy, that person on the trail at the ski resort that thinks you don't mind listening to their music. And then we're gonna end it all up. Wrap it all up with a mailbag. That's all. Next here on the rock fight soap. Let's get started.

(00:38) So we're starting today with some outdoor industry news specifically Last week it came out that outdoor research is launching a line of mountain bike specific clothing and my buddy over at Outdoor Research, Alex Laver, is probably not going to like my take here. He and I have been talking about him coming on the show at some point. Um, maybe we'll have that happen now after this. Uh, but longtime listeners of the rock fight who heard Justin Hausman and I talk about RABs mountain bike line launch earlier this year are not going to be surprised by my take at all. And my take is simple. Just why. You know, outside of increasing revenue generation potential, this is a waste of resources for a brand that is claiming to put sustainability at the forefront of its practices. You know, outdoor research is claiming that outdoor research customers are already using pieces from their range when out on the bike and that they would be better served by bike specific products From outdoor research.

(01:38) They're announcing that they are the principle founder of the world's biggest mountain biking festival, Crankworx Whistler in support of this range expansion. And look, we have decades of experience here to draw from. I'm sure there will be people who like outdoor research products. I'm sure the products will be good. Okay? I am sure they will work great. Do everything. Outdoor research says that they will do, perform the way they're supposed to perform. And I'm open to the idea that maybe they nail something so perfectly they become the toast of the mountain bike community. But cycling, if anything is overserved. We are covered in every category, road mountain gravel, commuter cruiser electric at every price point when it comes to apparel, every style, there are tons of options including those who just rock jorts in a button down when riding their bike. No one is demanding anything new from cycling apparel and no one is asking for an outdoor research branded cycling line.

(02:47) You know, there are brand issues with this. Outdoor research is an outdoor brand. Yes, their consumers crossover. But I was in three different bike shops last week. Three in a span of two days almost all of the mountain bike apparel I saw was from specific cycling brands like Fox or Troy Lee. And look, I understand the appeal of this. I've said this before. You see an untapped adjacent market of enthusiasts who wear your stuff to go hiking and backpacking and all of the mountain bike. Why not offer them cycling apparel too? But unless you have a silver bullet of a product that can do something better than the stuff being made by other cycling brands, the best case scenario is what breaking even Jules Lamb Lare, who was just on the rock fight a few weeks ago to talk to me about nutrition and was my boss's boss when I worked at Pro Bar, taught me the Purple Cow theory.

(03:44) If you don't know the Purple Cow theory, you can Google it. It's a business marketing philosophy developed by a guy named Seth Godin, I think around early two thousands, 2003 I believe. And basically it's the notion that you need to have a level of uniqueness with a product in order to stand out from the crowd and be successful. If you're looking at a field full of cows and one of them is purple, that's the one you're gonna gravitate towards because it's different. I think the brand outdoor research is actually a good example of this. When I think of outdoor research, I think of their gators, I think of their gloves. Those were what made the brand stand out to me when I started getting into outdoor adventure sports in the nineties. And I know that's a long time ago, but the Seattle Rain Hat is a legendary piece of gear.

(04:31) The expansion into apparel that followed earlier in their history makes sense. But it's these products that come to mind when I think of outdoor research. But the days of doing it first are long over, okay? There is nothing new to make either from a material performance point of view or a product standpoint. The opportunity that exists for innovation today is entirely in the sustainability arena. So brands who try to break into a cluttered adjacent market need to do so with real differentiation that I just said doesn't exist but has to exist if you wanna really break into it. Because even if you have it, that doesn't guarantee success. Like do I believe, go back and listen to some episodes from earlier this year. Do I believe that LOA boots is going to be successful in the trail running space? Nope. 'cause I don't think there's anything remarkable about their trail running shoes.

(05:26) They look nice. I'm sure they work great. That's the thing on all this guys. I'm not saying that these things won't work. They will work if you wear them, use them. I'm sure they'll perform. But in terms of the resources to bring these things to market, I'm just saying I don't believe it's worth it. You know, back to Trail Runners, when Ultra and Hoka launch, they brought new ideas to a tired category and look at them now, right? They're the toast of trail running on the same thing. The on Midsole and outsole is a little gimmicky for my taste, but it makes sense to the consumer when you pick it up, okay? And those are success stories. Kibo, which just went outta business, had a great differentiator. It wanted to be the raffle of mountain biking, a high end domestically produced high quality option for the mountain bike community.

(06:16) What they didn't take into consideration in my opinion, is that mountain bikers aren't roadies. If you show up to the group road ride in your R E I bike shorts with a mismatched bike, jersey mountain bike shoes and micro mini socks, seriously, you're likely not to be invited back to the next group ride. Vanity matters in that space. If you show up in a full or not gravel kit to the casual group mountain bike ride that is mostly attended by folks who got their bike clothes at Goodwill, no one will give a shit. Let's just go mountain biking. They might poke fun at you, but you're not gonna be left out or left behind. The market for what KPO was selling proved to be too small in order for them to survive, but at least they were different, right? They were a purple cow. If you look at RA's new adventure cycling line, the cinder range, or at the press release for outdoor research's line, it's just more bike stuff.

(07:07) The only product differences that are noticeable are the stuff that product nerds who make the stuff will know about. Now, I do think brands deserve points for trying. If I'm in charge of growing outdoor research and the cost to expand the line into cycling is relatively low, it's low enough that even a light amount of purchases or adoptions can justify that cost, then yeah, of course I get the business side of it. But we understand the impact of making this stuff better than ever. All of this stuff will leave behind a big mark on the environment and how it's created and it will all remain in the world in some capacity until it's thrown away and then sit in a landfill for like forever. Now, outdoor research recently released their annual impact report and there's some good stuff in there. Uh, abiding by science-based targets to lower their emissions, actually talking about their Scope three emissions, which many brands ignore completely.

(07:59) The only thing I didn't see address as a consumer plan for the end of life of their products, which is really the elephant in the room if you ask me. You can make things greener and greener, but you're still making things that don't go away. What are you supposed to do with it when you're done with it and it can't be used anymore? You know, a RAB is doing their best to revive Timberland's Nutrition label initiative and be transparent to the consumer about the impact of the piece of apparel they're buying. And our outdoor community should demand more from the corporations who make the stuff and cause the greatest impact in our industry to the natural world, a k a our playground that we all wanna see protected because the sustainability card that all of these brands love to play because it's important to their consumers, says easy but does hard.

(08:43) Go back and listen to my conversation with Ken Pucker to hear more about that. But ultimately my fight here is less about the environmental side of things because that's a bigger problem the entire outdoor industry needs to address. And about the fact we just don't need another line of bike apparel. We are served. I can go on r e i.com among a million other websites, search for bike shorts and have a pair delivered to my house tomorrow that costs me somewhere between like 20 bucks and 200 bucks. There's nothing that outdoor research can put into a pair of bike shorts that will change my mind about this. Although I am happy, I'd be very happy to be proven wrong and have outdoor researchers bike line become the one ring to rule them all and have it be massively successful to the point where the game has changed forever.

(09:39) I will gladly be right back here on this podcast eating a big plate of Crow to tell you that I was wrong. But my prediction is that the best case scenario is finding most of what they have is just another item on the second or third page of R e i.com when you type bike apparel into the search bar, that's the best case scenario. The worst case, I don't know, outlet Sale Marshalls, TJ Maxx. Prove me wrong. Outdoor research prove me wrong. Okay, we're gonna take a quick break and then I wanna talk to you about Speaker Guy. This episode of the Rock Fight is brought to you by Gear Trade since 1999. Gear trade.com has been your go-to home for a new outdoor gear and apparel. You know, you know you have that jacket pack or tent that has been left out of your past few adventures. Why not load it all in a box? Let gear Trade, sell it for you, just let 'em, let 'em do it. Let Gear Trade, sell it for you. They said they wanna sell it for you. Let Gear Trade, sell it for you. Heck, they'll even send you a box and a free shipping label. It's that easy to get cash money for all the stuff you are not used. Head to gear trade.com and click the sell your gear tab to learn more. Gear trade.com.

(10:58) So recently outside magazine posted on social media a column they originally ran in 2018 by EB Weiss, who is a regular cycling contributor to outside. And this article, this column was about a person, I'm guessing anyone listening to this knows very well the person that when we're out mountain biking or hiking or riding the lifts at your local ski resorts, you hear them coming before you see them. That's right, I am talking about speaker guy, that person who's blasting their music from a speaker on their pack or handlebars or wherever. The person who chooses not to wear headphones but instead decided to DJ for wherever they chose to recreate that day. And I am choosing to use an androgynous definition of the word guy here, although I don't, I don't think I've ever encountered a speaker gal. Maybe this problem is strictly a problem with men.

(11:51) Uh, if you know of any speaker gals, email me at my rock fight@gmail.com. But for today, I'm using Guy as a catchall mostly because speaker guy has a great ring to it. My views on Speaker Guy has no gender bias. If you go outside and play music through a speaker, I'm talking about you. The people who choose to do this have long been reviled in the outdoor community and are written off as having zero self-awareness or understanding of why most of us choose to go outside in the first place. And that's true. I don't think anyone that fires up a Bluetooth speaker instead of wearing headphones thinks they're doing anything wrong. I know what they're doing is wrong, but I would guess that if you could somehow conduct a poll of speaker folk everywhere, their deep down belief would be that what they're doing is just akay.

(12:36) Now let me be clear, I don't think it's okay. My point is that generally speaking, my guess is that they're coming from a place of ignorance more than a place of intentionally trying to piss off everyone around them. And as such, I think we need to approach this with a little more grace than what I found while reading Weiss's article on outside. Like for one, I mean, how much do these encounters really ruin your day? Okay, they're annoying. Sure, but when you pass a biker with a speaker mounted on it, the amount of time you actually have to spend in their proximity is so small. You hear them coming, you pass each other and it's over. Even if these folks know that what they're doing with their music is annoying to like 95% of the people they encounter, I mean who caress? Yes, I too use our sports as ways to find solitude and enjoy nature.

(13:26) And if I choose to listen to something, I will of course always use headphones, but I don't own the trails. And if 23 seconds of my ride are spent cringing at the bad musical choices of another enthusiast, I think I'll be okay. And then there is really only one other option. You stop and tell them that what they're doing isn't okay. My biggest pet peeve in life probably is that I don't like criticism or complaints without a plan to make the thing you're complaining about. Better talk to my kids. If you don't believe me on the trail, the encounters may be brief, but at a ski resort, you may run into speaker guy with more frequency over the course of a day. This is another reason why I don't like ski resorts, but we have two scenarios here. You always have a choice, either just relax, don't write articles about it or complain on Facebook groups or even bring it up to your pals, princess Elsa, that shit and let it go.

(14:17) And if you can't, then your only recourse is education. You have to tell them what they're doing isn't cool. I say this with confidence because I had to do it once that was about to depart on a river trip with a friend and he had packed a speaker and I told him straight up, don't even bring it. It's not even about the music you like or don't like. There will be people there who don't want to hear it at all. And you know what? That thought hadn't even occurred to him and he left it behind and everything was cool. Those of us who have been doing this stuff for a long time are so high on our own supply that we don't think of the fringe players. We see the world as those of us who have gone through the fire and learned all of the lessons and the right and wrong way to do this stuff.

(15:00) And so we view everyone else as being on the outside. And just last week I talked about learning the secret of going outside and that all it takes is to take that first step to understand the value that living an outdoorsy lifestyle can offer. But even if you take that first step, there's still a lot of ups and downs to go and it's kind of bullshit not to have some empathy for that. So let's go over it one more time. Remember, the next time you encounter speaker guy, you have two choices. Go about your day because really who caress, it's not life or death. Move on. I guarantee you that something way worse is probably going to happen to you later in the day. Like, uh, DoorDash delivering your Jersey. Mike's number 13 to the wrong address. Or kindly point out that some folks come into the woods to get away from things like music. And if they want to use their speaker, that's cool. But as you approach others, you should turn it way, way, way, way down or even off until they are out of earshot. Just take the high road people quit cluttering my internet experience with bullshit rock fights. All right. Okay, one more quick break and then it's time for our first ever mailbag.

(16:13) This episode of The Rock Fight is brought to you by Long Weekend Coffee with four varieties of beans. Long weekend is the best coffee to start your outdoor adventures every day, not just on the weekend. Head to long weekend Coffee. Yeah, that's what I said. Long weekend coffee. And be sure to enter the promo code Rock Tanana checkout for 10% off of your first order long weekend coffee. More weekend, please. All right, we're gonna wrap things up today with our first ever mailbag. Been wanting to do this for quite some time. So I've combed through the rock fight mailbox and our social media feeds and I picked out a couple of emails to talk about. Okay, so first up we have an email from Cody who comments, this is about our, um, episode on M T V Sports. He writes, M t v Sports should absolutely make a return.

(17:11) However, no love for Red Bull tv. Thanks. First of all, Cody, for the email for new listeners. Like I said, Cody's referring to my take that m t v sports needs to return and I'm still waiting on one of you to connect me with Dan Cortez. By the way, Dan Cortez, come on the rock fight show everybody, you have the balls to come on the rock fight. Dan, I know you do, Dan, you just haven't heard. Come on a show. I wanna talk to you. Yeah, listen, I guess I don't have a lot of love, uh, for Red Bull tv, not because it's bad or anything, it's sort of like a more curated YouTube experience right around the more sort of, I don't know, aggressive side of these sports. So it's not really my cup of tea. There's cool stuff on there, but it's not like a regular go-to spot.

(17:53) What I loved about M T v sports was the newness of everything. I mean, I learned a lot about the stuff that I've tried and do through that show and that's what I wanna see return. I mean, if M t V sports existed today, would there be a weekly pickleball segment monthly? You know, as much as I love doing this stuff, there's this side of me that thinks it's gotten all incredibly boring. You know, I I wanna see the, uh, I don't know, extreme spike ball where they're wearing armor or the swim running stuff I've heard about with, you know, famous people doing it. I don't know. And I think that's what I'm trying to give you with the rock fight, right, is just something that's not boring. But yeah, not a huge Red Bull fan. But, uh, thanks Cody for the email. Um, secondly we have another email from JT and JT writes, just wanted to say I'm a big fan of the show, been listening since, almost since the beginning.

(18:47) Thanks jt. Quick question. Where in pa are you from? You mentioned growing up near Hershey Park. I'm more of a can Nobles Grove guy, but I do remember when riding the super duper Looper was a big deal, huh? Yes, it was. The one thing that makes me want toss a rock at your head. Yeah, JT bringing the rock fight to the rock fight is that you forgot to put elderly woman by Pearl Jam in the top 20 campfire songs. You should toss Wagon Wheel into the abyss and replace it with the PJ Classic. Thanks and keep up the great work. Thanks jt. Appreciate you, uh, being a fan. It's nearly the beginning. Uh, that's awesome. You know, I honestly forgot about Can Nobles Grove and I believe it's Can Nobles. You would think it'd be Nobles. It's K n o e b e l, but I believe it's pronounced Kenoble.

(19:31) This is a family name. Uh, I forgot about all about Can Noble's Grove probably till I received your email. I left Pennsylvania 20 going on 25 plus years ago. So, uh, it's a place I was aware of as a kid, but Hershey Park was way closer to my house, so I never made it there. And I'm not a huge rollercoaster guy. I remember when Super Duper Lopper was like the shit and everyone was wearing super duper lopper T-shirts. Um, wasn't my favorite. I I always loved The Comet, which is the wooden rollercoaster Go Comet. But regarding your choice selection of elderly woman behind the counter in a small town by Pro Jam, you know, I think I need to take that rock you through off of my dome because that's a great choice. And it's not only a great choice, it's one of the first songs I ever learned to play and sing together.

(20:19) Uh, it's a go-to, it's a, you can make it an easy three chord banger. I'm not sure if that's legit, you know, stone Gossard style, but I can definitely play it that way. Uh, and it should not have been omitted, omitted. Uh, I, I don't know if I can displace Wagon Wheel, uh, but when we update the power rankings in 2024, I do think it will have to be included. And actually to point out what I mean about Wagon Wheel, I got another note on campfire songs that came through Insta came through Instagram actually. Uh, Darren writes, if Country Roads wasn't your Top song, I was bringing the Rocks <laugh>, uh, favorite version is still Love Seed Mama jumps. Okay, this is turning into not a mailbag but mid-Atlantic corner because between Hershey Park can NOLs Grove and now Love Seed Mama Jump Reference, which is a local Delaware, Philly brand, uh, Philly band that I discovered in college in 1993.

(21:11) Uh, it was Shock to Learn Pennsylvania people, Delaware people pay attention. Look it up. They're still actively performing shows. God damn good for you loves Seed Mama jump. Look, uh, the point that I was making with j t's email, uh, when doing these power rankings, the list started with Wagged Wheel and Country Roads and think those were the two automatic ins. So if Pearl Jam makes the next, the, the next list, the next power ranking, sorry jt, it likely won't be at the expense of either of those two. Now it doesn't mean that they'll maintain their position on the list, but I doubt either will come off. Uh, last email for this mailbag on the topic of backyard trails. Katie writes, I enjoyed this podcast but sorry I never had a backyard trail. Well thank you Katie for the email. I'm sorry to hear that.

(22:01) I'm not sure I necessarily believe it, but I guess if you tell me that's the case, it's true. I mean, here's my experience, um, that I've had that led to me writing the Backyard Trail episode. So I've lived in eight states at this point and a lot of places in those eight states, not just like one place. And I've always been able to find a trail in some capacity to run or bike on reasonably close to wherever I lived. And additionally, I traveled for work in the outdoor industry for 20 plus years. And I've been pretty much to every nook and cranny of the lower 48. There's only a handful of states in places I haven't visited. And no matter where I stayed on those business travels, I was always able to find a trail run or a place to walk on a trail near my hotel, which more often than not was located in business parks and near busy roads and rotaries and often at airports.

(22:54) Not that the trails were always about the airports, but not, you know, sometimes I'd have to drive, especially if I was staying at the airport. But they weren't hard to find, especially today with the internet and apps and it's easy to find trails. So I'm working on a future episode right now about mountain towns and a lot of my takes there are informed by the fact that a lot of my favorite memories of being on a trail we're not in the most epic places, but they were in small locales and places I only know about because the locals told me about them. And even if some of those cases, the locals didn't even know about them. And I probably need to do an episode about traveling for work because that's something that most people do incorrectly. Like even if you like traveling for work, it's inconvenient and tiring and you know, if you were given the choice, even if you're going to cool places, you'd probably still choose to stay home 'cause you're traveling for work.

(23:44) And most of the people I've worked with who travel for business, even in the outdoor industry, choose to go from the airport to meetings to the hotel, to back to the airport. They eat at chain restaurants and in the lobby of a courtyard, Marriott, whatever. You know, I always took the view of, well, I'm here, I may as well see what's around. So I'd dig for trails. I'm a big fan of searching in Yelp for hipster coffee places because then you could find the good local places with the good baristas and the good coffee. Uh, I'd read articles about the best places to go out to eat and ask whoever I was there to see about recommendations, where to go because there's a difference of blowing through someplace and actually getting to know it. And the local trails were always the most fun. You know, how could I create a five K to get in a workout and see somewhere beyond my hotel room?

(24:26) And then I'd get home and I'd appreciate my local trails, my personal local trails more than ever because I could compare them to other local trails. So Katie, I'm sure there's something near where you live if you're still convinced. Otherwise, maybe right back with your town name, see if I can work my magic. Uh, that's all for the messages today, except for the today's mailbag. The first ever mailbag. If I didn't read your question or email today, please continue to reach out. You can send your emails to My Rock fight@gmail.com. Uh, we're on Instagram and threads, I shit can Twitter 'cause just fuck that. I hate what's going on over there. But on Threads and Instagram, were at Under Rock Fight. That's at underscore rock. Fight Under Send your Questions, comments, whatever to be featured on a Future mailbag. That's the show for today. I'm Colin True. Thanks for listening. The Rock Fight is a production of Rock Fight l c.

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