As many of you know, in a previous lifetime, I was an elite-level bicycle racer. Getting there was a long journey that included immense dedication, countless training hours and a focus that an outside observer might have described as obsession bordering on insanity.
Once achieving elite-level racing status, the game changed. Sure, I still had to train hard, but there were hundreds of other guys at the same level also training hard. At that level, it’s not just the training that can mean the difference between winning and losing, but also the equipment.
Being that intimate with my bicycle – it really did become an extension of my body – I was acutely aware the huge benefits and performance advantage small equipment details could make. If my tires were inflated 5 PSI less than they should have been, I could tell in the corners during a criterium. A 40mm rim versus an 80mm one on the front of my time trial rig could mean the difference between winning and losing if there was a wicked crosswind.
I could seriously go on and on about the all the minor equipment details that I learned to appreciate at the top level of the sport. And it takes that kind of specialization to really be able to notice and appreciate what kind of performance advantage one can reap from such things. On day two of our European road trip, we got to meet someone who truly understands that: the CEO of Radical Sports, Mark Farner.
One of the biggest equipment-based performance innovations in the world of sport has been the use of carbon fiber. The material is exceptionally rigid and very lightweight with an incredible strength to weight ratio, making it uniquely desirable when it comes to high-level performance.
And Mark, a former World Cup snowboarder, was on the leading edge of incorporating this technology into his boards. Being on a road trip with the BMW 7 Series, which incorporates carbon fiber into the frame design, I was eager to get Mark’s take on the benefits and performance innovations possible through this incredible material.
Mark and I bonded over our shared history of elite-level athletics and the understanding that subtle tweaks in equipment materials could have huge effects on performance. As a competitive snowboarder looking for any advantage he could gain, Mark pioneered the use of carbon fiber technology. His passion for performance, exceptional quality and beautiful aesthetics has become a successful company that makes some of the most innovative and special products in the industry.
One thing I picked up on very quickly was that Mark is not your stereotypical CEO. Outfitted in jeans, sneakers and a Radical t-shirt and hoodie, it was clear that success and the job title of CEO hadn’t changed his fun-loving sense of adventure that no-doubt made him so successful as an athlete. We could all learn a little something from that attitude.
Before wrapping up our morning meeting with Mark and hopping in the car bound for Milan, we had a little on the yet-to-be-released Radical skateboards. Rob and Robin did not think I had it in me!
And since Mark was such an innovator in terms of using carbon fiber technology, I showed him one of the newest features and innovations of the BMW 7 Series: the Carbon Core. In addition to aluminum and steel, the body of the new 7 Series uses carbon fiber, which has many of the same benefits you find in the world of sport.
First, it makes the car lighter – around 285 pounds, to be exact – which contributes to lower fuel consumption and emissions. Additionally, its rigidity enhances driving comfort, handling and agility. It’s a difference I could really feel, especially when I was navigating the challenging hairpin turns through the Alps.
Though the 7 Series is a larger luxury vehicle, it has the soul of a sports car when it comes to performance. This is due in no small measure to its use of advanced materials, like the Carbon Core. It just goes to show you that no matter what the application – bicycle racing, snowboarding, or automotive design – this attention to innovations in product design are keys to staying ahead of the competition.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned later this week for a ride along through the Alps!
He Spoke Style