Manly Dam and the surrounding National Park trails in Sydney’s Northern Beaches was the place for an exciting opportunity for Specialized dealers and staff to meet and shred with Ned, and believe us we took him on the rockiest trails around and he absolutely killed it.
Welcome to Sydney, Ned, how is your whirlwind tour of the Southern Hemisphere going?
It’s great to be here! I don’t think I took the best route to get here though, I flew from Durango to Phoenix, to LA then to Sydney, then to Auckland and finally to Queenstown. But since I got to Queenstown it’s been great riding everyday.
What brought you down this way?
I’ve just come out to see the trails here and to meet, and ride with some dealers and reps. I’m visiting some stores to talk about their individual markets and the Specialized product in the area.
What are you up to with Specialized these days?
I do all the major product meetings at Specialized, so it’s important to see the trends are in different countries and how the brand is going in the different places.
Every three months we have a week-long product meeting with distributors from all around the world and the product managers walk the new lines and depending what time of year it is we might be talking about 2018 product and what areas need testing and development. Or we might be fine-tuning a product that is coming out soon.
Because I travel a lot and attend many events I’m able to deliver a unique feedback from my experiences.
Also being involved in the sports marketing we work on making the most out of the cross country race teams.
What bikes are you involved in?
The high performance mountain biking segment, like the Epic and Stumpjumper hardtail. Also more recently the Camber and Stumpjumper.
I’m across the cyclocross range, especially with the tyre development. I work with the fat bike crew too.
I’ve enjoyed seeing trail bikes and types of trails developing together. For example the trails we rode today, if you were on a classic 26” hardtail it’d be tough to do ride the way we just did, but these new bikes with bigger wheels, relaxed angles and dropper posts are making it possible. People are building more technical trails as people are more capable with their bikes allowing them to so more.
And you’re obviously still racing?
Sure, I’ll do a variety or road races, mountain bike races, cyclocross and fat bike races as well. But what’s really growing fast is the gravel racing, like a 100km race on a cross bike, I love those.
Yeah, what’s with all this gravel racing up there?
I think people are sick of cars, so they are exploring a lot of roads without cars!
The races are more are like a grand fondo event; people are going in these events just to complete the ride and check out the dirt roads in the area rather than racing.
We’d love to see the gravel bike segment grow here!
For sure, you guys have some pretty challenging road conditions to ride in here! It’ll happen.
So you’ve gone from Queenstown to Rotorua, Brisbane, Canberra and now you’re in Sydney with Melbourne up next. That’s a variety right there!
Oh yeah, a huge variety. Queenstown was so different to Rotorua, and then riding Underwood in Brisbane felt like a giant BMX track, tight and twisty and super hot!
Nerang trails were hard! Such natural trails and the rocky sections and tight trees were cool, I did had a couple altercations with some of those tight trees though and came a little bit too close to them… Riding in 34 degrees temperature was a shock.
In Canberra we rode the 2009 World Championships course, a really amazing variety in one track. Riding that Hammerhead descent on a 26” hardtail would have been crazy.
And now you’ve just ridden Manly Dam, the most ridden trail in the country, did you dig it?
This place is pretty cool; I love this kind of rock. There’s nothing like this where I’ve been so far.
I like the challenging rocky step-ups and rock drops, all designed and constructed to be safe to ride. If you rode a trail like this in Moab you might get a surprise and come across a sheer drop, dangerous stuff. But you can ride these trails first time and trust that if you’re going too slowly to drop off it, you’ll be able to roll down safely.
You’re on a 150mm travel 650b Stumpjumper today, but you rode a Stumpjumper 6Fattie in Rotorua, what do you make of these new Plus Bikes?
Plus bikes are super interesting, I got involved in the fat bike development really early on, and from those bikes the plus bikes evolved. I think people saw the stability in the big 4” tyres, in the snow it makes a lot of sense, but on the trails it’s a little too much, too slow and bouncy. So from learning about what a massive tyre volume can do and how much fun they are to ride, we arrived at 650b diameter wheels with 3” tyres.
They are super forgiving, but I don’t think they should be pigeon holed as a bike for beginners. If a beginner can benefit, so can an expert.
Specialized has signed Jared Graves, that’s pretty cool!
The company is seriously so excited to have Jared riding for them now, not only for his skills but the whole attitude and passion for riding is making the entire group of product managers pumped. He’s incredible.
Where are you off to next?
I’m only home for a week and I’m off to Brazil! There’s a trail festival on and we’re launching our new Specialized Levo, the electric bike. But that’s a whole different conversation!
I’m all over the world this year!
Well cheers for coming all the way down here.
Thank you, it’s been amazing; the level of riders in all your different cities is super high!