I realized that while I blog a lot about technical stuff, mostly to help reduce how long my email responses to customers needs to be, I have never really addressed who we are as a company and why you should consider buying wheels from us. I have been a "bike racer" since I was 13, and once never been any good. I have always loved bikes as machines, though, and I think that had a lot to do with my choosing to become a mechanical engineer.
Much like a domestique finds satisfaction in killing themselves on the road to help a teammate succeed at the finish, I have always been a much better supporter than a participant. Selfishly, I do enjoy living vicariously through my fast friends as well and feeling like part of their team. I was fortunate enough to be able to be there beside a childhood friend as he made the journey from junior to U23 to struggling pro to European based pro to multiple time national champion to standing on the podium at the World Championships. Yes, I was fortunate to be able to be part of that journey. That experience has always meant a lot to me and it enriched my life in a way that my lungs and legs would never have been able to. Since then, I have kept an eye out for other people whose athletic endeavors I could positively impact in some way, and it continues to be a very rewarding experience. If you ever have the opportunity to offer host housing to a racer, or work in the pits for someone, or offer some other simple thing for an athlete, I encourage you to take it. It pays back much more than it ever costs.
As I come from a long line of self unemployed people, I eventually started my own engineering firm. Turns out I am a better engineer than a bike racer, and the business did pretty well. I began to get the business into team and event sponsorships, ostensibly for "marketing" but honestly, that was always more of a cover story. In so doing, I also spent plenty of time chasing sponsorships from year to year so that I could increase team support, sponsor more races, plug more holes, fix more things. Engineers are intrinsically problem solvers, that is what motivates us and it doesn't stop at the office door, we want to fix everything all the time. Race team needs a title sponsor? Let's fix that. Local event with a long history needs a new promoter or title sponsor? Let's fix that. World class cyclocross racer lost a sponsor mid season and can't afford to go to nationals? Let's fix that. That one ended up working out pretty great by the way - five stars, would fix again.
Our flagship vehicle in 2016 was The NEXT Wyman Project, a collaboration with Helen and Stef Wyman to mentor and develop U23 women and help them develop into a career in professional cyclocross. We supported our first rider, Amira Mellor, through a season of World Cup racing.
Similarly, starting in 2017, we are backing the CCB Velotooler Pro Cycling Team, a UCI registered U25 development team run under the historic Boston based CCB Cycling Club. This is particularly rewarding program for us, as their mission statement is to develop New England talent into successful one day racers at the professional level. That hits home. It is a focused program that just fits the character of the New England bike racer - gritty arounders who can climb, sprint, and race smart tactically. They also have a social mission of promoting athletics in education, and as such all riders are required to be in some form of full time educational program. They recognize that not everyone on the team is going to be able to make a career in pro cycling. Its a tight funnel. If one rider per season is able to graduate from school and land on pro team, that would be a real success. The rest of the team will have traveled the world chasing their athletic dreams while still coming out the other side with a degree. They will become better members of the global society from the experience, as well as having developed a strong worth ethic and maintained balance in their life.
At the grassroots level, we created a New England regional cycling club of over fifty riders of all ages and levels that is a welcoming environment with a focus on getting young kids into bike racing by providing a club full of great adult role models and mentors.
On the advocacy front, we support the Vermont Mountain Bike Association, a state level advocacy organization. From the VMBA.org website: "Comprised of 26 unified chapters, the association carries out its mission, which is to ensure the sustainable future of mountain biking in Vermont and to thoughtfully promote the best riding in the Northeast by serving as the central hub for advocacy, education and event support." One of their initiatives is a trail grant program, built on fundraising, that helps the local chapters build and expand sustainable trail networks. We created a VMBA edition wheelset and donated 100% of the proceeds from those builds to the trail grant program. We also try to support NEBRA when opportunities arise, and other initiatives that come our way at the right time.
I hope that tells the story of NEXT, and that if you see us out there you will come say hello. I will probably stare at my shoes and ignore you, and then strike up a lengthy email conversation later! It's ok, it's me not you.