Many people send us photos of them wearing their gear on incredible rides. We finally stopped salivating over the pictures long enough to ask some of them to tell us about those rides in more detail. We thought we’d share and start a guest blogger series. For our next installment, Barry and Erich share the history of AutoDrop LTD. and how they came to team up with Road Holland.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they ride a bike. Some complain too much, others ride dangerously. Many riders make a point to talk about their equipment, or their last 'epic' ride, or how many watts they can push. Others will talk incessantly, when it really makes more sense to be quiet (like riding across a gorgeously picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway viaduct) or have nothing to say when you need a word of encouragement.
We (Barry and Erich) met on a bike ride in the mid-2000s - the now-defunct “Monday Night Recovery Race." These rides convened after work, nearly always included the same loop (called a City Loop) and were a great way to get together and talk about the weekend's racing activities (read: finishing mid-pack) while keeping the legs loose. Inevitably, the last few miles of each 'recovery ride' would bring some serious speed and wagging tongues. We gathered off the bike to hang out and eventually designed kits to identify ourselves as the "City Loop Mafia." The Mafia rode strong for a few years, but as folks moved away and lives changed, the group dwindled. Barry and Erich kept riding, and realized a few common goals while racing each other up and down hills in northwestern North Carolina: to ride bikes in search of deeper meaning, to design unusual cycling events, and to design a kit and/or clothing to represent a simple, pure vision of their new venture: Autodrop Ltd.
The name Autodrop Ltd. would become a small race/ride production and clothing partnership. The name is intended to appear serious but be absolutely humorous, stemming from a situation sometimes encountered by amateur cyclists riding above their ability: when trying to keep the pace high in a race, riders may sit on the front too long and exhaust themselves. When they finally pull off and the adrenaline wanes, they suddenly find their legs burning, heart rate pegged, and the previously obedient paceline sliding away from them. They have, in effect, dropped themselves. The dreaded "autodrop." They added the "Ltd." tag purely for effect.
The first endeavor was a checkpoint-themed cycling event in Winston-Salem, NC. Riders received a list of checkpoints of varying value, and were challenged to 'tag' as many as possible in 6 hours. A local pub hosted the finish and riders rolled in exhausted, happy, and ready for some food and beer. Two other events soon followed, both tied to small local charities. With momentum and local interest increasing, Autodrop Ltd. needed a visual image - specifically a jersey. The guys required the following characteristics: American made, wool, simple and high-performance. A quick internet search brought them to Road Holland. A simple email to Richard and Jonathan in November 2011 started the relationship that produced two custom jersey runs and continues today via our work with embrocation.
Embrocation, a wax based concoction also known as “Belgian Knee Warmers,” is a transplant from European cycling circles. During the cold weather months, riders use it to protect the skin, warm up the tissues and provide a sense of purpose and comfort that may be needed when riding in harsh conditions. We used embrocation on cold winter rides while training for the 2011 Tour of the Battenkill. Eventually one of us said,”Hey, we could probably make this stuff.” With Barry's focus on uncovering the details of a proper recipe and obsessive attention to detail, we soon had a test batch sourced from local beeswax, essential oils, and capsaicin: "Auto/Embro." The mix was faster to heat up than most others we had tried, and held up well for 4-6 hours in rainy and cold weather without the need to reapply. A local bike shop signed on to sell the product, and it soon sold out. Erich designed custom labels for the local pro-cyclocross team, who also signed on to use it.
In 2013, Richard and Jonathan requested that the guys create a custom mix for Road Holland, now known as Veluwezoom Warming Embrocation. This mix has the same medium heat rating as the other embrocations we made. But, it has a more sophisticated scent that combines the wood and flower bases.
Embro is most beneficial between when temperatures range between 35 and 55F. It is especially helpful if the rider may get wet during a harder-effort ride and does not wish to deal with wet, soggy fabric leg warmers (one of the reasons why cyclocrossers love to embro). Two important notes however: always apply cream to your chamois BEFORE applying embrocation to your legs unless you want some warming action down there…) And always wash and wipe embrocation from your legs prior to taking a post-ride shower. The water, especially hot water, notably increases the sensation of heat as opening pores allow deeper penetration of the capsaicin.
The products and events of Autodrop Ltd. represent what we know about each other - we share different skills but similar passions for quality and the fun of cycling. The match with the guys at Road Holland feels completely natural as well all appreciate high-quality, simple designs, and a non-pretentious attitudes toward cycling.
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