Our Origin Story
As we put the finishing touches on our new team identity as To Be Determined earlier this year our friends at Garneau, with whom we have worked with since 2011, asked us if we could summarize our team's backstory. A sort of where we came from and where we are going. Our origin story is the result:
It all started with what could have been a scene in one of those Hollywood buddy movies. Four friends sitting in a dingy hotel room in Vermont (RIP Tour of the Dragons) drinking beers and talking about the future. Except, instead of plotting the next great mobile app or some sort of hilarious heist we were brainstorming a new team. A new cycling team to be precise.
Over the following months our foursome - relatively new friends who met as we first dipped our toes in the lively but at times harsh New York City road racing scene - became a group of a dozen riders, growing organically around this concept of a new team that wanted to share experiences both on and off the bike.
All of the trappings of a cycling team soon followed, including perhaps most significantly our team kit, the design of which would remain a cornerstone of our physical identity for years to come. To design and produce that kit we turned to Garneau who is headquartered not far from the Vermont hotel room where the team was first conceived.
In the early days we were road racing machines - young, mostly single and eager to race week in and week out, long hours at the office or the occasional hangover be damned. Traversing the eastern seaboard in rental cars stuffed to the gills with bodies and equipment we became more than a group of cyclists wearing matching kit. We became close friends, bonding over success and failure on the road and helping one another overcome challenges on and off the bike. Charlie's barbeques became the things of legend while the team showed up in force for the Tour of Litchfield Hills, raising thousands of dollars for cancer treatment in the process.
In those early years change was slow - both in the team’s lifestyle and in our kit design - as we studied road racing strategies and learned about wattage and kJ’s and the other jargon of up and coming amatuer racers in the age of technology.
As the years passed our numbers evolved as riders moved to distant shores and new riders joined our ranks. But our identity as a friends first and a cycling team second remained firm. Indeed while road racing and overstuffed rental cars remain core to our cycling experience, with the maturation of our riders we now find ourselves not just piling four deep in cheap roadside motels but also celebrating life’s great moments including weddings and more recently the birth of first children.
We have also bid adieu to a number of our original cast as cross country relocations and real life has led to several retirements from the 'job' of amateur bike racer. For those who remain, as we have evolved as individuals and riders so too has our approach to the sport. From our near exclusive initial focus on road racing we have fully immersed ourselves in a plethora of other cycling disciplines and adventures starting with the cyclocross scene and more recently gravel grinders and bikepacking adventures.
Thus what once felt like slow change in our lifestyle as racers and our identity as a squad has given way to a sense of time passing quickly as the team approaches it’s decade mark. In this time period we have witnessed first hand the significant evolution of cycling technology - from the introduction of electronic groupsets to the emergence of road disc brakes - but more than that we have watched the sport of cycling change. And we have changed with it.
We’re still dedicated in large part to ‘traditional’ road racing. Indeed our team members are deeply involved in planning and executing some of the largest road races and criteriums in NYC and we have written extensively on our website about the challenges faced by this element of the sport: financial, political and otherwise. But as new niches within the sport have emerged - be it gravel grinding or fixed gear racing - we have discovered that variety is indeed the spice of life. Now our weekend road trips are just as apt to deliver us to a gravel grinder as a week of criterium racing. And we’re as likely to be on the start line at Red Hook Crit as a road race.
That change has all been part of discovering that cycling has so much more to offer than a singular focus on lining up at your weekday training race at an abandoned airfield in Brooklyn or weekend circuit race in Central Park. Whether it’s commuting to work by bike on a daily basis (which can admittedly be quite unpleasant during winter in NYC), chasing glory in USAC races or just targeting that Strava KOM there is a simple pleasure to be found in ticking over the pedals. Pleasure that keeps us throwing one leg over our bikes for the vast majority of the year.
So what does a typical weekend look like for the team as we enter our seventh year together? That depends on what the event calendar has to offer. The most common excursion is to the center of New York City: Central Park. It’s familiar territory from long training hours before the sun rises and long after it sets. But we still feel fortunate to race this six mile circuit more than a dozen times per year. Unfortunately New York being New York the adrenaline rush of road racing comes with a price - namely painfully early starts to avoid the crowds that hit the park later in the morning. But on the bright side when racing starts at 5:30AM it’s possible to squeeze in a post-race breakfast ride and be home with a century in our legs before 11AM.
When not racing on pavement locally the typical weekend sees us traversing the East Coast in pursuit of the best cycling events we can find - some days that’s cyclocross in Gloucester, gravel grinding in Vermont, stage racing in Pennsylvania or perhaps bikepacking closer to home. As a sign of just how long the team has been together, many of the events we partake in these days didn’t exist when we first started the squad but we’ve been fortunate to see them grow over time as fellow cyclists join us in that never ending search for the most memorable experiences possible on two wheels.
And while time and age means that we’re now in position to drive our own vehicles for these road trip weekends, thus avoiding the desperate search for rental cars that can fit 3-4 bikes in them, for the most part the rest of these weekends haven’t changed drastically in the past seven years. The vehicles remain overstuffed with people, equipment and team mascots (show us a car and we’ll find enough equipment to fill it), the lodging accommodations are more often than not inexpensive roadside hotels and the best meals involve the entire squad squeezing around a table at a diner or local dive bar. It may not be glamorous but from our perspective that’s all part of the experience of being a team and the lifestyle of being a roaming cyclist on the East Coast.
So while our style of riding has diversified over the past seven years, much has remained the same. Including the team’s Garneau kit - which for the first five years of our time together was relatively unchanged. However going into 2017 we decided the time had arrived to reflect the newfound diversity in our cycling pursuits with a new identity and a new kit design. We wanted an identity meant to encapsulate not just the challenges and determination involved with racing - be it on pavement, on gravel or in the mud - but also the uncertainty and adventure that comes with approaching a ride, and the sport as a whole, with a blank slate. After much brainstorming a new, somewhat tongue in cheek identity was born: To Be Determined.
Imagery and storytelling has always been core to our team’s culture and with the To Be Determined Journal approaching it’s 500th entry we had strong views on the aesthetic we were aiming for. Thankfully we were able to bring that aesthetic to life in a way that exceeded our highest expectations:
With our first year as To Be Determined winding down where do that leave us? To be honest we're not entirely sure - that uncertainty was part of what led us to the To Be Determined nomenclature:
In two or three years will we will be lining up for weekday criteriums? In the next five years will we commit fully to gravel grinding? Are fixed gear crits going to continue their dramatic growth, putting us on the start line for the 20th edition of the Red Hook Crit? It’s all To Be Determined…