The November C-suite did a combined grand total of one actual real race last year. Not a proud accomplishment but Mike has kids that are in prime "take up all of your time" years and then smoked his ACL, while I was just sort of burned out and mopey and in absolutely no mood to do the massive amount of 3 and 5 minute intervals required to keep me from embarrassing myself. Lots of riding, but only one race. Mike's injury will probably mean no racing for him again this year, but the time off has done wonders for me and I've got the jones again.
Riding a lot, and racing in particular, makes us better at what we do. Interacting with the gear first hand, cross-pollinating ideas and info with other people, learning what's working well and not so well, it all makes a huge difference. Racing of course puts an extra dollop of stress on the equipment, so it's a good crucible. Plus, going to events and meeting customers is always a lot of fun.
This Saturday, I did a race that called itself a ride, the Rhodekill Classic. Very fun event, one long loop with way more gravel than I was expecting, infinitely more singletrack than I was expecting, and though the pace and attacking were somewhat muted from what they might have been in a proper race, it was a fast and demanding day on the bike. While many people were on straight up road bikes (myself included - I changed nothing from my normal road setup), there were certainly a lot of cross bikes and that was a fine, fine choice for this route. With two cx national champions and all-around legends in what wound up as a nine person lead group, I put the hammer to my gear. And after it all, despite having to nurse a flattening front tire in for the last several miles, I came away with more confidence in our process than I've ever had.
So while we don't have a bunch of pro teams out riding our gear (which is really a false assurance anyhow), it is very helpful for us to be able to ride in a way that stresses the gear and teaches us about what it can and can't handle. We don't advocate that only people who ride at some level are capable of doing our job well (it's an advantage, not a prerequisite, and we're not that sweet at riding anyhow), but do we very much do what we need to do to vet our products and processes to ensure that your wheels will do for you everything that we say they will.