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When Ryan White moved from Boston to Denver to accept the position of senior product designer at Pactimo he made the commitment to ride to and from work every day. The commute, he thought, would be the perfect way to stay road fit, and it would provide a good opportunity to test Pactimo’s product day in and day out. What he didn’t expect was that Denver winters offer unique challenges. Sure, Boston had prepared him well, but the Denver’s winter weather was a different beast altogether.
“Winter in Denver seems to be unique in that the path of storms are incredibly unpredictable,” White said. “They may be able to predict that ‘a storm’ will hit the metro area, but the dynamics of the plains to the east butting up against the mountains creates unpredictable results. I live 14 miles from the office, and it can be bombing snow at the office and completely fine at my house. The winds and temperature fluctuations of the plains make for truly isolated but potentially strong conditions. The mountains experience similar fluctuations, which I imagine are due to the winds whipping down the mountainsides and over the passes on which you’re riding. The peaks quickly break up clouds and can create quick but intense showers.”
Regardless of the challenges Denver winters inflicted, White remained committed as he kept commuting by bike throughout the winter months this past year; and it has offered direct dividends to the brand’s product line, as he was able to test virtually all of Pactimo’s clothing line in some of the worst conditions conceivable on a bike.
“I made a commitment when I arrived here to ride to work every day, so I have had plenty of opportunity to test things like waterproofing, quality-control issues, you name it,” White said. “The commutes are great for sussing out little issues on established products. It’s great when we are trying to revamp a product. We might not be re-inventing the wheel or anything, but the commutes are a great way to help us discern small aspects of a product that can be better. There is a real constant when I ride to and from work, because I am in the same conditions day after day after day. The bike paths here are great, so I don’t have to think about the ride so much. I can focus on the apparel. Not having cars in front of me or pedestrians walking in front of me, those are things that are often a distraction on a normal ride. But here I am free to focus on small details.”
Leaving from his ranch-style house just west of the city center, White is only minutes away from Confluence Park in the heart of the city, where Cherry Creek bike path begins. “I just love it down here,” he said. “You know, the Colorado cycling community is easily divided into those that are closer to Boulder and us here in Denver. Pactimo is very connected with this state, and we are very connected to this city.”
While White often uses the weekend to get out on longer rides to amazing places like Red Rocks, the ride this morning was all about getting to work. And after a cup of morning joe at Ink Coffee on Little Raven Street, White grabbed his backpack filled with office clothes and hit the trails. Dropping down alongside the rushing South Platte River, swollen from melting snows, he passed historic redbrick buildings and impressive iron bridges. While the snows may have been quickly melting, morning temperatures still hovered around zero and White was in full winter kit. Turning quickly south at the start of Cherry Creek, decorated by numerous murals, White then rolled under low-lying bridges that cross the creek as the skyscrapers of the city center towered above.
“One thing I learned immediately when I got here is that Denver has put a lot of time and money into an infrastructure for bikes. I have compared it to driving, and cycling to and from the office is just as fast,” White said. “There are several bike paths that go right through the main arteries of Denver, and fortunately the Pactimo offices are right off one of the paths, the Cherry Creek Trail. It is a great path, sunken down a bit, and it goes under all roads. I just never have to cross traffic on my way to work. And in the winter they actually take care of the bike paths better than they do the streets. You can just really zip through town on them. It’s more accessible, and it can be safer to ride than drive, especially in the winter after a snow.”
As the morning sun reflected off the skyscrapers, Cherry Creek Trail heated up quickly and although White was dressed in full winter gear, he was riding easily in his comfort zone. And he was quick to point out that his subdued Vertex jacket is a direct byproduct of his work rides. “You know, when I arrived, this jacket was still only a prototype. It wasn’t in production yet because we were not yet fully happy with where it was. The material is a lightweight membrane material that has a waterproofing element in it. But it was getting very warm on certain rides. It is incredibly lightweight at less than 200 grams and very, very warm,” White explained. “But I realized after riding it for a while that we were not doing a very simple thing, and that is adding in ventilation so that people can control where air could potentially come in to help maintain a certain temperature. We tested underarm vents. We tested side-seam vents and we eventually came up with a front panel, set off to the side, that creates a nice chilling effect on the core which I found to be one of the most effective cooling methods.”
White is clearly proud of the final innovations of the Vertex jacket and his role in its evolution. “You know,” he said, “it’s just a really good example of how this city has been central to the Pactimo brand.”