The story behind the story: A secret drink mix and a traffic violation

by James Huang


I first met Allen Lim back in 2006, when I was just getting going on what was planned to be a comprehensive comparison study between 26- and 29-inch mountain-bike wheels that I was doing for Cyclingnews (a project which, unfortunately, never fully got off the ground, for various reasons).

At the time, he was primarily working on power-meter stuff with CycleOps, and later, as he did more work with various pro teams, our paths would often cross at international races. Both of us were spending well upwards of 100 days on the road then, so it’s no surprise that even though we both lived in Boulder, Colorado, we rarely saw each other on home soil.

Most of the conversations we had were related to work, so you can imagine my curiosity when this showed up in my email inbox from him one day: “Hey, have you tried that secret drink mix? Let’s go ride sometime!”

That was in August 2011. I hadn’t heard of Secret Drink Mix then, and certainly had no idea that he was involved, but I was intrigued nonetheless. A few days later, I picked up a few sample packs from Allen and tried it out on a long, hot day of climbing. After years of stomach issues with other drink mixes, this one seemed like a revelation, and I was eager to learn more.

Allen and I did end up going on that ride a few days later, along with his business partner, Ian MacGregor. During that casual spin on the road, I learned all about “gut rot,” the differences between citrate and chloride salts, and osmolality.

It was all interesting stuff, but at the heart of it, what they were talking about was essentially how to incorporate so-called “real foods” back into sports nutrition. Based on my own personal experiences with various sports drinks and energy bars/chews/gels, it really did seem like they were on to something.

Fast-forward five years, and it’s clear that others felt the same way.

While I already knew Allen, that was the first time I had met Ian — a recently retired ex-pro who was forced to hang up his cleats after being diagnosed with iliac endofibrosis. He had racked up some impressive results, but to be honest, I paid more attention to bikes than to the people riding them, so I didn’t know his name from racing.

I’d heard his name before, but for an entirely different reason — and one that I wasn’t all that happy about.

A few years earlier, not long after I’d moved to Boulder, I was driving my little Subaru around town when, unexpectedly, I was pulled over by the local police department. Unbeknownst to me, the clear license-plate cover that my brother had given me as a gift years prior was illegal in the state of Colorado. Not only that, but the Subaru dealership in Boulder that installed my window tint had used a film that was darker than regulations permitted.

The officer who ticketed me engaged in some idle chit-chat before he handed me my paperwork, and I mentioned that I was working as a cycling journalist when he asked what I did for a living. In response, he said that his son was an up-and-coming racer, and — proud father that he was — asked if I’d heard of him. I told him that I had not, but I sure did remember it later when I heard it again.

That officer’s name was John MacGregor. And his son? You guessed it: Ian. Small world, indeed.

Officer MacGregor, a veteran of the force since 1976, is retiring this year, and his last day on the job is next week — February 9.

Ian may not have turned out to have the professional racing career he once thought he would, but his dad still has plenty of reason to be proud. As it turns out, he wasn’t just an exceptional cyclist, but a pretty shrewd businessman as well.

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