When you pair my love of design and retail you have a very, very, strong passion for the “retail experience.” What is a retail experience? A mix of great customer experience, accessorized displays and a well laid out “flow” of a store.
As I travel across the country, visit more bicycle shops and share stories of retail experiences with shops I am slowly watching a transformation. No more than 5 years ago most bike shops looked much like an auto parts dealers, aisles of bikes, slat wall, grid wall, and really anything that you could hang a bike or product on. While there still are many of these slat walled shops around you can watch the smarter shops transform into boutiques or speciality shop, REI’s and Ikeas. Less slat wall, more story telling and a beautiful EXPERIENCE.
Amazon and the online retailers of the world are changing what a bike shop has to do to be relevant. A good local bike shop will be three things: 1. A resource 2. Pillar in the local cycling community 3. Deliver a retail experience.
To encourage this retail experience I have started a Pinterest board to share others photos, my own from travels and hopefully encourage more shops to step up and create better experiences for their consumers.
Since Monday was a federal holiday, it was one of the rare days when both my partner, Chris, and I have the same day off of work. After a week’s worth of rain in Atlanta, we needed some outside play time, so no idea seemed better than a day on our mountain bikes. Chris had been talking about these new trails in Alabama for a while, so we decided to head west to check them out. I have to admit, I was skeptical about driving to Alabama to go mountain biking. Living in Atlanta, we usually head north to Tennessee and the Carolinas for the best trails. Alabama didn’t seem like an intuitive place to go for awesome trail riding.
All of the reviews that I found of the Coldwater Mountain trail mentioned a 1.5 mile beginner and a 9 mile intermediate loop; however, when we arrived at the trail head we heard from some locals that they had recently added an optional loop off of the beginner loop, adding another couple of miles. Starting from the parking lot, we descended immediately at that great angle that looks flat but is just downhill enough to make you feel extra fast. The trail builders didn’t hesitate about including jump opportunities from the start, so be ready as soon as you clip in/put your feet on the pedals. After about a mile , the trail splits 3 directions (from left to right): beginner loop extension (new), intermediate loop, beginner loop. We went left and continued our jumpy, smooth descent, with the added benefit of some wide, easy berms. So fun and so fast! When the downhill ended (as it inevitably does…), the uphill was pretty reasonable. It didn’t take too long to get back to the gravel parking lot. Total extended beginner loop–a fast, fun 2.5ish miles.
After getting some directions from a local dad with a lot of unsolicited advice, we headed out for loop on the longer intermediate loop. We began with the same quick descent as before, but this time took the middle fork. We descended a bit more and then began the 6 mile climb that you’ll find mentioned in almost every online review of this trail. I have a habit of getting grumpy during long uphills, so needless to say, I was not happy by uphill mile 4 or 5; however, now that I’m not looking ahead at more uphill trail and breathing hard while trying to drink water, I would like to note that the climb wasn’t hard. It’s just looong…. I think most people who have some time in a mountain bike saddle will be able to find the right gear and spin it to the top. There’s nothing too technical to get in the way, just a lot of pedal strokes. When you do get to the top of the mountain, you ride through a section of flat baby-head rock before getting to this sign:
and this sign:
Then the descent starts. :D The descent splits not too long after it starts: left–intermediate, right–most difficult. I chose to go right, knowing that Chris had probably made that same decision 30-seconds before me. I was a bit nervous at first to pick this option, but it turned out it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. There were no sudden drops, no rock sections, no roots or generally sketchy sections. There were jump opportunities from beginning to end of the 3-plus mile descent. As a girl who is just beginning to get comfortable jumping, I stayed on the ground most of the time, but the trail flowed well, whether grounded or airborne. The most difficult part of the “Most Difficult” trail was just knowing what speed was right for me going over the manmade jumps and berms.
Unfortunately, this downhill doesn’t spill right out into the parking lot, so we did find ourselves about 2 miles from the parking lot with another long uphill to climb. It takes away a little of that 3 mile downhill buzz, but definitely not all. After climbing back to the parking lot, Chris and I unloaded our water and snack supplies and did one more fast lap–just the extended beginners loop–to finish off the day.
While writing this review, it took a lot of effort not to overuse the word “fun”, but if asked to summarize these trails in one word, “fun” is exactly what I would say. Coldwater Mountain is a great place to be if you want to spend some time jumping and riding around berms, but it’s also built so that it’s fun if your jumping skills are limited/non-existant. The fun to work ratio is pretty spot on. I wouldn’t go to Coldwater Mountain to hone my technical skills, but I will be back when I need a fun, fast day on a mountain bike that I know I’ll feel good about.
The other thing I really liked about our visit to Coldwater Mountain is that there was a great mix of skill levels and types of riders on the trail. We saw families with kids on scoot bikes on the beginner trail. We saw overweight adult dudes trying to get back in shape by riding the extended beginner trail. We ran into guys who ride trails multiple times per week. Most impressively, there were many more women of varying abilities than I usually see on our trail rides. It really seems like NEABA, SORBA, and Alabama’s Forever Wild organizations have done a great job of promoting this trail system and including the community in its development. Even after a bunch of fun jumps and long downhills, the different trail users might have been my favorite part of our visit.
I’ve read that the goal is to make the Coldwater Mountain trail system the next mountain bike mecca in the southeast. The plan is that within about 5 years, the current 15 miles or so will expand to 60 miles. Sure enough, we saw evidence of construction and heard from locals that more miles are already in progress. You can bet that if the remaining 45 miles of trails are as fun as the first 15, I’ll definitely be back.
Bonus feature of Anniston, AL: It’s home to the U.S.’s tallest chair, formerly the tallest in the world.
The thoughts and details during a bike build are what make a great bike shop a resource and a dream factory for bicycle geeks like myself. These custom bike builds are what keep me inspired and excited to continue to work within the industry. Few more bike profiles over yonder.
It’s that time of the year that I’m doing slower and longer miles, mostly by myself. Having lots of time to think through intervals and the long road in front of me I seem to reflect the most on the bike from January to March due to the speed and lack of companionship (my choice.)
Yesterday I struggled through my workout for many reasons. #1 As I’m getting towards the end of a couple blocks and haven’t had a threshold test so I’m stronger than where my zones are set. #2 The gearing on a cross bike with slicks is much different than a standard compact. It’s my own doing and I can fix both of these things. Regardless, the workout left me frustrated with finding the right gear and terrain for workouts.
Today I entered my 2.5 hour ride with a bit more optimism. Without any intervals to chase after I stopped looking at the Garmin page that listed watts and went off my Perceived Exertion scale that I have internally built in me from 15 years of cycling. I focused on pedaling strokes, enjoying jumping the potholes and digging deep into the turns.
Then I focused on shifting.
Shifting covers so many pieces of our lives. Often in cycling I find that I allow myself to sit in the gear I’m in. Maybe even falling behind the cadence I need to turn over my gear comfortable. Then there is the fear of the shift to a harder gear as it may be too hard. Maybe I’ll need to shift back? Maybe there will be a miss shift at the wrong moment or maybe it will show that I’m weak?
Shifting gears is as much about the mental feeling as it is the physical. Picking up your cadence and finding that you can push the new, harder, gear just as well as the easier. Your speed increases and often, especially off road, you find that it is easier to ride at this faster pace as momentum and speed is your friend.
Much of life is learning when to shift, when to push yourself, when to be happy with your pace or when to slow down. As I pedal around for the next couple months my thoughts will be focusing on the shift. Shifting the bike, shifting my mind and shifting how I live my life.
It’s an amazing thing, the first day of a new year and everything that it allows a human to feel. You are able to have closure for the year past and take a deep breath to move forward into the next 365 days of progress.
First to Look at Personal Ties
Behind the scenes I took the past week to plot out a lot of restructure, efficiencies and honestly cleaning out clutter (including storage with lots of wheels for sale!)
Pulling back from the things that stretch me thin with small results and honing down on key things for more impact. Turning my personal life more to an in person life, while still utilizing social media aspects in my personal life. I’m focusing more on push channels such as Instagram, Spotify and Twitter which pushes out my content (or consuming music which pushes out the feed of what I am listening to.) An outsiders view of my Facebook wall will look active, populated with photos from Instagram or Flickr, my Spotify tunes in the corner, and morning inspirational quotes that I am timing out through Hootsuite two weeks at a time to deliver around 7am EST to both my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. I won’t be on Facebook though, I won’t be sucked into looking at hundreds of photos, liking post or reading random post that get me riled up and losing time that I didn’t have to lose.
Pushing Bike Shop Girl into 2013
In the past I’ve spoken about finding my words for Bike Shop Girl now that I work as a rep within the industry. Reviews have to be sparse, advertising limited as I’m really trying to promote local bike shops, and I don’t want this outlet to only be a personal blog for rants (those will always be apart of the structure.)
Motivation, Inspiration and Empowerment
Three words to live by in our daily life. To leave this world a better place then we found it, that is how we all should look back at our life!
In 2013 my goal is to motivate, inspire and empower you as a cyclist and maybe even a bit as a human being. We are an interesting group, those that chose two wheels for hobby, transportation or passion. At the end we use the same style of vehicle to move us forward in life. Let’s all pull together and focus on making our community stronger, smarter and safer.
Design and Feel
One of the pieces that kept me up late over the past few weeks was the look and feel of Bike Shop Girl for 2013 to support the above goals. What will the site look like, a personal blog, a magazine and how will that flow? I’m pulling in a couple friends to consult on this and you should see the end result soon.
While I’m still focused on women, I realize that guys will come along for the ride. All of us need motivated, inspired and empowered! Looking at the demographic of my followers on Facebook it is split pretty evenly women to men. The reviews, product and mission of this site is not changing, but you may see more guys writing as guest authors.
Guest and Monthly Columns
Bringing in guest writers and friends to author columns will be part of reaching more computer screens, minds, interest and people.
Focusing on specific topics for a week, month or quarter of time. The first series will be from now through first quarter focused on keeping people riding when the weather is crappy. Articles of motivation, tips to keep your bike running, ideas of staying warm and maybe just great photos of playing in the snow.
If you are interested in helping feel free to drop me a line! arleigh at gmail.com
Let’s Do This!
Keep the words flowing, keep the ideas and questions pushing at me. Let’s make 2013 our best year yet, together we can motivate, inspire and empower each other.