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Open Letter to Marketing & PR Agencies in the Bicycle Industry

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Marketing departments, CEO’s and public relations agencies this is for you

It is Sunday evening at 5pm eastern standard time. In 12 hours I will be at the airport on my way to Las Vegas for Interbike. Most of my collegues and friends are either in Las Vegas or on their way. They aren’t sitting by their phone or computer waiting…

We aren’t waiting to get your press release the Saturday night before a show that starts on Monday. We don’t want a meeting invitation hours before we travel. We want planning, we want to be prepared and we want to get your shit at least 5 days ago.

I do my best to walk into a trade show, conference or any meeting (with ANYONE) prepared. Product or person researched. Questions formed. Batteries charged. Clothes wrinkle free and brain ready to rock.

When you send me meeting request last minute, or photos of product being launched… or the best yet, a link to a website that doesn’t even have a page holder but a dead link. You have sacrificed your image and even more, you have put yourself into a class that I don’t believe you give a shit about your product or those you are asking to promote it.

Next time you aren’t prepared here’s a suggestion. Don’t message or email me unless you are telling me to stop by your booth for a free beer. No time commitments, no broken links. Just a text email, text message or phone call that shows you realize you are behind the times but want to connect when I can.

My job over the next 7 days is two fold:
#1 sell product for the brands I represent in the Southeast.
#2 to promote product I believe my readers will enjoy.

It is not to promote a product I believe will let them down, come to market late or backed by people that don’t have their goods straight. You aren’t paying me and every person that emailed over the past 5 days.. I don’t owe a favor to. The people that I owe favors to have been contacted and meetings (or beer) have been setup.

Who am I to say all this? I’ve brought many marketing campaigns and products to market bigger than your jersey or new bike wheel design. There is rhyme and reason to it. Being a class act and putting your best foot forward are PR 101.

Sincerely,

Arleigh Jenkins – Bike Shop Girl.

PS. I may stop by your booth to give you a hard time. I promise I’ll be smiling and I’m not there to piss you off. I want the bike industry to grow, be strong and have standards. Take this as my way of helping you get there.

Non Cycling Related Blabbing

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It is hard at times as a creative person to have my main (currently only) output to be a blog wrapped around cycling. There are photos, stories, heartache and levels of love missing from these pages.

For most of my high school through my early 20′s I had a site and online persona under the name of “Arsbars.” Don’t ask me where the name came from as it was something I picked up in grade school. Fumbling through the internet the other night I found remnants of high school, people and memories that I had buried in my memory bank. Faces looking so young and so long ago.

You’ve seen a lot of changes over the past few weeks in this site. I’ve been pushing a lot of effort into this site while dealing with heartache, closure and finding myself. This past weekend when I talked about the friendship I have with Charles I realized that my online community have friends have been one of the main reasons I have survived over the past 5 years of life.

It’s frightening to type that. To rely on people you barely know to pick you up when you need, to be the sounding board and back board when you are moments from the buzzer. Currently I am in phase of breaking down and rebuilding. There are moments of sadness but in the thick of it I am doing it for my core, my mind and my soul.

Life is hard, life is designed to be ups and downs so that when you find those moments of love, passion, laughter and completeness…you hold on tightly. There have been many moments of recent time that I was reminded of many gifts. One of those gifts is anyone that is reading this, anyone that replies to my midnight rants on Twitter or encourages me with photos of love on Facebook.

Thank you, I’m here for you and I hope you are getting out of it as much as I am.

Celebrating ARTCRANK and a Dear Friend

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Sunday morning, pounding on a keyboard as it seems to be a common occurrence of the latest Sundays. Catching up, setting plans and downloading for the week. Check gmail, say hello to friend, Charles, as it seems to be the only time in a hectic week we can catch each other. Picturing him in his office in Minneapolis, I’m often found on my patio in PJs.

The chats have become a weekly routine that I look forward to when I can catch him. Having friends that you are connected to online, is a strange and yet glorious thing. Charles knows so much about me, more than most, and I can say we have spent roughly 7 days together, 5 of those are when I crashed in his spare bedroom this past December. We can thank the internet, late night talks, a mutual love of bicycles, art and opinions. Friends like this are a gem so I wanted to quickly take a moment to celebrate Charles and his creation, ARTCRANK.

Bikes are the world’s most fun, accessible way to get around. Posters are the world’s most fun, accessible art form. ARTCRANK™ brings them together.

ARTCRANK is a show of bicycle-inspired poster artwork that introduces people to talented local artists and sends them home with affordable, original works of art. Every ARTCRANK show features posters created by local artists from the host city. Admission is always free, and posters are priced to let everybody take home at least one.

ARTCRANK began in Minneapolis in 2007. Since then, we’ve held shows in DenverSt. LouisPortlandSan FranciscoDes Moines and Bend. In September 2010, we held our first international show in London. And in September 2011, we held our first show at Interbike, the bike industry’s annual convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. For 2012, we’re adding new shows in Austin, Los Angeles and New York. – ARTCRANK.com

 

Going to Interbike?

Join ARTCRANK Interbike

Icebreaker Halo Shorts Review: Take Two

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Last summer I reviewed the Icebreaker Halo jersey and shorts. As I rode around today in the Halo shorts I felt pretty compelled to do a follow up on these shorts, as they deserve it.

If you shop at Dick’s Sporting Goods and not REI, or believe in working out at the gym and not hiking, you may not understand the ways of wool. (Please don’t take that offensive, it’s just probably true.)

I’m found often in stupid expensive Capo or Hincapie shorts for stupid long rides. The chamois are overly developed and “wear in” as the miles turn up.

Icebreaker Halo Short Review

The Halo shorts from Icebreaker are not these, they fit like boxer briefs, are super comfortable and feel as sexy as shorts can get. (I’ve also been told they don’t make me look like I’m wearing a wad and make my butt look nice.)  As these are quick drying, non-spandex looking, they are also my go to for around town and over night rides to camp fires.  They also look a ton better with my Keen’s than most other cycling shorts.

If you are looking for a set of shorts for longer rides on the greenway, bike touring or to commute on.. look at these Halo shorts from Icebreaker!

 

10 Things to Know as a Beginner

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As with any sport it can be very daunting and overwhelming when you walk into a completely foreign arena. Questions, fears, hesitance, embarrassment, and so many emotions are rushing through you that by the time you even get on a bike you are stressed out.

Here is a list of things I wish I had known, and I wish more women knew, when they first walk into a bike shop or get into the sport. Over the next few weeks I’ll explain more in depth so they become clickable links.

  1. You do not have to ride a women’s bike just because you are a woman
  2. Don’t wear underwear under your bike shorts – it will cause chaffing and can trap in moisture
  3. Bike shorts will feel like diapers, the more expensive they are, the better they will fit, and the longer they will last.
  4. Do not put a gel pad on top of your bike seat, you are putting a band aid on a bad fitting bike or saddle
  5. Wear a helmet you idiot. It won’t save your life if your head gets run over a car, but most of my accidents it has kept me from getting a concussion, broken nose and in some states it can be looked at as negligence if you are hit by a car without a helmet and have head injuries.
  6. You do not need to feel uncomfortable while buying a bike. Just like a car, find a new shop, or in the beginning tell your fears or worries so the bike shop can address them.
  7. Bike shops can not read your mind. Tell them to the best of your abilities what you want to do with your bike, what your longer term goals are and what your budget is.
  8. As fast as humanly possible, find a group to ride with. It will make you a better rider and you will feel safer.
  9. It is okay to be scared and have fear. Learn to harness it and “push” through things. Always try to conquer your fear, if you can’t manage the hill or rock garden, get off but at least try. (I forget this one at times!)
  10. You do not need to have a fancy bike to enjoy riding a bicycle.

This list could be 100 points long. What are the things you know now that you tell beginner cyclist?

Unplugged for a Week

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Have no fear, I’m still kicking. I took a week off from the blog and riding my bike to spend time with family and work on some other projects.

We all need a break sometimes. Mentally, physically and emotionally. This past week was the physical part. Putting efforts into riding roller coasters, working on excel spreadsheets of bike dealer stats and getting my head on straight for the haul from June to the start of cyclocross season. I believe I’m there as my legs felt great the past two days after the week off. My head is on and while I don’t want to geek out too much yet about ‘cross season – I do have goals that I plan on writing out on my bathroom mirror and on my office desk.

In other news

Hope your weekend was great! Time for rest and recovery for me.

Finding the White Line

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When people ask me what time of rider I am normally say a mountain biker. It isn’t true though. I started out fascinated with road biking and racing, and happened to enjoy the adventure of mountain biking a lot over the past 5 years.

Recently I picked up a Foundry Auger B1 as a rep sample. Built as a cyclocross bike I took the knobs off and put on some Michelin Pro4 tires and have been treating it as my road bike.  The miles of bonding with that bike are growing, at the end of the rep sample season it will be hard to let it go. The 25c tire on the front and powertapped wheel on the back have become my main vehicle of training next to my prized Salsa Spearfish.

The Moral of this Rant

It is funny that I live in the bike industry and yet it has taken 5 years and a cyclocross bike to make me fall back in love with road riding. Less than a month on it and I’m already looking forward to my next road ride. When training plans say to go either MTB or Road I am now torn on which to go with. This is an exciting twist in my cycling life and a door that has opened back up with passion and love for a sport I grew up in.

Once you’ve been riding for awhile you often forget the fun you had on your first bike, you also forget how a new bike – the perfect bike – can harness so many emotions and create a great motivation to ride further and faster than before.

War with the Industry: Starting with the Bike Shops

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I have many bones to pick with the industry I love, I’m calling it a war - a war to get more butts on bikes, to get kids safer to adventure and for the industry to get their head out of the ground. The first battle in this war is with the small guy on the totem poll with so much power… bicycle shops.

Most bike shops forget at the end of the day they are the ones selling the bikes to the consumers. Marketing may have led the consumer to their door but they are the face of the bike industry. If they have horrible customer service or no foundation in the community there is a chance that the consumer won’t buy from them. The bike will be bought at REI, Dick’s, Target or even worse THE INTERNET. (Is that really worse than Target? Come on!)

Gripes with shops, I’m sorry if I offend

  • When you aren’t busy on a Saturday it is your fault. You can’t assume or hope that people will walk in your door.
  • Stop blaming the weather. Minneapolis has some crappy weather but they have embraced it and you see people riding in January.
  • Putting things on sale in the store is only rewarding people walking in the door. You must tell people OUTSIDE your store about a sale to get them IN your store.
  • Stop worrying about the haggling team racers. It is super cool to sell a $12k bike but not if you make $400 on it. If that is your business model I commend you and would probably want to visit. For everyone else, worry about growing that beginner cyclist. Empower them, teach them and they will respect you and spend tons of money with you over the years. The guy haggling you on the new Red brakes to get the best deal ever that he found on the internet…he isn’t making you money. Treat him well with great service and move on.
  • Find your place. Not too many shops can be everything to everyone. Do you love mountain bikes? Do you shred hard core and everyone is astounded by your riding? Embrace it. Behind everyones back you make fun of roadies, so why try to be a roadie shop? Have more mountain bike rides, help your local mountain bike group. OWN IT.
  • This goes with the above….Believe in yourself.
  • Get out in the community. Some shops are already doing this. Bike shop owners, are you on group rides? Do you get out to group meetings or advocacy events? Are you pounding the pavement for Safe Routes to School or anything of the such?
  • Build your community. Become friends with the other bike shops in town. Find what you all are good at and help each other.
  • Make the bicycle pie bigger. Stop hating on the shop across town. If bikes keeping coming to you with bad tune ups call the shop and tell them. Why? To keep people from getting injured and to keep people from hating on bicycles. Yes, you may be making money off of it – but is that really how you want to make your money?? Figure the missing pieces in your community. Help get more kids on bikes, find a way to market to guys that would be buying golf clubs, make your local advocacy group stronger so people are riding bikes instead of joining the gym.

I love bike shops, but I am biased. Alone in my southeast territory I have roughly 380 bike shops. Now that is a movement ready to happen. Could you imagine – 380 business owners and all their employees coming together for one like cause? BICYCLES

 

 

At War with the Industry I Love

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It is no secret my history with the bike industry. Without coming from parents in the industry I am as close to growing up in the industry as you can. At 15 I was a shop rat, living my life in some way or another around bicycles since then. In two years when I am 30 I will have spent half my life revolving around bicycles and all things that are the culture of bikes. This is where I mention that I wouldn’t change a thing.

I have spent half of my life preaching the word. Answering the call. The call that bicycles can solve everything. It can make you happy, make you skinny, allow you to drink more beer, require less gas, give you independence, teach you adventure, become a family affair and so on.

Quietly fighting the good fight. Never taking up the arms of advocate as the word advocacy is a dirty word to me. We don’t need advocates, we need lovers. Everyone hates the politician but loves the hero’s. We need bike lanes that connect schools and grocery stores. We need to empower our children to pick up their bikes and go forward safely.

Two things came to light today that have made me struggle with the industry and culture I love

The death of an innocent freshman, riding his bicycle to school in Charlotte.

The “elephant” of the bike industry that our sales our flat for the past twenty years.

Two different stabs, two different pains, and two different fears.

I have two children that have no way to ride their bikes to school. They are lacking the freedom and the adventure that 10 & 11 year old boys should be given by the gift of bicycling away from home.

I make a living in the bike industry. I have sold bikes to first consumers and now bike dealers. Margins are tighter, and instead of expanding the bike industry and taking market share from golf, or soccer, or football. We are flat and fighting each other. From bike brands, industry standards and bike shops at war with their local community.

The elephant in the room is the bike industry is full of selfish folks lacking business sense and caring more about their piece of the pie than the pie that they are cutting from.

What do you believe in? When did you last fight for something you believe in?

I believe in bikes and if you know me – you know they are my life. I know a few other things and hopefully these all will be able to come together to make the pie bigger for the cycling industry, and for people to be able to ride their bikes safely to and from wherever they want to go.

Here I am, standing to fight a war against the industry I love. This war is why I work for the company that I love, Quality Bicycle Products. A sleeping giant, the backbone of the bike industry. This is why I love my co-workers, quietly pushing things along in Minnesota. I believe in bicycles and here I stand to fight the good fight of putting more butts on bikes. Carbon fiber doesn’t do that, fancy new bottom bracket standards or fighting over wheel sizes..sure some good marketing can help, but empowering the industry will. Empowering your local cycling community, finding a new word for advocate and allowing other people to drink from your passion.

Tracking My Progress with Strava

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My background in marketing and sales management have been specifically highlighted with my love of analytics, report running and data mining. I love theories, graphs and making decisions by gut and knowledge. (More gut than knowledge.)

Now, I don’t go as extreme with numbers around training as I do with marketing and sales..but it’s close. Normally I’m NOT tracking every movement, gear usage and PSI of tires or suspension pressure on EVERY ride. (I have my moments when I go through that cycle, mostly when I have a new bike to dial in.) For the past few years I’ve used Training Peaks for my HRM or in years past my power device, a Power Tap about 10 years ago. In roughly 2006 the invention of the Garmin GPS training unit for bicycling opened my eyes to what you can learn from data. From the ascents, decents, temperature and such, over laid with your speed, cadence and possibly power. You really turn yourself into a machine!

Welcome Strava, social media for bike rides

Two years ago I first heard of Strava. I didn’t really get it, another site to track your GPS files. They had put a bunch of pro’s on the site, and I feel like there was only a paid version when it first started. In the beginning of the year when I purchased my new Garmin Edge 800 I started uploading some files to Strava when I remembered. It was cool as it tracked my data, and also compared it to my friends.

Strava Segments are Virtual Group Rides

Strava Segments

I ride my bike alone most of the time. My job makes my ride hours vary, and I don’t like the extra stress of having set rides too often with groups. Two months ago Strava started the coolest things called segments. Basically it overlays your GPS file with set parts of trails, roads, or whatever to show how you compare to other Strava users on that section. Some examples are from the base of a climb to the top, or a full loop of a specific trail system.

It really excites me to try different places, or when I visit new places to do rides around these segments I can find on Strava.com. Comparing myself to others that have done that ride, climb, descent or loop. You can also make your own segments to see how you are improving. If you have a loop that you use for recovery, or maybe for testing purposes – this is a great function.

Strava Stats

Ease of Use and Design

Strava has done a few things very cool and user friendly with their design.

Uploading is super simple. The first time you click Upload Activity it asks to download this sync thing. You don’t ever have to open it again, everytime you go to upload it finds your Garmin and all activity you haven’t uploaded this far.

No software needed. As noted above it downloads (what I think is a cookie) the first time you try to upload. I am able to upload from my laptop and desktop, not needing to open any software other than the internet browser I already use.

 

Stats and Activities are clean. Rides, performance, averages and such are easy to find on your profile. It also will compare you to someone else when you click on their profile.

Strava on your iPhone or Android

Strava functions mostly off Garmin but they have really great phone apps that will track and upload straight from it! This is an easy way to get into the social group ride without plunking down on a Garmin.

This is super handy also as every once in a blue moon I’ll forget my Garmin or forget to charge it. I don’t miss tracking a ride when this happens!

Other notes of Strava

Follow me on Strava!

I recently upgraded to Premium mainly as I’ll be adding a Powertap to my arsenal soon, the site has a great Powertap analysis and keeper of data for later use.

You can also do all of the above for running as well! Pretty handy for triathletes or runners that want to get social with their runs!

I wasn’t paid or even asked to write this by Strava. Simply really digging the design and use of the site!