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Shifting Your Gears Forward

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.

Starbucks

The Starbucks Effect

I’m a big fan of Starbucks and Apple. If you were to ask me two brands that I relate to in the most upwards of ways, it would be these two. I’m sure someone will hop on the comments and blast me about child labor or over priced coffee, but I like what I like.

Why does all this matter to bikes? Service matters.

I visit and pay full retail to the above places for the experience, customer service and reliability. I can walk into any Starbucks across the country and receive the same tasting green tea. I can walk into any Apple store and receive the same great shopping experience. I have used Apple products pretty strictly since 2002, they work, they last and they come loaded with many things I need. They are more expensive but the experience and product is worth it for me.

As I travel through my territory of the Southeast the question of online price wars comes up and I always bring up the examples of Apple and Starbucks. These two hold true to their core mission, and have well trained staff. When was the last time you went into look at Apple products and you saw a huge SALE sign? They actually go out of their way on their website to put discounted or refurbished product out of the main view of the consumer. (It is all the way on the bottom of the navigation bar on the left.)

When was the last time you asked the person making your coffee if you can give them less than their asking price?

Discounting product does not win customers for life.

Experienced staff, a pleasant shopping experience, reliability and amazing service is what wins customers for life. There is a reason that the Gap owns Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic. Different shopping experiences, different quality of product and different prices. All of them have well trained staff, thoughtfully laid out merchandise and HAPPY staff.

I shop at all three depending what I need, and each location I walk away with a good experience.

Consumers, I encourage you to give feedback to your local shops.

Did you stop shopping there because they kept messing up your bike when you brought it in for a tuneup? Did they sell you the wrong tube size 3 times? Did someone rub you wrong because they were grouchy and lacked customer service? Was your experience one that left you shaking your head and heading straight to google to find what you needed online?

I still try local coffee shops when I’m traveling, I buy clothes from other places as well, but when in a pinch I know who I can rely on and in todays times when we are all running around like crazy, this matters more to me than saving 5%.

Bicycle Industry Regressing

The Bicycle Industry is Regressing

As technology expands and new bike products, or forms of bike products,  hit the market the market grows – or so one thinks. If you look at the basic roll of the wheel in the past 10 years we’ve had full suspension to the masses, lighter carbon road and mountain bikes, 29″ and 27.5″ wheel sizes,  carbon wheels, stainless steel tubing and more tech driven clothing than I could ever talk about in a lifetime.  Lights run for days and nutrition is truly a science.

The technology that is pushing the market forward is also allowing us to regress.  One example of this is the push on 29ers in the industry. Most of the bikes offered are hard tail and there are a good number that are fully rigid single speeds. Why? To me I ride one for simplistic sake and to enjoy the ride. As a mechanic I want my bikes to work right. No squeaks, no skips and everything set up perfect. With a fully rigid single speed you put air in the tires every once in a while and lube the chain when it gets too dry or dirty.

In the coming weeks I want to touch on regressing in the industry.   Marketing, product and education. Wool and steel are a big hit.   Retro “tweed” rides seem to be monthly across the country and the lure to fixed gear riding is still on a high.   Companies such as Rapha, Vassago and all those custom small builders across the world are building momentum based on our own regression.   How do you feel?  Do you like riding your steel Serotta or the feel of merino wool?  If so, tell us why!

What are your preferences to the below?

* Clipless or platform?
* CO2 or hand pump?
* What material do you prefer? (Carbon, Aluminum, etc..)
* Gears, single speed or some type of 1×9 setup?
* Outboard bearing or axle/cup type?
* Camelbak or water bottle?
* Oversized handlebars? Drop bars, wide bars, bent bars?
* Wicking material or cotton? Better yet, wool?
* GPS or cyclometer?

The Only Thing Scarier than a Kid on a Bike, An Adult

A Short Story about Daily Bike Dilemmas

One morning I was sitting in my local little town of Davidson, NC. This is a small college town known for Davidson College and also one of the most friendly bicycle towns in the area of Charlotte, NC. Their welcome signs on all ends of the town state they are a “bicycle and pedestrian friendly town.”

As I’m sitting, drinking my latte and putting together my farmer’s market list, I see a great amount of cyclist stringing through town practicing for the big sprint triathlon that happens the end of August at the local YMCA. The cyclist have just finished a open water group swim and now riding the bike course for the sprint triathlon.

Here is the issue, this post-swim bike ride is not organized and often has 200 or so cyclist. There are elite level triathletes down to the most beginner bicyclist within the group. The ride goes through downtown Davidson with heavy car and pedestrian traffic. The cyclist do not know how to behave within a group of cyclist, let alone with cars and people walking around.

A month ago, during one of these exact times, a group ride after a large open water swim at the local YMCA, an entry level cyclist was cut off by a car pulling into a parking spot. The cyclist grabbed her brakes, flipping over her handlebars and hitting her head very hard on one of the parked cars bumpers. Read More