Do you really want to “save” the bike biz?

It seems that every year the industry rolls out the next product that will “save” the bike business.  A product so great, so revolutionary that rabid throngs of customers will rush into stores all over the country.

Of course, it never really lives up to the hype.

The products always seem to appeal to niche audiences, and said products always are on the higher end of the price range.  The funny thing is that there’s a gaping hole in the offerings from the big bike companies.  Something that truly could make a very big difference in the health, and happiness of a large number of people.   As far as I know no one is addressing it.

Here in the midwest we have a population that skews……..larger.  I’ve lost count of the number of customers I’ve talked to that genuinely want to ride a bike.  They just don’t know where to turn.

The first inclination seems to be visiting one of the big box stores and just buying a bike.  This rarely ends well.  Lack of sizes, and poor components make for a bad experience that usually ends in the person giving up.

Buying a bike in a bike shop should be a better alternative.  The trouble is that the wheels spec’d on recreational bike in the $400-$600 price range are not sufficient to hold someone tipping the scales over 250 lbs.  This is the problem.  Could the customer invest in a bicycle that is considerably more expensive with better, more durable wheels?  Absolutely.  Trouble is most new riders aren’t willing to shell out $1500 on what may be their first bike since childhood.

You may be saying “So what?  Just sell them a bike.  Having a bike with sub standard wheels is better than no bike at all”.  Unfortunately it’s not that easy.

Let’s say that you’re the one in this situation.  You’ve decided to exercise, and you’d like to ride a bike.  You go to a bike shop because that’s where you get “good” bikes.  You may have had a couple of not so great experiences at bike shops already.  You explain that you would like a bike, but don’t think there is anything available that will “hold” you.

Now let’s say I assure you that said bike will be fine.  I may even provide a gentle warning you that there may be issues with the wheels, but they can be serviced.  You buy the bike, and within the first few months spokes start breaking.  What are the chances that you end up discouraged, and stop riding all together?  What are the chances that you are left feeling a bit betrayed by me for selling you something that should have “worked”?

I am in no way suggesting that larger folk not seek out the joys of riding a bicycle.  The point is big bicycle companies don’t think that this is a category worth spending time on.  For that they should be ashamed.

If they really want to “save” the bike business they will stop allocating all of their resources to high dollar, ever more complicated racing bikes and start spending a little more time on the other 95% of their customer base.

 

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Slow Thinking

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Slow thinking is not a new concept.  If you’re anywhere near my age I’m sure you’re familiar with these sayings.

Look before you leap

Engage your brain before you open your mouth

Better to remain silent and thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Sleep on it.

If there are some of these that pertain specifically to the online world I would love to hear them.

I was reacquainted with this concept listening to economist Arnold Kling discuss his book The Three Languages of Politics.

The concept is pretty easy to understand.  Take a bit of time before you speak (or write, or tweet etc.).  How long do you wait?  It’s hard to say.  It could be a breath, a minute, hours or days.  The point is don’t just spout off.  How many disagreements, road rage incidents, or on line “flame wars” could be prevented this way?

Social media is littered with people who could learn from this.

Of course there have been times when I’ve been irritated, or angered by some random post.  I’ve taken to the keyboard and tapped out what I thought was a terribly clever response.  Righteous in my indignation was I.  I did not, however, hit “send”.  I read what I had written.  Then I read it again.  At that point I deleted the post.  It’s quite cathartic.  I recommend you try it.  Go ahead and use all caps!  What I realized was that what I wrote wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind.  It was only going to pull me down into the crevasse of crap that the original poster had created.

As someone who makes a living in the bicycle business, I’m acutely aware of the constant dangers that automobiles (and the drivers that pilot them) pose when I’m riding on city streets.  I have to think that I would, at the very least, feel much safer if the driver that passes too close (always with some choice words) would take a breath and realize that a bicycle is not actually an impediment to their day.  (Staying off phones while driving would actually accomplish a whole lot more, but that’s a different discussion.)

Now I’m quite sure, gentle reader, that none of these things apply to you directly.  Possibly you have a friend that could benefit from this?  We all have that friend.

Here’s to embracing the slow.

 

 

 

 

Bro, do you even #coffeeoutside?

 

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One of the great things about the local bike touring experience is doing seemingly mundane things in different outside locations.

A movement (perhaps not the right word to use given I’m talking about coffee) has been taking place over the last few years.  People making coffee outside.  What’s the big deal you say?  Why all the hubbub?  Well, it’s simple.  No, really it’s simple.  Riding your bike, and making a nice cuppa is an easy, relaxing thing to do.  This process usually involves friends……who also ride bikes, and like coffee.  See where I’m going here?

The process of putting together a coffee kit is easy.  If you camp, you probably already have most, if not all of the things you need.  A kettle, stove, water, some coffee (I tend to take mine pre-ground.  Some folks take beans and portable grinders to prepare the coffee on the spot) and a coffee brewing method.  Two of my favorites are the collapsible pour over from Snow Peak, and the Aeropress.

I think of coffee outside like a small adventure.  You’re using some of the gear you’ve acquired (including those nice bags on your bike).  You’re enjoying the outdoors.  Maybe you’re in a spot that you’ve ridden by, but never stopped to enjoy.  This is all part of the local bike touring experience.

Do you already enjoy #coffeeoutside?  If not, does this tempt you in any way.  I hope it does.

 

Rediscovering the Library

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I remember when I discovered the public library.  It was kind of unbelievable to me that anyone, even a little kid like me, could borrow books.  There was no digital media in those olden days.  They did have a sweet selection of posters that I could take home and hang in my room for a week or two.  That seems a bit weird looking back.

As I got older, I read books less frequently and the books I did want to read I bought.  This lead to shelves full of books that were read once, or in many cases, read not at all.

In my attempt to un-clutter my life, I started ridding myself of these neglected tomes.  As the shelves started to empty, I encountered a dilemma.  There was a book that I actually wanted to read.  I thought for a moment about buying it.  It’s so easy to do after all.  It seemed that I was about to potentially undo all the good works that I had done.  Then it hit me.  Couldn’t I go to the library?  It struck me as a bit old fashioned, and a bit nerdy even.  What did I have to lose?  I chose to give it a try.

As I entered the nearest library branch the woman behind the counter asked if she could help me.  I told her that I would like I library card.  The degree of excitement that she exhibited was a bit surprising.  She was very excited.

Here’s what I discovered.  The library is pretty cool.  We can check availability, reserve books and renew everything online.  It also forces me to be diligent with regards to the reading.  I know going in that I have 3 weeks, and it forces me to knuckle down and read instead of screwing off doing other things.  The best bit is that I’m not filling up the house with extra stuff that I really don’t need.

What do you think?  How long has it been since you’ve been to your public library?

 

 

Adventure

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So many people underestimate what their bike can do.  A properly fitted bicycle can take you down roads and trails, hither and yon with no problems whatsoever.  It is we that have the problem.

We’ve been conditioned to think that a certain type of riding requires a certain type of bike.  While that may be true of the professional racer, or someone willing to catapult themselves down rock strewn trails; for most of us it just is not the case.

The photo above shows me on a “mountain bike” trail.  An easy trail, but a trail none the less.  I’m riding my touring bicycle.  Fitted with racks, bags and a basket.  Tires a bit wider than 2 inches with no tread to speak of.  It was great fun.

This is the pinnacle of “Local Touring“.  We rode the local greenways to a state park that has off road trails.  After riding the roads through the park we took a detour onto one of the trails.  After completing our off road adventure, we got back on the road and retraced our path back home.  On another day we took hammocks and lounged for a while, enjoying the outdoors before we rode back.  I hope I made it sound as fun as it really was.

I think we all suffer from a bit of A.D.D. (Adventure Deficit Disorder-I stole this from Tim Ferriss, all credit to him).

Does this, in any way, inspire you to use your bike in a different way?

Do any of you engage in this sort of activity already?

I would be interested in hearing your stories.

Adventure on!

A Tisket A Tasket

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Every bike should have a basket.  Or better stated, everyone should have at least one bike with a basket.

I’m not talking about a Dorothy and Toto basket.  I’m talking about a classic, inexpensive, ridiculously practical accessory that will make carrying things on the front of your bike so easy you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one.

My favorite is the Wald 137.  These baskets have been made in the US since 1905.  We sell them without the hardware so you can attach it to a front rack.  A handful of zip ties will get the job done.

Attaching the basket to a rack accomplishes a couple of things.  It keeps your handlebar clean.  Attaching many things to your bars takes room away from the things that the bars were meant for – your hands!  Having the basket on a rack also lowers the weight ever so slightly while still keeping things accessible.  It looks cool too.

Once you’ve got your basket you have to decide on a bag.  Where once there seemed to be only one bag specifically designed for this basket, there now are a multitude.   The bag that started it all (IMO) is the Shopsack (MD) from Sackville.  It’s a relatively simple cotton canvas bag made specifically to fit inside the 137.  To secure the bag in the basket you can either use a net, or there are loops on the side that will accept a mini carabiner.  The newer versions also include a small zippered pocket inside the bag to secure smaller items.

The other bag I use is from Swift Industries.  The Sugarloaf basket bag has a slightly padded bottom, has more pockets for organization and has “wings” to secure it to the basket.  Both are fine choices.

I get really excited about things that make using your bike easier, and more fun.  I can’t think of anything that has had a bigger affect than my basket.  I hope you give it a try.  I think you’ll love it.

Oh, since I shared some Insta hashtags with you last time I’ll give you a couple more that are basket specific.

#basketpacking

#basketlyfe

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Take the First Step

If you read my last post, and you’re interested in Local Touring you may be wondering how to start.  One word.  Bags.

The handlebar bag is the gateway drug to bicycle utility.  They give you the ability to carry some stuff without mounting a rack directly to your bicycle.  A bar bag will keep things close at hand and easily accessible even while riding.

Here are 3 great options.

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The waterproof bar bag from Banjo Brothers.   The least expensive way to start adding bags to your bike.  It has internal stiffeners to maintain the bags shape, a map pocket on top, mesh side pockets.  It comes with a shoulder strap for off bike carrying, and bracket to attach the bag to your bar.  Dimensions are 8″ H x 9″ L x 6″ W.  The bag opens toward you.  Imported

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The Paloma from Swift Industries.  Made in a small shop in Seattle the Paloma is a small bag made of the best water resistant fabrics.  It’s just the right size for a day on the bike.  The bag opens away from you making it even easier to access your stuff.  Dimensions are 10″w X 6″d X 6″h.  Bar adapter bracket priced separately from bag.  Made in the USA.

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If you like the tradition of  waxed canvas and leather the BarSack from Sackville is the bag for you.  Sackville is the bag brand from Rivendell Bicycle Works.  This bag features  magnetic top flap closure, two side pockets and zip front pocket.  Top flap opens the way it should-away from you.  Attaches to your bar with the super swanky rack from Nitto (not included).  Dimensions 9.5″ wide to side x 7″ front-to-back x 8″ tall.  Expensive to buy, but cheap to own.  This bag will serve you for a long time.  Made in the USA.

Next time I’ll tackle other options for carrying stuff on the front of your bike.  Racks, and panniers and baskets-Oh my!