Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Character Is Important

Not just for people, but with any business.  Bike shops in particular should have character, according to my limited research anyway.  In this day and age when you can click your mouse, enter credit card information, and have new bike shit show up on your doorstep a few days later, having a bike shop that actually gives a damn about their customers means a lot.  It can mean the difference between staying in business and closing their doors forever, actually.

I’ve visited lots of bike shops.  I’ve been to everything here locally, and after eight years of shopping around I only frequent one here in Charlotte.  This post isn’t about them, so I won’t mention the name right now (take a gander over there to the right to see which one.)  Anyway, that means the rest of them will never get my money unless I desperately need something that I can’t get at “my” shop.  I also make a point to visit other shops when I go to different cities, and some of them are pretty cool.  Some however, could stand a lesson in customer service.

You ever go to a store and feel like an asshole because you didn’t buy something?  Went somewhere with your hard-earned cash just to be told that bike (or whatever) isn’t what you want? 

You know, “You really need to be on the super duper new XP2000 fatbike cross jumper crabon full suspension time trial Enduro™ machine.”

Bullshit.  Some customers might fall for that, but if you don’t listen to what a majority of them tell you, it’ll be a matter of time until you’re unemployed and homeless.  “My” shop isn’t like that, and that’s why I go there.  There are lots of others that are good, which brings me to a shop I finally made it to on our camping weekend up in the hills…


Recently relocated from downtown Wilkesboro to a spot right next to the awesome trails at the W Kerr Scott Reservoir, this place is pretty damn awesome.  While I was on the way to setup camp, it beckoned me to stop in.

So I did.



Shannon, the proprietor of this establishment, makes you feel right at home the second you stop in.  Although he just moved to this prime location (across from the trails), it’s a real, functioning bike shop.  He said it was a work in progress, but it looked pretty damn good to me.




Walk in, hang out, and don’t feel like you have to buy anything (but, you should.)  He’s happy to help with repairs, parts, new bikes, demos, and even routes for some awesome rides in the area (mountain, road, or even gravel if that’s your thing.)  It’s the kind of shop that you can hang out in, have a beer (it’s legal across the street from federal land), and listen to some music playing over the sound system.  They have inventory from a wide range of bike companies, but the ones that really stood out to me were the local ones.

Like Endless BikeCo. from nearby Asheville, NC:



And DeFeet, just down the road in Hildebran, NC:



To me, that says a lot about a shop here in North Carolina.  But maybe I’m a little biased.  Whatever.

It’s not a bike superchainstore or anything phony like that.  It’s a real shop run by a real bike rider and it shows.  You know that character I was talking about?  It’s right there.  Bike shops like this are few and far between, but this is one of the good ones.  People drive from all over the state (and beyond) to ride the trails in the area, and now there’s a cool shop right there to serve their needs.  It’s worth a stop if you’re in the area for sure.

Besides, you won’t want to miss Sad Eagle out front, leftover from the building’s previous life as a museum.



Sad Eagle is sad.  Stop by and cheer him up.



For realz though, this place is awesome.  If you stop in, tell them I sent you, and ask for the “special” tour. 

It might cost you a beer or something.


Or it could be something I made up.  I imagine things sometimes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Camp Berm-A-Lot

It’s not like I just watched (and helped) people race da udda day.  I told you I rode the shit outta that pump track.  The little lady sent me a picture as proof.



I rode some singletrack too, but not a whole lot.



Riding, drinking (beer or whatever is not prohibited on federal land), and supporting/heckling was fun and all that, but we did a little camping too.



It was cold the first night, and being from Florida I’m not used to camping in that kinda weather.  Luckily I came prepared.



It was nice and toasty in my tent, and I didn’t burn that sumbitch to the ground either.  That wasn’t the worst danger I faced though.  I had to deal with spiders fighting over their turf in the bathroom.



It sucks when you’re on the toilet, helpless to escape if one of them crawls on you.  I’m good with lot of other critters, but I hate spiders.  On night two, something wonky went on with the bathroom.  The water pressure was really low, making showers kind of challenging.  The water went from hot to cold and back every three seconds, and it came out of the shower head at a rate that was similar to being pissed on by a small child.  Some people are into that, but not me.  The pressure situation eventually affected the toilets too, making flushing a problem.  The next morning the toilets were full, and with nature calling I had to go elsewhere.

Luckily there was a pit toilet within riding distance.



It not like my weekend was bad though.  Stuff like that keeps everything interesting.  I mean, I got to see the sun rise and the cool colors of the leaves.  You know, that means Fall is here.



And I sat up with our camp neighbor, Mr. Pepper, and played guitar late into the night. 

It was a fun weekend, but of course I’m not done.  I had a chance to visit a bike shop in the area, and I’ll get into that tomorrow. 


It deserves its own post, so stay tuned.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Not A Race Report

But I was at a race and I’ll talk about it.

The Wilkes 100 kicked off Saturday, and I camped in the hills all weekend to volunteer.  Happy to help, I got up on a cold morning and met with the racers before the start.



The usual crowd was there, including Dicky, looking so ready to race that everyone else should have been worried.



Conspicuously absent was Watts (who was probably still stuck on the side of the road on the way to SSCXWC14), but he sent one of his minions.



I was assigned the task of running aid station number three, about forty five miles (I guess) miles in.  I had plenty of time until the first racer came by, so we hung around to watch the start.  It was a sight to see.



A few minutes later, everyone disappeared down the road.  With several hours to go, I headed back to camp and gathered my stuff to go back to the rest area.  I made sure to make a “motivational” sign for my friends out there racing.



The rest stop was setup in no time, and it included water, food, and drop bags.



We still had plenty of time, and luckily we were right next to the new pump track out there.



We rode the shit outta that thing until we had to work.



Quite a few hours later, a couple of racers started coming in.  We got busy, filling water bottles and yelling out words of encouragement.  Some of these guys looked as if they hadn’t raced a mile, while other looked like they were about to die.  Dicky was somewhere in the middle of that.



Kurt (from Faster Mustache), was hurting and sat down for a while in my Maxxis chair.  



He eventually got going, no doubt thanks to our awesome aid station.

Next up was fellow DrunkCyclist Good Guy Greg, hurting like hell but happy to be so far along. 



Word around the campfire is that he helped several people with mechanical issues, even while suffering a few of his own.  That’s rad.

People came in here and there, some in groups and some all alone.  It was a sight to see, and we were happy to help them.  Friends, people I didn’t know, and some I may have seen somewhere before thanked us for helping and we thanked them for being out there so we could have a good time.

We did have a good time.  A whole weekend of being in the hills with a race in the middle.  As much as I wanted to “race” alongside my friends out there, I was glad to be a part of something better.  I like to help.


And yeah, I’ll probably be talking about my weekend adventures for the next few days.  It’s what I do.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fun Friday

I’m ready to jump into the weekend too…



I worked late last night, so my weekend actually starts a little early.  I’ve never been so ready for a weekend in my life.  I have big plans too.



No, I’m not racing.  I thought about it, but then I got a call about volunteering at the Wilkes 100 this weekend and I accepted.  Some of us Charlotte folks will be there marshaling the course, running aid stations, and heckling the shit outta people that racing way too late into the “season.”  It’s gonna be fun for sure, especially since we’ll be camping up there all weekend.  I sure need this kind of fun.

Speaking of fun, let’s finish this Fun Friday crap and nonsense so you can start getting ready for your weekend too.

How about another kid-friendly post?







Do it, NOW!


See y’all Monday.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Work Work Work…

I skipped yesterday.  I do that from time to time.  I almost skipped today too, and I’m still not sure why I didn’t.  It’s not like I need to be here.

But I am.

I like this blog stuff.  People read it, some tell me they like it (or hate it), and it helps me keep track of what I’ve done or even vent a little.  Besides, I feel like I’m doing a public service by giving people something to read while they sit on the toilet in the morning.  I know that’s my prime blog reading time, so it must be yours, right?

Anyway, this week has been hell with work stuff.  Being on call isn’t usually too bad but for some reason I’ve had just about all I can handle the past few days.  On our Tuesday Social Ride da udda night, we had a pretty big crowd.  We turned on our lights and hit the trail.  The group stayed together pretty well for being so large, and we finished lap one ready for more.  I had to go to work though. 

I left while the rest of the gang kept riding.  My plan was to meet them at a local watering hole after I finished my work.  It was a great plan, since I made it to the restaurant just minutes before the group did.  We ate, shot the shit and all that, and I had to go into work again.

Shit.

This isn’t really a whiny pants fest or anything I guess.  I’ll just be glad when I am free of this after hours stuff (tomorrow morning) and can get back to wasting time on my own in the evenings.  The stress is really getting to me, mostly because it’s cutting into my bike time.  Luckily I’m able to squeeze in another stress reliever though…

Music.

My guitar room (that sounds weird) is centrally located in the house, so it’s easy to take a few minutes a play a little bit.  Our new puppy, Carl, likes to follow me around the house and really likes it when I play music.  It seems to help me relax a little bit, and it definitely helps him.



At least I have something to keep me from going bat shit crazy.

There will be none of that fun shit tonight.  I have to stay really late, possibly putting in a sixteen hour day.  I’m on a project right now that’s nearly over, but it would’ve been over much sooner if I had some help.  Instead, I’m working late into the night because during the day I get to see my coworkers read books, take naps, and be pretty much worthless. 

I can’t wait to hang out with some bike people.  Or Carl again.


One more day…

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On Dirt

Saturday started off like Sunday.  Up early, household responsibilities taken care of, then work calls.  My (lack of) plans were delayed, but not derailed.  I had a mountain bike on my truck, but no destination in mind.  I knew I wanted to see some dirt, rocks, and trees, but nothing local sounded appealing.  That’s when I remembered that there is a new(ish) trail across the river that I hadn’t ridden yet.



Rocky Branch, across the Catawba River over in the town of Belmont, is a trail that I’d walked before but never ridden.  I knew I couldn’t get in a super long ride anywhere since I was on a leash for work, so at ~3 miles this place seemed appropriate.  Turns out it didn’t matter where I rode, as long as I hit the dirt.



The trail looked fun back when I walked it a few months ago and riding it confirmed that.  It’s a bit out of the way for me but definitely worth the trip.  There were just enough jumps, rocks, and fast downhills to make it fun, and there were even a few climbs in there to make me work a little bit.



One thing I didn’t see the last time I was there was the new “advanced” section.



It started with a small rock garden and ran alongside a creek.



There were some steepish drop ins, and they led into some sort of Warrior Creek style canyon thingy.



The crew out there has been putting in a ton of work to build this thing, and they plan to do a lot more.  Just as I finished my first lap, I ran into a few of the guys that did most of the work.  I did another lap with them, and we spent some extra time out there looking at future sections and reroutes.  I see a lot of potential out there for sure.  I’ll be there for the next work day, and definitely to ride again. 



Sometimes riding something different (no matter how short), is a good thing.  Kinda keeps things fresh, you know?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Work Gets In The Way

Being “on call” for work has cramped my style the last few days.  Yeah, it pays the bills and all that but I hate having to try to squeeze in rides here and there.  I make plans, and a lot of times they fall through.  Sunday was more of the same.  Since I’ve started “training” for next “season”, a Sunday morning long-ish road ride has become the standard.  It’s sorta fun, and it gets me out on the bike for some good mileage before I sit around all day and watch foosball on TV. 

I woke up early Sunday morning, took care of the dogs and cats, and got my shit together to head out on the road.  Suddenly, work calls.  Since I knew I couldn’t fix the issue remotely and had to go on site to one of our facilities, I loaded my road bike on the truck and made a plan to ride when I finished working.  Once I got there, things took a little longer than expected, but I still had time for a ride.  I was near the Huntersville Business Park (you locals know what I’m talking about), and the decision was made to ride a few laps in there to spin my legs.  People around here ride the shit outta that place.  On any given day, it’s full of roadies running pacelines, calling shit out to each other, and trying their best to beat the Strava times of everyone else in the area. 

I did one lap around and I was ready to punch myself in the balls.  I don’t know how they do it.  I think it’s the most painfully boring thing you can do on a bike aside from riding a trainer.  I made the easy decision to head out on the open road, which wouldn’t have me riding in circles.



It was a really beautiful day, and not being stuck in the business park made my ride somewhat enjoyable.  Slightly cool, (mostly) empty roads, and hilly terrain kept me moving along at a nice pace.  I eventually rolled up to a red light, and while I waited I spotted another roadie directly across from me.  He nodded, and when the light turned green he took off in the direction I’d planned to go.  I saw that as a challenge so I took off after him. 



I was gaining on him steadily while he looked back, and eventually I got enough momentum to fly by him.  I waved as I went by and he didn’t seem too pleased.  He tried to keep up, but I pushed it with everything I had to keep him at bay.  I was struggling to get away, but it was working.  My heart rate ramped up to nearly 200 bpm, and after a series of climbs and downhills I no longer saw him behind me.  Big deal.

It was fun, but more importantly it kept me motivated to make the most of my ride.  Sometimes when I ride on the road I tend to slow down and stare off into the fields and trees as I pass by, forgetting that I’m trying to “train.”  Having someone to chase makes it more fun, and the same holds true when I see someone gaining on me. 

Maybe I should start riding with a group, instead of being the Lone Roadie.

Or maybe I should start riding in the woods more on Sunday mornings.


At least I’m riding.