Saturday, December 28, 2013

Aww Yeeaah! What A Beautiful Day to Ride a Bike!

Riding in the country on my 1988 Schwinn Le Tour

I don't photograph my rides as much as I should and I really need to start taking my cameras on my rides more. I have seen some breathtaking landscapes that a cell phone picture just can't justify, and in the future I will try to get into the habit of lugging around my real cameras again. This picture, however, did a good job of summing up today's bike ride through the countryside on my old 80's Schwinn Le Tour road bike, the latest edition to my stable of vintage bikes. Today the weather was awesome, 65 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. I rode about 17 miles out to the country and back from my house on this trusty old steel bike with toeclips. This isn't the fastest bike that I own by far, but it is one of the most comfortable bikes that I have. It handled descents that normally feel twitchy on my other bikes with stability and grace. It absorbed all the road imperfections and I didn't feel any soreness despite not riding with gloves or padded shorts today. I felt I got a great workout despite riding in my Vans tennis shoes, jeans, T-shirt and pullover sweater. I definitely did not look like a typical roadie.

I wasn't looking for another bike when this bike came along, In fact, this bike found me through a friend of mine trying to sell the bike that once belonged to her dad. All the bike needed was some new tires, shifter cables and bar wrap and she was ready to go. The chain and freewheel will probably need to be replaced in the near future, but for now I am content to ride it the way it is, despite it's minor imperfections. The squeaky freewheel and the extra weight actually give the bike some character.  I have already dragged my child stroller on it, and it is officially the go to bike for rides with the kid in tow. 

The Schwinn is now the trailer puller, commuter and general workhorse bike.

Pretty soon I will no longer be living near these nice country roads which have offered some captivating scenery over the past three years. From glowing sunrises and rays of light beaming through the trees in the early mornings, to golden and auburn autumns where the monotony of crimson reds and canary yellows is only broken by the deep blue sky and the lake nearby that mirrors it. From dogs chasing me as I ride along fields of wheat and old red barns, to diving into foggy descents on overcast and chilly mornings. These are some of the memories I will treasure from this place, and, who knows, I may come back just to ride out here again. I am more excited about where I will be riding in the future as it holds a good mix of urban cycling with the countryside not that far away. Hopefully the roads will be as hospitable as the ones I am used to riding and hopefully I will be riding more, exploring more. Stay tuned and subscribe for more posts from a Bicycle's Point Of View.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is Steel Coming Back to the Peloton? Yes it is..yes it is

The Steel Renaissance is Finally Here! Well, sort of...

It appears someone's ears must have been hurting when I wrote my last few articles about steel bicycles. Apparently a few people in the bike industry finally had the common sense to make a bicycle that I actually want, let alone one that is practical when the tires roll off the smooth tarmac and out into the countryside. Condor and Genesis, companies both based in Britain, have introduced a line of pro-quality steel bicycles that have already made their way into this year's UCI cycling program. 

Picture courtesy of Genesis Bicycles

When watching the Tour Of Britain this year, I noticed what appeared to be steel bikes ridden by the Madison-Genesis team, a wild card team in the tour this year with a lot of young talent. Since my eyes did not believe what I was seeing I figured they were just carbon bicycles that looked like they were made of steel tubing. Months later I have recently discovered that this team was riding on their Reynolds 953 steel equipped flagship model, the Genesis Volare 953 Team. The Madison Genesis team did not win the Tour of Britain this year, however one of their riders did walk away with the jersey for most combative rider. The team has already had victories on this bike in a couple of under 23 events. Genesis has been innovative and forward thinking in designing a bike that can stand the rigors of the spring classics and the Belgian and French cobblestones. 

The Condor Super Acciaio.

Condor has also made strides in introducing their own competitive model, the Super Acciaio. Already ridden my the amateur team Rapha-Conor JLT, this bike is expected to be seen more next year in pro-tour events. 

Are these bikes affordable to the average person? No, these bikes still come at a premium price. However, compare them to a $10k carbon Trek or Specialized and the price of these bikes starts to look much more reasonable. Keep an eye out for these two bike manufacturers which are bringing back to cycling something it has long been missing and in need of, the feel of steel.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Saying Goodbye to a few things for now, and new changes to come

Saying Goodbye to the Bike Shop, Relocating and Looking at Cycling...Differently

After six months of gainful employment, it is time to say goodbye to my job as a bike mechanic. With a move coming up and a few life's changes to follow, I feel like I have reached the end of the road as regards working at this particular bike shop. I can attribute this feeling to several things, but mainly due to the fact that I have reached a point where I am content just being the cyclist I am. I own all the bikes I would ever want or need and I have all my own tools to do maintenance on them when they break down. I have also reached a critical point where I have hit the glass ceiling at my current place of employment. Because of the push to be a retail shop more than an actual bicycle shop, I feel like I am wasting my potential and am not using  my skill sets as a mechanic to the fullest. I also feel that the shop where I am currently working pushes the carbon fiber, spandex clad roadie image to all of it's customers by not selling a good variety of mid range to upper end road bikes. Being that our bike shop caters to many first time consumers, many customers walk away on bicycles that don't suit them, only to return them a year later, causing the store a huge profit loss because their return policy is so lenient. 

To me the realization came as I was selling a customer on purchasing a bicycle he was interested in. Although he really liked the bicycle, I knew that because the way the bicycle was designed it would not give him the comfort that he was looking for. It was a bicycle that I myself would never own or ride, but since I was in the position that I had to sell him something, I tried to pitch the sale as best as I could but failed to sound genuine about it. That is when I stopped and asked myself "What am I doing here. working a part time gig at a bike shop, barely making back my gas money and toll fees to get here and then pretending like customers actually need bikes like these?"

Had the customer been me, I would have sold him on a steel touring bike with braze-ons for racks which is that this customer in reality really needed. Instead he was considering an unforgivably rigid carbon fiber road bike that was going to aggravate all of the back and wrist pains he was already complaining to me about. The problem is, my store doesn't sell steel road bikes. How am I supposed to steer someone to make the right purchasing decision for them if the bike shop doesn't even carry the bicycle that they need?

Once the job is no longer fun and there is no opportunity for advancement, financially or otherwise, it's really time to move on. That's where I am at.  I am ready for a new start, doing something different. I would love to continue to work as a bike mechanic, but I can't work somewhere where I can't make a living doing it. And to me I'm at a point where if that is the case I'm fine with that, in fact I prefer it that way. Business should be business and pleasure should be pleasure.

Coming up is a new move into a really nice, bike friendly community, and a chance at a new start there. Hopefully the move brings new friends and new experiences that I am looking forward to having with my in-laws in our soon to be shared residence. Hopefully the cost of living savings will allow us to put funds aside for traveling and having more bicycling experiences abroad. Hopefully I will have a rental property up and running soon which will bring in some income to compensate for my not working at a bike shop. There are a lot of new things going on in my life as of the moment, these are exciting times for me right now. Cycling is taking a smaller window in the whole scenario, I no longer feel it deserves the same level of importance to the point where I have to work at a bike shop, unless it's a professional shop with respectable pay. I need to start pedaling more slowly, letting my wife catch up as I pull along a child trailer and spend more time on the bike with my family. Either way, I'm too slow for pace-lining roadies and I am too fast for the Grant Petersen or Jan Heine touring types. I'm stuck somewhere in the middle, riding on what a lot of people consider ancient technology, ripping up and down country roads with no agenda, no training schedule in mind. Riding a bike because I feel like it, because it makes me happy. I ride a bike because I like the way my legs look when I wear shorts, because after every ride I have dumped my stress load on the side of the road, and my mind is focused. Few people will ever understand the commitment I have to riding and the relationship I have with my bicycle. I know few people that are as passionate about cycling as I am, even fewer among are my friends. As long as I am mobile, I believe cycling will always be a part of me. For now, I say goodbye to working in the industry, reading cycling magazines, and trying to keep up with the latest trends. I'm not going to write off working in the bicycle industry again and I already have some job leads that I am following up on. I am also saying goodbye to continuously buying, trading, reselling or restoring bicycles. I have a couple of restorations left that I haven't sold off yet, I will restore those and perhaps motorize a bicycle.  I really don't have the time to keep doing restorations as frequently as I used to. I honestly don't have very much more time for blogging. But never fear, my beloved readers, if I am not blogging about something on my computer, it's usually because I am enjoying myself in real life, so take comfort in that. My plan is from here on out to enjoy the bikes I already own, to make new adventures with my family, and to let my readers in on what I am doing, every once in a while. Keep subscribing to my posts, but keep the rubber side down in between my articles, as I will be doing the same.