Taking an Extended Break

Posted: February 23, 2015 in Blog Posts

Not that I’ve kept up with this blog as frequently as I wanted to, but… I have to take a very extended break from blogging, social media, and the like.  Things like this are taking too much away from my family life, and I need to focus on that more than anything, right now.  Although I like to travel, I’m not taking any jobs that will take me on the road for a while, either.

Thanks for following.  Thanks for reading.  Happy Trails.

I had a few minutes to kill today, so I stopped by the EORA (Eastern Outdoor Reps Association) Winter Show in Greenville.  I checked it out last fall, and went ahead and registered for this show, too.  For those who have never been to this show, it’s not really bike-oriented… more geared towards folks running outdoors-type stores.  Regardless, they had a few bike-related brands, and some other cool stuff to check out.  Here are my favorites:

1.    Camelbak

Camelbak K.U.D.U. PacksI have always loved Camelbak hydration products.  They came up with the idea, and they continue to develop new products that are really innovative.  The best looking models I saw at the show were the K.U.D.U. packs.  They come in two different sizes, multiple color options, 100 oz. reservoir, a load bearing belt with cargo pockets, and up to 915 cubic inches of capacity (for the K.U.D.U. 18).

The coolest part, that isn’t visible while you are wearing the pack, is the Impact Protector.  It is a special panel made of multiple foam layers that protect you from the pack’s contents, in case of a crash.  It is designed to take multiple impacts, and is very lightweight, at only 2 lb., 8 oz. for the larger model.  Definitely an enduro-designed pack, but very eye-catching, and an excellent idea.

One of the coolest extra details of the K.U.D.U. pack, specifically for those like-minded friends who like to have every tool needed to do a minor (or major) trailside repair… a “bike tool organizer,” or as we call it in the pits, a “tool roll.”  It’s not really heavy duty, but Camelbak was going for something lightweight that could offer benefit to the rider who needs to pack a lot of stuff in their pack, but keep pointy tools segregated from the rest of their gear.  Nice work on this pack, Camelbak.

2.    Timex

Timex is on the verge of releasing a game-changing new GPS watch called the ONE GPS+.  This watch is the neatest “smart-watch” I’ve seen.  The features include:

Timex ONE GPS+

  • InstaFix GPS Speed and Distance
  • Phone-Free Messaging
  • Find-Me Feature
  • Live Online Tracking
  • Music Player
  • Always-On Sunlight-Readable Qualcomm Mirasol Display
  • Heart Rate Compatible
  • 50m Water Resistance
  • Includes 1 year of AT&T mobile data service
  • Directly connects to Strava, MapMyRun, and RunKeeper apps
  • Utilizes Bluetooth Technology

I’m pretty sure you have to have AT&T phone service to optimize the messaging functions on the watch.  It is a really sleek piece of gear, very comparable in size to the Garmin Forerunner 920xt.  I think the social aspects of this fitness watch will prove to be a popular selling feature, as oppposed to other GPS-based watches.  Although it may not be cycling/multisport compatible yet, I believe it will get there in the near future.  I was impressed.  Timex-sponsored athletes are testing the ONE GPS+ right now, but they should be coming soon. Look for a summer/fall release.

3.    Leatherman

So… once again, the gear junkie in me comes out.  This isn’t a bike-specific product, but it is a sweet new tool from Leatherman.  The new Tread tool is basically 25 tools in a nice, neat watchband-style carrying device.  It looks like a nicely-machined bracelet, but by removing it, it becomes the be-all, end-all multi-tool.  The Tread and the Tread QM1 (same style band, but with a watch face and only 20 tools) both weigh less than 8 oz., and here’s the kicker – they are TSA compliant.  Stylish and functional.  My kind of fashion accessory.

 TreadSSFront TreadQM1SSFront

Got any cool new pieces of gear for me to check out?  Shoot me an e-mail at probikewrench@gmail.com and I’ll see if I can get it in for review.  Thanks for reading.

stuck-in-a-rutThe last 9 months has been crazy.  I haven’t posted much of anything, although I’ve had plenty of time on my hands.  Sometimes, I guess we just get in ruts.  Here are the bullet points:

  • As I already updated, In mid-July, I lost my job at BikeStreet USA in Greenville.  Turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the company announced they were closing up shop at the end of September.  I hated it for most of the people that worked there, because they were pretty straight up.  As for a few people in the company, it couldn’t have happened to better people.  I’ve taken a couple of months and gotten over my harsh feelings about my dismissal, and that’s all I’ll say about that.
  • Six months without a job is hard.
  • I did two contract mechanic jobs with the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).  Flew out to Nashville and Tucson for their fundraising rides.  Had a great time, met a lot of great people, and hope to attend a few more of those events in 2015, if at all possible.
  • I found a new job.  On January 5th, I started working at The Great Escape, in Greenville.  I’m not wrenching on bikes at all (unless I can sneak back to change a tire or something…), but rather working the sales floor.  I find a lot of enjoyment in talking to people, figuring out their goals, and getting them started on their cycling journey.  The parent company, Atlanta Cycling, has been nothing short of wonderful to work for.  I have never seen a bike shop with such a solid structure for training and equipping staff to do their job to the best of their abilities.  I love this place.  The shop is undergoing a big overhaul in March, and becoming Trek Store South Carolina.  I’m ecstatic about being present for the change, and seeing how we can elevate the customer experience for all of our guests.
  • School.  Last semester, I took a full load of classes at Liberty University Online.  This semester… same thing, except now I have a full-time job, too.  It’s tough, but I have a goal, and I will finish.

Everything else is so-so.  Family’s good.  I’m not riding as much as I want to, but I’m starting to get back on the horse.  I plan on selling my Scott Foil 20, and picking up a Trek Emonda pretty soon.  Or maybe the Trek 720 Disc or Trek 920 (touring machines).  I think that a new bike might light the fire I need to get my sorry butt back in shape again.

Trek 920

Trek 920 – Mountain Touring Bike. One BEAST of a machine.

Any questions/comments/concerns?  Want to read about something specific?  I’m looking for topics.  Please, if you think of anything, give me a shout at probikewrench@gmail.com.  Take care.

 

Best lubes/cleaners in the business

For the last several years, I’ve been using Pro Gold Bikes products for all my maintenance needs. I’ve known the National Marketing Rep, Bruce Dickman, for many years from my time working in Georgia, home base for Bruce and Pro Gold Manufacturing.  In 2012, I was working for CTS at the Tour of California Race Experience camp, under-equipped, as far as supplies go.  We had no lubes, bike stands, or anything… just tools and tents.  While building bikes in the parking lot of our hotel in Santa Rosa, I see the Pro Gold Sprinter van roll up.  Out pops Bruce, saying, “What do you need? I’ve got the best stuff on the market for you.” He was correct.

Bruce sells Pro Gold lubes, but he doesn’t really have to “push” them.  They really sell themselves. The products are excellent, and when used properly, they outperform most other lubes on the market.  I’ll list a few of my favorites right now, including why I like each, and I’ll probably do more in-depth posts on others in the future.  Here goes:

  1. Pro Gold Xtreme Chain Lube – Everyone likes a chain lube that’s doesn’t add a lot of friction, like some wax-based or “wet” lubes, but more times than not, when you find that lube, it’s very thin and requires a higher frequency of application.  Pro Gold Xtreme is the holy grail of chain lubes. It’s thick enough that it won’t wear off, not too “gunky,” and gets very high mileage.  On the Race Across America in 2013, I lubed my team’s chains in California, and didn’t have to re-apply until Colorado. Not bad, I’d say.
  2. Pro Gold Foaming Citrus Degreaser – I got my hands on this stuff at the Tour of California in 2013. This has got to be the easiest degreaser I’ve ever used. Our crew was responsible for 25 bikes, and we rolled into the hotel later than expected. We quickly started an assembly line. Bikes were passed to my stand, I applied the Foaming Citrus Degreaser to the drivetrain, rolled the bikes to the next stand, and by the time they hit the next mechanic, the foam had cleaned off all the grease. A quick rinse and lube application, and the bikes were ready to put back on the trailer.
  3. Pro Gold Pro Towels – These are, hands down, my FAVORITE Pro Gold product.  They absolutely saved my butt during Race Across America.  Before the new riders would start on each shift, we had to prepare their bikes.  The ritual I went by was to pump the tires to appropriate pressure, wipe down the chain/drivetrain with a Pro Towel, go over it with a dry rag, then apply Pro Gold Xtreme Lube. It worked like a charm. ZERO mechanicals for the entire 3000 mile race and a 3rd Place in the Men’s 4-Man Team division.  If you’re using Pro Towels in a shop, a quick wipe-down of the drivetrain and the frame of the bike will take you just a few seconds, but adds value to the service you perform. A clean-looking bike with an immaculate drivetrain will out-perform a dirty one any day. Pro Towels make that easy for you. Work smarter, not harder.

There are lots of other great products that Pro Gold makes, and I wish I had time to talk about all of them.  As I mentioned, I’ll save that for later. Special thanks to Bruce and Pro Gold Bikes for all their support over the years. They don’t pay me for write-ups like this. I just want to get the word out, simply because THE PRODUCTS WORK. Check them out at http://bikes.progoldmfr.com/ or by asking your local bike shop to order some for you.

The More Things Change…

Posted: August 15, 2014 in Blog Posts

… the more they stay the same. This is the third consecutive year I’ve had a gap in employment. I was having an okay time working at BikeStreet in Greenville. There were good times and bad times, but overall it was an okay experience for the year that I was there.  I loved working with most of the people I worked with. I loved developing relationships at the two stores I managed. As with most companies and businesses, there were some internal issues. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but the bottom line is that the management of the company didn’t feel the need to keep me on board, so they terminated me.

I was surprised, hurt, and I’ll probably never talk to some people in the company again, simply because I don’t want to bring up any harsh feelings I may still have towards them or the company. That’s the way it goes with separations. Sometimes, they need to be permanent.  It’s tough when you commit yourself, and your family, by relocating to take a new job. Especially, when it’s on your own dime. Even more so when you stretch you and your family to the absolute physical and mental limits, and still seem to come up short. Getting let go like that really sucked in some aspects, but it’s really exciting in others. At that point, you know something is going to have to change, and you have the opportunity to take control of the situation, directing it where you want to go.

I’ve been doing some soul searching over the past month of unemployment. Lots of questioning myself on whether or not I want to stay in this industry, and if so, what is the magic formula to making a cycling industry job work for me?  I’m kind of sick of being pushed to be so aggressive in selling bikes to people.  Don’t get me wrong… I like helping people get on the bike of their dreams. It’s awesome to see someone new take to the sport, and fully embrace the passion that I’ve gotten out of it myself. The problem I have is in the cutthroat games that bike shops and companies play to one-up or undercut the other shop down the road. I mean, obviously, the bottom line is the bottom line.  You have to make money to keep the doors open.  I get that.  The problem with bikes is there’s no money in the bikes themselves.  They’ve almost become a loss-leader. Fred Clements, Executive Director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association, published an article where he called bikes “the Black Hole of IBD profitability.”  So, what does a bike shop look like if you take bikes out of the equation?

I’ve always dreamed of opening my own shop. I’ve had visions of grandeur, and seen plenty of amazing shops all across the country, through travels, and by researching them on my own time.  I would love to open my own studio-style bike shop, specializing in high-end, custom builds… something not every cyclist understands, but not something certain cyclists need, either.  The primary focus and driving goal behind my “perfect shop,” would be simply doing the best job that I can to give the customer a premium experience, every time. I would want customers to leave the store wide-eyed and excited about cycling, every time they walk out of the shop.

So, I’ve had my hand forced. I was booted out of one job, and now I need to find something to do. My current game plan is not to open the shop of my dreams, with Pegoretti frames on the walls and the bitter smell of a good cup of espresso in the air, but to simply get the proverbial ball rolling.  I’ve pretty much convinced myself that I’m going to branch out, take the leap, and start working on bikes on my own.  In front of me, right now, are forms I need to complete to start my own bicycle service business.  I can’t sink a ton of money into it. I don’t have it.  I want to get back to what I’m good at… making bikes perform well.

When my job is executed to perfection, the rider won’t be thinking about the bike at all.  There won’t be any noises. There won’t be any issues. When I lay my hands on a bike, my ultimate goal is for my client to transcend from a simple bike ride, into an enhanced cycling experience.  I will settle for nothing less.

So, here’s my deal… I’m starting back to school to finish my Bachelor’s Degree. I changed my major from Religion, which I enjoy learning about, to Business Administration, focusing on Marketing. I have a feeling that the change of major will offer me more options down the road, in or out of the bike industry. In the meantime, while I am earning my degree, I will be taking on a few clients for service, select repair jobs, and contract work, as I have done in the past.  If something comes up in the future, I may take another job, but I’ll still try to squeeze in some small jobs to take care of friends and clients.

I’m not the biggest game in town. I worked for them, and it drove me crazy. I won’t be doing the cheapest work in town. I take my work seriously, get the job done to perfection, the first time, and I charge accordingly. If you want to buy a bike… I’m not a shop.  I’m a professional bicycle mechanic. If you want that level of service and attention to detail, we should talk.

For inquiries, to make an appointment for service, or for more questions about potential contract mechanic or consulting work, e-mail me at probikewrench@gmail.com, or call (864) 986-0452 and leave a message.  Thank you all for your continued support and friendship.