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.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my friends, family, and colleagues.  I’m thinking of all of you this holiday season, and I wish you all the best for 2014.

The race mechanic requests for 2014 are rolling in.  I’ve already had to turn down a few upcoming opportunities due to scheduling conflicts.  I hate turning the jobs down, but it’s a double-edged sword.  It’s really fun to travel, to see new places, and to work with new athletes on the road.  The downside is being away from the family.  I was on the road A LOT in 2013, and missed my wife and kids very badly.  We’ve both been blessed with steady jobs, and are FINALLY falling into some sort of rhythm in this crazy life.  As much as I enjoy managing all the moving parts and hitting the road, my flexibility to do so isn’t going to be there in 2014.  I haven’t said “NO” to everything yet.  I’m still trying to shift some things around to try and sneak in a bit of race work next year.  Maybe get a little fix during the upcoming season…

I am hopefully going to do some more local races next year.  I changed race team affiliations, and will be racing with Team Energy Velo for 2014.  It’s a team that my shop sponsors, and it’s headed up by two very good friends and customers of mine.  They’re looking after me very well, and I hope to represent them to the best of my ability at the races I’ll be able to attend.  I’m trying to get a few solid results early in the season, in order to get my upgrade to Category 3 this Spring.  I’ve been a Cat. 4 for as long as I can remember, and the tail end of the season I actually had some decent results.  Hoping to upgrade sooner, rather than later.

Gotta get some of my fitness back.  I hyper-extended my left knee the day before the Hincapie Gran Fondo, and decided to ride the entire 80 mile ride with a little soreness in the knee.  That turned out to be a horrible idea.  I severely strained my patellar tendon, and was off the bike for over a month.  There were times I could barely walk, and most nights I spent with my leg elevated and icing.  With some amazing help from one of my friends, Jeff, a physical therapist, I was able to rehab and strengthen the knee back to normal.  My fitness took a serious dive, however.  I’ve been able to ride during the past three weeks, but it’s still winter, and I’m being a bit of a wuss about it.  I’ve signed up for the Strava/Rapha Festive 500k challenge, which entails riding 500k between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  I don’t see any way to finish it, short of burying myself on NYE, but I’m doing as many miles as I can until then to see if I can regain some of that lost form.  Definitely got some pounds to shed and some muscle to regain in that leg…

Oh… I need some help.  I want to plan some sort of bike adventure for 2014.  I need some ideas.  Leave me a comment here if you have any thoughts for what kind of bike mischief I might get into.

Good talk.  See you out there.

It’s been so long since I blogged, I can’t even remember what the subject of my last post was.  I will say this… it has been one HECK of a year, and it ain’t over yet.  Here’s a timeline, of sorts, since I last blogged:

  • I finished up my gig with Carmichael Training Systems at the Tour of California (Holy Cow… I haven’t blogged since May/June!).  It was another great trip out west.  We had a busy 10 days out there, and I got the opportunity to work with a lot of great coaches and staff, and a very talented group of cyclists.  It’s always a pleasure to work with such a professional organization like CTS.
  • For Memorial Day weekend, I missed USPRO Championships in Chattanooga, TN, in order to head to the Princeton/Pennington, NJ area for a training camp for the team I was working Race Across America with.  Team Melanoma Exposed consisted of 4 employees of Bristol-Myers Squibb, all of who were dedicated to raising money and awareness to combat melanoma.  We had a great training weekend, and were definitely prepared for our trip across the USA in June.  I also learned that not all of New Jersey is as terrible as portrayed on MTV.  The Princeton area was beautiful, and had some amazing roads for cycling.  I’d like to get back there with my own bike sometime.
  • While in California, I was asked to work at the Philly Cycling Classic with the Specialized-Lululemon Women’s Team.  I was stoked to have the opportunity to work with them for that weekend.  It was good to see my friend Carmen Small, again.  She was one of the ladies on the Aaron’s team when I wrenched for them in 2007.  She’s come a long way since then, including winning the USPRO Women’s TT Championship the previous weekend.  The whole team was amazing, and after a very interesting race (including temporarily being pulled from the caravan for our vehicle being too tall), we pulled off the victory, with Evie Stevens taking the win.  As a mechanic, it’s always good to get a win like that… it validates the work you do.
  • I flew home from Philly to Greenville, SC, to start my new job as Store Manager at BikeStreet USA.  It was a bit of a weird transition, because I only got a week and a half to work at the store before heading back out west for RAAM.  For two months, I stayed with my best friend, Josh, commuted by bike to and from work, and had to try and buy a house… all while the rest of my family was in Florida, vacationing with the in-laws.  It was tough to be without them for so long.
  • Mid-June, I flew back out to California for RAAM.  This was my first time working the event, so I didn’t know what to expect… and neither did the rest of the team.  We were determined to make it work, however.  After a couple of prep days, we started in Oceanside, CA, and around 8-9 days later, we arrived in Annapolis, MD… ocean to ocean.  The team finished 3rd in the Men’s 4 Person Team division.  It was a surreal experience, and I can’t even come close to describing it all right now.  I will say that once you spend over a week working, sleeping, and enduring 16 people in an RV… there are definitely some bonds forged that cannot be broken.  Take that however you like…
  • Since late June, I’ve been at the helm at BikeStreet USA in Greenville on Woodruff Road.  I think we’ve got the best staff in the business, and I’m dedicated to making things work more smoothly and efficiently around the store.  We’ve done well for the past few months, made some changes, and we’re constantly looking to improve the way we do things around the shop, to enhance the customer experience, and to make our shop the go-to shop in the Greenville area for… well, for bikes in general (No offense to my other buddies at other shops in Greenville… nothing but love for you guys!).

I may recap some of these events in greater detail later, but for now, I’ll try to start posting a little more regularly. We FINALLY got our internet set up at our new house, so I’ll have a bit of time in the evenings to catch up on things.   I post fairly regularly on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, so if you just can’t wait for a new blog post, follow the links to those pages.

Thanks for the support.  More good stuff coming soon.

I took a brief hiatus from writing on my blog, not because I didn’ t have anything to say, but because I simply haven’t had time to cram another thing into my schedule.  Looking back, I see my last post was before Cyclocross Worlds in February, so I’ve got some catching up to do.  Here’s a few highlights:

  • Sickness – Everyone in my family (with the exception of my amazing wife) got some form of a flu or stomach bug AT LEAST a few times.  Niki had some debilitating migraine issues, rather frequently, which required some added responsibility on my part after work.
  • School – Had one class during the first half of the semester, and one during the second half (which ended May 10).  I did okay during the first class, but the second, I tanked.  The class wasn’t interesting to me, and I didn’t put in the time needed to make the grades happen.  I feel really guilty about it, but sometimes those things happen.
  • Shop Closed – The shop job that I landed in September came to a halt in mid-April.  Free-Flite Bicycles bought a multisport store in Sandy Springs, Cadence Multisport, forcing our store location to close.  It was a great financial move on the owner’s part, and will work well for the company, but a shame for the Canton community.  Half of the staff decided to transfer to the main store in Marietta, and half of us opted for other things.  I didn’t know what I would do at the time, but I knew I could get some jobs in the interim, in order to make it work.
  • We’re Moving! – With all the melee going on with my job, Niki and I decided that it was time for a change.  We informed our landlord that at the end of May, we would be vacating our current residence.  The plan was to head to Jacksonville, FL, to spend the summer with Niki’s parents.  It would give the kids some quality “grandparent time,” and give us a break to regroup and figure out what our next step would be.

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Those were the difficulty-riddled bullet points.  The following are some great things that came along, filled in the gaps, and offered the silver lining to my aforementioned dark clouds:

  • UCI Paracycling Open (Greenville, SC) – I was asked to round up a crew of mechanics to provide neutral support for an international paracycling race near my hometown.  I was happy to oblige, mainly because it was a win-win; I had the opportunity to work on some exquisite machines, meet some absolutely unbelievable athletes, and my kids got to spend some quality time with their grandparents.  The field was filled with World Champions in their individual disciplines (at one point, there were FIVE World Champs in the TT start house at one time!), and other local athletes, who had never competed in road events before.  It was an incredible experience, that I will post about later.  I want to thank my neutral support crew for all their help:  Neal Herring (Sunshine Cycle Shop – Greenville, SC), Tim Wellborn (Cycle Center – Columbia, SC), and Derrick O’Shields (Grady’s Great Outdoors Bike Shop – Anderson, SC).  Honorable mention goes to my wife, Niki, who helped me at the TT start and ran a lot of errands for things we needed during the weekend.
  • Athens Twilight/Roswell Criterium -  Since my bike shop had closed, I had some free time on my hands, so I picked up a job with a pro team, Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis.  I had followed them for a while, and had worked for some of their riders when they were on other teams in the past.  They had a split team, meaning half their team was racing in Arkansas at the Joe Martin Stage race, and the other half were racing the USACRITS Speed Week criteriums in the Southeast.  I provided mechanical support for them over the course of the weekend, and they managed to be one of the strongest teams in the field, putting several riders in the Top 10 each day.  More to come on those events, as well.
  • Amgen Tour of California w/CTS – I’m currently in California, on my way to work at the Tour of California, once again working with Carmichael Training Systems.  I worked California, Utah, and USPRO Challenge in Colorado with them last year, and had a really good time.  I am looking forward to the next nine days of work.  Although there are extremely long, hard days of work ahead, I really am in my element when working like this.
  • Race Across America (RAAM) – A week or so ago, I accepted a position as mechanic for a RAAM team from Bristol Myers Squibb.  These men are trying to raise money to bring about a greater awareness, and hopefully a cure, for melanoma.  After Tour of California, I will be home for three days, then flying up to Princeton, NJ, for a camp with the team.  On June 12th, I’ll fly back out to California and follow Team Melanoma Exposed across the United States, on their mission to spread awareness of this terrible form of cancer.
  • GOT A NEW JOB! – When visiting my parents in SC last weekend, I visited a friend in Greenville, SC, who is regional manager for a chain of stores called BikeStreet USA.  He was in need of a Service Manager at his largest store, and asked if I was interested.  After several discussions and a really great visit to the shop, I have accepted that position, and will start very shortly.  The plan is to spend a week in Greenville after my Tour of California and RAAM Team Camp trips, but before RAAM.  After RAAM is finished, I will fly back down to Greenville and be there full-time from that point on.  This will mean a big move for our family, but we’ve discussed it and feel it will be a good move for us, on several levels.   I am going to try and take some traveling mechanic positions in the future, and it seems by the way the regional manager and I were talking, that scheduling adjustments and vacation days can allow some of that to be possible.

Lots of change is happening, and on some fronts, I’m very nervous and anxious.  I can’t help thinking that when things stop changing, we stop living.  We become stagnant at that point, and fall into a really bad spot that nobody wants to be in.  I’m glad things are changing for us, and I can’t wait to move on to the next several chapters of our lives.  We’ll be leaving a lot of good friends in Georgia, but we’re close enough to make occasional visits, and there’s always Facebook

We’re currently halfway finished with our move, but will be transitioning over the next two months.  If you need to contact me, e-mail me at probikewrench@gmail.com.  Thanks for your friendship and support.