Paul Andrews

How to Do a Swap Meet

In Bicycling on February 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Seattle’s annual Bike Swap blowout will take place at Magnuson Park’s Hangar 30 on Saturday, the day before Sunday’s annual Chilly Hilly ride on Bainbridge Island. Over the years the Swap Meet has evolved into quite the bike scene, and this year promises to be no different.

Here are some guidelines gleaned from years of experience going to bike swaps. We hope they can be of use at the big meet.

1. Before you head to the swap meet, make a precise list of what you actually need (it’s also a good idea to write down the lowest price you can find on, say, the Web; you really need to know price points to know if you’re getting a good deal). You’ll see so much at the meet that it’s easy to forget what you really came for. I typically have half a dozen target items on my list, e.g., new cable housing, backup pedals, some winter tights, a cluster set, saddle, and so on. Note that although it’s a swap meet, you’ll find a lot of new stuff on the floor, especially clothing. Much of it will be at prices you’ve never seen before. Oh and don’t forget the crucial shopping bag! Or do as I do and wear a big ol’ backpack.

2. Bring lots of cash. I don’t go with less than $500. Please don’t tell my wife, who thankfully never reads this blog. Although some of the vendors (stores) will take charge cards, cash is good for two things: Speed, and negotiating. “Oh, sorry, I’ve only got INSERT FIGURE HERE on me.” There will be no cash machine on premises. Some vendors may take checks (although they’re crazy to), but it’s not worth the gamble.

3. Arrive early. If you usually arrive early to things, arrive even earlier. My friend Jim Lyon and I typically show up 45 minutes before the door opens at 9 a.m. And we’re by no means close to the door. Typically a few hundred folks line up by opening bell, and the further ahead you can be, the better opportunity you have for scoring the best deals. Note: If you do run late, you’re probably better off showing up at 9:15 or 9:20 than, say, a quarter to 9. By a quarter after, assuming an on-time start (not always the case), the line has usually dissipated and you can blow right in. (Note: There’s bike parking, but bring your own lock. It’s unattended.)

4. I like to start off by cruising the entire floor in one sweep. The reason: The good stuff goes fast. Two things to keep in mind while cruising: Snap up a good deal that fits your needs. It won’t be there the next time you pass the booth. I once walked in and the first booth I encountered had brand new Nevegals on sale for $15. No need to negotiate, I snapped ’em right up. Point No. 2: Make a mental note, or even write down, stuff you might want but is a bit overpriced, or that you doubt will go quickly. You might even make a passing inquiry, “How much are you asking for this?” Just so they see your face and know you’re interested. That means they won’t willy nilly lower the price to the next guy, figuring you’ll come back again. You can even mention a price point you’re willing to pay and have the vendor hold it for you on that basis. Most vendors won’t go for it, but again, it shows your interest.

5. OK, once your first pass is done, start the whole thing over, but this time with an eye on bargaining. Big Point: Never pay the marked price! Now there are exceptions, like that $15 set of Nevis. But typically even at swap meets vendors ask high. They expect to dicker. Here’s where knowing price points comes in handy. Once when I wanted a new cluster, I noted to the vendor that his price was higher than Performance’s, and I’d much rather buy from him. Deal made.

6. If you find something you really like but can’t get the price where you want it, just hang in there. Within a couple of hours, earlier even, the vendor will start to waver. A couple years back I found a primo full face helmet, brand new, going for $90. An hour and a half later I got it for $60. There’s a bit of risk in waiting, of course. You have to calculate your odds that others will find the item overpriced (or demand for it is limited enough to begin with that it won’t attract a lot of buyers).

7. Caveats: Look used stuff over pretty carefully. Last year some guy was selling used chains. Unless you have a chain tool with you or otherwise have an expert eye, chains would be the last thing you’d buy at a swap meet. Vendors also can confuse you by “mispackaging” items. One year I was set to buy a new Conti still in the box, when I happened to see the label underneath. The actual tire inside was different, an off-model I didn’t want. Check DVD boxes to make sure the right disc is inside. On tires, make sure you’re getting a 26-incher not a 29er (assuming you want the 6er). On clothing, check for snags, stains, dropped stitching, defects. Stuff like that…it’s easy to buy the wrong item, and then you’re stuck. No taking it back for exchange!

Good luck! Just don’t buy anything I want before me, OK?

Right Rider for the Job: Tribute to Jon Kennedy

In Bicycle advocacy on February 25, 2010 at 10:41 am

Jon Kennedy getting it done on the trail as well as off

When he became acting executive director of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance last fall, Jon Kennedy inherited an organization that had lost its balance and was heading for a tumble. As it turned out, Kennedy was the right guy for the job. Anyone who has watched Jon guide a bike on a skinny or over a drop can see he knows how to regain balance and ride a tricky section out. That’s what he did for Evergreen.

Last week Evergreen announced that Kennedy is leaving. On Mar. 1 he will take over as marketing manager for the resurgent Diamondback Bicycles conglomerate (with Raleigh) based in Kent. Ironically the commute from his West Seattle home will be about the same as it was to Evergreen HQ at north Green Lake in Seattle. Which is fortunate, because Jon expects to maintain close ties to the club he helped guide back from the brink.

“I love Evergreen, I love the organization, the people and the agenda,” Jon said by phone after the announcement. Any rumor mill suggestions that he is leaving out of disenchantment would be “absolutely wrong,” he added.

Jon was recruited by Diamondback after working with its brand manager, Mike Brown, on Evergreen sponsorships that resulted in a bike giveaway and $2,500 commitment to the club. The compensation package offered by Diamondback, which is seeking to re-establish itself as a leading name in mountain biking, was too good to pass up.

At 35, “I have my family to think about,” said Jon — wife Ilana, son Erez, 3, and daughter Lilah, 18 months. Anyone who has worked for a non-profit understands that it’s typically not a career but a stepping stone. Despite Jon’s short tenure, it probably seemed more like an entire staircase — but it’s to his credit that so much got done to carry Evergreen forward.

It was Jon’s work with Evergreen that impressed Diamondback. “His energy and dedication, combined with his organizational skills, will be a big plus for us,” Brown said.

A cornerstone of Diamondback’s marketing agenda is working with local, active leadership groups like Evergreen to build and maintain trails. “It’s called ‘Places to Ride’,” Brown noted — a seemingly obvious mission for bike-related companies everywhere, but one which often isn’t acted upon.

Kudos to Diamondback for recognizing a golden opportunity. “We’re in a very competitive space. so getting our message to riders can be a real challenge.” Brown acknowledged, referencing Diamondback’s long-travel Mission, XC Sortie and expanding dirt jump lines. (For drool factor, check out the limited edition Scapegoat.) Key liaisons like Jon and Evergreen and the base they bring along do word-of-mouth wonders.

With Jon at the helm, Evergreen helped get marquee projects on track, from Duthie Hill to South Fork Snoqualmie to Black Diamond. Colonnade got much-deserved attention. New sponsorships rolled in, including Gregg’s, Home Depot and Black Diamond. And Evergreen’s name was prominent in events like the Feb. 5 premiere of “Women of Dirt,” a cinematic look at mountain biking femmes.

A number of the goals outlined at the Duthie Hill gathering last fall are being addressed, including balancing the club’s twin missions of advocacy and recreation. Although the 2010 season is still a couple of months away, the ride calendar seems on the way back to health. And the mtb scene is popping locally — with Evergreen’s involvement every step of the way.

To be sure, challenges loom. First will be finding a replacement for Jon — he says not to worry, several well-qualified folks are in the hopper. Then there’s at least one goal mentioned at the gathering that hasn’t seen much traction — to wit, spreading Evergreen responsibilities across more than one set of shoulders.

Evergreen’s board needs to move a bit faster to address the org’s needs. Despite his yeoman service, Jon never officially had “acting” dropped from his title. It’s on the board to get his replacement named summarily (Glenn Glover has been appointed interim) and take action on other leadership issues.

In a non-profit, Jon joked, “there’s only one way to find out how much you’re appreciated — and that’s to quit.” He’s been “blown away” by the surge of well-wishes and expressions of gratitude. He may be moving on, but not away.

“Diamondback is tremendously committed to local advocacy, so I expect to stay involved with Evergreen,” Jon says, adding that Evergreen is like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you want, but you never get to leave.

Evergreen’s announcement.

Jon’s departing letter to Evergreen.

News Cycle: EMBA’s new ED, Pivot’s new TM, If John Cook only had a brain & more

In News Cycle on February 24, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance has named Glenn Glover interim executive director, following the departure (as of Mar. 1) of Jon Kennedy for Diamondback Bikes. We’ve sat in on board meetings with Glenn and done trail work with him and feel he’s a great fit. Congratulations to him and best wishes moving the organization forward.

Pivot Cycles has signed the reigning 24-hour-race world champion, Jason English, to its team for 2010. English, an Aussie, rides a Mach 4 that tilts the scales at under 22 lbs. We want that build!

“I don’t believe a bicycle is a transportation device,” stated Fairfax (VA) County Supervisor John Cook. Which might carry some weight except that John Cook’s brain is not a cognition device. (See comments queue.)

Great (reprinted) interview with someone whose brain is firing on all cylinders, mountain biking founding father Charlie Kelly.

And Ned Overend is profiled in the Durango Herald. A seldom noted fact about Nedly: His name is the most perfect mountain biking anagram ever! (That’s right…end over end.)