Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘Road Cycling’

Daily Roundup: Stinkers deodorized, A biking inspiration, Downieville results

In Bicycle advocacy, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking on July 18, 2009 at 12:12 am

Kudos to Cyclelicio.us for picking up on this: In Colorado, of all places (mountain and road biking both are hugely popular there), Jefferson County commissioners have some cloth-eared notion of banning bikes on any and all county roads.

Richard asks we help spread the word and nip this stinker in the bud. Here’s some key links.

Bicycle Colorado Action Alert

News story

Richard’s “slightly more incendiary take

BikePortland reports on the Vancouver Columbian‘s editorial calling a bike license fee a “stinker.”

Seattle Times: Inspirational story about cyclist who came back from the near-dead. Now I want to check out his book:

“Nearly a decade of work went into compiling information for and writing “The Taneum and Manastash Trail Systems: Mountain Biking in Kittitas County, Washington,” a guidebook to area mountain biking trails. When he teamed up with Ben Sainsbury who created a Web site with three-dimensional maps of trails across the country – the result was one of the most comprehensive and ambitious projects of its kind.”

Mountain Bike Action has all the mountain-bike action from Downieville last weekend.

And have a great this weekend! Which can only mean one thing: Get out ‘n RIDE!!!

Backcountry.com’s daring foray into bike Web retailing

In Bicycling, Mountain Biking on June 1, 2009 at 12:49 am
Props for snarkiness anyway

Props for snarkiness anyway

Can the personalized, trustworthy “LBS (local bike shop) experience” be translated to the Web? Backcountry.com is convinced enough the answer is yes that it’s offering two new Web sites aiming to do just that.

Hucknroll.com (for mountain bikers) and RealCyclist.com (roadie) will strive to scrub up the bike Web retailing business, offering only quality stuff with a stand-up, 30-day return policy. Call it a “virtual LBS” approach, where relationships matter and interaction is welcomed.

“We want to offer a premium experience for the customer on the Web,” is how Dustin Robertson, Backcountry’s chief marketing officer, puts it. That means high-end, reputable, OEM, name brand boutiques like Santa Cruz, Titus and Intense (including being the only authorized Internet dealer for Rocky Mountain). That means sales people who can talk bike talk, including live chat. Most significantly, it means a 30-day, no-questions-asked return policy, even on bling parts and high-zoot frames.

For the customer, it also means paying retail, even from a Web site. You won’t get the insane discounts on Hucknroll and RealCyclist, but you won’t have the gotchas of sub-par merchandise.

Backcountry, a 600-person operation based in Park City, UT, and known mainly for outdoors gear, knows it’s bucking the establishment here. Web vendors offer killer discounts but not much in the way of customer service. LBSes offer good, often great, customer relations but can’t low-ball on pricing. Caught in between is the customer, tempted by savings but guilt-ridden when he or she has to take the bike or part in for help with assembly, maintenance and replacement. Sometimes Web parts don’t even match up with the bike.

Most LBSes will oblige the Web customer, but neither party can feel good about it.

Some shops try to compete by giving “bro discounts” and free 90-day service to customers. But the increased segmentation of the bike business — certain brands doing “exclusive” business only with select shops, which must meet often onerous quotas to qualify — means that even the loyal customer cannot always get the part or frame he or she wants from the LBS. I once got around this frustrating roadblock by ordering off the Web a frame that my LBS could not obtain, then taking it to the shop to do the build. The shop still made money, and I didn’t have to feel guilty about bringing the bike back in for service.

Not that a Web retailer can always get the part or bike you want either. Offering discounts means low overhead (with little to no customer service) and volume selling. The “killer deals” on a typical bike site often match, to the dollar, the killer deals on all the other bike sites. Usually it’s outdated stuff or excess inventory the vendor or manufacturer needs to move.

There’s another pitfall to ordering over the Web: Return policy. It costs the consumer time, hassle and money to return stuff — and that’s if the site will even take it back. And there are examples of fraud: A friend returned a wheelset once, only to be told that the wheels had arrived completely trashed. He had no recourse — the Web vendor was simply lying to get out of giving him a refund or replacement set.

Finally, Web deals often involve substandard merchandise, unfortunately. I’ve had personal experience with parts and accessories that either were “seconds” or defective, although they were advertised as over-the-counter. Tires, tubes, clothing, wheels, parts — you can wind up with everything from last year’s model to outright blems.

That won’t happen at an LBS, particularly if you have a good relationship with it.

Aiming to bridge the vendor gap, the Backcountry sites represent a first for bike retailing on the Web. Web vendors typically sell both road and mountain gear. Hucknroll and RealCyclist focus on the increasingly disparate disciplines. It’s a great idea, because spec’ing the parts for both an Intense M6 and a Fondriest TF2 would practically require a master’s degree in engineering. You either ride one or the other, not both.

Ergo, training for site gearheads “is pretty intense,” Robertson said. Recently Backcountry sent 60 sales people to Grand Junction CO to ride and learn bikes that they’ll be selling. It rained, Robertson said, but the wet didn’t undermine the vibe.

Another intriguing aspect to the new sites has to do with community-building. They will permit posting from customers, a la Amazon and Yelp — with the focus on specific gear. There won’t be wide-ranging forums or egroups — you can go to Mtbr.com or Yahoo! for those. But in terms of information-sharing on bike stuff, including customer feedback, Backcountry wants Hucknroll and RealCyclist to be destinations. (For a taste, check out the site’s blog.)

The sites are still in ramp-up mode, adding merchandise almost daily. For now, they’re fast, clean and stylish. There are some convenient features, such as shop by manufacturer or price.

It will take a month or two, Robertson said, before all the features are in place and inventory is filled. In keeping with full–service mode, “We don’t want to do ‘special order’,” he noted — the kind of deal where you ask for a specific item and get told, oh yeah, we’ve got that, and then wait for three to four weeks or more. The aim is for the sites to have stuff on hand, ready to go out the door, without the usual delays for drop-shipping from god knows where.

(Comment: Good luck with that! I inquired about a new bike recently at my LBS and was told it would not be available in the color and size I wanted till September. That’s right — when the heart of the riding season is over. Such is the lag time of dealing with frames made in Taiwan and sold in America. Backcountry will have to front some serious cash in dealing with boutique manufacturers like Intense and Santa Cruz to attain quick order turnaround. More power to ’em if they can pull it off.)

The timing, coming in the midst of a recession-cum-Depression, is a bit dicey. Shimano quarterly results were dismal and overall bike imports to the U.S. down 31 percent in Q1. But Robertson said the wheels were in motion (so to speak) before the economic downturn. I wish ’em luck, they’ve got the right idea, but it won’t be an easy ride (er…so to speak).

No matter what the future holds, Backcountry gets props for snarky press releases:

HuckNroll.com is open for business

RealCyclist.com is here

Helmetcammed Road Cyclist Videos Close Calls

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Bicycling, Rider Down on March 2, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Jeff Frings of Milwaukee has cameras on his helmet and handlebars (facing backward) to record close calls on his daily rides. Great TV news report showing the trials and traumas of just riding along in the big city. And does a good job of raising the issue about being “dead” right. [Note: Click on header to display full blog entry for full-screen video.]

Thanks to Biking Bis.

Today’s Ride: Guest Post

In Bicycling on February 28, 2009 at 6:08 pm

My ride today was nothing unusual, just the Ridge-to-Ridge sashay with a lot of errands thrown in.

But I found a post from Mark Matassa that looked pretty inviting. With photos! Mark and Mich are friends from journalism circles and fellow travelers of the wheel as well it looks like.

Seattle is a great cycling city. At any one time I visualize any number of people I know partaking of the spoken mode. Last night I ran into a representative from Sustainable Wallingford who talked about Spokespersons, a group that does a once-a-month ride and gets together regularly to network on transportation. Roll on!

Today’s Ride: Ridge-to-Ridge-to Rainout

In Bicycle Commuting, Mountain Biking, Today's Ride on February 23, 2009 at 11:03 pm

I started out today on my Ridge-to-Ridge ride. Despite the exotic name, it’s totally in town (Seattle). I go from Phinney Ridge near my house to View Ridge via the Burke-Gilman Trail and North 65th St., then back around Green Lake to home. It’s a good workout, scaling three major rises from the BGT to the Roosevelt District on 65th.

But I didn’t get very far before the skies opened. It was a really heavy, really wet rain, too, the kind where you don’t like to be on the roadway because it can be slippery and because motorists may not be keeping an eye out for you. It’s enough to hope for drivers to see you in clear weather. Add sheets of rain to the equation and you’re asking for trouble.

So I got in about half an hour of actual pedaling. Not great. But later in the day it cleared up and we can always hope for dry skies tomorrow!

Countdown to Seattle Bike Swap

In Mountain Biking on February 15, 2009 at 10:21 am

Just a week to go to the annual swap-o-rama on Saturday (Feb. 21) at Magnuson Park, sponsored this year by Seattle’s marvelous Cascade Bicycle Club. Come early (doors open around 9 a.m., I say “around” because they never seem to be quite on time), because there’s always a long loonnnnggggg line. (Or come around 9:30 and there’s no line at all.)

My all-time take-home is $616, but that was a few years back. If I can land a table this year I may well exceed my record. Lots of goodies piling up in the basement!

Hope to see y’all there.

Where Mountain Biking Beats Road Cycling

In Mountain Biking on February 15, 2009 at 10:14 am

LA Times: “Although cyclists are known for staying on top of their training heart rate zones and pedal cadence, increasing research suggests they should also pay attention to their risk of thinning bones.”

Add osteopenia to the list of reasons to mountain bike instead of road ride. (I took up mountain biking partly because road riding was becoming too dangerous, but that’s another story.)

When you’re out on the trails, as any mtber knows, chances are you’re gonna have to walk. Or climb. Or hike. And push the bike the whole time.

It’s called hike-a-bike, and we all complain about it. But next time you’re slogging up some remote peak in the heat of the day, remember this: You’re building bone density! You’re adding years to your long suffering existence! Don’t you just love it!