Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It's a weird thing to start putting irons in the fire this time of year, but there are a couple of ideas that we have been kicking around that fit in perfectly right now.

The basic level mechanics class is progressing nicely.  We are looking at 4 nights of 1 1/2 hours each night for a total of 6 hours of instruction.  The class will be starting the week after Christmas.  In addition to the 6 hours of hands-on and classroom instruction, you'll get a repair manual to help you remember everything, an exclusive t-shirt available to participants only and big discounts on tools and equipment for outfitting your home workshop. This will make a great Christmas present for yourself or the budding mechanic in your life.  Please email me if you are interested.

Other simmerings are the MS365 Project.  I was talking with the Sandman in the shop on Saturday and mentioned what I was wanting to do, and boom, out comes his wallet and he hands me a $20 bill and says "consider that your first donation".  Sweet!  I've got to get it together and get a donation site picked out and maybe build a website to explain what I'm trying to do...

As I finish writing this, it is dumping rain outside.  The rain has come down pretty steadily all day which leads me to think that the dry 'cross racing we have been having this season will be coming to an end with the race in Statesville this weekend.  The holiday break is always a mixed blessing when returning to race after such a long break.  You just don't know what is in your legs until the whistle blows, your heart revs and you start pedaling.  Sometimes you fly, sometimes you go backwards.  The key is to always have fun.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Thanks to all of you who have given friendship, support, and loyalty over the years.  I am thankful to all of my friends, teammates, and workmates for making my life richer.  I am thankful for my family in all their kaleidoscopic idiosyncratic beauty for making me the person that I am.  I am thankful for the unquestionable love and support of my wife and the ball of love and energy that is my son.  I am thankful for my continued good health which seems more a lucky twist of fate than the sword of Damocles hanging over me.

Next year marks my 20th year of living with Multiple Sclerosis.  20 years.  It struck me just the other day the reality of that statement; the magnitude of it.  Just like my initial diagnosis 20 years ago inspired me to get out into the world and make something of myself, this 20th anniversary has inspired me to try and give something back.

I have ridden a bicycle every day this year with the exception of two.  No matter the weather or anything else, I have pedaled a bicycle at some point every day but those two.  For my 20th MS anniversary, I have something bigger in mind.

Starting January 1st, 2011, I will start something that I can only think of as the MS365 Project.  I want to take the gift of good health and mobility that I have been given despite having Multiple Sclerosis, and give something back to those who work to beat this disease.  I have set rules for this project and they are as follows:

1. I will pedal a bicycle outdoors, every day of 2011 for at least 1 mile.
2. I will track all of my mileage in 3 categories - Commuting, Training and Racing.
3. I will ride a minimum of 3,650 miles in all 3 categories combined.

I want to raise awareness of people living with and fighting MS in our community and I want to raise money for the local chapter of the MS Society.  I would like to set up a personal fundraising/donation site to help people with donating money in the name of this project. Besides people making straight donations, I would like to see donations along the lines of an amount per mile, or amount per day that I am able to ride.  And that is about as fleshed out as this idea is at the moment.  If you have any ideas, advice or want to help, by all means leave a comment or email me directly.  I'm all ears.

And with that, I am thankful that a handful of people actually read the things that I write.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Big Lunch

photo by turtlemom4bacon via Flickr
I love Thanksgiving. Without a doubt, it is my favorite holiday.  I always envision that movie style Thanksgiving with a house full of well-dressed friends and family mingling around the house while a feast is in the making in an expansive kitchen.  My reality is a little less polished, but no less enjoyable than that. I love doing the recipe research and trying to pull together this epic meal that lingers as leftovers for a week to come.  I obsess over Martha Stewart a little more than usual (I have a "thing" for Martha Stewart, don't ask, it is unexplainable...) trying to find recipes that not only look good, but will taste out of this world.

But what is with all of the Christmas stuff?  Christmas trees in the street, Santa sweating in his suit on a warm fall day, these things overshadow Thanksgiving and take away its simple idea of sharing a meal with family and friends and giving thanks for all that you have.

Have a great Thanksgiving, spend time with family and friends, get out and ride your bike and we'll see you Saturday for some coffee, homemade cinnamon rolls and a storewide sale as part of the 3/50 Project's Small Business Saturday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shameless Commercial Post

This is the big, crazy retail sales week that culminates with "Black Friday" (say that in your head with a really spooky voice - an echo/reverb effect works well, too).  Any way, Black Friday is a heady rush of crazy discounts that draws flocks of folks to the malls and big box stores to gather money for megacorporations.  Needless to say, this leaves the Lenoir Uptown Business District rather short on shoppers.  We have our own take on things.

Saturday has been dubbed Small Business Saturday and seeks to get people to shop at the many small, locally-owned businesses that are among the hardest hit in this economic down time.  We will be closed on Friday, but Saturday we are going to be open extended hours and will have a store full of products on holiday discount to help you get ready for a cycling-centric Christmahanukwanzaku!  We'll be open at 10 am with homemade cinnamon rolls (while they last) and coffee (until we jitter ourselves into collapse).

Make a day of it by checking out all of the great businesses downtown.  Rediscover the personal connection that comes with supporting a small local business and help keep our town's unique character and stem the tide of the chain store/restaurant tsunami that threatens to wash it all away.

photo by Hammer51012 via Flickr
Even though we'll be closed on Friday, we'll have a special Black F*Y! Friday deal on our online store! So hang out with family and friends, eat a lot of turkey, ride your bike and then come see us Saturday!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NCGP Day 1

Warm temps and bright, sunny skies were not the ideal weather for a mid November 'cross race, but that's what we got.  In a season that has been the polar opposite of last year's mudfest, unseasonably warm temps and dry conditions are the norm.  This year's NCGP course was much as it has been over the past years with the "Wall", a large run up on the back side, several tight turning sections, a singletrack climb in the woods and a long, mixed surface straightaway that puts riders in the headwind for a power sapping chunk of each lap's total time.

Master's field were enormous with 54 35+ riders and 50ish in the 45+ category.  At this point in this season, everyone is going fast and the starts have become gut-wrenching exercises in pushing the internal tachometer to the redline and hoping you don't blow.  For me, that delicate balancing act went awry right as I made contact with the lead group of 8.  If you've never blown spectacularly, it is soul crushing as you go backwards through the field, but you just can't feel sorry for yourself.  I rallied and moved back up through a few field, but my race yesterday was more an exercise in perseverance than competitiveness.

Jeff got to battle it out at the head of affairs in the 45+ race, ultimately finishing 2nd.  Sonni D, Faster Pastor, Bob Pugh, and Cecilio all had strong finishes, while the Ghost Faced Killah rolled a tubular, ran to the pits (a long way from his crash) and finished the race.  Sam Dyer threw down for the Luna Future Stars team, putting a smack down on all comers in the kid's race.  Good job Sam!

Thanks to our friends Jess and Shannon, we had a great meal and warm digs to crash in for the night.  We went to the Chocolate Lounge in downtown Asheville for some dessert after a great meal at their home.  If you have any type of chocolate addiction, you might want to avoid the Chocolate Lounge.  I found what may be the perfect food stuff: The Highland Stout Chocolate Cake. These secret spy photos, smuggled out at great personal risk, confirm the existence of this wonder food.  If this technology progresses to add coffee into the mix of chocolate and beer, I may have no need of other food ever again.  I may also need to ride my bike way more to avoid gaining 1000 lbs.

Here's to another day of racing.  See you on the line!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The big weekend

Jeff and I are heading to the NC Gran Prix of Cyclocross in Hendersonville this weekend to do a little bike racing.  Since this is a UCI Elite Race, the Pro races are gonna be incredible with guys and gals coming from all over the country to grab UCI points to help with their call ups at Nationals and their quest to make it to their respective national teams for World Championships.  If you're near Hendersonville or are inclined to check out a 'cross race, this is the one to come see.  The course features several vantage points to get a clear view of most of the race and the "Wall" feature is a great spot to hang out and ring the cowbells as the riders tackle a steep ride up that inevitably turns into a run up for some.

Our bachelor weekend will probably be a lot like The Hangover except no Las Vegas, baby, fat guy with a beard or Mike Tyson (hopefully).  A visit to the Thirsty Monk may do just the trick for some post race recovery and will ensure a fresh set of legs for the next days race.  There's always the Chocolate Lounge to assist with the serious medicinal implementation of chocolate to heal up any damage done by the day's racing as well.  Other members of the team are heading down as well, so Fiets Maan Racing should be well represented in the old man races this weekend.

In other news: First, you may have noticed the opening of our online store this week.  If you haven't checked it out yet, please give it a look.  A new program that we will be running through our online store will be the Friday F*Y! Deal.  Basically, we will have some product on very steep discount that will run for 24 hrs or until we are sold out.  If you can help us spread the word, we'd be most appreciative.

The second thing new is that we are putting together a curriculum for a basic mechanic's class to be held after Christmas.  After having many people ask, we're in a position now to put it together right.  Included in the class will be a repair manual/textbook, a t-shirt showing how special you are with your new knowledge and special deals on tools to help you get geared up for some DIY bike repair.  Details and sign ups will be coming in the near future, so stay tuned!

If you get nothing else accomplished this weekend, get out and ride your bike!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jack Frost is a little nipper

People at work keep saying how cold I must get riding in to work every morning.  I must confess that I love the cold commute in the morning.  Like a scottish shower in reverse, you start out cold and then after about 10 minutes of riding, you're nice and warm.  The trick is to not overdress or else you get to work sweaty and hot.

The cold and rainy morning commute is even better.  It's the one time that a full rain suit isn't a stuffy, personal sweatbox.  I fear that my 12 year old Burley rain suit is coming to the end of its lifespan, though.  It has lost its edge on the moisture and is no longer able to keep me dry in the rain, managing a slight level of damp on a good day to a look- I- just- peed- myself level of wetness on a bad day.  I've been checking out the offerings from Showers Pass, a company in Oregon. A good rule of thumb: when shopping for bike commuting harsh weather gear, look for companies from the Pacific Northwest, they know what they are doing.

Another bike commuting/bike-as-vehicle acquisition I'm looking to make is a cargo trailer for serious hauling.  I love nothing more than to go buy lumber and load it up on the Xtracycle, but there is only so much I can safely carry.  Enter the trailer.  And not just any trailer, but a 300lb weight capacity beast of a trailer from the guys at Surly Bikes.  Sheets of plywood!  2x4's!  4x4's!  The DIY world will be my fossil fuel free oyster!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Queen City Throwdown

First, major kudos, big ups and much props to Chris Behrmann, Bob Pugh and Jeff Welch for organizing the 5th round of the NCCX series.  Their hard work meant a fantastic event full of music, food, awesome spectating and fantastic racing on a truly excellent and challenging course that all of the major Euro 'cross design checkboxes and then some.  It is my sincerest hope that Fiets Maan Racing has a reputation for putting on high quality races that make you want to come back each year.

The major feature this year was the steep run up at the start which was ultimately towards the end of each lap once the races were underway.  After that it was high speed straightaways, technical off camber turns and into the triple sandpits of doom.  A heavy, non-race spectator turnout made racing your bike feel like being part of an exciting show.  Thank you to all of you who cheered for me while I went from having a breakout race to a less than stellar 15th place.  Thanks to all of you even if you called me "Bob" or "Jeff" every time you cheered for me.  I'll take it, I'm not proud.

As 'cross season heats up through the winter, the bike business begins to enter its usual slow period.  I want to take a moment to invite you to stop by and visit; we've always wanted our shop to be a place to just come, hang out, talk about bikes or whatever.  Also, we have several things in the works for this winter as well:

Check out our online store! Help us spread the word and if you happen to see one of our models out on the bike, please give them a compliment (they are a little self-conscious).

Bike mechanic classes are coming!  Many people have expressed interest in a basic bike mechanic class and we will be offering several through the cold and dark times of winter.  Already know the basics? We've got you covered on that as well.  We'll be offering an advanced mechanic class to help further your knowledge and help you maintain your fine cycling machine.  Details will be coming soon.

If you haven't joined our Facebook fan page, followed us on Twitter or signed up for our newsletter, please take a moment to do so.  This is a great way to stay in touch with the latest goings on of the shop.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Race day!

You put your sand in my bike race! You put your bike race in my sand!
It's race day in Charlotte!  We set the course up yesterday and it looks rad.  I didn't get a chance to pre-ride it yesterday; it was getting dark when we finished up and Owen was on the verge of a meltdown.  We're headed back early this morning to put the finishing touches on the course and then I race first at 10 am.  Veterans Park was filled with tons of people playing in the warm weather so we may get a fair bit of non-cycling spectators to add to the fun.  Hope to see you out there, cheering for all of the Fiets Maan racing team members no doubt!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In the clear morning light

It is one of those mornings you get in the fall; the ground is dusted with frost, the sunlight is a flat white, and the normally riotous colors of the leaves is muted and dark.  I love these mornings.  The crisp air is invigorating, but it makes me turn inward a bit becoming more contemplative.

Now that I have set the tone, I need to share the object of my contemplation with you.  When Golden and I first moved to Lenoir in 2002, the first thing we did was walk downtown to check out what we thought would be the heart of our new town.  It was empty.  Storefronts were mostly shuttered with broken windows and "For Rent" signs.  There was a bakery and a wig shop.  Golden burst into tears, turned to me and said, "What the hell have you done to us?"

We moved here from Flagstaff, AZ.  Flag' has a thriving, bustling downtown.  It is the place to go and shop, to eat, to hang out, to meet up with friends and the commerce is active from morning through the night.  It is the beating heart of the town, filled with locally owned businesses that give the town its uniqueness, its character.  I put forth for your consideration that this is the function of a healthy downtown.  As you move away from the high speed thoroughfares with their collections of fast food restaurants and chain stores clinging to the asphalt ribbon like a remora to a shark, you shift from the generic blandness that is found in Anywhere, USA to a truer expression of the place you are in.  Local color, flavor and flair are what differentiates us from everywhere else.  Honestly, how different is McWendArbees going to be from town to town?

Lenoir's downtown has come a long way in a short time.  Beginning with the original revitalization efforts of Keith Willis and Chuck Luddeke who, no longer content to wait for the city to figure out how to bring the near dead downtown back to life, began buying and renovating buildings for retail occupation over 5 years ago.  We owe a lot to these guys.  They broke the mold of the rapacious landlord by trying to help businesses get started with reasonable lease terms and the opportunity to put sweat equity into a renovation project in order to reduce a start-up's up-front costs.

The key ingredient to all of this is you.  Your spending habits and purchase decisions are the life and death of locally owned businesses.  Large chain retailers are motivated by a corporate balance sheet and when they business algebra works out to a negative answer, those corporations will shutter and move on to the next town.  You can see the large abandoned corpses of these businesses in every half empty strip mall and darkened mall hulk that looms in towns around the country.  But while chain stores abandon towns when the going gets tough, locally owned businesses try to gut it out, clawing for their very survival.  It is this tenuous situation that downtown Lenoir is in right now.

As we come up on Black Friday, I implore you to participate in Small Business Saturday the very next day.  I'm not saying "Come buy a bike from me!" (although, I'm not gonna fight you if you do ;).  No, I'm hoping you will come stroll through your downtown, checking out all of the shops and restaurants that are working hard to give our town character and vitality.  I'd rather spend money with a local business that looks me in the eye and genuinely thanks me for my business than hear about how my purchases added a few dollars to a windfall of millions for chain retailers and their stockholders on the Monday news.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dude, where's my car?

Sunday morning. Getting ready to head out to the NC State CX Championships.  Fourth cup of coffee? Check.  Egg and cheese sandwich? Check.  I grab our gear bags, the air pump and car keys.  Open the door, walk out to the car.  Wait. Where's the car? Crap.  I must've left it in neutral and it rolled down the driveway into the backyard.  Walk out to the driveway to survey the damage.  No car.  Wait, no car?  Damn.  The Element has been stolen along with some gear and a race bike that was locked to the rack overnight.

This was not the way Sunday was supposed to go.  About an hour after the police arrived and took the report, our neighbor found all of the contents of the car, including Golden's Tri Cross with our new set of Carroll Composites carbon tubular race wheels, in the park in our neighborhood.  This was a huge relief.  Still no car, but our personal stuff was back and I wasn't going to have to hassle with explaining how a bike was worth $4000 to an insurance agent.

Monday, I start all of the insurance stuff and talk to the guys at Cars Plus about getting another Honda Element.  Then, Tuesday morning, the police find our car.  Visions of a wrecked, totalled heap of stripped parts and flat tires rattles around my brain as I pedal from school to the police station.  The detective takes me down to the garage area of the station and shows me the Element.  It is exactly as it was the last time I saw it with the exception of a dead battery and an empty gas tank.

So, we have everything back in pretty much the same shape (apparently, the criddler who took it wasn't real up on his use of a clutch) AND they arrested the guy who stole it.  Amazing.  My faith in the Lenoir Police Department is restored.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Changing time, changing weather

Riding is always an option
Finally, the weather seems to have settled into a Fall mix of cold, cool and mild.  There was a little bit of a false start when a veritable heat wave broke up an early season cold snap.  Cyclocross and profuse sweating just don't mix.

With morning commute temperatures in the 20's and 30's, it was time to dig out the cold weather riding gear.  A good set of gloves, a warm/water resistant jacket with some room for multiple layers underneath, a cycling cap, a skull cap, knee warmers and booties are enough to get you through all but the harshest of arctic conditions.  Now add full-time commuting to this mix and you need to add a high quality rainsuit to the mix.

While it seems like a big expense, cold weather riding gear lasts for a long time.  My rainsuit is about 12 years old.  I've got jackets and long-sleeved jerseys that are 6 or 7 years old, so believe me when I say that buying cold weather gear is an investment for the long haul.

Some of our recommendations:

Specialized Element Jacket                  Specialized Deflect Head Warmer

Specialized Base Layer                        Defeet Kneekers

As always, the gear and equipment that we recommend is what we ride with.  It's nice knowing that your local bike shop is out riding and racing putting their inventory to the test in the real world!