Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It might be about the bike

It struck me over the weekend that I live in an incredible area for cycling. Situated at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, tucked in amongst the Brushy Mountains, and bordered by a large chunk of the Pisgah National Forest, this area enjoys a variety of terrain from rolling hills that help keep a cyclist honest, to long and steep climbs that challenge you until your lungs might burst. The nearby Dark Mountain/Overmountain Victory/Warrior Creek Trail system gives a rich display of the trail builders art for when we hit singletrack. Wilsons Creek Gorge gives shy glimpses of beautiful trail and bigger ride challenges for when you want to put an all day adventure together on the mountain bike. The Blue Ridge Parkway dangles above us, beckoning like a siren, luring you to its beautiful, lung crushing stone. And a tangled web of dirt roads provides ample opportunities for gravel crusher/"Roubaix" style riding when you want to have the joys of a road ride but are looking to take the road much less traveled.

I love exploring all this area has to offer to the two wheeled set. As I was working at the shop Saturday, I caught a glimpse of one of the books we have in our little library. Pausing for a moment, I contemplated the cover. There was Lance Armstrong, looking human and slightly vulnerable, staring out at me from the cover of It's Not About The Bike. I remember reading this book when it first came out, back when I still believed in superheroes. Shortly after reading it, creeping suspicion and doubt started to make the story look tarnished, but there still had to be some substantial amount of credibility to it, but we all know how that turned out. It doesn't do to add insult to injury by parsing the incredible amount of damage that the lies has wrought and continues to wreak in the world of professional cycling. No, what I remembered was how Armstrong talks about coming to Boone and discovering that he still wanted to be a bike racer. It was this area that was transformative to Armstrong. Well, that and an apparently staggering amount of performance enhancing drugs, but let's focus on the transformative powers of this area, shall we?

This area really is that remarkable, but it was a conversation with a friend later on Saturday that really served as an interesting counter to this idea. My friend said that by all rights, Lenoir should be successful. It has so much to offer, not just in outdoor recreation opportunities, but in terms of low cost, a low bar to entrepreneurship, an active community of artists, and it is remarkably beautiful. What he expressed was a conflicted feeling about buying a house here, despite the fact that he really likes it here. He wondered if we are destined to forever be on the verge of taking off, on the verge of being successful.

So if our area is so transformative, why can't we transform our area? I would put to you the idea that we are transforming and we are doing it at an accelerating rate. I see more people moving to Lenoir and the immediate area. Their demographics are the critical 25 to 45 age range. They bring with them ideas and notions of what they want in a place to live from all over the country. Recently, an article in the Lenoir News Topic talked about the area's past, a past when this area was referred to as the Athens of the South. I feel that we are ressurecting that notion of ourselves in a new and fresh way. The litmus test for me of this new concept of Lenoir is the success of +Howard Brewing Company . The very fact that a microbrewery can open and quickly thrive in downtown Lenoir, signals a sea change in attitudes and sensibilities for our area. It's a change that I firmly believe will continue to gain momentum and I'm glad to be a part of it.

You may or may not have heard of our efforts to build a trail in town. I'm happy to say that +Jeff Welch  has been busy laying out the proposed trail route with the head trail builder and progress is coming along nicely. The possibility of having a completed trail in town this season is very real. There will be many opportunities for us to come together as a community and put in some sweat equity on this project as there will be several trail building days to volunteer on. We've also got a few other irons in the fire, but that's a story for another day.

Our Spring Fling open house was our way of trying to bring many disparate parts of our cycling community together in one place to lay out this idea of being more involved in the whole community. If you weren't able to make it, one of the things that we introduced was the +Luna Cycles Google+ Community. This takes the place of our old Yahoo! Groups forum which was revealed to be intimidating from feedback we received on our 2013 Cycling Community Survey. The impression that we were unintentionally giving was of a forum of extremely hardcore racers doing nothing but big miles at fast speeds. This is far from the reality of what we want. The intention is for us to have some centralized place for everyone to be able to put out their ride ideas and try to find others who want to ride with them.

Yesterday, I observed two customers introduce themselves to each other (they had heard of each other but never met). They talked about riding together, one of them mentioned another person who would like to join them for a ride, and then they layed out a semi-complicated plan of communication to attempt to coordinate all three of them riding together. This is exactly what the Google+ community is meant to make easy, this communication and coordination of rides. Put your ride out there, communicate directly with people if you so desire or put your ride out to everyone that might be interested. You might just get more people than you imagined showing up to ride with you!

The point is that when I moved here, I saw lots of people riding, but few of them riding together. There were 3 or 4 people riding together here, 2 or 3 riding together there, but no large group ride. My background is one of large group rides held every week. No one talked about not being fast enough or training for the group ride. The group ride is training. It's fun to push yourself a little harder than you would by yourself. I see lots of people hiring a coach who I think are skipping the vital step of just coming out and doing group rides to get to the next level. The point to all this is that we need to stop thinking "those guys are too fast for me" and "those guys are not as fast as me" and trying to find exactly what shade of gray category of rider we are and finding the other 1 or 2 people who share our shade and riding only with them. Go ride with a group of riders that are slower than you. Do more time on the front at a slower pace. Offer people advice. Teach them to be better, faster, smoother. Then go ride with a faster group. Don't pull; stay in the back. Hold on for dear life, ride 'til your lungs burn and you go slightly cross-eyed. Get dropped. Catch back up at the regroup point (or turn around and catch the pain train again on the Tuesday night ride). All of these things will make you a better, fuller, more active participant in our cycling community. That robust cohesiveness may just be the transformation our cycling community deserves.
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