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Posts Tagged ‘LBS’

Man, I’m tired; I came to Apex, North Carolina thinking that these flatlands would be a breeze to do with tempo running perfectly with the lack of Appalachian ridges. I was awfully wrong. First day in town, I ended up meeting someone named Tom who invited me to a fairly popular group ride. My previous obligations had me running about ten minutes late and disappointingly missing the ride. Luckily my Garmin came in handy, and I had a few popular local routes installed as courses. Setting off alone in this new town was exciting and none the bit scary; it was so great to be riding in a place other than North Central WV for a change.

Several miles down the road, caught up to an older gentleman name Matt/Mark/Something… I can’t remember his name right of the bat… Asked him if we could take turns pacelining, and he agreed. This guy stated he was on a recovery ride today, and he was only planning on a 35 mile ride. That sounded perfect to me. About ten miles in, I was blowing up on every pull. The tempo was crazy. While Matt was cruising at this speed, I was pushing myself to near-anabolic to keep up and hold his wheel. Knowing when to secede from a hopeless battle, I asked which direction I should go to get to a road that I could recognize and get back to the hotel on. We parted ways, and I was solo again.

Passed four or five cyclists on the way back to Salem Road. It wouldn’t surprise me if I was doing some local popular ride backwards; I’m always guilty of starting off in the exact opposite direction that a ride loop is supposed to go…

I kept my pace up as well as I could to make the most of this unexpected hammerfest I volunteered for. I would have hated to seen what it would have been like riding with the A group or B group riders if I had made it there in time. It was just a different world to me.

apex north carolina bicycle chain bike shop LBS

Oddly enough riding that much on the flats also caused me to sit differently on the bike, and the pinched nerve in my shoulder started to give me issues. I also seemed to be riding in a way that was using my hips more. I guess I would need to modify my fit or adapt to this foreign area in order to optimise my position.

I have to hand it to this area though, there is an abundance of stores, suburbs, and interesting opportunities to be had, but go out five or six miles in some directions and the land is either residential with acreage, or farmers still making a living on crops or holding out on selling. It is nothing like the rural roads of WV, but it is a very welcoming atmosphere. Is nccycling.net registered? :P

apex north carolina bicycle chain bike shop LBS

The bike shops in the area  are top-notch. The Bicycle Chain was a very sharp and modern store, but still felt welcoming with items and resources suitable for anyone! The store employees were witty, intelligent, and more than “this is just my job” type of friendly. I was glad they were willing to lend a hand to someone from out-of-state in learning the area and to true a wheel.

If you are ever staying in North Carolina near the Raleigh/Durham area, you have no choice but to check out this area!

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Now, I was hesitant on doing this article because I don’t want to make it sound like I want everyone to forget about their LBS’s and just shop online or by catalogs. I just want to show that Excel Sports has earned my respect for the way they do business, and for that, hats off to them.

I was googling for many things earlier in the week, and decided this would be a good time to find some cyclocross things on sale, right after the season has ended. Oddly enough for the pair of brakes I wanted (Tektro CR720′s), Excel Sports was the cheapest place to get a set for front and rear. I was not paid or sponsored by them to say this, so I won’t link you to them… well, maybe if someone asked nicely.

From the time I ordered to arrival, it took three days for the package to get here from Boulder CO; I find this more than adequate, but nothing special either. What was special, was that the box the products were shipped in was not GINORMOUS with tons of air package bubbles and junk for a little product; like stories you hear on Consumerist all of the time.

Also, you can see with the products and invoice, they also sent an 83 page catalog containing some of their top store inventory. This tidbit was shockingly different than many other catalog order bike magazines. It may even earn itself a spot in the lavatory reading department shelf.

Every item had it

While none of these practices are new, or even really radical anymore, it is very rare that so many of these attributes are all carried out by one bike company. I’ve been internet/mail ordering bike items for a while now, and I have on several occasions have something shipped that was not supposed to be, or even have something left out or mislabeled. Excel Sports not only hits many check-marks, but does this while still offering cheap prices, and fast shipping. Their shipping options on the web-order have a choice that says something like: “Choose the lowest price shipping for me.” Anyone who orders from Nashbar.com would crap their pants if they saw an option like that. for three day shipping, it only cost $7.25 for USPS Priority Mail. While this saves me a bit over the typical minimum shipping charge of $10 or so, it is the thought that counts; which you can hold against me as positive bias for this seller.

Back to the catalog…

Excel Sports does sell more items than what is listed on their sales catalog, but it does very well as showing many popular options for just about anyone in their printed edition. Cyclists in nature are very picky, intuitive, and facts/data/numbers oriented people who want to know information like this about products before they buy them. In several cases, this catalog does a better job of listing data and describing products than the manufacturer’s site.

Data is given for every item listed, no matter what it is. The visual design elements are not skimp, and the pictures used are very clear and large.

These people must be cyclists themselves, because even the photos are shot to show us what we want to see, and large enough for us to distinguish subtle details between “this and that

They also have section with details that are typically overlooked by already knowledgeable cyclists, yet is still there for the new guys starting out and not knowing certain abbreviations or terms. For example C-C / O-O for handlebar dimensions are given visual diagrams to explain the terms:

Also when I said that this catalog shows a lot of products they carry, I wasn’t kidding:

Two images for each saddle???

A Variety of sunglasses, with many color options shown for each.

For their apparel section, they have a photograph of people I could imagine as real cyclists (maybe they are?) in each set of clothes listed:

These clothes aren't mark-downs from 2007

Excel Sports also keeps their component section listed pretty heavily:

ELEVEN SKEWERS?! Do we even need to have that many options for skewers???

Geometry/Size listings in the catalog. This is done for each model bike. Classy.

Last and not least, their action-shot photography is pretty standard, but not run of the mill. The cyclists in these pictures are not robots, and the scenery and colors add to the flare of the products. Blame me for taking a year of art classes in college for noticing things like this…

I haven’t heard anything from the design team or upper management from Excel Sports about the details of their business, but I would love to hear more about them. If I do receive any info on them, I will be sure to spread the word.

Conclusion

I’m not suggesting you purchase anything from Excel Sports, but take a look at their website, see if they have anything that is priced well, and if so, ask for a catalog when you have your items shipped. It is a jam-packed catalog and you’ll have it around for a while taking peeks at items you may have been wondering about for a while.

Who knows~

UPDATE:

Hey Andrew,

I was just forwarded the entry from your blog. I am responsible for the catalog here at Excel Sports and I have to tell you that it definitely feels good to hear that people are enjoying what we are producing!

Our catalog staff is very small, only 2 people. Between our graphic designer and me we plan, design, layout, photograph and proof nearly every part of the catalog. We are fortunate to have a bit of help with the proofing from our buyers and sales staff as well. Overall I would say that the company is pretty small and pretty efficient.

The goal that we have been working on with the catalog is to provide easily comparable information so people can have everything at their fingertips to make informed decisions. Weights, colors, photo angles etc are all selected in order to try to help customers pick out what is right for them. We even make a big attempt to measure and weigh everything in house so that the info is as accurate as possible. (you never know when a company may embellish a weight to make it sound even more appealing!)

I am glad you noticed our models as well. We generally only work with cyclists, in fact most of our models are cat 1-2, some are primarily MTBers and some are avid cyclists. It is a bit tough sometimes to find cyclists that have no conflict with their sponsors, but if you look in there you can find some pretty big names at times!  Chris Baldwin can be seen in the Assos section and we have had Colby Pierce in there also. My personal view is that we should be giving our modeling budget back to the racing community, so we always push to find models locally or in the area that we are going to shoot. (this year many shots were in Tucson AZ)

Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know that designing a Cycling catalog isn’t typically high on the compliments so it was very nice and refreshing to read your post!

Thanks!

- Josh
Josh McGuckin | Excel Sports Boulder

Update 2:

Hello Andrew,

I know Josh just sent you an email, but I wanted to send my own thanking you for the wonderful blog entry! I do the graphic design at Excel so your blog was great encouragement for a Monday morning.

I grew up in WV (Scott Depot) and have spent some time in Buckhannon and pedaled a bit around there and would love to come back to do more cycling.

Anyhow thanks again, and please let either of us know if there is anything in particular you would like to see in the catalog or any other feedback.

Best,
Amanda Lenz | Designer | Excel Sports Boulder

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It’s funny how one thing can make a completely terrible day turn out to be okay.

Went to Morgantown WV for a WVU visit for prospective students. Got lost, and stopped to ask for directions. I was in the shopping district of High/Chancery street by the legal businesses. Magically I ended up walking directly into Pathfinder (reviews of store). It was impressive to view the selection of bikes and everything else they had in the store. They are truly more of an outdoors store than just a LBS. Met the owner; he seems like a pretty nice guy. I asked if I could take a walk around the store after asking for directions and take a few pictures for my blog; he agreed.


There was a fair selection of complete bikes in stock. I asked the shop employees to get me a price quote for cyclocross framesets in my size that they could have, and the prices, while not competitive (do you expect that for some random guy off the street?) were very fair. This is a plus in my book. (more…)

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Went out yesterday for the best ride of the month. It hit 54*F, and I swear… I must be of european descent, because once the weather gets warm all I want to ride is my road bike. No one else showed up at the bike shop with a road bike, so I led a pack of MTB’ers to the base of Stonecoal Wildlife Reserve, and spun around while they did a tempo run up Widowmaker.

Took a neat photo out on the road, too :)

Unfortunately all I had brought with me was my cell phone. It was disappointing. There was this awesome ice tower and the photo doesn’t do it justice. Justice…. just ice… haha.

I’ve also really been thankful for the days becoming longer once again. Sunlight was out ’til like 6:00pm or so today. I can’t wait for weekend rides lasting three or so hours.

I’ve also put a little banner declaring ad space for sale on the site. If you’re a LBS or small business wanting some of the best web publicity involving West Virginia cyclists, there is no better place to lay your money down at but here.

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There has been the West Virginia University sponsored Mini-Series/Stage Race every August in Philippi since I moved to this state. Two days of fun consisting of a TT, Criterium, and Road Race. Even if I am not competing, I like to go there and scope things out; you know, see who is participating and make verbal bets with friends on who is going to place podium.

Last year, decided to drive up to Philippi from Buckhannon with a few pals to do some recon a few days before the races were planned. A well placed convenience store was placed a few hundred feet from our pre-planned Le Depart, so we staked our claim in the Sheetz parking lot and tried to be as PRO as it is possible in West Virginia. There we were. Full road kits, Radars upside down in our helmet vents, Back pocket wadded with credit card, drivers key, spare tube, CO2, single tire lever, and maybe a Clif Bar of some sort that we purchased with our Sheetz MTO Espresso-like-beverage. I’m not saying they pull a bad shot, but it does feel less genuine sipping it out of a bleach-white paper cup, handed to you by someone who possibly can’t spell espresso. (sorry for the crack shot there)

Ken was kept outside, guarding our steeds while we ordered for him. He peered at us the whole time like a dog similar to when you leave them inside the car while you run in the grocery store to grab a gallon of milk. He made us promise to never do that to him again.

Poor Ken :(

About ten or so minutes after our quasi-cafe stop, we hit the road. I grabbed the recon map since none of us ever pedaled in Philippi before. Thirty-Two miles was expected to take about 1:45-2:00 depending on the pace we set for ourselves but this was a reconnaissance ride. We decided to pay attention to the locations, scenery, terrain, elevation, road condition and places where we could try to do a sprint to gain a few places. You know… the tricky stuff that is PRO in theory but never really works well in application. I can recall being at least half-way completed when Greg falling off the back. He really seemed to be having a hard time staying with the group. Never more than a few hundred feet behind us, but enough that we knew if it kept happening it would be demoralizing and disheartening for him. We stopped at the turn onto Carrolton Road to let him catch up and for us to hydrate/scarf.

If you've been to Phillippi, you've seen this bridge.

After some highly scrutinized wheel rotations by hand, he determined the rear brake was rubbing on the wheel. “Ohhhhhhhh, so that was the problem was…” The whole time, he  felt like he wasn’t putting out the watts while he was still putting out the same amount of effort. We all chuckled at the mechanical and his inclinations about it and went on. Two or so miles later he stops again. The bolt holding the brake screw tight was loose. This was an odd thing, since he claimed it wasn’t like this earlier. Even funnier was that no one was carrying a mini multi tool… Eventually, we all made it back to the vehicle safe with Greg following behind, but with less enjoyment than expected.

Another story similar to this was when a bunch of MTB buddies I befriended last year took a trip to a local state park for some shredding around on the newly fallen leaves. My friend… Let’s just call him Rider-X (to protect his identity), slipped on a slick pile of leaves. His rear derailleur had seen better days and this was not one. Everyone regrouped to evaluate whether he was fine. His bike was repairable enough to allow him to hobble down the mountain back to the vehicle. We all retired early and went home. It was a bummer.

These nostalgic tales of the peloton ending early due to mechanicals involving friends have spurred me to take action to save future rides. Those adventures are stories that may benefit your upcoming travels also.

Everyone carries or should at least carry a saddle bag with multi tool, spare tube, and pump of some sort while riding, and some more serious tools in their home-base vehicle on a ride trip that is going to be away from a LBS or Big-Box Store. Think of your car as a stationary Mechanic’s Car/Broom Wagon sans Danila Di Luca’s wonder mechanic.

But what about those simple but critical items? Shifter/Brake cable? Brake Lever? Pedal? Saddle? Bolts/Screws? Stems???

These sound like components involved in a pretty serious mechanical, but when you and three or four other buddies out on the road/trail… there is a possibility for something serious to happen, no? Will there always be a LBS open or even available? I mean really now… This is West Virginia… Why not just arrive prepared for the unexpected?

I have come up with a small toolbox with my discarded/used/old/spare parts for such an event. These items are not of Shimano XT/Ultegra caliber, but they will allow you to enjoy the rest of your anticipated ride. For me, it just makes sense to carry spare parts like this. Hypothetically, if I were out for a weekend, I would bring more than my little toolbox full. Something with a little more oomph, like a whole bike or a second set of wheels.

This isn’t paranoia, just preparedness. I also want to make it clear I do not purchase items for the sole use of being spares for those ‘just in case’ moments… but the thought has crossed my mind.

How many times have you heard of freak accidents where a rider isn’t hurt but their pedal or cleat is needs replaced during the ride?

Broken seatpost?

Loose bolt or two falling out?

Shifter cable freak accident?

Broken spoke?

Freewheel/hub bearings having a catastrophe? <—- happened to me :(

I read a lot of cycling sites and I see stories like this a lot. Doesn’t mean it will or will not happen to me, but at least I have the means to be prepared. when driving off to distant lands away from the service-course.

What do you bring along with you when you drive to a ride? Have you ever had a minor failure that could have been fixed if you had the spare part in your vehicle?  What do you do with rest of your day when you are at a special place and the bike is borked?

Neat poll of things people have broken on a ?brevet? type tour.

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